Visiting Maldives appears in bucket lists among many people. It’s not surprising since Maldives whose adopted tourism slogan “the sunny side of life” portrays a slice of paradise on earth. White sand beaches, relative seclusion and friendly population have helped promote its popularity.
However, like any other destination, travelers are fraught with anxiety and uncertainty on places they’ve never been to. What type of clothing to bring, what kind of laws exist and where to find what are among the mysteries that they want answers before deciding to commit into visiting.
When it comes to Maldives, that South Asian country with a chain of islands, these are the things you need to know — especially before arriving there.
Things you need to know about Maldives
1. Maldives is a Muslim country. This means there are obvious signs of Islamic faith visible in the country such as women in hijab and abaya, apparent lack of pork dishes, and so on. But since the country is also blessed with wonderful beaches that attract thousands of visitors, it understands their needs and lifestyles although going topless and practicing nudity is allowed only in resorts and not in other inhabited islands.
2. Goods are relatively expensive. It is understandable that Maldives is an expensive place to be. Located quite remotely and limited area to cultivate food or manufacture most of its own needs, Maldives relies heavily on imports. For travelers, resort services also charge standard 10% service fees and 12% GST which further inflate costs. However, some services have already included these charges in the price tag.
3. Citizens of many countries are granted visa on arrival. In fact, besides Indian and Brunei visitors who are granted 90 days and 15 days visa-free access, passport holders of all other countries are granted 30 days to stay without a visa in Maldives.
4. Maldives practices strict laws on environment. Protecting its environment also means protecting its future so Maldives has stringent laws against throwing plastic into the sea, fishing on protected grounds and picking and damaging of corals and marine wildlife during snorkeling, scuba diving or other marine activities.
There are things that are not allowed into Maldives. This includes items that are offensive to Islam, pornographic materials, live pigs and dogs.
Important things to do before you arrive in Maldives
When deciding on booking for your Maldives holiday, be informed that once you are in a resort, it’s less likely you’ll be able to buy food, snacks or other provisions outside of the resort given its remoteness from outside world. This means you need to purchase your drinks, meals and souvenirs at shops within the resort.
Unless you are interested in scuba diving, island hopping or early morning fishing expeditions, staying in Maldives in a daily cycle of beach, food binging and sleeping can become boring after a few days. Five days in a Maldives resort should be a reasonable amount of time. Afterwards you may transfer to another resort or head out to your next destination country.
As many resorts offer choices between ala carte or all inclusive meal packages, calculate the cost if you were to pay for every meal and compare price of all inclusive packages. You might see a huge difference between the two.
One of the “hidden expenses” you might find out later is the transfer fee from airport to resort. It is easy to assume that the boat transfers from airport to your resort is free especially when the resort identity is plastered into the speed boat. But in case you don’t know yet, each ride typically costs between $50 and $100 depending on the distance of your resort to and from the airport — around 45 minutes or less — as well as how luxurious your ride is. Of course, seaplanes are also available and quite obvious that you’ll be charged separately.
It is best to get in touch with your hotel and notify it about your arrival time. It’s likely that they will not initiate contact — for lack of information such as contact details — so it’s imperative that you notify them about your travel details such as flight number and date and time of arrival.
You can then expect to hear from them and get instructions on what to do next.
Things to do after you arrive in Maldives
When we say preparation, this means knowing what to expect when you arrive in Maldives. Travel connection is most likely by air and its airport Velana International Airport is the only gateway for international travel.
Sometimes flights arrive late at night so have some meal before flying into Maldives. Though there are food options available, there’s not a lot of them available. Dairy Queen, Burger King, Thai Express, pizza shop and a coffee house are basically what’s on offer in the airport. Not only you’ll find few choices, their prices are also steep: a simple hotdog meal at DQ can cost between $5 and $6.
For those whose phone battery has gone low or run out, there are charging stations around the airport — Maldives power socket is the three-pronged unit same as in Malaysia, the UK and Hong Kong. Wifi service is rather questionable as Ooredoo offers free wifi service but only if your phone is on roaming function since it sends PIN via SMS to activate the wifi service. Quite unhelpful if you disable your roaming service to avoid expensive data charges.
When it comes to coordination with the resort, by contacting your resort staff prior to arrival, you’ll expect to hear from them with details on what to do. This includes where to proceed when you arrive at the airport.
Velana International Airport is a small airport; only three luggage carousel works for passengers so, depending on your arrival time and season of visit, this airport can get crowded pretty quickly. Once you clear customs and claim your luggage, you’ll find rows of counters representing dozens of resorts in Maldives. Approach your resort’s representative and get instructions on transfer from airport to the venue. Since the airport is located in an island — same as the rest of resorts in Maldives — transfers are usually by sea, although seaplanes also serve transfers from airports to resorts.
Your bags are then labeled with the resort’s tags to ensure they are led to the right destination.
Once your paradise holiday is on full swing, you may also want to do excursions such as as dolphin watching, scuba diving, snorkeling, island hopping or other packages offered by the resorts or its partners. It’s also fine to just stay at the resort, bask in the fine white sand beaches, bungalows above water and other Instagram worthy photos, taste a wide variety of food, sleep and repeat them all.
During your stay, don’t forget to notify the resort’s front desk staff about your departure date and time so they can arrange a pick up service boat to bring you to the airport with plenty of time to spare.
Good luck on your Maldives holiday planning!