Maldives – Complete Tourist Guide

Maldives have the ring of a very exotic destination and rightly so. This archipelago consisting of 1,190 coral islands is home to some of world’s finest beaches and world class diving opportunities. Each island of Maldives is very flat, only sticking a little bit out of the Indian Ocean. The highest point of an entire archipelago is mere 2.3 metres (7 ft 7 in) above sea level. Because of that, Maldives are affected by global warming and rising sea level more than any other country in the world. From the sea, Maldives look like an oasis with palm trees growing out of the endless ocean.

Maldives, Angaga Island Resort & Spa Photo by iujaz, Flickr
Maldives, Angaga Island Resort & Spa Photo by iujaz, Flickr

Maldives Location on a Map

Maldives archipelago is located in the Laccadive Sea, 700 kilometres (435 miles) southwest of Sri Lanka. The archipelago consists of 26 coral atolls which spread over an area of about 90,000 square kilometres. 200 islands are inhabited, additional 80 islands house tourists resorts (yes, one resort on entire island, giving you complete tranquility and the feel of a private beach/island).

Maldives is the smallest country on Asian continent – both as far as population and land area are concerned. On a worldwide scale, Maldives is the lowest country on the planet – with 1.5 meters above sea level average ground level and with 2.3 meters highest point, it is also the country with the lowest highest point in the world.

You can see the location of Maldives on an interactive, navigable map below. Keep in mind that Maldives is a set of more than one thousand islands. While most are uninhabited, the country still spreads across Indian Ocean quite a bit. Unzoom the map to see entire archipelago:

Maldives Islands

Maldives islands are grouped into Atolls. There are 26 Atolls in Maldives, each consisting of a group of islands. Most Atolls are known to general public by their English name, but in native Dhivehi language they are named differently. There are 20 administrative Atoll groups in the Maldives, 10 of which are open to tourism. The list of the Atolls is below and includes its English name and Dhivehi name in the brackets:

Lhaviyani (Miladhunmadulu Uthuruburi), Raa (Maalhosmadulu Uthuruburi), Baa (Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi), Kaafu (North and South Male Atoll), Alifu (Ari), Vaavu (Felidhu), Meemu (Mulak), Faafu (Nilandhe Atholhu Uthuruburi), Dhaalu (Nilandhe Atholhu Dhekunuburi), Seenu (Addu), Gaafu Alifu, Gaafu Dhaalu, Gnaviyani, Haa Alifu, Haa Dhaalu, Laamu, Nyavinani, Seenu, Shaviyani, and Thaa.

Aerial View of Ari Atoll, Maldives, Photo by shazwan, Flickr
Aerial View of Ari Atoll, Maldives, Photo by shazwan, Flickr

Maldives Visa Requirements

Maldives are very welcoming of tourists (30% of country’s GDP comes from tourism) so everyone, regardless of which country issued their passport gets 30 day tourist visa on arrival. In order to get the visa, you must show you have enough money for the duration of your stay and a return ticket to take you out of the country. If you booked your vacation through a travel agent and have resort reservation, then you don’t need to prove you have sufficient funds. Otherwise, you will be required to have $50 per day plus $100 on top of it.

Maldives is a Muslim country. It is illegal to bring in pork and pornography. Make sure you don’t throw any of that in your luggage as it will be X-Rayed and could get you in trouble. On your way out, make sure you don’t have any sea shells or sand samples on you as exporting it is illegal.

Visa extension of up to 90 days total is possible and can be obtained from the Department of Immigration and Emigration in Male. You may be asked to document where in Maldives you would be staying for 90 days.

Maldives - Islands of Paradise, Photo by Craig Grobler, Flickr
Maldives - Islands of Paradise, Photo by Craig Grobler, Flickr

Getting to Maldives

The only way to Maldives is by plane. There are no boats that sail to Maldives and even once you have landed, you will be taken to your resort island by air taxi, rather than boat. Navigating among the reefs surrounding Maldives is risky and many boats and yachts saw their end trying to reach the islands. Furthermore, permits allowing foreign boats to sail to Maldives are so expensive you’re better off flying.

