With more water than land, the Maldives are a true island nation. Strung across 26 coral atolls, the Maldives only have a combined landmass of 115 square miles spread across 35,000 square miles in the Indian Ocean!
To say that Maldivians live close to the sea is an understatement. The highest point in the country is at an elevation of less than eight feet. Rising sea levels are causing the Maldives to lose precious land each year, meaning that one day the country may cease to exist!
Massive resorts solve the land problem by building their own islands with stunning views. The Maldives isn't really a destination suited to moving around or exploring a variety of landscapes. People visit the Maldives for beauty, relaxation, and extraordinary snorkeling and diving.
The Maldives are a world-class vacation destination and one of the top honeymoon destinations in Asia.
Facts About the Maldives
- Official Name: Republic of the Maldives
- Location: 430 miles southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean
- Time: UTC + 5 (10 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time)
- Country Calling Code: +960
- Capital City: Male (pronounced 'mah-lay'; population 103,693 per 2006 census)
- Primary Religion: Islam
Visa and Customs Regulations
The Maldives have extremely relaxed visa regulations: everyone receives 30 days for free upon arrival. No need to apply in advance, pay a fee, or complete a lengthy visa application.
The Maldivian Constitution has very specific -- and sometimes criticized -- wording that strictly conforms to Islamic law. Visitors are forbidden to bring in any alcohol, pork products, or pornography. 'Pornography' is very loosely defined and ironically could even pertain to swimsuit photos. Your bag -- and reading materials -- are subject to search upon arrival.
Technically, books on other religions such as Christianity are also forbidden.
While the no-alcohol policy is strictly enforced in Male, resorts freely serve drinks and parties go late!
Are the Maldives Expensive?
The short answer: yes. Compared to neighboring India and Sri Lanka, the Maldives are pricey, particularly if you want to enjoy beach cocktails; alcohol is greatly marked up for tourists. With such little landmass, many necessities are imported rather than produced locally.
Once committed to a resort island, you're at the mercy of the hotel for food, drinking water, and necessities. Check prices for food and drinks or choose an all-inclusive deal, before selecting a resort. A small bottle of safe drinking water can cost up to US $5 in some resorts.
Staying in the Maldives
While the Maldives could be called pricey when compared to other top destinations in Asia, you get what you pay for. With thousands of beaches, you'll never have to worry about sharing your patch of sand with the crowds.
Cheap budget hotels abound in Male, but with perfect blue water beckoning, you won't want to stay there long. Deals and packages for resorts can sometimes be found for between US $150 - $300 per night.
Many visitors end up staying in the Kaafu part of the Maldives, which has a good selection of budget and midrange resorts. Kaafu is conveniently accessible from the airport via one-hour speedboats; you'll probably be met at the airport by a representative from your resort.
Getting to the Maldives
As arriving by boat is nearly impossible, a majority of tourists pass through Male International Airport (airport code: MLE) on Hulhule Island. You'll find direct flights to the Maldives from Europe, Singapore, Dubai, India, Sri Lanka, and many places in Southeast Asia.
When to Visit the Maldives
While the tropical climate keeps temperatures hovering in the upper 80s Fahrenheit throughout the year, a lack of natural obstructions allows a pleasant sea breeze to cool down visitors.
The Southwest Monsoon brings rain between April and October; the rain is heaviest between the months of June and August.