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Maldives

The Maldives (Dhivehi: ???????????? Dhivehi Raajje) are an archipelago of 1,192 coral islands grouped into 26 coral atolls (200 inhabited islands, plus 80 islands with tourist resorts) in the Indian Ocean. They lie south-southwest of India and are considered part of Southern Asia.

Regions

The Maldives are formed of 26 atolls, or atholhu in Dhivehi — the source of the English word. These are not single islands, but giant ringlike coral formations hundreds of kilometres wide that have fragmented into countless islands.

Atoll naming is complex, as the atolls have both lengthy traditional Dhivehi names like Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi, and snappy code names like Baa that refer to administrative regions and may consist of more than one geographical atoll. The code names are actually just the letters of Dhivehi alphabet, but being easier for non-Maldivians to remember and pronounce, the code names are popular in the travel industry and are hence also used here. Of the 20 administrative atoll groups, only (parts of) 10 are open to tourism, and from north to south these are:

The other atolls are Gaafu Alifu, Gaafu Dhaalu, Gnaviyani, Haa Alifu, Noonu, Haa Dhaalu, Laamu, Nyavinani, Seenu, Shaviyani, and Thaa.

Cities

  • Male — the capital and largest city
  • Seenu — second-largest city and short-lived home of the Suvadive secessionist movement

Other destinations

  • Kuredu — one of the inhabited islands of Lhaviyani Atoll
  • Mathiveri — island belonging to North Ari Atoll
  • Rasdhoo — smallish inhabited island and the capital of the North Ari Atoll
  • Thoddoo — an isolated inhabited island that administratively belongs to North Ari Atoll. It's also the largest producer of watermelon in Maldives.
  • Ukulhas — smallish 1 km long island of Alif Alif Atoll

Understand

History

Formerly a Sultanate under Dutch and British protection, the Maldives gained independence from the British in 1965, and became a republic in 1968. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom ruled over the country with an iron fist, and did not hesitate to jail dissidents, He was re-elected five times in more or less rigged elections Resistance to his rule culminated in violent rioting in 2003 and 2004. Much to everybody's surprise, free and fair elections were held in 2008, and Gayoom conceded defeat to opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed, "Anni". By December 2011, though, the tables had turned. Most of Nasheed's allies had left his government and there were increasingly large anti-government protests. Nasheed resigned in 2012 in murky circumstances and then lost a 2013 election to Gayoom's half-brother Abdulla Yameen.

The tsunami of 26 December 2004 caused extensive damage to the Maldives - of a population of only 290,000, over a third was directly affected by the tsunami and more than 15,000 people were left homeless. The economic damage alone was over 62% of the GDP or US$470 million. The immediate response from international donors and agencies mobilized more than US$400 million in aid after the disaster, much of which was used to help misplaced persons rebuild their homes and infrastructure damaged by the waves. As of 24 December 2010, six years after the tsunami, the number of people living in temporary shelters had fallen from 15,000 to 1,600 people.

Economy

Tourism, Maldives largest industry, accounts for 20% of GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts despite the country's stance of legally-entrenched discrimination against non-Muslims. Over 90% of government tax revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes. Over 600,000 tourists visited the islands in 2006. Fishing is a second leading sector. The Maldivian Government began an economic reform program in 1989 by lifting import quotas and opening some exports to the private sector. Subsequently, it has liberalized regulations to allow more foreign investment. Agriculture and manufacturing continue to play a minor role in the economy, constrained by the limited availability of cultivable land and the shortage of domestic labour. Most staple foods must be imported. Industry, which consists mainly of garment production, boat building, and handicrafts, accounts for about 18% of GDP. Maldivian authorities worry about the impact of erosion and possible global warming on their low-lying country; 80% of the area is one metre or less above sea level.

Culture

Maldivians are almost entirely Sunni Muslim, and the local culture is a mixture of South Indian, Sinhalese and Arab influences. While alcohol, pork, dogs and public observance of non-Muslim religions are banned on the inhabited islands, the resort islands are allowed to exist in a bubble where anything goes.