Male International Airport (IATA code is MLE) is on Hulhule Island which is the island located right next to the capital city of Male (as you can see on the map above).

Flat Island with Soft Sandy Beach in the Maldives, Photo by Rachel Dearlove, Wikipedia
Flat Island with Soft Sandy Beach in the Maldives, Photo by Rachel Dearlove, Wikipedia

Maldives Resorts

There are 93 resorts in Maldives. Hotels only exist in the capital Male. Larger islands have fewer resorts, but majority of resorts take up their own island so beach occupation is limited to resort guests. If you seek tranquility, the farther a resort is from Male, the less populated it will be, however regardless of which part of Maldives you find yourself in, beaches will not be overcrowded. You are in fact likely to find a beach where you are all alone, separated from everyone and everything else. It’s great for unwinding and having a little time for yourself. It’s also perfect for honeymooners.

Overwater bungalows are a popular means of lodging for resort tourists and while it has its charm and should be tried by anyone visiting Maldives, it gets difficult to handle during a longer stay. If you happen to have a stormy night while staying in a bungalow, the noise from waves crashing into the stilts will make it difficult to sleep. Bungalows are also often cramped closely next to each other which makes for challenging times especially if you’re a couple on honeymoon trying to have your moment.

Most resorts are on Kaafu Atoll, with Alifu Atoll being the second busiest.

Overwater Bungalows in Maldives, Photo by muha... Flickr
Overwater Bungalows in Maldives, Photo by muha... Flickr

Maldives Weather

The weather in Maldives is tropical year round. Maldives are located around the equator in the Indian Ocean, providing it with climate with little temperature fluctuations. Regardless of when you visit Maldives, the temperature will likely remain within 24°C to 33°C range. Humidity is high, however ocean breezes move across the islands all the time making it more bearable as sweat gets washed away with breeze.

The highest recorded temperature in Maldives occurred in April and reached 37°C (99°F). The coldest recorded temperature occurred in January and reached 17°C (63°F).

Boat in Shallow Waters Surrounding Maldive Islans, Photo by Gobbler, Wikitravel
Boat in Shallow Waters Surrounding Maldive Islans, Photo by Gobbler, Wikitravel

Maldives – The Best Time to Visit

Rainy monsoon season in Maldives lasts from April to October. During that time it rains a lot, it’s windy and storms are frequent. The best time to visit Maldives would be in March, when average temperatures reach enjoyable 29°C (85°F) yet participation is low. February is the month with least precipitation, but while temperature remains tropical, it gets cold at times so on occasion you’d have to wear long sleeve shirts and may find the ocean water cold from the beginning.

Scuba Diving in Maldives

Endless coral reefs surrounding Maldive atolls are hundreds of kilometres away from highly populated, industrialized areas which makes for clear water and abundant sea life – perfect conditions for scuba diving. While scuba diving in Maldives is significantly costlier than in coastal areas of mainland Asia, the gear rented is in excellent condition and well maintained. Safety standards are strictly adhered to and guides are knowledgeable and friendly. You’d miss out a lot if you didn’t go under water on your vacation in Maldives.

Swimming with Whale Sharks in Maldives, Photo: festeban, Flickr
Swimming with Whale Sharks in Maldives, Photo: festeban, Flickr

Honeymoon in Maldives

I’ve mentioned it a few times before already – Maldives is a perfect destination for honeymooners. With their tranquil, desolate resorts that often take up one small island, peaceful and enjoyable honeymoon is pretty much guaranteed. This is where I’m going to go on my honeymoon, if I ever find a lady crazy enough to marry me.

