Are you planning a dream trip and wondering what to prepare for a Maldives trip? Be sure to take note of these Maldives travel tips for your trip. The coral atolls spread across the Indian Ocean are an enticing getaway with white sand beaches, turquoise water, and tropical weather.
The water is home to an abundance of diverse marine life, and snorkelers can rejoice in close encounters with rays, sharks, whales, and a dizzying number of fishes. To make it only better, some of the world’s most luxurious resorts sit on top of these atolls with indulgent water villas and beach bungalows.
After a few weeks of exploring the Maldives, we sat down and shared some of our travel tips and thoughts on visiting the famed Indian Ocean country.
Our Best Maldives Travel Tips!
The Maldives Are Not a Cheap Destination
The first thing I want to get out there, and you probably already know, is that the Maldives are not a budget destination. That doesn’t mean that you can’t travel the Maldives affordably, but to live the life you’ve likely seen on Instagram and in various advertisements, it is going to cost some $$.
If your goal is an overwater villa, an all-inclusive package with a spa and dive excursions daily for you and your sweetheart, you should budget accordingly. I would say upwards of at least $1000/day, and even double that for the brand name properties like Park Hyatt, The W, and The Four Seasons. You can even shell out $40,000 for your own private island if you are inclined.
There are affordable resorts in the Maldives. We stayed at Cinnamon Ellaidhoo for a few days, which markets itself as an affordable luxury beach resort. Places like the Sheraton Full Moon Bay also offer budget rooms not far from Male. For about $300 a night, you can get a complete board package in a beachfront room.
While the service in these places is great, I would be hesitant to fly from North America or far-flung destinations when there is likely a better place closer to home. People fly from these far-flung destinations for the over-the-top level of luxury and to throw some money in the wind (figuratively).
Besides resorts, you can also stay in local guesthouses. In 2009, the Maldives government began to allow locals to run guesthouses on local islands. This has drawn in tourism and given relief to those on a budget. Some of these guesthouses can accommodate budgets of $60-$70 a day or cheaper! Are you a backpacker? Fear not – you can stay at hostels on Male or Couchsurf!
Getting to The Maldives
Before you travel to Maldives, you should research how to get there. There is only one way to get to The Maldives: via Velana International Airport, located on Hulhulé Island next to the capital island of Male. The airport has opened up many direct flights to the Maldives from around Asia and Europe.
After one week in Sri Lanka, we flew right from Colombo, which worked out well as they are only three hours apart via air. If you have a few extra days before your Maldives trip or after, it may be worth your while to stop and see what Sri Lanka has to offer. The next time we traveled to the Maldives we flew from Kuala Lumpur direct on AirAsia, which worked out well.
If you’re wondering how to get to the Maldives from the USA, you will have to do some playing around with flights. Flexibility is key as there are no direct flights from North America (yet) . Some great layover cities are Istanbul, Colombo, and Hamad International Airport in Qatar.
Room Types Vary
I guess this is when I should take a minute to mention that the Maldives isn’t just made up of Instagram-worthy overwater bungalows. We found all the places we stayed in the Maldives had various room types at different price points. Overwater villas are the creme de la creme of rooms, and those with a pool or a waterslide will fetch an even higher price.
The next step down is traditionally beach villas. We stayed in a few of these and enjoyed the rooms; the only difference was we had to walk thirty seconds from our bed to the beach and share our little slice of sand (the horror!) with other hotel guests.
Some resorts have rooms that don’t have ocean views, and those are typically the lowest-priced rooms, but they still offer guests all the same facilities that the fancy villa guests have. Then there are even high-end luxury resorts that only have beach bungalows like the famous Sonneva Fushi.
Sunset vs Sunrise Rooms
This is one of my top Maldives travel tips that many people don’t think about. When choosing a room type, make note if you are getting a sunrise view room or sunset view and adjust to your preference. I mention this only because we are late risers, and if you are in a sunrise room, you may lose the sunshine on your back deck by midday.