Note that the weekend in the Maldives runs from Friday to Saturday, during which banks, government offices and many shops are closed. You won't notice this at the resorts though, except that lunch hours may be shifted for Friday prayers.

Climate

The Maldives are tropical, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 30°C (86°F) throughout the year. However, rainfall increases considerably during the April-October southwest monsoon, particularly from June to August.

Get in

The Maldives have a remarkably easy visa policy -- Everybody gets a free 30-day visa on arrival, provided that they have a valid travel document, a ticket out and proof of sufficient funds, defined as either a confirmed reservation in any resort or US$25/day in cash. This can be extended up to 90 days at Male, but you'll need to indicate where you're staying for that long. See the Department of Immigration and Emigration website for details.

The Maldives is an Islamic country. Importing the following is prohibited: Alcohol, Pork and pork by-products, Religious articles other than Islamic ones, narcotics and psychotropic drugs Pornography (very broadly defined)

Note: all luggage is X-rayed on arrival. Exporting sand, seashells or coral is also forbidden.

By plane

Practically all visitors arrive at Malé International Airport (MLE IATA), located on Hulhulé Island right next to the capital Male. The airport is served by a wide array of flights to China, India, Sri Lanka, Dubai and major airports in South-East Asia, as well as an increasing number of charters from Europe. Many flights stop in Colombo (Sri Lanka) on the way.

Gan Airport (GAN IATA), on the southern atoll of Addu, also serves an international flight to Milan several times a week.

Departure taxes are included in your ticket.

British Airways now flies directly from London Gatwick to Male during the winter (October to March). No direct flights operate from London Heathrow, however it is possible to get an indirect flight via India or the UAE for example.

Singapore Airlines flies daily direct from Singapore to Male, with late night timings.

By boat

There are no regular passenger boats to the Maldives. Even yachts usually steer clear, as navigating around the reefs is hazardous and permits are expensive.

Get around

Getting around in the Maldives takes three forms: boats, sea planes (air taxis) and private yachts. The boats are the Maldivian equivalent of a car, while planes and private yachts are mainly reserved for tourists.

Air taxis and boats prefer not to operate at night, so if you arrive at the airport after dark and are going to a distant resort, you may have to spend the night in Male or at the airport hotel in Hulhule. Private transfers, though expensive can be opted for resort transfers, instead of spending the whole night at Male. Private transfers could cost US$500-800. On the way back, there may also be a significant gap between the time your transfer arrives and your flight departure. Check with your resort or travel agent.

By plane

No point in the Maldives is more than 90 minutes away by plane from Male, and visitors to the more far-flung resorts use air taxi services. As of 2013, the only operator is Trans Maldivian Airways, which flies DHC-6 Twin Otter seaplanes that take around 15 passengers.

Scheduled inter-island services are provided by Island Aviation, which flies from Male to GanHanimaadhoo, Kaadeddhoo and Kaddhoo. Travel permits are no longer required.

By boat

The taxi boats generally take tourists to and from the islands in the North and South Male atolls. They come in all different shapes and sizes depending on the quality of the resort you stay in — the Four Seasons has a large enclosed motor cruiser with drinks and food, while the lesser resorts have open sided dhoni fishing boats.

Public dhoni ferries and cargo boats are available for more independent-minded and budget-conscious travellers. The main operator is MTCC, who list schedules and fares on their website.

The previous system of requiring written invitations and Inter Atoll Travelling Permits (IATP) for travellers wishing to visit other islands has been abolished, you're now free to travel wherever you wish. IATPs are still required if you wish to dock your own yacht, see Customs for details.

Talk

See also: Dhivehi phrasebook

Maldivian Dhivehi, a close relative of Sinhala (spoken in Sri Lanka) but with borrowings from Urdu, Hindi, Arabic and many other languages, is the official language. It is written in a remarkable hybrid script called Thaana, which uses Arabic and Indic numbers as the base of the alphabet, written from right to left with Arabic vowel signs. The script is thought to have originated as a secret code for writing magical formulas so that outsiders can't read them, which would also explain why the ordering of the alphabet is, as far as linguists can tell, completely random.

