Traveling to the Maldives is a dream for many, and it has long been a place where only jet setters and rich people could afford to visit. However, nowadays, after the local islands were allowed to open up hotels, the Maldives is possible to visit for budget- and regular travelers as well.
In this guide, I will share everything you need to know before you travel to the Maldives. I will also explain the differences between local islands and resort islands as well as share some of my favorite islands.
How to get around in the Maldives
Some resort islands have transport included in the price, but in most cases, you’ll have to take a speedboat or seaplane to travel between the islands. There are also local ferries that go between the capital Malé and some larger local islands.
Speedboats depart outside the arrival hall and they can be used to get to nearby islands. The price will vary depending on the distance.
From the airport, you can also get a taxi boat to Malé or a bus/taxi to Hulhumale. A short distance from the airport, you’ll find a smaller airbase for seaplanes, which flies to resort islands.
The seaplanes are flown by TransMaldivian, but the flights are usually booked via the resort who’ll coordinate everything for you.
Best time of the year to visit the Maldives
The best time to visit the Maldives is from December to March if you want to get a sunny vacation. It’s warm year-round though, and even if it rains more during the summer, there will still be days without rain.
If you want to go diving there are various periods that might be interesting depending on what marine animals you want to see.
Climate and Weather
The climate in the Maldives can be divided into two distinct periods, the northeastern monsoon and southwestern monsoon. From May to September, it’s common with rain and clouds. From October, the weather typically gets better, although in recent years, this has been somewhat unpredictable.
We visited the Maldives in November and had mixed days of rain and sunshine during the 20 days we traveled around to various islands. The average temperature in the air and sea is usually warm and nice year-round at 29-31 degrees in the air, and 27 degrees in the water.
How much does it cost to travel to the Maldives?
Resort islands are typically available from 200-300 Euros per night, and high-end resorts usually have villas from 600 Euros per night. Food and drinks are often included in the price on resort islands with a few exceptions.
Tours and activities are not included as well as extra snacks in your room and alcoholic beverages. Snorkeling tours are typically available from 150 Euros and upwards on resort islands. Other activities such as dolphin tours and private island getaways vary between the islands.
On local islands, you can easily find hotels for 50 Euros per night. Tours and activities are usually available from 50-150 Euros per person. Food and beverages will be around 20-30 Euros per day per person.
An estimated budget for 7 days in the Maldives:
- Resort islands (500 Euros per night): €3500 for accommodation and an extra €1400 per person.
- Local islands (50 Euros per night): €350 for accommodation and an extra €700-900 per person.
How to travel to the Maldives on a budget
It’s possible to travel the Maldives on a budget, with some limitations. There are only a few resort islands that are possible to visit on a budget, so mostly, you’ll be limited to the local islands.
However, budget traveling in the Maldives is not like Sri Lanka or India, or Thailand. The local islands are still somewhat expensive compared to other countries nearby. With that said, the price level on local islands is much lower than the resorts.
Excursions are much cheaper from the local islands compared to the resorts, and snorkeling/diving sessions are available from €50-150 per person.
To some islands, you could save a lot by taking the slow ferry (dhoni) from Malé instead of a speedboat. But, I would say that a speedboat is a much better value for your money and time.
Some of the islands that you can visit on a budget include Maafushi, Gulhi, Guraidhoo, Thulusdhoo, Himmafushi, Thinadhoo, and Thoddoo just to mention a few.
Is it worth the money to stay in a Maldivian resort?
First of all, whether the money spent on a Maldivian resort is well-spent or not is highly individual. But, considering that the Maldives is a unique destination, I would say that it’s well worth it since you’ll likely get a once in a lifetime experience.
Not many people can afford to stay in the overwater villas, and after having stayed in one of these myself, I can say that it’s definitely something special. With that said, in terms of beaches and color on the water, most islands in the Maldives are more or less identical.
However, many local islands have a problem with trash and you’ll likely find lots of plastics and old trash spread around. If you’re looking for that dreamy experience that you imagine from the postcards, your only option is to stay in a resort island.
The local islands will simply not be that dreamy, and you’ll likely get disappointed if that’s what you’re expecting from local islands. It’s a totally different experience, even though the quality of sand and water is more or less the same.
My answer is that if you got the money and can afford a stay in a luxurious resort, do it, at least for a couple of nights. I can guarantee you that it will be a vacation that you won’t forget.
What’s the biggest difference between local islands and resort islands?
The biggest difference is that there are no locals living on the resort islands, except the workers. There will also only be only one resort per island, whereas the local islands might have several guesthouses and hotels.