A sunset room is preferred for us because our loungers were in the sun from about noon onwards, which fit in better with our schedule. However, if you prefer sunrise with a cup of coffee you know which way to face.
Try Not to Hop Around the Maldives
If there is one thing I want to stress in this Maldives travel guide is to hop around as little as possible if you are on a budget or are short on time.
If you have a week in the Maldives, I would suggest picking one resort/guesthouse and staying there rather than resort hopping. We stayed in the Maldives for 15 days at five different resorts on our first trip to The Maldieves. Our next trip to the Maldives we were there for 9 days and visited 3 different resorts.
So even though we got to see different areas and resorts, every three days, we were moving, and it was never a seamless transfer no matter how hard everyone tried to coordinate.
Unless you are in Male, every place that you will stay at in the Maldives will require either a speedboat or seaplane to access it. Some of our speedboat rides took 20 minutes while some took two hours, and that was to and from one resort.
If you are transferring between two resorts, you will always have to go back to the airport in Male and then transfer to your new resort, unless you have boatloads of money for a private executive seaplane. That’s dealing with two transfers every time you want to move resorts, which could take up to four hours or more. It wastes quite a bit of time on your holiday.
Seaplanes are faster; however, the planes are far from luxurious, expensive, and still take time. A seaplane transfer will take some time to get to Male, check your bags, wait for everyone else to board the seaplane, and ride to your resort. Not to mention there is no AC on the plane and they are via cramped – though you do get stellar views from above!
Not everyone on your plane will be going or coming from the same resort either, so the seaplane may stop a few times before it’s your turn.
Seaplanes = Expensive
Maldives travel doesn’t have to be expensive, but seaplanes always are. Most of the resorts we traveled to were accessible by speedboat, which is much cheaper than a seaplane and is often included in the room night price. Trans Maldivan Airways have a monopoly over the whole seaplane business in the Maldives. You can’t book them directly. All transfers must be booked through your resort.
With a 50% resort markup, seaplanes cost around $500 per person round trip to any resort, breaking a budget for some unaware. BUT you do at least get the most amazing views, so make sure you have your camera on you and try to get a window seat!
Seaplanes only operate during daylight hours, so if your international flight gets in late to the Maldives, you may have to stay overnight in Male before setting out for your resort.
Check if Drones are Allowed
Planning on bringing a drone to the Maldives? The Maldives are incredible, especially from the air, so, understandably, anyone with a drone will want to get it up in the air. However, many resorts have a no-drone policy to protect their guests’ privacy, and they take it seriously.
There are a lot of overwater villas with bright open windows in the Maldivian resorts. Privacy and seclusion are why many people choose to vacation in the Maldives, so, understandably, they don’t want a drone hovering above their room while they are taking a bath or sitting on the toilet.
If you’re unsure about the policy, it’s always a good idea to check first whether or not you can fly your drone in your Maldives travel destination.
Purchase a Sim Card at the Airport
If you want to stay connected while you travel the Maldives, pick up a sim card when you land. We found that the WiFi in many resorts does not work well, but what do you expect on an atoll in the middle of the ocean?
However, we found that we could pick up a 4G signal everywhere we went! Most of the resorts and local islands have a cell tower, so you have a strong signal everywhere.
To the right, after you exit the luggage carousel, you’ll find Dhiraagu and Ooredoo, the two cell providers in the Maldives. They’ll be able to set you up with a sim card in five minutes. Prices for data are reasonable. We paid about $30 for 17GB of data for two weeks.
Don’t Bring Any Alcohol into the Country
The Maldives is a predominately Muslim country, and the only place you can consume alcohol is on private resorts. Don’t buy any at customs before you arrive and don’t bring any bottles of wine or champagne with you. You’ll risk them being taken away or even fined by customs if you try to bring alcohol into the Maldives.
The best way to fix this problem? All-inclusive packages or happy hour at your resort! We were surprised that some of the resorts offer pretty good happy hours.