Newlywed Couple on a Honeymoon in Maldives Took Dolphin Cruise, Photo: muha... Flickr
Newlywed Couple on a Honeymoon in Maldives Took Dolphin Cruise, Photo: muha... Flickr

Maldives – Safety for Visitors

Maldives went through rather turbulent times in recent past, but it seems that it’s all a thing of the past now. During the rule of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, there was questionable democracy in Maldives with rigged elections and persecution of dissidents. The iron fist ruler got himself re-elected five time in a row and sent those who would question or oppose his rule to jail. After international pressure and two years of violent riots, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was defeated in what appears as Maldive’s first democratic election. This took place in October of 2008. Newly elected president Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed took charge of the country which relieved political tension and riots have not occurred since.

Scuba-Diver Encounters Huge Jellyfish in Maldives, Photo: stompy, Flickr
Scuba-Diver Encounters Huge Jellyfish in Maldives, Photo: stompy, Flickr

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises all visitors to exercise high degree of caution when visiting Maldives stating that the situation could deteriorate anytime and do it rapidly. Canadian government also warns people traveling to Maldives that petty crime is high and one should maintain awareness of their surrounding and secure their valuables at all times.

US Department of State cautions travellers to Maldives to not engage in any political protests or other such activity during their stay on the island. US government also highlights the incident from 2007 when 12 foreign tourists were wounded in a bomb blast caused by an IED (improvised explosive device).

Sea Turtle Swimming in Clear Waters of Maldives, Photo: eNil, Flickr
Sea Turtle Swimming in Clear Waters of Maldives, Photo: eNil, Flickr

As a conclusion – compared to nearby Sri Lanka or India, Maldives is likely much safer in overall regard. Most tourists visiting Maldives stay on resort islands where no one, but resort visitors and workers go, separating them safely from potential problems. However backpackers and individual travellers should exercise caution and keep it low profile. Secure your valuables and don’t display signs of affluence.

Maldives Video

Following video is a great introduction to Maldives with beautiful images of all that the islands have to offer:

And another video from Maldives. This one is not narrated. It’s just pure enjoyment:

Maldives is one of those “must visit before you die” destinations. It’s a whole different world. The islands are small and vastly flat, ocean water is crystal clean and sea life abundant. It’s a heaven on Earth or a paradise if you will. Let’s hope that extremisms will not turn it into a scary place. Maldives is a luxury destination so travelers on a budget may need to compromise but it can be done. Real adventurers may not find Maldives interesting because of its laid back lifestyle and repeated appearance. It’s perfect for those seeking tranquility, but if you like life on the move, you better look elsewhere. It’s worth a visit never the less. Even if just for a brief period of time.

Palm Trees Around White Sand Beach in Maldives, Photo by Mrs eNil, Flickr
Palm Trees Around White Sand Beach in Maldives, Photo by Mrs eNil, Flickr

