WHAT TO BRING
The Maldives is a place where you don’t require much in order to be comfortable. It is tropical, sunny and very relaxed, so you only really need to bring a few essentials:
Valid Passport – with at least 6 months left before expiry.
Light weight, casual, non-synthetic clothing (cottons and natural fibres are best) which appropriately cover the body, when in company of the local communities. (Please understand local customs and religious requirements relating to dress codes. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it needs to be respectful. Refer to notes on CLOTHING below).
Cool footwear (flip flops/sandals are best). If you are interested in exploring the reefs, a pair of reef shoes is recommended to avoid injuries.
Swimwear – rash/t-shirts are recommended for snorkelling to avoid sunburn.
Sunscreens, after sun lotions and personal hygiene products – Please adhere to 100ml restrictions for anything you wish to carry on hand-luggage on flights.
Insect/Mosquito repellent – a must on local islands where ‘fogging’ is not always implemented
Prescription medications (if required) – please bring supporting documents.
Sunglasses and hats.
Dive certification card and log book if you intend to participate in SCUBA diving.
Power adapter for phones, laptops etc – The Maldives uses mostly UK style sockets.
Underwater camera – The Maldives below sea level is worth a few photos.
For guests wishing to use a guesthouse or dive centre underwater camera ensure you bring along a USB or memory card in order to transfer your memories.
Ear Plugs particularly if you are a light sleeper or are on board a boat and want to avoid the sound of fellow passengers at close quarters.
We often get asked ‘Do I need to bring snorkel, mask and fins? We would advise to bring along your own mask and snorkel as this means you’ll be assured your mask fits your face properly and is comfortable and less likely to have leakage. We find that peace of mind goes a long way. A mask and snorkel is small and light and should take up very little space in your suitcase. Fins which are the cumbersome part are available to hire or if you have booked a snorkeling tour with us will be included within the package. This means you won’t have to try and find room for them in your bag and leaves you space for other essentials!
Recommended vaccinations and other health protection measures vary according to the countries you are visiting and where you are travelling from. We recommend you contact your GP or a travel clinic for current information on vaccinations needed for your destination. If you are arriving from an infected area then you must have an international certificate of inoculation against Yellow Fever or Cholera.
Normal recommendations for the Maldives are: Tetanus, Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, and Diphtheria
Sensible precautions should be taken to avoid sunburn and dehydration. On arrival and when travelling in the Maldives, stick to bottled mineral water. Please ensure you have appropriate travel insurance, which includes health cover. If you require prescription medicines, please bring them with you, and include the appropriate documentation.
There are two hospitals on the main island, Male. The Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) is the biggest hospital in the country providing sophisticated medical care. Some resorts have in-house doctors. A decompression chamber is within easy reach of most resorts in case of emergency. There is also a hospital with ER facility in Hulhumale.
Guests who suffer from motion sickness may want to consider carrying motion sickness tablets or wristbands if travelling by speedboat or public ferry, especially during the period May – September. Consult your doctor or pharmacy for advice on selection. For guests staying on dive or cruise Liveaboards whilst we cannot predict the weather conditions our crew will ensure the vessel is anchored in the calmest waters available.
The seawater in the Maldives maybe crystal clear but it can be full of plankton which can get into your ears and cause infections and may stop you from snorkeling and diving for a few days. In extreme cases a visit to the doctor may be needed for antibiotics. As a precaution whenever you get out of the water flush/rinse your ears well with fresh water and then dry thoroughly. Products such as ‘Swimear’ also assist in this process.
Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our multi day tours. Through our partner World Nomads, you can buy an insurance package to suit you and your travel plans, allowing you to depart on your holiday confident that you are covered. If you plan to arrange any adventure activities during your tour (eg. Scuba diving), you should check the small print in the policy to make sure these are covered. You need to be covered for medical expenses abroad and any emergency repatriation that may be required due to your illness/injury. We also recommend that you take out cancellation cover and baggage cover.