English is widely spoken, particularly by government officials and those working in the tourism industry. English is also the language of instruction in schools

Since Maldives are a a popular destination for German and Italian holiday makers, a sizeable number of local resort workers speak German and Italian. This may vary depending between resorts.

See

Most visitors come to enjoy the countless plush resorts, excellent beaches and stunningly colourful underwater life. Due to the isolated position of the island, the number of animals on land is limited, but just under the surface of the beautiful blue ocean there's a wealth of wildlife to see. Over 2000 species of fish in all colours of the rainbow roam the clear waters around the islands. You will likely see plenty of anemones, different kinds of rays, octopus, squid and even giant clams. Whales, dolphins and turtles are spotted often. The Baa Atoll, named a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2011 and one of the richest coral reefs in the world, is becoming a main tourist draw while also becoming an example of sustainable tourism in a protected area. In short; snorkeling or diving is an absolute must, so make sure to see the Do-section below for more information on that.

The gorgeous and ubiquitous white sand beaches are a sight by themselves, especially with the tropical island setting they are in. A flight to one of the many resort islands gives spectacular aerial views of these picture-perfect islets, defined by rims of white sand and wide strokes of cobalt blue water.

Yet, if you can pull yourself away from your luxury holiday spot, the capital Malé is a pleasant diversion. The bustling financial and political centre of the country has a few sights. Try the National Museum for a touch of history. While the building may not look too promising, the museum's fine collection includes beautiful Arabic- and Thaana-engraved wood works, religious pieces, weaponry and other historic artefacts. The town also has a number of worthwhile mosques. The 17th century Old Friday Mosque is the oldest one in the country, and officials are often willing to let polite and properly dressed visitors in. The Grand Friday Mosque & Islamic Centre is its 1984 modern counterpart, and dominates the city's skyline. While simply in design, the large, white marble structure and shining gold dome is an attractive sight.

Do

Diving and snorkelling

Aside from making the water bungalow rock on your honeymoon, the primary activity on the Maldives is scuba diving. The atolls are all coral reefs hundreds of kilometres away from any major land mass, meaning that water clarity is excellent and underwater life is abundant. Manta rays, sharks, even a few wrecks, you name it, you can find it in the Maldives.

While diving is very good by world standards even in the immediate vicinity of Male, visibility and the chance of encountering large pelagic fish increases as you head to the outer atolls. Many divers opt for live-aboards, which can actually work out much cheaper than paying high resort fees. Currents vary considerably, with generally little inside the atolls but some powerful streams to be found on the sides facing the open sea. Water in the Maldives is warm throughout the year and a 3 mm shorty or Lycra diveskin is plenty. Diving is possible throughout the year, but rain, wind and waves are most common during the season of the southwest monsoon (June-August). The best time for scuba diving is from January to April, when the sea is calm, the sun is shining and the visibility can reach 30 m. There are decompression chambers on Bandos in Kaafu (15min from Male), Kuredu in Lhaviyani Atoll and at Kuramathi on Alifu.

The one downside to diving in the Maldives is that it's quite expensive by Asian standards. Prices vary considerably from resort to resort, with specialist dive resorts offering better prices. In general, a single boat dive with your own gear cost around US$50, and US$75 without. Beware of surcharges: you may be charged extra for boat use, guided dives, larger tanks, etc. On the upside, safety standards are usually very high, with well-maintained gear and strict adherence to protocol (check dives, maximum depth, computer use, etc.) being the rule rather than the exception.

Surfing

The Maldives is becoming an increasingly popular surfing destination. Turquoise water and perfect waves makes it an ideal and un-crowded destination for surfers looking for smooth surfing conditions.

