Made up of atolls, islands, and reefs, the Maldives is famous for being the embodiment of paradise. Best known for its gorgeous water, and white sand beaches, the Maldives is a gorgeous destination that often attracts honeymooners.
With such a strong invitation to come and play, you can dive into an unforgettable adventure in the Maldives.
Assalaamu Alaikum – Welcome to the Maldives!
Located in South Asia and home to less than 542,000 citizens (as of 2020), the Maldives is the continent’s smallest country. With 26 atolls and multiple islands, visitors can hop from beach to beach. While some are much busier than others, you can explore a few locations that may host only a single resort, allowing you to avoid crowds.
While the Maldives is known for having some of the best dive spots in the world, a large-scale revamp of the country has made it more accessible for tourism. The country was once a resort-only destination, but changes to the law now allow tourists to move independently within the nation. This gives you the choice to stay in a resort or privately owned accommodation.
Busting with life, Malé is the compact capital of the Maldives. In direct opposition to the laid-back resorts that make the country famous, the capital is the place to explore if you want to connect to the local Maldivian culture. Often described as having a quirky personality, the best sights in Malé are tucked away in the local shops, whimsical cafes, and busy markets.
- Culture and Language
- Spending Budget
- How to Get Around
- Top Islands to Visit
- Top Activities to Do
Culture and Language
The nearest neighboring countries to the Maldives are Sri Lanka and India, which have both impacted the country’s history. The most important part of the country’s relationship with Sri Lanka and India originated because of the area’s economy.
The Maldives sits along important marine routes in the Indian Ocean, and this led to the islands providing commodities, like cowry shells, to Sri Lanka and India.
The earliest trades that have been documented in the country’s history were between the Ancient Indian Kalingas, who spread the Hindu culture and Buddhism to the Maldives. But as the centuries went on, the country’s history changed even more as colonial powers took control of the local trade routes.
Starting in the 16th century, the Portuguese, Dutch, and French all influenced and controlled the Maldives. During the 19th century, it was declared a British protectorate. Under British control and protection, the country maintained its own local government as a sultanate.
Various sultans ruled in the Maldives for 812 years until the country’s first president, Muhammad Amin Didi abolished the sultanate, however it was not long before the country voted to return to the monarchy. The government didn’t truly change until the Maldives became independent from the British in 1965.
Today, the Maldives is a democratic nation with a president representing the nation. With such a unique history that has been influenced both by people and geography, it isn’t surprising to hear that the Maldives has a diverse culture. Most of the local culture has been greatly influenced by Sri Lanka and India, but also Malaysia, Indonesia, and even Africa.
The island’s geography has also influenced the local culture by encouraging communities to come together to celebrate and live as a unit.
Diversity is also alive in Maldivian culture through language. Dhivehi (or Maldivian) is the official language in the Maldives, and it has been influenced by other languages like Arabic, Portuguese, French, and Hindustani.
Dhivehi has its own very distinct dialects based on region, with the North speaking differently from the South.
With the enormous boom of tourism in the past few decades, English has become a very popular language in the Maldives. Many locals speak English and it’s frequently spoken on various islands in hopes to boost the local tourism industry.
If you’re planning a trip to the Maldives, it’s important to outline a spending budget, so you can track and estimate the costs of your vacation. The Maldives is an expensive destination and it’s difficult to plan a budget vacation. Backpackers can make their way around the Maldives but expect to give up various luxuries to cut costs.
For most travelers who are interested in exploring the Maldives, it is important to find a balance between affordable experiences and a full-blown luxury vacation. With so many resorts sprinkled throughout the islands and the introduction of guest houses, it is possible to travel to the Maldives on a modified budget.
Your accommodation is likely going to be the most expensive part of your trip, but you also need to consider the costs of airfare, food, drink, activities, and transportation as a part of your spending budget.
Flying from the United States to the Maldives is very expensive and the average cost of a ticket is in the thousands. However, there are sometimes deals offered by airlines that could lower the price. The dates of your vacation will also affect the cost of your flight. It’s more expensive to fly to the Maldives during the peak tourist months.
The winter months are the most popular time for tourists to visit the Maldives. Starting in December and extending into early April, you will notice the cost of airline tickets is at its highest. The cheapest time to visit the Maldives is in the monsoon season, which starts in May and lasts until October.
Once you have secured an airline ticket, you should also look at booking your accommodation. The Maldives is famous for its bungalows, which sit over crystal-clear water. However, the bungalows are also the most expensive accommodation option offered throughout the Maldives with nightly rates often costing hundreds of dollars a night, if not more.