IMPORTANT: We must have your travel insurance details (policy number, issuing company details, and emergency telephone number) before you depart or you may not be allowed to join the tour/holiday. If you haven’t told us already, please let us know the details when you can.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
We strongly recommend that you check your government’s travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. Prior to your arrival or even during your stay we are also happy to provide up to date and on the spot local advise or information.
Local Currency and Banking in the Maldives
The Maldives has a non-convertible currency – Maldivian Rufiyaa – this cannot be purchased beforehand. One Rufiyaa is 100 Laari and is available in 1000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 Rufiyaa notes. One US Dollar is equivalent to 15.42 Rufiyaa. The following international currencies can be changed easily to local currency at the airport on arrival: USD/GBP/Canadian Dollar/Euro/Danish Krone/Hong Kong Dollar/Japanese Yen/Norwegian Krone/Singapore Dollar/Swiss Franc/Swedish Krone. Note it is not possible to exchange currency to USD only to MVR. Note that MVR can only be exchanged to original currency prior to your departure if you have a receipt for an arrival exchange from the airport Bank of Maldives exchange counter.
It is advised not to exchange currency in Male where bank queues are common and waiting time lengthy. The US Dollar is accepted as legal tender. All major credit cards can be used (and are preferred) at resorts, hotels, shops, etc., however, on local islands it is usually only guesthouses and larger restaurants which accept credit cards and cash is generally preferred. Most restaurants and shops will accept USD$ in payment providing change in local currency.
The national bank, Bank of Maldives has several branches in Male’ as well as other major population hubs such as the Male’ International Airport, Maafushi and Hulhumale. Several other regional banks also operate in central city, Male’, including the State Bank of India, Bank of Ceylon, and HSBC. There are no banks on resort islands and banks are not available on all the local islands visited in our tours.
ATMs: Most banks represented in Malé provide automatic teller machine (ATM) services and credit card services at several key points in Malé and Hulhumale. Only local currency MRF will be dispensed. Whilst there is an ATM at the Airport and Male branch of the Bank of Maldives dispensing USD$, it only dispenses to Bank of Maldives cardholders. There are no ATMs on resort islands and whilst there are ATMs on the local islands visited on our tours note that international bank charges may apply dependent on your own bank account terms and conditions.
Bank Notes: The banks in the Maldives are very particular about the condition of bank notes and will refuse deposits of old style USD$, even though still an active currency, damaged notes, badly creased or well-worn notes will also be rejected. Therefore, if presenting such a note as form of payment you may be requested to change to a note of better condition. Please do not take offence, it is purely that the note will have no worth to the individual to whom you are paying. Also, note that small bills .i.e. $1 and $5 have a lower exchange value, as the Bank of Maldives charges for small notes to be deposited.
New MVR notes were introduced in January 2016. The new Ran Dhihafaheh notes can be distinguished as they are made of more robust material with a clear seal watermark and raised ‘braille’ like markings. It is also important to highlight that these new notes will not be accepted by banks if they have a fold or crease through them.
Spending money and budgeting: It is impossible to say exactly what you will need during your local island visit as this varies depending on personal preferences, the number of extra optional activities and souvenirs you may like to purchase.
While on the local islands, approximate prices are as follows:
- Snack lunch $5 – $10
- Evening meal in guesthouse or local restaurant $10 – $20
- Tea/Coffee $1
- Soft drinks $1.50
- Water 1.5L $0.50
You should expect prices in tourist hotels and on resort islands to be considerably more expensive than this.
TIPPING AND HAGGLING
If you are happy with the services provided by your local guides a tip – though not compulsory – is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels and inspires excellent service. The amount to tip is always subject to your satisfaction with the service provided, and your budget. As a rough guide, we recommend you budget $10 – $20 a day extra for the duration of the holiday which you can use as tipping money at your discretion.
Haggling is not customary in the Maldives. All service industry purchases (for example cafes, diving, and excursions) which are not part of your holiday package will attract a 10% service charge on top of the published price. A further 12% Government Tourist Tax is also added to purchases on resort and local islands.