The best period for surfing in the Maldives is between March and October; the biggest waves occurring in June, July and August. This paradise is exposed to the same swells as Indonesia is, except that its higher latitude and its South-East exposure offers cooler and less hardcore surfing. The recent O’Neil Deep Blue Contests held in the Maldives has placed Maldives firmly on the world’s surf map. While most of the recognized surf breaks are in Male’ Atoll, there is certainly more to be discovered.

Specialized companies organize tailored multi-day boat trips in the region, allowing surfers to move easily from one point to another and maximizing the surfing time.

Buy

Money

The local currency is the Maldivian rufiyaa, denoted by the symbol "Rf" or "MFR" (ISO code: MVR). It is divided into 100 laari. However by law, resorts price services in US dollars and require payment in hard currency (or credit card), so there's absolutely no need to change money if you're going to spend all your time at the resorts. Most hotels have a shop but this is limited to diving and holiday essentials (sun cream, sarongs, disposable cameras, etc.) Some excursions from resorts will take you to local islands where there are handicraft type things to buy, but they are typically made outside the Maldives and sold at outrageous markups.

If you are heading to Male or the other inhabited atolls, exchanging some rufiyaa will come in handy. The coins, in particular, are quite attractive and make an interesting souvenir in themselves, but the smaller denominations are rarely used or seen. The rufiyaa is tied to the US dollar with in a 20% band, but is practically 15:1. Dollars are near-universally accepted: shops usually exchange them at 15:1 or 10:1.

Tipping

Tipping is not compulsory in the Maldives as 10% service charge is added to everything - but given the low salaries earned by the staff and the excellent level of service generally offered, it is a nice gesture to help the staff of resorts to earn some extra money. It is also not entirely certain that the 10% service charge is passed on to the staff.

Over the years the tipping culture has changed in the Maldives, mainly due to Europeans and visitors from other continents giving varying amounts of cash as tips.

Costs

Maldives are expensive for those who have comfort- and service-oriented tourism in mind. Resorts have a monopoly on services for their guests and charge accordingly: for mid-range resorts, €942 (US$1000) per week per couple is a conservative budget for meals, drinks and excursions, in addition to the cost of flights and accommodation. Practically anything — including hotel rooms if booked locally — gets slapped with an arbitrary 10% "service charge", but tips are expected on top.

For an adventurous traveller who has time, Maldives can be a very affordable and rewarding experience, with prices comparable to Malaysia. A number of inhabited islands have guesthouses with typical prices €25-40 (US$26.50-$42.48) per room. On more remote islands, renting rooms in villages is possible at even less than that. Food is inexpensive (and fish curries are delicious). Public ferries will transfer you between different islands of the same atoll for a few US dollars (though for less obvious locations, there will typically be 1 ferry per day and no ferries on Fridays). For transfers to remote atolls, one can negotiate with cargo boats, which would often take people for €14-38(US$15-40), depending on the destination. Cargo boats do not have schedules and depart when loaded. One may expect 1 boat in 1-3 days for each atoll.

It is important to have in mind that staying on inhabited islands implies respecting the strict Muslim norms including no alcohol, modest dress, reserved behaviour. However, the locals are very welcoming and the experience may be much deeper and more rewarding than staying in resorts.

Eat

All the resorts are self-contained so they have at least one restaurant, which generally serve the type of cuisine expected by their guests (i.e. modern European or generic Asian). Breakfast is almost always included, and most resorts offer the option of half-board, which means you get a dinner buffet, and full board, which means you get a lunch and dinner buffet. These can limit the damage compared to ordering a la carte, but your options are typically very limited and drinks are often not covered, not necessarily even water. If you're planning on drinking a lot, it may be worthwhile to go all inclusive, but even this typically restricts you to house drinks.

The only other place to find food is Male. This comes in two forms. Either small restaurants aimed at the tourists (of which there are a couple of nice Thai restaurants), which are often expensive, or small cafes called hotaa, selling local Maldivian food at prices as low as Rf20 (US$6) for a complete meal.