Resorts are also very popular in the Maldives, and the country is packed with plenty of options. On all the major islands, there are resorts and some resorts even have their own private island. These options will again cost hundreds to thousands of dollars each day, making a vacation to this country one of luxury.
If you want to find affordable accommodation, look for private rentals. With the new law allowing guesthouses, many people have constructed their own bungalows to rent out to tourists. Guesthouses are the most affordable way to stay on the island, however, many do not have the level of privacy that resorts provide to their guests.
One big benefit of choosing a resort over a private guesthouse is the food. There are quite a few resorts that offer guests packages that include food as a part of their nightly rate. But it’s rare to find packages that include alcohol. You can also explore the local islands and go out to the small restaurants or cafes for a meal.
Maldivian cuisine is strongly based on seafood because of the country’s location in the Indian Ocean. Garudhiya is a traditional dish of the Maldives, which is fish-based and seasoned with chili, lime, and onions. Mas huni is a tasty meal that is made of shredded tuna, coconuts, lemon, and onion that’s most commonly eaten as breakfast with the local bread called roshi.
One dish that has strong flavors that are often unique to the Maldives is bis keemiya. Bis keemiya is a fried pastry that has been filled with tuna, onions, and cabbage. Banana leaves are also eaten in the Maldives and sliced into a dish called boshi mashuni. The dish uses flavored banana flowers and mixes them with coconut, turmeric, curry, and cumin for a sharp tangy taste.
Visitors will also find plenty of fish-based dishes throughout the Maldives. Lobsters, shrimp, and reef fish are often stewed, steamed, and fried into tasty dishes. India influences many of the spices with curry and masala flavors favorites amongst the locals.
If you want to spend less money, the best option for travelers is to eat locally. Potentially half the price of food at resorts, you may not always have this option as some islands do have establishments other than those connected to the hotel.
For guests who don’t purchase meal packages, expect to pay larger prices per plate at your resort hotel. If you prefer avoiding this, the best option is to get a food package.
The resorts also affect the price of alcohol, and it is expensive to drink in the Maldives. Similar to resort restaurants, alcohol will be more expensive. Unfontuetly, those looking to skip this cost by purchasing alcohol locally will find it impossible because of the local Islamic religion. This is the reason that alcohol is so expensive – it’s only made available to tourists.
After you’ve settled all your necessary costs, you can determine how much of your spending budget will be spent on excursions and activities. For ocean enthusiasts, the Maldives is truly paradise.
Scuba diving and snorkeling are the most popular activities because of the clear blue water.
There are tours available on all the islands, however, they can be rather expensive per person. Snorkeling is more affordable than scuba diving because it requires less gear. But you may also want to get out and surf in the waves or fish in the sea.
How to Get Around
Another big impact on your budget will be the cost of transportation. As a country made up of islands, getting around the Maldives is very expensive. Your only options to travel from destination to destination in the Maldives is by ferry, speedboat, or seaplane.
Local ferries are great if you want to travel between various islands in the Maldives. With the most expensive ferry being only a few dollars, it’s easy to get from the Velana International Airport to Malé or other destinations. However, the ferries do not have stops or services to the resort islands.
If you want to get to a resort, you’ll need to travel by speedboat. Expensive to hire, regardless of the time it takes, speedboats are a fast, but not by any means cheap, option.
If you feel comfortable heading out into the local areas, you may be able to hire a fisherman to ferry you to another island. More expensive than a ferry, but cheaper than a speedboat, this is a better option for those on a moderate budget.
The last way to get around the islands is by seaplane. This is the most expensive transportation option in the Maldives with a 20-minute ride costing hundreds of dollars. Due to this, most people choose another method of travel.
Top Islands to Visit
With multiple islands offering different attractions, visitors will have plenty of destinations to choose from. Unlike other Asian countries, where you may jump from city to city, island hopping is very popular for tourists, as there are unique features at each location.
Here are some of the most popular islands to visit in the Maldives.
Malé and Hulhumale Island
Malé, the capital of the Maldives, crams a lot into a rather small space. The congested streets of the capital are a stark contrast to the remote beaches on the other islands. But not all the islands are laid back, and Malé is the place to go if you want to experience the local lifestyle and culture.
Across the water from Malé is Hulhumale Island, another urban space that is overflowing with life. The first place most travelers will experience due to it being home to the international airport, the island is konwn for its promenade and artificial beach.
