When I plan a trip, I take days to do my research, come up with a proper plan before I finally make my bookings. I have always followed this method and it has worked for me so far.
But my research for the Maldives was confusing as I hardly found any accurate and reliable information on the internet. I then spoke to a few people and looked up social media profiles of my acquaintances who visited the island nation recently.
Also Read: The Maldivian dream
Again, that was of no help because they had all gone for a pleasant stay at a private island resort.
If you book a resort, you are away from the rest of the country, especially their local life. They arrange for the pick-up from the airport; all you have to do there is relax, get some tan and binge on some western food. There is nothing bad about choosing to just relax, especially if you have a hectic professional life.
People, who want to understand the Maldivian culture, must stay on the local islands.
Before any trip, I’m never at peace until I’m clear on every small detail about the place. When I was struggling during the research for my Maldives trip, I had decided to write a brief piece on my blog to help other travellers in the future.
So, here it is. Before you go to the Maldives, as an independent traveller, here are some things you must know:
Transport – Speed boat, ferry or seaplane
The ocean is your road and ferry/speed boat or the seaplane are your vehicles in the Maldives. The Velana International Airport is on an island called Hulhumale. There is a separate terminal for seaplane, ferry and speed boat.
After clearing the customs and immigration, walk out of the arrival gate, turn left and then take a right for the exit. You’ll find the ferry terminal and the ticket counter just outside the airport, close to the water. The ferry ticket price is less than USD 1 to Male City and around USD 2 or 3 to Maafushi, a local island which is around 20 mins away from the airport.
Travelling by ferry is the cheapest available mode of transport in the Maldives. To be noted, if you plan on taking the ferry, it is better to pack lightly because there will be no one to help you in loading your luggage. You must also remember that while the ferries are cheaper, they take a lot more time than the speed boats.
Whereas, for the speed boats, you have to approach the help desk, which you will find when you take left after coming out of the arrival gate. They’ll do the rest for you. The speed boat people will also load the luggage for you.
While the seaplane transfers are easily the most scenic mode of transport, they put a huge hole in your pocket. Get all the information about seaplane transfers in the Maldives here.
The Maldives is an Islamic nation so everything is delayed on Fridays. There are several misconceptions about the same saying that everything is shut that day and you must know that, only ferries don’t operate on Fridays. You can always opt for the speed boats in that case and nothing else is shut.
Early morning flights
The first speed boat to the airport usually starts post 8 am from the local islands. For an early morning flight, it is better if you get to the Hulhumale island the previous evening itself. You’ll find several cheap and good accommodation. The next day, you can just take a cab to the airport.
Whereas, the last speed boat from the airport to the local islands is generally between 9 and 10 PM, so if you land in the Maldives after that, you can stay in Hulhumale for that night. You can avoid doing that if you are OK about paying USD 150 to 200 per person for a private speed boat to your local island.
You need to clearly remember the ferry/speed boat schedules as one mistake might get you stranded on an island and force you to spend unnecessarily more on accommodation. FYI, the last minute room or speed boat bookings cost a bomb.
Dollar to Rufiyaa conversion
In the Maldives, the US dollar is widely accepted along with their local currency of Rufiyaa. You must remember that the conversion rate of USD to RF is USD 1 = RF 15. This is the flat followed across the country. so do not fall for any other rate you are offered there.
Food and drinks
Most of the food is imported from other countries and very few ingredients are produced in the Maldives like coconut, banana, papaya and watermelons. So, their food is bland, not very great and the price they charge for the same would not seem worth.
In order to save up on food, you can carry a lot of stuff like cheese, bread, juices, chips. etc but remember, its a very strict Islamic country and alcohol and pork are strictly prohibited.
A dry vacation?
Even if the Maldives has some strict rules and regulations, alcohol is available at very limited spots. You get access to it on the private island resorts. There are three yachts – Kaani Princess, Princesses Ushwa and Sareefaa- running near the Maafushi Harbour and are called floating bars.
We picked Sareefaa because we were told that the services of the other two were not that great. It also turned out that Sareefaa was the only yacht that didn’t charge GST.
The prices anyway on the yachts are expensive. A beer will cost you USD 5 and things like French fries were USD 10. So, we just had a drink and soaked in the experience of chilling under the moon and on a three-storey yacht running on the Indian Ocean. It was a great way to unwind after a hectic day of snorkeling and island hopping.
You get free to and fro motorboat transfer to the yachts.
Prior to our trip, I had read in several blogs and public forums that because the Maldives is a strict country, women must not wear sleeveless and must have knees covered in the city of Male, Hulhumale and even on the local islands. However, that’s not the case.
Local islands like Maafushi and Gulhi are chilled out places and you just have to be dressed according to the rules in the city.
No bikinis and PDA in public places
It is important to respect the local culture. Do not be surprised when you see fully-clothed people in the water. Do not wear bikinis/skimmy clothes and show too much of public display of affection unless you are on a dedicated “bikini beaches” or on a private island resort.
You can do a lot in the country than just relax. If you are on a private island resort, they offer many activities at very high prices. But, on the local islands, the prices are low and different activities can be found from adventure sports, snorkeling, dolphin watching/cruise, fish feeding, picnic at a Sandbank, resort day excursions and many more.
Either strike a deal with your hotel owners about the same or there are many tour operators for the same like Icom.
You will not find a single doggie on the Maldives but the island nation is full of cats. When I tried to enquire about it, my hotel owner said it is because the Maldives is a Muslim country and dogs are not allowed in it. It was a bit shocking fact and when I said for a reason behind it, he did not have a great explanation as he just said, “It is, as it is,” and laughed it away.
The Maldives is famous for witnessing the spectacular sight of Bioluminescence – it is a natural phenomenon that turns the night-time ocean into a field of glowing stars. The Maldives falls in the list of rare countries that witness the incredible magic of nature.
But, it is never a great idea to plan your holiday around it. The phenomenon is not restricted to just one island, one season or one month but it can happen anywhere in the country. When it is dark, just keep watching the sea as waves break onto the beach or against a boat. It is all about luck here!
Vadhoo Island has apparently used Bioluminescence as a marketing trick. The resorts sell themselves as the place that offers a guaranteed sight of the Bioluminescence and attract several travellers. Even though the accommodation on Vadhoo is very expensive, people fall for it and go there.
The change in climate has been constantly affecting this planet and the limited drinking water in the Maldives is one of its victims. The drinking water in the country has been recycled, treated, and produced via reverse osmosis desalination. This is one of the reasons why it is expensive.
I would suggest you carry a few empty bottles along so that you can avoid buying drinking water at every meal.
The Maldives is safe
I had never felt as safe as I did in the Maldives and this is one of the main reasons I would want to go back to the country and explore more. Apart from the usual precautions, women especially do not have to worry.
Even though each island is isolated from the other and you hardly find people around at one time, there will never be a moment when you’ll feel uncomfortable or insecure.
As long as you make a budget and stick to it, you can pull off a Maldives trip almost comfortably.
To Find out more about our Maldives trip, click here.