Velana International Airport, also known as Malé International Airport, is the only international airport in the Indian Ocean nation of the Maldives, which is approximately 400 miles southwest of Sri Lanka. This functional, compact airport (there’s only one runway) is set on Hulhulé Island in the North Malé Atoll, and is a 10-minute ferry or taxi ride from the capital city of Malé.
Since Velana International Airport is the main gateway into the ultra-popular holiday destination, the airport is well set up to cater to arriving and departing resort guests. Resort concierges, private resort lounges, and resort speedboat transfers comprise the main airport amenities, with a smattering of fast food eateries, coffee shops, and duty free and souvenir shops.
Check out our guide on the Maldivian airport’s most noteworthy features to ensure your trip through Velana International Airport is a tropical breeze from start to finish.
Velana International Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information
- Code: MLE
- Location: Airport Main Road, Maldives, 22000
- Website: https://www.maleairport.com/
Know Before You Go
Although there’s only one runway, Velana International Airport has three terminals—the International Terminal, the Domestic Terminal, and the Seaplane Terminal for inter-island and resort seaplane transfers. While budget travelers may island-hop via ferries or water taxis at the dock just outside the airport, many guests of the upmarket resorts will transfer to their destination via speedboat or seaplane. Each resort has a check-in kiosk in the arrivals hall, and guests are met by smiling representatives who will hold their hand through the transfer process.
Velana International Airport Parking
Prior to the new Sinamalé Bridge, opened in 2018, there was no car access between the capital city and the airport. Since then however, parking for personal vehicles has been established in a reclaimed lagoon adjacent to the airport, and costs approximately 30 Maldivian Rufiyaa ($2) per hour.
Velana International Airport is set on Hulhulé Island just half a mile (one kilometer) from the capital city of Malé, which is set on an island of the same name. Although most visitors to the Maldives likely won’t be driving (there are no rental car firms), those who do must cross the Sinamalé Bridge from the main island to reach the airport island.
Public Transportation and Taxis
Public transportation is the most common way to travel between Velana International Airport and Malé, with speedboats, domestic flights, and seaplane flights taking guests to resorts, outlying islands, and atolls.
- Ferries: The airport ferries run 24 hours six days per week and a one-way ticket costs about $1. The ferry operates between the airport and Malé city (and back) every 30 minutes between 2:30 a.m. and 4 a.m., every 15 minutes between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., and every 10 minutes during the bulk of the day from 6 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. On Fridays, the ferry runs every 10 minutes between 6 a.m. and midnight. Keep in mind that although these are the official times, ferries schedules are notoriously unreliable.
- Taxis: The ride from Velana International Airport to Malé Island takes approximately 10 minutes and costs around $2.50.
- Speedboats: Speedboats are available at the dock just outside the terminal, and can take visitors across to the capital city or to other islands in the North or South Malé atolls (and a few other neighboring atolls). Prices are determined based on distance. Resort speedboat transfers are included in some packages, or range from $100 to $400 round trip.
- Seaplanes: The Maldives features the largest fleet of seaplanes anywhere in the world. Operating between sunrise and sunset, seaplanes are a common method of transport between Velana International Airport and the more remote resorts. Seaplane transfers are booked by your resort once you’ve made your reservation and are charged to the price of your room. Round-trip transfers can range from $200 to $500 depending on the distance.
Where to Eat and Drink
The food and beverage choices are fairly limited, and most close at night.
- In the public area of the International Terminal before you go through security, there’s a food court offering basic options such as Burger King, Dairy Queen, The Pizza Company, Thai Express, and the Coffee Club.
- After passing through security in the International Terminal, there is only one café/eatery, a loosely French-inspired outlet called Dôme which serves sandwiches, salads, and a variety of coffees.
- There is a simple café in the Domestic Terminal, and an ice cream shop in the Seaplane Terminal.
- Alcohol can be purchased in Duty Free, but cannot be consumed in the airport. There are no bars.
Where to Shop
The airport is small with very limited shopping options, but let's face it—no one visits the Maldives to shop anyway.
- The departures area in the International Terminal has a Duty Free store purveying the requisite liquor and perfume, and an area selling last-minute overpriced souvenirs.
How to Spend Your Layover
There is not a lot going on at Velana International Airport, so many visitors opt to spend their layovers elsewhere. If you have a wait longer than four hours, there are a few options to make your layover more enjoyable.
- Stash your luggage at the Baggage Storage Service office near the Terminal Help Desk. Rates range from $6 to $12 depending on the size of each bag.
- Take the ferry or a taxi to Malé Island and meander through the capital city. Malé is an unusual sight that appears at first glance like the entire city is rising straight out of the ocean. The 3-square-mile island is crammed with buildings and is home to a population of around 216,000, and offers a variety of restaurants and cafes and a few noteworthy tourist sites, such as the National Museum and the Hukuru Miskiy, a mosque built of coral stones in 1658.
- Consider popping over to Hulhulé Island Hotel (the only hotel on the same island as the airport), which provides a free shuttle and has multiple restaurants and bars. The hotel offers day rates for rooms, as well as pool and beach use, and is the only place near the airport to get an adult beverage.
Velana International Airport Lounges
There are a few lounge choices at Velana International Airport, many of which are affiliated with the high-end resorts. Keep in mind that alcohol is illegal in most of the Maldives (other than tourist resorts and boats), and thus is unavailable in the airport.
International Terminal: In the departures area past security you’ll find the Plaza Premium Lounge, which serves business class passengers from all the airlines. Prior to security, passengers can visit the Wellness Lounge by Plaza Premium (for a fee), the Leeli Lounge (only for elite, business, or first class), or the private guest-only lounges belonging to the various luxury resorts including the Four Seasons, Anantara, and Jumeirah.
Domestic Terminal: Just outside the main entrance to the terminal building (before check in and security) is the Moonimaa Lounge, which accepts Priority Pass and is accessible to both domestic and international passengers. The lounge offers Wi-Fi, showers, and refreshments, and there’s also a spa area that features massages for an additional fee.
Seaplane Terminal: More private resort lounges can be found at the Seaplane Terminal, including for St. Regis, the W, Luxe Resorts, and Constance Resorts.
Wi-Fi and Charging Stations
Passengers are allowed 25 minutes of free Wi-Fi after check in, but it can only be accessed if you have a local SIM card with which to receive a text message. Additional networks are offered in some restaurants and lounges.
Sporadic outlets are available near the check in counters and past security, and are the local 230V variety. The G (British) plug type is used.
Helpful Tips and Facts
Here are some interesting facts and figures to help make the most of your time at Velana International Airport.
- Multiple booths are set up in the arrivals hall where you can purchase Maldivian SIM cards to use during your trip.
- The airport doesn’t operate 24 hours, and most services are closed between midnight and 6 a.m.
- Velana International Airport may be small, but it still offers tourist information, a post office, a pharmacy, and even a clinic.
- ATMs and currency exchange booths are available, but resort guests may not need to use any local currency. Resorts widely accept credit cards, U.S. dollars, and euros, while tipping is mainly preferred in U.S. dollars.