On the local islands, it’s also forbidden to consume alcohol and you need to cover yourself in public, especially women, who should at least wear a t-shirt and shorts/skirts that cover their knees. It’s not allowed to wear a bikini/swimsuit in other areas than the designated tourist beach, also known as “Bikini Beach”.
The standard of accommodation is also a big difference, and most local islands will offer a simple living standard. The resorts are often luxurious with large villas and plenty of activities.
Resort islands are usually much cleaner as well and if any trash is found it will be cleaned as soon as possible. On the local islands, there is often a problem with trash and the locals will often just leave the trash outside.
The only reason why I would choose to travel to a local island in the Maldives again would be if I was primarily going back to spend most of my time in the sea and make cheaper excursions. Otherwise, I will choose resort islands since my experience was much better and that gave me the Maldives experience that I exptected.
- You can only wear swim clothes/bikini at the Bikini beach
- Sharia laws (not strictly enforced on tourists)
- Several choices for accommodation (Airbnb, Hotels, Guesthouse)
- Cheaper tours and activities
- Lower prices on foods and drinks
- There can be a lot of trash on the island, except on the bikini beach, which is often cleaned for tourists
- Only one resort per island
- No locals (except workers)
- Better standard
- Cleaner without trash on the island
- Alcohol consumption is allowed
- Bikini and swimwear can be used on all beaches
- No sharia laws (pork is available on resort islands)
- Higher prices on tours and activities
- You can only get to resort islands via speedboat and seaplane
My favorite resort in the Maldives
I have stayed in 5 different resorts in the Maldives, Kuramathi, Maafushivaru, Hurawalhi, Soneva Fushi, and Kandolhu. Out of these, there is one clear winner, although all of them are stunning in their own ways.
Kandolhu is my favorite resort in the Maldives, and the reason is simple. It’s a smaller island, but it has everything you need, and it feels bigger than it is. The staff is very friendly, the villas are outstanding, and the whole island has this deserted island vibe in a very romantic way.
Also, Kandolhu is not one of the most expensive resorts, but it’s definitely a dream destination for a honeymoon. Despite its small size, the house reef is full of marine life, and Kandolhu also has several restaurants.
Frequently asked questions about the Maldives
How to choose a resort in the Maldives?
A good question. There is almost an endless amount of resorts to choose from in the Maldives, and my best tip would be to make a list of what you want from the resort and what’s most important for you.
Below are some questions that might help you to choose the right Maldivian resort for your needs and wishes.
- How many restaurants are there?
- How big is the island and how many guests in total?
- Is the snorkeling good in the house reef or do you need to make an excursion?
- What’s included in the meal package?
- How do you get to the resort? Do you have to book a seaplane?
- Are kids allowed in the resort? Some of them are adults only
- Is there a spa facility, and if so, what is the price for treatments?
- What excursions are possible to make from the resort?
What animals are there in the Maldives?
The marine life is amazing in the Maldives and many divers from all over the world come here to explore the ocean surrounding the atolls. Snorkeling is very good as well thanks to the crystal clear water and lots of coral reefs.
There aren’t too many land animals, except fruit bats, birds, and lizards. Below are some animals that you can expect to see if you go diving or snorkeling in the Maldives.
- Sting Rays
- Whale sharks
- Sea turtles
- Clownfish “Nemo”
- Surgeonfish “Doris”
- Reef sharks
Are there any dangerous animals in the Maldives?
Some animals in the Maldives have the potential of being dangerous, such as the Lionfish. However, if you just follow the simple rule that you shouldn’t touch anything in the water, you’ll most certainly be safe.
The reef sharks aren’t dangerous, so you don’t have to worry about these. Hammerhead sharks might be scary because of their size, but they are seen as harmless to humans.
Currency and Credit Cards
The local currency in the Maldives is called Rufiyaa (MVR) but US dollars are commonly used as well. Resort islands will display everything in USD, whereas local islands will have most of their prices in Rufiyaa.
Bring US dollars if you want to carry cash because you can’t exchange Rufiyaa before you travel to the Maldives. You can also pay by card in most islands, especially at the resorts. VISA and Mastercard are typically the most accepted cards.
Tipping in the Maldives
Many restaurants and hotels will add a service fee to the bill, which means that you don’t have to add any extra tips. However, some will still expect a tip of 10%, especially at the resort islands where many guests are wealthy.
Is it safe to travel to the Maldives?
Few countries in the world are safer than the Maldives, especially if you’re visiting the resort islands. Crimes are almost unheard of, and at the resorts, you could even leave your villa unlocked.