I have to mention this in this Maldives travel guide. The currency in the Maldives is the Maldivian Rufiyaa, but you’ll find that USD is accepted almost everywhere, and most prices are in USD unless you are on the local islands. You can pay with a credit card at any resort, but it doesn’t hurt to have cash on you for tips and other odds and ends.
If you are staying on local islands and in guesthouses, I would highly recommend pulling out all the cash you think you will need before leaving Male. Finding an ATM can be few and far between in The Maldives, and the only reliable place to do so will be in Male. I wouldn’t bank on many local islands accepting credit cards either.
The Maldives Are Open to Everyone
This is one of those important Maldives travel tips everyone should know. No matter the nationality, everyone is granted a no-cost 30-day visa on arrival in The Maldives. Don’t overstay without a valid extension though – it’s a hefty fine!
Though if you do want to stay over 30 days, make sure and tell your resort. Often they have services that will apply for a visa extension for you.
Language in the Maldives
Dhivehi is the official language spoken in all parts of the Maldives. You’ll find that English is prevalent around The Maldives, especially in the resorts!
When is the Best Month For Maldives Travel?
The best time to travel to the Maldives is from November and April. The high season picks up in December and is pretty crazy until about March. The monsoon season runs from May to October. The Maldives’ weather is great for a vacation, with average temperatures of 32° Celsius.
Not too humid and not cold. You’ll be comfortable wearing your swimsuit and cover-up around during the day and a dress or beach clothes at night. The Maldives may be a dream destination, but it still sees rain, usually between May and June and September and October.
That being said we’ve booked in July before, and were able to score better rates since it is the rainy season. We had to battle a bit of rain, but for the most part it was only a little bit of rain every day and not downpours that last all day.
Bring Fins On Your Trip to Maldives
If you are a marine lover like us, it might be worth it to you to bring fins when you travel the Maldives. Would you believe we travel around the world with our fins, mask, and snorkel? It’s true! We were a little surprised that despite already paying an arm and a leg in the Maldives, many resorts will still charge you to rent snorkel equipment each day.
The cost may be as little as $5 a day, but having our own gear saves us the hassle of dealing with rentals, paying, and putting our mouths around used mouthpieces.
If you want to get in the water a lot but don’t want to lug the fins everywhere, check with your resort to see if it is included in the room rate.
One of my top Maldives travel tips is to bring the sunscreen – heck bring extra sunscreen – just in case! The cheapest I saw sunscreen going for in the Maldives was $45 a bottle. In one of our rooms, it was even on offer for $60 – for a travel-sized Sunbum set! I’m not joking! Do not forget to throw sunscreen in your luggage.
I promise you will be paying a hefty price for it in the Maldives. If you don forget it, there is a small shop at the airport that sells it for an escalated price (but not as high as the resorts).
Please consider spending a few extra dollars on reef-safe sunscreen. Typical sunscreens like Coppertone, N0 Ad, and Banana Boat have many chemicals that will run off your body while swimming damaging the precious coral and marine life. We have this reef-safe sunscreen for our ocean adventures.
Get Used to Resort Pricing
If you’re staying at a resort in The Maldives, you may as well prepare for and get used to ridiculous resort pricing. The resorts in the Maldives operate like…well… resorts. Except on a whole other price level I have ever seen before.
Food, alcohol, spa treatments, excursions, kayak rentals, and transfer prices may burn a hole in your eyes. Even water is not free in some of the Maldivian resorts, and tap water is not drinkable.
Taxes and Service Charges
You may be charged for your time in the Maldives. The other things you will inevitably have to look for on your bills are the taxes and service charges. The Maldives charge a whole lot of extra charges for taxes, and you should expect all your extra food and drinks and excursions to have an additional 23% tacked on unless otherwise noted that it is included. That’s 10% for a service charge and 13% for taxes.
Every resort also has a mandatory Green Tax of $6 per guest every night from tourist resorts and $3 per day for tourist guesthouses. Many hotels bill this into their room rate already, but don’t be surprised if it is on your bill at the end. It’s not much to the resort goers, but backpackers on local islands should take note.