PASSPORTS AND VISAS
Arrival at Male airport, Customs and Immigration
No prior visa arrangements are required. Tourists are issued a 30-day visa on arrival. A passport valid for 6 months and travel documents (flight tickets) are necessary. You will need to present a landing card which should be distributed by the crew of your flight. Alternatively you can find cards immediately before the immigration booths. To obtain immigration clearance it is a requirement to indicate on the landing card an address or provide proof that you have a booking at a resort, guest house or safari boat. Without pre booked accommodation you will be refused entry. Immigration will assist with the booking of your first night’s stay and you can expect to pay considerably more than the standard room rate.
As from 29th January 2016 in accordance with ICAO, all passengers arriving to the Maldives must be in the possession of a machine-readable passport in order to be allowed entry.
Importing goods such as alcohol, pork items, pornography (very broadly defined), religious materials offensive to Islam, idols of worship, narcotics and psychotropic substances, explosives and weapons into the Maldives is strictly forbidden. Alcohol and pork products under a special license are available in resort islands. On the way out, note that exporting sand, turtle shells, seashells and a range of marine products is also forbidden.
As your plane breaks through the clouds revealing the emerald islands below, prepare for one of the most exciting flying experiences. The runway of Hulhule’ airport runs parallel to the shore creating a (rather safe, of course) adrenalin rush for a second when it makes you think that the plane is landing on water. Velaana International Airport is just fifteen minutes from Male’. The airport is small, but well-equipped with souvenir and duty-free shops, restaurants, medical facilities, and provides banking and postal services.
On arrival please proceed through immigration, security and customs before passing through automatic sliding doors into the main arrival area, here look out for our representative who will be positioned on the left hand side holding a Resort Life signboard. You will then be taken on a transfer either by boat to the capital Male for hotel stays there, by transfer vehicle to guesthouses based in Hulhumale, by transfer speedboat or flight to your resort or by dhoni to your liveaboard. Details of your specific personal arrival information will be emailed to you upon receipt of full payment along with your tour or accommodation voucher. Note: Unlike other International airports there is not a public taxi rank where guests arriving can hail a vehicle. Transfers to Hulhumale as with resorts need to be booked prior to arrival. There are only a limited number of vehicles authorized to provide transfer services from Male airport to Hulhumale. Very occasionally if some flights have been delayed there may be a knock on delay to your transfer to the Hulhumale guesthouse. If this is the case, our representative will remain with you in Male airport and make this wait as pleasant as possible for you.
We do not sell international flights and these are not included in the price of our tours or holiday packages. If you would like us to provide some suggestions, please just let us know your preferred departure airport and we’ll check availability and send you some prices and flight times for a selection of airlines. Flights into Male are regular and you should have little difficulty booking one. However, during peak periods, (Christmas/New Year, Easter, July/August & October) cheaper flights always sell out quickly, so we advise booking early. Flights to Male are served by British Airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad and Sri Lanka Airlines. If you’re not sure where to start, please contact us for details. In order for us to ensure we meet you when you arrive in Male, you must supply us with your arrival information. If flying in we require your arrival date and time and flight number into Male
The airport departure tax of US$25.00 is included when you purchase your airline ticket.
DOMESTIC TRANSFER FLIGHT
Domestic flight transfers will be as closely aligned as possible with your international flight arrival/departure timing. Any excess luggage of 20 kg per passenger will be charged at US$1.00 per kg, which can be paid in cash or by credit card direct to the airline carrier at the domestic terminal. Excess luggage may be subject to delay. Hand luggage allowance 7 kg. Please note that if the flight is full you may be requested to step on the luggage scales in order that both passenger and luggage weight is evenly distributed throughout the aircraft. Transfer rates are subject to increase if fuel surcharge increase. Baggage allowance is not applicable for infants. Domestic flight transfer times will not be confirmed until the evening prior to the flight. This is because with only one runway at Male any changes to international flights will take precedence.
Seaplane transfer is operated by a third party, Trans Maldivian Airlines (TMA). Flight schedules and timing is entirely at their discretion and could be at times subject to their operational requirements or the prevailing weather conditions. Seaplane transfer operates during the daylight hours approximately between 6am to 4pm. On Arrival date, for International flights landing later than 15:45hrs OR for night international flight arrivals, transfer will be the next day, usually in the morning. On departure date, we will not be in a position to arrange transfers for any international flights departing from Velana International Airport, before 08:45hrs. For night international departure, transfer from the resort to the airport will be the same day as departure date, normally in the afternoon.