List of Maldives Resorts

Adaaran “Club” Bathala on the North Ari Atoll, Adaaran “Club” Rannalhi on the Kaafu Atoll, Adaaran “Select” Hudhuranfushi on the Kaafu Atoll, Adaaran “Select” Meedhupparu on the Raa Atoll, Adaaran Prestige Vadoo on the Kaafu Atoll, Alimatha Aquatic Resort on the Vaavu Atoll, Anantara Dhigu Resort & Spa, Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Anantara Veli Resort & Spa, Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Angaga Island Resort & Spa on the South Ari Atoll, Angsana Resort & Spa Maldives Ihuru on the Kaafu Atoll, Angsana Resort & Spa Maldives Velavaru on the Dhaalu Atoll, Asdhu Sun Island on the Kaafu Atoll, Athurugau Island Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Bandos Island Resort & Spa on the Kaafu Atoll, Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru on the Kaafu Atoll, Baros Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Biyadhoo Island Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Centara Grand Island Resort and Spa Maldives on the South Ari Atoll, Chaaya Island Dhonveli Beach & Spa Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Chaaya Lagoon Hakuraa Huraa on the Meemu Atoll, Club Faru, Farukolhufushi on the Kaafu Atoll, Club Med Kanifinolhu on the Kaafu Atoll, Coco Palm Boduhithi on the Kaafu Atoll, Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu on the Baa Atoll, Coco Palm Kudahithi on the Kaafu Atoll, Cocoa Island on the Kaafu Atoll, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island on the South Ari Atoll, Constance Halaveli Resort Maldives on the North Ari Atoll, Dhiggiri Tourist Resort on the Vaavu Atoll, Dhoni Island on the Ari Atoll, Diva Maldives on the South Ari Atoll, Dream Island Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Ellaidhoo Tourist Resort on the North Ari Atoll, Embudu Village on the Kaafu Atoll, Eriyadu Island Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Fihaalhohi Island Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Filitheyo Island Resort on the Faafu Atoll, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa on the Kaafu Atoll, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru on the Baa Atoll, Fun Island Resort (under re-construction) on the Kaafu Atoll, Gangehi Island Resort on the North Ari Atoll, Gasfinolhu Island Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Giraavaru Tourist Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Helengeli Island Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Hilton Maldives Iru Fushi Resort and Spa on the Noonu Atoll, Holiday Island (Dhiffushi) on the South Ari Atoll, Huvafen Fushi on the Kaafu Atoll, Island Hideaway At Dhonakulhi Maldives Spa Resort & Marina on the Haa Alifu Atoll, Island of Bolifushi on the Kaafu Atoll, Kandooma Tourist Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Kanuhura on the Lhaviyani Atoll, Kihaadhuffaru Resort on the Baa Atoll, Komandoo Island Resort on the Lhaviyani Atoll, Kudarah Island Resort (closed for renovation) on the South Ari Atoll, Kuramathi Maldives on the North Ari Atoll, Kuredu Island Resort & Spa on the Lhaviyani Atoll, Kurumba Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Laguna Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Lily Beach Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Maayafushi Tourist Resort on the North Ari Atoll, Madoogali Resort on the North Ari Atoll, Makunudu Island on the Kaafu Atoll, Medhufushi Island Resort on the Meemu Atoll, Meeru Island Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Mirihi Island Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Moofushi Island Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Naladhu Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Nika Island Resort on the North Ari Atoll, Olhuveli Beach & Spa Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, One&Only Reethi Rah Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Palm Beach Island Resort on the Lhaviyani Atoll, Paradise Island Resort and Spa on the Kaafu Atoll, Ranveli Village on the South Ari Atoll, Reethi Beach Resort on the Baa Atoll, Rihiveli Beach Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Royal Island Resort & Spa on the Baa Atoll, Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa on the Kaafu Atoll, Sonevafushi by Six Senses on the Baa Atoll, Sonevagili by Six Senses on the Kaafu Atoll, Summer Island Village on the Kaafu Atoll, Sun Island Resort & Spa (Nalaguraidhoo) on the South Ari Atoll, Taj Coral Reef Resort (closed for renovation on /0/0) on the Kaafu Atoll, Taj Exotica Resort and Spa Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, The Beach House at Manafaru Maldives on the Haa Alifu Atoll, Thudufushi Island Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Thulhagiri Island Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Twin Island Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Vakarufalhi Island Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Velidhu Island Resort on the North Ari Atoll, Veligandu Island Resort on the North Ari Atoll, Vilamendhoo Island Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Vilu Reef Beach & Spa Resort on the Dhaalu Atoll, W Retreat and Spa Maldives on the North Ari Atoll.

Rangali Island, Maldives, Photo: lionel bodilis, Flickr
Rangali Island, Maldives, Photo: lionel bodilis, Flickr

One thought on “Maldives – Complete Tourist Guide”

  1. Maldives is one of the best natural wonders of the world. Beautiful underwater coral reefs and the white sandy beaches are the unique properties of the paradise.

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