Maldivian cuisine

Maldivian food revolves largely around fish (mas), in particular tuna (kandu mas), and draws heavily from the Sri Lankan and south Indian tradition, especially Kerala. Dishes are often hot, spicy and flavoured with coconut, but use very few vegetables. A traditional meal consists of rice, a clear fish broth called garudhiya and side dishes of lime, chili and onions. Curries known as riha are also popular and the rice is often supplemented with roshi, unleavened bread akin to Indian roti, and papadhu, the Maldivian version of crispy Indian poppadums. Some other common dishes include:

  • mas huni — shredded smoked fish with grated coconuts and onions, the most common Maldivian breakfast
  • fihunu mas — barbequed fish basted with chili
  • bambukeylu hiti — breadfruit curry

Snacks called hedhikaa, almost invariably fish-based and deep-fried, can be found in any Maldivian restaurant.

  • bajiya — pastry stuffed with fish, coconut and onions
  • gulha — pastry balls stuffed with smoked fish
  • keemia — deep-fried fish rolls
  • kulhi borkibaa — spicy fish cake
  • masroshi — mas huni wrapped in roshi bread and baked
  • theluli mas — fried fish with chili and garlic

Drink

As the Maldives are Muslim, alcohol is banned for the local population. However, nearly all resorts, live-aboard boats and the Hulhule Island Hotel (on the same island as the airport) are licensed to serve it, usually with a steep markup. Expatriate residents have an allowance that they can use in Malé.

Maldivians generally do not drink alcohol although this is less true of the younger generation. They are, however, unhappy about being filmed or photographed while drinking.

Tap water in resorts may or may not be drinkable -- check with management. Bottled water is extortionately priced, with US$5/bottle being typical.

Sleep


The Maldives had a longstanding policy of keeping tourists on dedicated islands, which meant they could only stay in full-service resorts where the cost of a night's accommodation started around US$200 and went up into the stratosphere, and the vast majority of visitors continue to opt for these. However, the brief democratic blossoming under Mohammed Nasheed's rule from 2008 all the islands were opeed to tourism, and backpacker-friendly guesthouses starting from US$30 a night opened on inhabited islands across the archipelago.

Resorts

Most resorts take up their own island (1500 x 1500m to 250 x 250m), meaning that the ratio of beach to guests must be one of the best in the world and it is hard to imagine that you would ever have to struggle to find your own private piece of beach to relax on. Many have a "no shoes" policy and with such soft sands it is easy to love this idea.

The range and themes or the resorts is impressive, and most people will find one they like. Broadly speaking they can be grouped into three brackets:

  • Dive resorts, designed primarily for divers. Geared expressly for people who want to spend most of their time underwater, facilities on land are limited, but the house reef is usually excellent. Often found in the more far-flung parts of the archipelago.
  • Holiday resorts, designed primarily for families. These are large and have a full complement of facilities (several restaurants, day-care centres, etc.), but don't have over-the-top luxury and have less privacy. Most of these are located on Kaafu, with easy access from Male.
  • Luxury resorts, designed primarily for honeymooners and the jet set. The place to be if you want designer furniture, gourmet food and a plasma TV in an overwater villa reachable only by rowboat, and are willing to pay high prices for the privilege.

A Maldivian classic is the overwater bungalow, built on stilts directly above a lagoon. While these look fabulous and sound appealing, they have their downsides:

  • They're usually packed tightly together (often sharing a wall), meaning little privacy.
  • Especially at low tide, the water level may be too low to allow swimming or snorkelling.
  • Resort facilities may be a fair distance from the bungalows.
  • The lapping of waves is romantic enough on a calm day, but can make it next to impossible to sleep if a storm blows through.

These factors vary from resort to resort, so research carefully. A good one is definitely worth trying at least once, but many Maldives repeaters prefer a bungalow with a private beach.

When considering where to go, factor in transport time and costs from the airport: the more far-flung resorts generally require an expensive seaplane transfer and you may have to stay overnight at the airport on the way. On the upside, the further away you are from Malé, the more peaceful the islands and the better the diving.