Try Some of the Food!
Maldivian food is influenced mainly by Indian cuisine. It involves plenty of flavor from spices, coconuts, and fish.
You’ll find plenty of stables like samosas, Garudhiya (Fish Soup), Mas Huni (Shredded Smoked Tuna), and Masroshi (Tuna Stuffed Chapati). If you are in the capital of Male there is a great fish market to check out.
Bikinis are Not Allowed Everywhere
You’re in a Muslim country so practice modesty while there. Bikinis and skin-tight clothing should only be worn on resort islands, while conservative clothing should be worn on the local islands. If you are staying on local islands, there are some “bikini beaches” that are meant for tourists.
Avoid Visiting Around Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is typically observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community. Every year this takes place for an entire month, and unless you are staying in a resort you may want to schedule your trip to avoid Ramadan.
Many hotel staff will be out for family meetings, food availability during the daytime may pose a challenge, shops will close, and you won’t be able to buy pork or alcohol. It’s best to look up when Ramadan is the year you visit. If you still visit around this time contact your accommodation option to see how it may affect your trip.
How Many Days Should You Spend in the Maldives?
It’s all up to you and your budget! We have spent a total of 24 days in the Maldives and I can without a doubt say that I would have enjoyed more time there. We love diving, snorkeling, and spending time on white sand beaches. The Maldives are the perfect place for a mix of adventure and relaxation.
That being said, we would have been happy with a week on the Maldives, but anything less than that is too short, considering the amount of time and effort it takes to get to the Maldives.
Travel to the Maldives Soon!
We’ll end these Maldives travel tips on this note. And by soon, I meant yesterday, or last year, or five years ago. In 2011, less than one million tourists visited the Maldives. In comparison, 2019 saw around 1.5 million tourists, in 2022 there were nearly 1.7 million tourists to the islands. These numbers are expected to keep rising. Years ago, I would see photos of the Maldives and think they must be some secluded destination that is hard to reach.
Reality set in at almost every fully booked resort we visited and a very congested airport. Seriously, the Maldives are hot right now, and everyone wants to go (thanks Instagram). We chatted with several locals who couldn’t believe the growth and could see the construction of numerous new hotels and resorts, in addition to the plenty of man-made islands being built.
Tourism here seems like a ticking time bomb and it may be only a matter of time until it’s too much to handle. Also, the Maldives are sinking, here’s a great article on their future.
Where to Stay in the Maldives?
Cinnamon Ellaidhoo is a great property for those that want to do the Maldivian resort thing while still staying on budget. We were at Ellaidhoo for three nights and enjoyed our time here. The house reef is amazing and every time we went out to snorkel we discovered some new, bright fish. It’s also very far away from Male and the hustle and bustle of the country’s capital.
We had a fantastic time at Kurumba Maldives. This resort is only a five-minute speedboat ride away from the Male Airport. Meaning you could arrive in the Maldives and be at your resort a few minutes later it saves on additional airfare and time. It’s also the first resort ever in the Maldives, but it’s elegantly maintained and they have a great dive shop.
Velassaru was our favorite resort in the Maldives. They have located just a 20-minute speedboat ride away from the capital so it’s a quick transfer in and out. The food here is to die for and the overwater bungalows are bigger than New York City apartment. You won’t regret a stay here!
Here’s a review of all the places we stayed in The Maldives!
- Kuramathi Resort
- Velassaru Resort
- Kurumba Maldives
- Ellaidhoo Maldives
- Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa
- Le Meridien Maldives
Plan For Your Trip
- Protect Your Trip: We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Find Cheap Flights: Sign up for Going (formerly Scotts Cheap Flights) to get notified when prices get low.
- Book a Rental Car: We use Discover Car to book all our rental cars! You can also read our top tips for renting a car abroad here.
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Travel Backpack: We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always ALLBIRDS! Check them out on their site!
- Get a Travel Credit Card: We travel worldwide for free because we have leveraged our spending into points. See why you should get a travel credit card and how you can do the same with our favorite travel credit cards.