Let’s be honest, who hasn’t longed to visit the picture-perfect Maldives? The Maldives archipelago is made up of more than a thousand tiny islands surrounded by crystal clear water, and is probably one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in the world. It can be confusing trying to plan a trip to the Maldives, and there are a lot of misconceptions about traveling to this island paradise – read on for what you need to know before you visit the Maldives!
1. “The Maldives” is made up of almost 1,200 small islands
When people talk about the Maldives, they are referring to a collection of islands, or archipelago, located in the Indian Ocean. The small islands are further divided into 26 natural atolls stretching from north to south across more than 800 kilometres.
The capital of the Maldives is Male (or Malé) and this is where most international visitors will fly into – Velana International Airport. Approximately 200 of these islands in the Maldives are inhabited, and another 200 islands are resort islands, and although the Maldives covers about 90,000 square kilometres it has a land area of under 300 square kilometres – which makes it the 9th smallest country in the world!
2. Only 1 hour away from Sri Lanka
Most people don’t realize this, but the Maldives is only an hour away from Sri Lanka by plane. If you’re planning to visit Sri Lanka, why not add on a few days in the Maldives (or vice versa)? There are 3-4 direct flights each day between Colombo International Airport and Velana International Airport, and 3 flights a week between Colombo International Airport and Gan International Airport if you’re headed to the south atolls in the Maldives.
Headed to Sri Lanka? Check out all of my insider guides and travel tips here!
3. No, you don’t need a visa!
To enter the Maldives no pre-arrival visa is required. A thirty day visa is issued on arrival for all nationalities, but you need to make sure your passport has at least 6 months of validity remaining and that you have a valid ticket out of the Maldives.
4. You cannot bring alcohol into the Maldives
You are not allowed to bring liquor to the Maldives. If you bought any beer, spirits or wine from a duty free shop on your way to the Maldives, you have to leave them with customs at the airport and you can pick it up on the way out of the Maldives. Since the Maldives is an Islamic nation, you cannot buy and drink alcohol on any of the local inhabited islands.
However, the private resorts are licensed to serve alcohol to tourists, albeit at a mark up.
5. Islam is the official religion of the Maldives
Islam was introduced to the Maldives at the end of the 12th century and the vast majority of its population are Sunni Muslim. Pork and alcohol are forbidden on local islands, and you may hear calls to prayer throughout the day if you are staying near a mosque.
It’s important to respect the local culture of the Maldives by not exposing too much skin on local islands or showing too many public displays of affection – you’ll also want to refrain from wearing a bikini/skimpy clothes unless you’re on a dedicated “bikini beach”. You’ll be fine to wear a bikini on a private tourist resort island.
6. Peak season is from early December to March
Though the climate is tropical with the temperature hovering at about 28-30 degrees Celsius on most days, rainfall increases considerably during the monsoon season from April to October, particularly from June to August. For this reason, the Maldives sees an influx of travelers from December to March, and hotel prices tend to be more expensive during these months.
We visited the Maldives during the “monsoon season” in July and experienced some scattered storms, but most of our days were breezy with plenty of sunshine. I definitely got my tan on! The upside of traveling to the Maldives during the off-peak season is that prices were lower and there were a whole lot less people.
Also be sure to keep your eye on when the Eid Al-Adha Islamic holiday will be held as the Maldives is a popular vacation spot during that week, and can get busy. The event follows the Islamic lunar calendar and takes place on different dates every year. In 2018, Eid was from August 21st and ended in the evening of August 25th.
7. But the peak surf season is the opposite!
If you’re an avid surfer and are looking for the most epic swells of the year, the best time to go to the Maldives is actually during the monsoon season in June, July or August – this is the peak surfing season. For intermediate surfers who want less crowded lineups and slightly less intimidating swells, consider visiting the Maldives during the shoulder season in April, May, September or October.
The Maldives is a world-class surf destination with hundreds of breaks, though some are private breaks and require a special license. Alternatively, you could also charter a boat with some friends to access some of the more remote reef breaks.
8. Get used to “Island Time”
Don’t be surprised if your hotel is one to two hours ahead of the time in Male. Many resorts have their own “island time” to make the most of sunlight hours, and it can get a little hard to get used to for the first few days but then you learn to forget about time all together!
9. Choosing a hotel can be overwhelming
Here’s the good news: there are plenty of accommodation options and you’re not limited to US$1000 a night resorts. Unfortunately as there are so many atolls (all with hard-to-pronounce names that don’t really indicate their geographical location) it can be hard to select a hotel.