Many resorts, especially the smaller dive-oriented ones, cater largely to a single nationality, leading to "Italian" resorts, "Dutch" resorts, "German" resorts, etc. While almost all welcome any nationality and have some English-speaking staff on hand, you may be cut off from any evening entertainment and have problems e.g. diving if you don't speak the local lingo.

Guesthouses

There are guesthouses on inhabited islands, and Maafushi island is popular with looking for hassle-free accommodation of this type. Low end prices are €25-35 per night.

Examples include: Equator Village on Addu Atoll, a former British Royal Air Force base converted to a 78-room hotel. The cost is around US$100-150 per person per day all inclusive (includes regular brand alcohol). Another unique location is Keyodhoo Guest House, this guest house is on top of a recreation centre built by an Australian after the tsunami (US$20 pp/per night). Most visitors are scuba divers or adventure travellers. Other Inns/B&B can also be found on Vaavu Atoll, Dhaalu Atoll, Kaafu Atoll, North/South Male Atoll and Ari Atoll Haggnaameedhoo. Only a few of these inns and B&Bs have their own pool. Confirm if bikinis are allowed on the beach. The distance between the inns and beaches are usually short, but visitors should still dress appropriately to Maldive customs.

Village homestays

More indepent-minded travellers and those looking for cultural experience may consider renting rooms in villages. This will require either walking through the village and asking around if you're particularly confident of your social skills, or inquiring in Male whether someone can put you in contact with their friends or relatives on remote island for such an informal homestay. Prices can be as low as 15 euros per night for a clean functional room.

Learn

The education system, although having many problems such as poor student literacy rates in English (the medium of instruction for most subjects), is freely available for all Maldivians.

There is one university in Maldives (Maldives National University) which was inaugurated on 15 Feb 2011, the university was previously known as the Maldives College of Higher Education which was established in 1999, as part of a restructuring and rationalization of all government-run post-secondary education in Maldives. Operated under the aegis of the Department of Higher Education and Training, MCHE is the only public degree-granting institution on the island. The college offers a range of degrees, diplomas, and certificates, with particular emphasis on engineering, health science, education, tourism, and management. The average enrolment at MCHE is around 4,000 students in long-term (that is, more than one academic year) programs, and around 2,000 in short-term (shorter than one academic year) courses.

Work

Getting a job in the Maldives can be tricky. It is not the kind of place where you can just turn up and start job hunting. Generally the resorts take on a mix of local and international staff so you need to approach the resort Human Resources departments. There is a good mix of jobs but a lot of the roles are diving based (divemasters, instructors, photographers, etc.)

Most resorts are predominately one or two nationalities so finding the resorts that match your language skills helps. After that experience always helps (especially for diving instructors as the Maldives are well known for their strong currents and half of the time the currents will take you straight out into the Indian Ocean).

Generally if you get a job with a resort then they will get you a work permit and pay for your flight, food and accommodation. They don't really have much choice-- it's hardly as if you can pop out to the supermarket and pick up a pizza for dinner.

All foreign workers have to have a series of medical tests before you can start work in the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital. This includes a blood sample (lots of tests including HIV as well as x-ray etc.). It is quick and easy but they are very uncommunicative about what they are doing.

Stay safe

There is very little crime in the tourist resorts with their patrons often not venturing wider afield. Generally, Maldivians are honest, helpful and welcoming people although you are unlikely to come into much contact with them in resorts.

There are no drugs anywhere in the resorts but most Maldivians have easy access to drugs. Drug addiction is increasingly common and petty crime has been on the rise. Take the usual precautions such as not leaving money and valuables lying around. Note that every US$50 you spend at a bar or restaurant represents 10 days' wages for cleaners.

Anti-government street rioting occurred in Male between 2003 and 2005, but political tensions were largely relieved by the opposition victory in the 2008 elections. In the run-up to the 2013 election cycle, activists requested that tourism stop to the island nation and the federal government bought more than US$100,000 worth of riot gear.

Homosexual activity between consenting adults is punishable by life imprisonment. Discretion should be exercised by LGBT visitors.