Flight timings are not prescheduled and will only be available in the evening prior to arrival or departure as it depends on the international flight arrivals or departure schedule. A flight to the resort may also carry passengers that arrive on other international flights and/or are flying to other resorts. An excess baggage charge of US$4/kg is levied for baggage exceeding the personal baggage allowance of 20kg payable directly to the carrier. The maximum weight allowed per checked-in baggage is 32kg and a 5kg allowance for carry-on baggage.
Given the geographical limitations, In the event of missed international flights due to any force majeure circumstances, neither Resort Life Maldives PVT LTD, accommodation provider nor the transfer provider will be responsible for any additional expenses involved in re-booking/extending your international flights or accommodation, hence we strongly recommend you to purchase the relevant travel insurance for such untoward claims.
PUBLIC FERRY TRANSFERS
Most of our tours involve transfer by public ferry. These ferries are operated by independent companies and can at times get delayed or cancelled even at short notice due to weather conditions or mechanical failure. In the event of a ferry cancellation on any of our scheduled departure group tours Resort Life Maldives will make alternative arrangements and bear the cost of transfer. For guests travelling independently or on a private tailor made tour we will assist in making alternative transfer arrangements, usually by speedboat. Any additional costs MUST be borne by the guest. In the event of missed international flights or cancelled transfer connections due to any force majeure circumstances, neither Resort Life Maldives PVT LTD nor the transfer provider will be responsible for any additional expenses involved in re-booking/extending your international flights or accommodation, hence we strongly recommend you to purchase the relevant travel insurance for such untoward claims.
Resort Life Maldives only partner’s selected hotels and guesthouses based on annual audits conducted by our team to ensure facilities, safety and service meet our criteria. You can be assured of comfort, good service, local atmosphere and value for money. Our multi day guided tours are not designed to be luxury tours though guesthouse upgrades are available upon request. We have therefore chosen a selection of different guesthouses to use on our tours that provide comfortable clean rooms, friendly service and good food. Note not all our selected guesthouses offer balconies or sea views, therefore if a sea view or a balcony is specifically required please advise at time of booking. Additional charges may apply.
Budget – basic facilities
Standard – mid range
Premium – boutique properties or hotel
A range of different local island or resort options are available to extend the end of your tour. Resort islands exist on their own private island. These range in size from 2.5km across to just 150m across. This means that the facilities on the resort you choose (restaurants, bars, sports facilities, entertainment etc.) are the only ones you will have access to during your stay. Due to transport and access issues, you should expect to find prices far more costly for drinks, snacks, meals and activities etc. Most resorts offer excursions by boat to local fishing village islands, but otherwise you will stay on the resort island for the duration of your stay.
On scheduled group tours accommodation is based on sharing of twin/double/triple rooms as requested at time of booking. Couples will always be provided with a private double room. For private or tailor-made bookings accommodation will be provided as per your booking request. If you are a single traveller and you want to guarantee yourself a single room throughout the tour, a single supplement charge will be payable where applicable. If you are a single traveller joining the tour and you are happy to share a twin room with another single traveller on the tour of the same sex then you do not need to pay this supplement, even if you end up getting a single room based on the final make-up of the group. This applies only to local island guesthouses. Single travellers adding resort extensions to the end of their tour will need to pay a single room supplement to cover the cost of a single room.
Visiting the Maldives is the chance for you to break out the brightly coloured summer clothes that are so often out of place in colder climates. The higher temperatures and ever-present sunshine means that locals and visitors alike prefer dressing in lightweight materials. T-shirts, cotton clothing, skirts and shorts would be the best option to stay cool. The ideal footwear would be sandals and flip-flops.