Which atoll should you visit? Do you opt for a guesthouse on a local island, or do you book yourself into a private resort? Do you book a hotel that’s accessible by speedboat or do you choose one that’s only reachable by seaplane? Beach villa or overwater villa?
If you’re on somewhat of a budget, you’ll probably want to head somewhere close to the airport. This way, you can hop on a shared boat or private speedboat and get to the local guesthouse relatively easily. When you’re looking through the plethora of hotel options for the Maldives on websites like Booking.com, look carefully at the transportation costs and tax (both often not factored into the room rate) as well as the travel time needed to get to the property. It might not be worth heading on a sea plane followed by a 45-minute boat ride if you’ve only got 3 days to spend in the Maldives!
We opted to go north to the Lhaviyana Atoll, just 35 minutes or so by seaplane from the airport, to experience the incredible Kanuhura Maldives. We love boutique hotels that offer a little something-something beyond the ordinary, and fell head over heels for the stunning beach-chic design at Kanuhura.
Kanuhura also has two additional deserted private islands for the ultimate beach escape. If you want to experience true Maldivian beach luxury without taking out a mortgage, I can highly recommend booking yourself into one of the bungalows or villas at Kanuhura; it’s one of the best boutique hotels in the Maldives! Click here to check availability and current rates at Kanuhura Maldives.
10. You don’t have to stay in an overwater villa to enjoy the Maldives
Yep, you read that right! Look, a trip to the Maldives can be absolutely incredible without staying in an overwater bungalow. We stayed in a sunset beach villa with our own private pool, and loved being able to walk right out onto the beach every morning.
It also offers much more protection when it’s windy or raining. Don’t let the idea that you have to stay in an overwater villa stop you from visiting the Maldives – there are so many different types of accommodation to choose from!
11. Seaplanes are AMAZING
I’ve been in many planes, a few helicopters and even some propeller jets, but have never been on a seaplane. Let me tell you something – the experience is absolutely mind blowing. Though the return airfare can be anywhere from US$200 to $500 from Male International Airport, the views are worth every single penny. Just take a look at this!
When you book your hotel, make sure you make arrangements for your seaplane flights as the seaplanes are scheduled as per demand and your flight time will only be confirmed one night before your arrival – don’t freak out if you don’t know your seaplane flight time a week in advance!
You may also have to wait for other passengers to arrive before your flight can depart (you can wait in Kanuhura’s amazing private waiting lounge), and seaplanes may be delayed if it’s raining too hard as they need to be able to see where they’re going. If you arrive in the evening, you may need to make arrangements to stay in Male overnight as seaplanes can’t fly after dark.
12. The Maldives has outrageously cool marine life
The Maldives has some of the most mind-blowing marine life, with more than 1,000 fish species, 40 species of sharks, dolphins, turtles, tropical fish, manta rays, sting rays, sea turtles and even whale sharks. It is a world-class diving and snorkeling destination with incredible coral reef, but it’s important to recognize that the marine ecology is increasingly become fragile due to over fishing, climate change, pollution and so on.
Because the islands are only 1-2 metres above sea level, the Maldives is also extremely susceptible to the effects of climate change. You can do your part by taking shared transportation, reducing usage of single-use plastic, partaking in beach cleanups and, not touching the coral reef or animals, reusing towels to name a few.
If you want to learn more about conservation in the Maldives, check out Kanuhura’s Marine Biology Research Centre. It is dedicated to coral reef ecology, conservation and research, and helps to raise awareness about ocean conservation initiatives in the local communities.
13. Taking seashells with you is illegal
The government has really strict policies on collecting seashells, sand, coral and tortoise shells. Shells end up being homes for hermit crabs and they in turn play a huge role in controlling the sand fly population!
14. Impressive internet connectivity
Given the remote location of the islands, you would expect a somewhat patchy internet connectivity. However, it’s actually not horrific! You can buy a local SIM card at the airport for US$15 and you will get 4 GB of data, or $20 for 17 GB of data. If you’re staying at a private resort, the wifi should be fairly stable and available in your room as well as in all the common areas.
Ready to book your trip to the Maldives? Click here to book your stay at Kanuhura Maldives, a stunning boutique resort with beautiful decor, incredible service and stunning private beaches, or click here to see other highly rated hotels in the Maldives!
These are just a few key things to know before you plan a trip to the Maldives! Have you been to this incredible paradise in the Indian Ocean? Tell me about your trip below!
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My stay at Kanuhura Maldives was sponsored; however, the opinions on Yogawinetravel.com are (and always will be) my own! I only recommend products, services and hotels that I have had positive personal experiences with and think you would love too.
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