Cases of sexual harassments are not rare in Maldives. Solo female travellers should be vigilant, especially at the bikini beaches.

Broad-based discrimination against non-Muslims is entrenched in the nation's laws. In 2011, a foreign schoolteacher was imprisoned for possession of a Bible and a set of Catholic rosary beads. The country's constitution was amended in 2008 to deny Maldives citizenship to anyone but Sunni Muslims. There is no freedom of worship; alcohol and pork are available only at the airport or a resort employing only foreign workers. Non-Muslims are not permitted to marry in the Maldives, are forced to have their children educated in the Muslim tradition and are excluded from public office. Apostasy, blasphemy, and criticism of Islam are illegal; promotion of other religions or possession of non-Muslim religious objects of any kind is illegal.

Stay healthy

There are no serious problems with diseases in the Maldives. Beware that tap water may not be drinkable at all resorts: enquire locally. The Maldives are malaria-free, but some islands do have mosquitoes and catching dengue fever from them is possible, albeit highly unlikely. For those coming from regions infected by yellow fever, an international certificate of inoculation is required.

Most of the problems come from diving or sun related injuries. Heat stroke always cause problems in the tropics but couple that with divers spending hours at a time on a boat wearing a wetsuit and overheating of one form or another is a real issue. Keeping this in mind, such injuries will be easily avoidable as long as you drink lots of water and get into the shade as much as possible.

Lots of the resorts have their own doctor or nurse and most are within easy reach of the decompression chambers. Male has an efficient and fairly modern hospital but bear in mind that it is a long way to get medically evacuated home from.

Connect

There are two mobile operators: Dhiraagu and Ooredoo. Both of them sell local prepaid SIM card with internet connection at competitive rates. The first mentioned of them is the leading local telecom company which has wider coverage while prices are about the same with its competitor. They both have shops right next to the airport arrivals area upon exiting. Also both offer 3G/4G data connections. Also if you plan to sail maybe you can be interested in satellite service offered by Ooredoo.

Most hotels and cafés offer public Wi-Fi but as of 2017 connections are usually really slow, between 56-512 kbps. A local mobile number is needed to purchase time at many Wi-Fi spots around the country.

Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Crime

Petty crime is prevalent. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times, especially on the beach.

Demonstrations

Political demonstrations occur, and may turn violent. Past incidents have led to the destruction of property and arrests. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, and follow the advice of local authorities.

Transportation

Traffic drives on the left. Only a few islands have facilities for automobiles. Most transportation is by boat or seaplane. Motorized water taxis (dhonis) provide transportation between the airport, Male, and nearby resort islands.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Tourist facilities

Tourist facilities are well developed on resort islands, but are limited elsewhere.

Water sports

Rescue services may not be consistent with international standards. Several diving injuries have occurred, including one death, apparently as a result of poor equipment and poor monitoring of safety standards by local dive operators.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in South Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, leptospirosis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Southern Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, leishmaniasis, and malaria.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in Southern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities are limited. There are only two hospitals on Male and they can provide adequate service for routine medical problems. In the event of a major accident or illness, medical evacuation is often necessary. Medical transport is very expensive and payment up front is often required. Inquire about the medical services available at your resort prior to booking.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Laws

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict and can include life imprisonment.

It is illegal to import alcohol, firearms, drugs and pornography. Alcohol is available on resort islands.

It is also illegal to import non-Islamic religious materials or to promote religions other than Islam.

Homosexual activity is illegal.

Culture

Dress conservatively, especially outside major cities and coastal resorts, behave discreetly, and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities.

Money

The currency is the rufiyaa (MVR). Major credit cards are accepted at resorts and hotels. U.S. dollars can be exchanged at the airport, banks and hotels. Automatic banking machines (ABMs) in Male accept certain foreign bank cards. Credit cards should be used with caution due to the potential for fraud and other criminal activity. Leave copies of your card numbers with a family member or friend in Canada in case of emergency.

Climate

The rainy (or monsoon) season extends from November to April in the northeast, and May to October in the southwest. Flooding can occur. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.

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