Whether to pack only the more casual options like shorts and khakis or the newest Gucci number depends on what you plan to do, or where you plan to stay. Casual clothing is fine on the local islands and in guesthouses, smart casual clothing is usually enough for Male’ or resorts, but the more up-market resorts may require that you dress up for dinner. Sunscreen, insect repellent, and hats are all necessary for a comfortable holiday, but they are available widely for purchase in resorts and around Male’.
The Maldives is a Muslim country and care needs to be taken in relation to the dress code on local islands. Whilst it is acceptable for men to wear T Shirts and shorts or swim shorts; females should avoid causing offence by maintaining a more conservative approach to clothes by wearing T Shirts, loose shorts or sarongs. Whilst the islands we visit are more tolerant of guests wearing traditional beachwear, females should NOT wear bikinis and swimwear unless on an un- inhabited island, picnic island, sandbank, screened off local beach (Maafushi for example), dive boat or resort island. Whilst the law restricts the wearing of bikinis on local islands, some guesthouses do provide a private sunbathing area on the beach or on the terrace of the guesthouse, your guide will advise when and where this is possible. It is common practice by both locals and visitors for females to swim from local beaches wearing a t-shirt and shorts. When visiting the home of a local family or during the island tours where we may have access to mosques and family homes, shoulders and thighs should be covered out of respect of local customs.
With a tropical climate, plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 30°C throughout the year, there is never a bad time to visit the Maldives. The Maldives has two distinct seasons; dry season (northeast monsoon) from January to March and the wet season (southwest monsoon) from mid-May to November. The rare thunderstorm in the Maldives (especially around the southwest monsoon months) can be a welcome respite from the sun. Cloudy skies and slate grey seas, and crashing thunder makes for lovely reading weather. The warm temperatures will allow you to go for a walk in the rain, a thoroughly enjoyable experience. For extra exhilaration, take a swim in the rain – the sea will be extra warm.
There can be heavy rain showers pretty much any time of year, but they tend to be short and cannot be accurately predicted seasonally (in other words – don’t worry too much about them – you will quite possibly experience some rain showers, but the majority of the weather should be great, and you will be unlucky to get several consecutive days of heavy rain). Diving is good all year-round, although a basic rule is that reef life is more varied and visibility is better on the western side of any atoll from May to November and on the eastern side of any atoll from December to April. Like many places in the world today, the climate and weather pattern is changing and historical data is less reliable as an indication of what to expect in the here and now. Note as the Maldives is situated so close to the equator it is possible to burn even on a cloudy day and sun screen should be applied as a matter of course.
FOOD AND DRINK
Maldivians, as Muslims, are prohibited by law from consuming alcohol; hence there is a total restriction on alcohol being available on inhabited local islands, this includes the capital Male. Alcohol is available at Hulhule Island Hotel which is located at the airport. All tourist resorts and safari boats stock alcohol for guest consumption. Please don’t bring alcohol through the airport as it will be confiscated and returned to you at time of departure.
For guests staying at the Barefoot ECO Hotel, the property provides a floating bar the ‘’Black Pearl” which is located in the hotel lagoon and offers alcoholic drinks. Transfer is by small speedboat from the property’s jetty made on a regular basis from just before sunset until late evening. Alcohol can only be consumed on board and cannot be brought back to the island. There are also a handful of bar boats that are anchored off local islands which currently include Maafushi and Mathiveri. We cannot however guarantee that these boats will be operating during your stay. The traditional food of the Maldivians is based around fish, (tuna to be more specific), chilli and coconuts. White rice and “roshi” (a flour based flat-bread) are staple items. Fish is normally smoked, fired, barbequed or roasted. Pork products are strictly prohibited. When eating on local islands it is worth noting that Maldivians traditionally eat with their fingers and therefore food is not always served ‘piping hot’. Tap water is perfectly safe for brushing teeth however, we advise to drink bottled or boiled water. All food on local islands is halal.
