Read Before You Leave – the Maldives

The Maldives

A scatter of impossibly idyllic islands, the Maldives the kind of paradise no ‘man overboard' would resent being washed ashore on. Almost every one of its 1,192, low-lying coral islands could grace a postcard, with waters that shimmer like glass and sand as soft as icing sugar. Combine that with a swathe of prestigious, expertly finessed luxury resorts and you have a destination that’s bucket-list, once-in-a-lifetime worthy, transcending even the most superlative definitions.

Flight time

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Qantas flies to the capital of Malé through partner airlines departing from Sydney or Brisbane with a stopover in Hong Kong in around 18 hours or Bangkok in 30 hours, or via Singapore and Colombo, in around 27 hours.

Entering the Maldives

Australians will be issued with a 30-day visa for tourism purposes, provided you have at least six months validity on your passport from the date of entry, you hold a valid departure ticket and you’ve booked accommodation (and can produce confirmation of such) for the duration of your stay. If not, you’ll have to produce evidence you have enough to fund your trip, an amount typically calculated at around US$150 per day.

Flying into Malé International Airport/Velana International Airport

Velana International Airport, or Malé International Airport as it’s more commonly known, is located on Hulhulé Island in the North Malé Atoll, less than five kilometres from the heart of Malé city.

Travellers connecting to their hotel via seaplane needn't go far; most flights offered by private resorts depart from one of the terminals from the nearby waterdrome, which has four water runways. These are easy to locate.

There's also a speedboat and ferry terminal for transfers to Malé city, or onwards to nearby resorts—check with your accommodation for more information on transport.

Transport

The Maldives

The main modes of travel for tourists around the Maldives are seaplane, speedboat, domestic flight and ferry transfers; in fact, the Maldives houses the world’s biggest seaplane departure area in the world.

As with many things in the Maldives, seaplanes are expensive and they also don't have specific departure times due to weather conditions—instead, you’ll receive a time to arrive at your departure point. They also don’t fly after sundown so if you arrive late in the evening, you’ll need to book accommodation at an airport hotel.

Language barrier

Although Dhivehi—a mixture of Arabic, Hindi, Sinhalese, English and Urdu—is the national language of the Maldives, English is widely spoken, especially in resorts. A few phrases in the local language never goes astray, however; try “assalaamu alaikum”, the Arabic greeting for “hello”; and “shukuriyaa”, from Hindi, for “thank you”.

Health and vaccine advice

A handful of serious water-borne diseases occur in the Maldives, including Dengue fever, the Zika virus and chikungunya, a viral infection transmitted by mosquitos. Visitors should be vigilant with mosquito proofing their accommodation (appropriate insect screens and nets in relevant areas, for example) and themselves by wearing insect repellant and long, loose fitting clothing where possible. Pregnant women should also discuss travel to the Maldives with their doctors.

Because of the occurrence of such water-borne diseases, it’s recommended that visitors drink bottled or boiled water, as well as avoid uncooked or undercooked food.

Bear in mind that access to medical services is limited across the islands due to isolation but resorts will often have a doctor in residence. The main hospital is in Malé so you'll be redirected there in the case of emergencies.

Before departing, visitors should consider being vaccinated for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, tetanus, measles and rabies—consult your GP for more advice.

SEE ALSO: The Most Envy-Inducing Overwater Bungalows in the World

Money matters

The currency of the Maldives is the Maldivian Rufiyaa and at the time of writing, the Australian dollar is buying 10.46MVR – check a reliable currency conversion service for up-to-date exchange rates.

Although access to cash is possible via ATMs in the airport, wider Malé and the larger inhabited islands, most visitors don’t encounter cash at all, as resorts will bill everything to your room (including excursions such as diving and snorkelling trips) to be the day before departure by credit card. Check with your bank that you won’t incur additional fees when using your credit card in while in the Maldives.

Additionally, inform your bank in advance of your travel plans to avoid a halt on your card due to fraud concerns—you’ll be in a sticky spot if this happens and you have a monstrous room bill to settle. It’s also wise to consider that you have an appropriate credit card limit, as the Maldives is generally an exxy place to holiday.

It’s not usually customary to leave a tip in the Maldives, although a service tax of between 10 per cent and 12.5 per cent will be added to almost every bill. If you’d like to leave a little something for the staff at your resort, you can use US dollars, Euros and the local currency. Remember to slip your thanks to the staff member personally, as opposed to the hotel concierge or desk staff.

Etiquette

No alcohol can be brought into the Maldives (although all resorts will sell it), as are Bibles, if you felt inclined to pack a copy.

It’s also worth being discreet about eating and drinking in public during Ramadan, when the population observes very strict fasting between sunrise and sundown. This is more relevant in non-resort areas, however.

Dress code

Islam prevails in the Maldives but most resorts across the archipelago are relaxed on the subject of dress and tradition. You won’t feel out of place wandering around in swimmers or without a shirt at your hotel but anywhere in the capital or on any local island, this is a big no-no. Regardless of where you’re staying and visiting, however, topless sunbathing is illegal so you’ll need to put up with your tan lines.