Travel scams are also rare and as a tourist, you don’t have to worry about safety in the Maldives.
Can you drink alcohol in the Maldives?
Alcohol is forbidden by Islamic law, but you’re allowed to consume alcohol at the resort since they have special permission to serve alcohol. If you visit the local islands, you’re not allowed to import or consume alcohol, even as a tourist.
Do I need vaccinations for the Maldives?
Per law, there are no required vaccinations that you need to take before you travel to the Maldives.
Internet & Wi-Fi in the Maldives
Most resorts have a reliable Wi-Fi connection which is included in the price. Luxury hotels in the Maldives usually have a very good internet speed, even if they are located in the middle of nowhere in the Indian Ocean.
There are also internet cafes in Malé and most restaurants and guesthouses will have Wi-Fi on local islands these days as well.
Is it scary to fly in a seaplane?
It’s not every day that you’ll be flying in a seaplane, but I wouldn’t say that it’s scarier than a regular airplane. The seaplanes are quite small with only 10-12 passengers. Turbulence will feel more, but if the weather is bad, they will usually fly at a lower altitude.
You should also note that you’ll be flying over water most of the time, and these planes are specifically constructed to land safely on water, which means that there is less risk if something happens, and an emergency landing needs to be done.
The flight time with seaplanes is often short as well. Most resorts are located within 30-60 minutes by air from the airport in Malé. The only thing that I recommend is to bring earplugs because it will be very loud inside the cabin.
What to eat in the Maldives?
Maldivian cuisine mostly consists of fish & seafood. The resorts will often have a wide range of food from all over the world, but on the local islands, you’ll have fewer options.
The local restaurants either serve Maldivian food or Western fast food such as pizza, hamburgers or some pasta dishes. I recommend that you eat some local food, especially if you eat fish & seafood.
Vegan and vegetarian options
As a vegan, it can be tricky to find food, especially if you visit the local islands since most dishes will include some type of meat. The resorts will cater to their guests, especially if you notify the resort prior to your arrival.
However, vegans should still expect a somewhat limited range of foods to eat when traveling to the Maldives. As for vegetarians, there are more options, especially if you eat fish, then you’ll have a wide range of delicious Maldivian food to eat.
Information about the Maldives
- Number of islands: 1 192 islands whereof 200 are inhabited.
- Capital: Malé.
- Population: 420 000
- Religion: Islam
- Language: Dhivehi and English
- Timezone: (GMT+5)
Religion in the Maldives
100% of the population is Muslim in the Maldives, and while not everyone is strictly religious, the government enforces strict sharia laws on local islands as well as in the capital Malé.
Resort islands are more or less exempt from religion, and visitors won’t even notice that they are in a Muslim country. However, on local islands, you’ll hear the call for prayers five times a day, and you’re not allowed to walk in too revealing clothing.
Alcohol and pork are also strictly forbidden in the Maldives, except at the resorts. As a western tourist, you’ll have to adapt and follow local customs. The sharia laws aren’t as strict towards foreigners, but public affection is frowned upon for example.
The Maldivian Language
The local language in the Maldives is called Dhivehi and it’s an Indo-Aryan language, belonging to the Indo-European language family. Many of the major languages in the world have influenced Dhivehi, including Arabic, French, Persian, Portuguese, Hindustani and English.
Flights to the Maldives
There are direct flights to the Maldives from India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany, United Arab Emirates, China, and Singapore just to mention a few countries.
All flights will land at the international airport in Malé, and from there you can take a speedboat or seaplane to other islands.
Accommodation and Hotels in the Maldives
In recent years, budget accommodation has become available on the local islands since the government opened up for tourism outside the classic resort islands. This means that it’s now possible to visit the Maldives without having a lot of money, and there are options for budget travelers as well as luxury hotels.
To experience the real paradise of the Maldives, I recommend that you stay in one of the resort islands. These will be cleaner and have better beaches and you won’t be restricted in the same way.
No matter if you choose to stay in a local island or a resort island, you’ll need to book your accommodation in advance. When entering the country, you might be asked to show your full itinerary, including booking confirmations.
3 Luxury resorts that I recommend
- Kandolhu Island Resort (My favorite resort in the Maldives)
- Kuramathi Island Resort (Luxury with budget options)
- Soneva Jani (Incredible resort with cool private villas with their own waterslide)
Map of the Maldives
Most people have heard of the paradise islands in the Maldives, but not many will be able to pinpoint its location on the map.
Want more tips before you travel to the Maldives? Leave a comment below!