Spare batteries or a battery charger & adapter, a good camera bag (capable of keeping the dust and spray out) and a spare memory card are essential. A polarizing filter is useful for sand/water shots, whilst a lens hood eliminates some of the glare. Please ask local people for permission before photographing them. If they do agree, you may be asked for some money from them. The telecommunications services are provided by Ooredoo or Dhiraagu, a joint-venture between the government of the Maldives and Cable & Wireless PLC of United Kingdom. International Direct Dialling, telephone, telex, telegram, facsimile and Internet services are available. A mobile phone network is accessible within Male’ and atolls. If you are anticipating on keeping in regular contact with friends or family at home it is advisable to purchase a Maldivian SIM card together with re-charge cards available in various denominations of local currency. This can be done very easily at either the airport or in Male/Hulhumale. Card phones are set up in most of the islands. In addition, Dhiraagu provides a paging service, maritime radio service and telephone and telex Immarset services to ships and oilrigs. Wi-Fi is available at all our guesthouses and in most cases it is free. However as an island nation where cabling is along the sea bed and there is only one antenna per island you should not expect the signal strength and speed of internet access to be at the level you are accustomed to back home. Weather can at times also impact the quality of connection. At resorts Wi-Fi is usually chargeable. Generally Wi-Fi will only be available in public areas and will not be available in individual rooms/villas. Unless stated otherwise Wi-Fi is not available on board any dive or cruising Liveaboard and for guests who do not wish to shut off from the outside world we would advise the purchase of a Maldives 3G SIM card.
Most local island sockets are three pronged (British style) and 220 volts. Adaptors are available in most airport shops if you don’t have one. All electrical devices running on 110/120 V must have power converters / step-up transformers. All guesthouse rooms have electrical sockets where you can re-charge cameras, phones etc. Electrical sockets on resorts may be different so an adaptor is a worthwhile item to pack. Guests staying at The Barefoot Eco Hotel, should note that the sockets are Italian two pin style.
Like everything in Maldives, Government and business is pretty laid back with business hours commencing from 8.30am to 2.30pm. It is important to know that the Maldives follows business week from Sunday to Thursday, with most places closed on a Friday. The shops in the Maldives open at different times in the morning but usually not before 9.00 A.M. The shops close for prayer times for an interval of 15 – 30 minutes in the afternoon and between 18:00 and 20: in the evening. The latest time for the shops to close business is 10.00 P.M.
Maldives Standard Time is GMT/UTC + 5 and during BST + 4 Note some resorts operate Island Time, which is 1 hour ahead of Maldives standard time. The Barefoot Eco Hotel is one of these properties.
Dhivehi is the main language spoken in Maldives. The language is widely used for conversing with people. Since, it involves the use of many English, Hindi and Arabic words; it seems to resemble various languages spoken in Sri Lanka, South East Asia and North India. Read on to know more about the common languages of Maldives. Other languages spoken in Maldives include English, which is also recognized as the second main language.
The following are a few simple tips that require very little effort on your part but which will help ensure that any effect you have on the locations you visit is positive rather than negative.
Don’t prejudge: Things in different countries will almost certainly be different. That doesn’t make them worse or inferior, just different.
Communicate: Don’t expect locals to speak your language. Take the trouble to learn a few words or phrases of the local language. Don’t worry about sounding silly. Most locals are patient and accommodating and appreciate you making the effort to communicate in their language.
Conserve energy: Be careful not to waste valuable resources. Use local resources sparingly. Switch off lights, air-conditioning and fans when you leave the hotel room and don’t waste water.
Remove superfluous packaging. Many countries have far less efficient waste disposal systems than ours. Remove packaging from newly acquired items before leaving home.
Choose environmentally friendly products: By using environmentally friendly (bio degradable) sun creams, shampoos and detergents you can help reduce pollution.
Respect local customs and traditions: As you are a guest in these countries, you should also comply with the local customs. If you are friendly and well mannered, the locals will reciprocate and it will only enhance your experience.
It’s important to follow dress and behaviour guidelines especially when visiting religious or sacred sites (your tour leader will advise you how best to do this).
Don’t litter: No matter how untidy or dirty the country you’re travelling in may look to you, avoid littering, as there is no need to add to the environment. As an island state, the Maldives has a tough challenge dealing with rubbish and waste. Please consider taking home as much plastic waste as you can (eg. water bottles).
Refuse plastic bags when shopping.