When to go

Private Island Maldives

The Maldives fields the majority of its visitors between November and April, owing to calm seas, less wind and a generally drier heat. Although warm temperatures stay from May until December (temperatures hover around 28C), months outside peak period generally receive more cloud cover and higher rainfall; if this doesn’t bother you, there are some great deals to be had during these shoulder seasons.

Tap water

As tap water in the Maldives is treated rainwater, it's best to stick to bottled water. While this is sometimes provided free of charge in larger resorts, it's not always the case—some places charge exorbitant amounts for plain bottled water so always check the price before opening.

Insurance policy

Smart Traveller recommends all visitors to the Maldives take out comprehensive travel insurance to cover overseas medical costs, including evacuation, as transport to hospitals is required in an emergency. Take out Qantas Travel Insurance and you’ll earn Qantas Points to put towards your next trip on selected policies, which range from cancellation cover to comprehensive cover.

Where to stay

Overwater bungalow Maldives

Ah, the eternal question. There’s a staggering level of choice in the Maldives and while most assume they’ll have to save their pennies for a stay at one of the luxurious properties but guesthouses on the local, inhabited islands are plentiful (though you’d be forgoing overwater bungalows and private butlers in this case). These are most easily booked through third party websites.

Every resort in the Maldives actually constitutes its own private island, creating both the inimitable atmosphere (and often, the elevated price), making the amount you’re looking to spend the underlying compass by which you’ll plan your holiday.

Budget

“Budget” acquires a new meaning when used in context of Maldivian resorts; it’s not technically “budget” but a more manageable price point. Accommodation in this price bracket is usually in a guesthouse and doesn’t include meals and drinks—very much in opposition to boundless luxury of a private island resort ethos.

Islands close to Malé such as Fulidhoo and Guraidhoo are known to house reasonably priced guesthouses but if you’re craving an overwater bungalow, Reethi Beach Resort and Sun Island Resort come in at under $200 a night for the privilege. Alternately, beach villa rooms  in larger resorts are a great option for a reasonable price. The Mercure Maldives Kooddoo offers beach villas from less than $300 per night, for example.

Mid-range

The further you travel from the capital, the more expensive your experience will be— if you’re hoping to shave off a few dollars, start by your hotel’s proximity to the airport. You can also edge closer to your overwater bungalow dream by making a clever compromise: the indulgent Dusit Thani Maldives, which boasts the largest infinity pool in the Maldives, has stunning overwater villas with private plunge pools for around $1030 per night that are ever-so-close to the real thing as they jut out over the ocean, while Overwater Villa at The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort, is a veritable steal for $1139 per night considering its outlook.

Luxury

If this is a “spare no expense” kind of holiday, you’re in luck—practically every property across the atolls will suit. They meet several other needs, too; JOALI is paradise on earth, with its enormous thatched-roof villas stocked with everything from an infinity pool to a juicer, while the eye-wateringly expensive Coco Privé delivers on every front, with some room types inclusive of a 30-strong team of staff on-hand for your needs alone. Unlimited spa treatments, delivery of your favourite wine—it's all part and parcel of the ultimate luxury experience.

SEE ALSO: The Most Over-the-Top Resorts in the Maldives

Phone calls and mobile data

Most Australian phone companies offer customers a special daily roaming rate to use a device in the Maldives. Check with your phone company prior to your trip. Alternatively, disable data roaming before you land, don’t answer incoming calls and then purchase a local SIM card to use while you’re in Malé Airport, depending on whether your phone is locked to your Australian carrier–again, check with your phone company before you leave for your trip. These SIMs generally last two weeks and come with pre-loaded data, helpful for black areas between guesthouses where wi-fi generally doesn't reach.

The emergency number in the Maldives is 119.

Phone home

To call Australia, dial +61 followed by the phone number – including the area code minus the zero. So, to call a Sydney landline telephone, you would dial +61 2 then the phone number. To call a mobile phone, use the same country code and dial the mobile number minus the first zero. 

Gadgets

In the Maldives, the voltage is generally 220V to 240V and the frequency is 50Hz, the same as Australia, so most devices should work without issue. The electrical wall socket is the same as the UK’s three-pin so you’ll need an adaptor for Australian devices—sometimes these are provided by resorts but pack one just in case.

Internet

Most resorts offer free access to wi-fi but generally with a data limit per guest. There’s also limited coverage outside of the relevant guesthouse so if you need consistent access, consider purchasing a SIM card pre-loaded with data at the airport.

Handy apps and websites

Nakaiy Nevi is a helpful weather app for the Maldives that tracks the two main seasons; the rainy ‘halhangu’  and the dry ‘iruvai’ seasons, including the small ‘seasons’ in between.

Smart Traveller for up-to-date safety information.

Travel Doctor for pre-travel health advice.

Don’t gaze too long at apps however; this is the ultimate digital detox destination.

SEE ALSO: Swimming With Manta Rays in the Maldives

 

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