Maafushi is the best place to go if you want to stay in a local guesthouse and escape the resort culture. Unlike most of the nearby islands, Maafushi does not have any big resorts or hotels. This island is the go-to place for budget travelers in the Maldives.
With plenty of beaches and clear waves, Maafushi is just as beautiful as the resort islands, but it costs a fraction of the price.
Utheemu is an important island in Maldivian history because it was once the home of Sultan Mohammed Thakurufaanu who drove the Portuguese out of the country in the 16th century. Just like all the other islands, Utheemu is beautiful and the timber palace is the island’s top attraction.
Feydhoo and Maradhoo
Due to the conversion of Gan into an airbase, the locals were sent to Feydhoo to create a new town. With quiet streets and compact houses, Feydhoo is another island that will connect you to the local lifestyle and take you away from the resorts. Home to mostly locals, you can stroll the streets and taste authentic Maldivian food.
Close to Feydhoo, Maradhoo another local island. Most well known for having narrow beaches that are lined with palm trees, Link Road is a popular area for tourists to visit because of the local coffee shops and street vendors.
Veligandu Island is one of the most famous resort islands in the Maldives, which is a favorite destination for honeymooning couples. The resort on the island offers bungalows that sit over the water and local tours with sea kayaks. Gentle waves are also safe to swim, and the inland lagoon is a nice place to escape.
One of the more remote islands in the Maldives, Fuvahmulah is unique because of the inland lakes. While the lakes are not accessible all year round, when there is plenty of rain, lakes form in the interior parts of the island.
The outer edge of the island is most famous for Banging Beach, which is the best place to relax in the sand and take a dip in the waves.
With some of the best scuba diving areas in the Maldives, Alimatha Island has become a tourist hotspot. Resorts have been built on the island and you can book a cabana or villa. While it is safe to swim, be careful of the reefs.
Part of the reason Alimatha Island is so popular is that the nearby reefs are home to a vast array of ocean wildlife.
Top Activities to Do
With plenty of pristine beaches and shallow waters, most activities in the country revolve around the ocean. From snorkeling and scuba diving to parasailing and surfing, there is plenty to do while visting. Here are the top activities to partake in while visiting the Maldives.
One of the best and most affordable ways to get out on the water is to go snorkeling. Snorkeling is a great way to explore the aquatic wildlife in the Maldives, and it is a safe activity for families with older children.
Most beaches in the Maldives are safe for snorkeling, but you might check with your resort or a local business to book a snorkeling tour.
For active swimmers who want to reach deeper depths of the ocean, scuba diving is another aquatic activity that is popular throughout the Maldives. For those interested in seeing unique wildlife, whale sharks are a common sight around Dhangethi Island.
However, other popular islands for scuba diving include Maafushi and Veligandu. The best atolls for scuba diving are Laamu, North Malé, and Gaafu Alifu Atoll.
Parasailing is a great way to see the Maldives from a bird’s-eye view without having to book a seaplane. There are quite a few businesses or resorts that offer parasailing as an activity, so you can see more of the area.
Sea Kayak or Stand Up Paddle Board
Sea kayaks are fun to take out onto the ocean and a casual activity for couples and families. Unlike surfing, sea kayaks require little skill, but they can still help you get out on the waves to take a peek at the coral reefs from above.
If you’re up for a bigger challenge and want to work out your core, you can test your skills and learn how to balance on a stand-up paddle board.
If you are an experienced surfer, the Maldives has some smooth waves that you can catch. With such clear water, surfing is another way to see the local wildlife and coral reefs. While some beaches may be gentle, most surf areas in the Maldives are best left to experienced surfers because of the shallow waters.
Many resorts and locals also offer fishing trips and excursions, so you can try to catch your own meal. There are plenty of local species that you can try to catch, and the Maldives is one of the world’s best destinations for big game fish.
The most popular fish species in the area include tuna, barracuda, and swordfish. With strict fishing regulations set in place to protect the local wildlife, it’s best to hire a guide.
After a long day exploring the islands and oceans, you may want to hit the spa. Spas are popular attractions in the resorts, and they provide excellent service to their guests. With beautiful ocean views, you can book your spa experience and melt your stress away.
“Maldives – Always Natural”
Oozing with tropical charm, it isn’t hard to imagine sitting on a beach in the Maldives. This island destination is one of the world’s best vacations for tourists who want to mix rest and relaxation with adventure and play.
Luxury resorts and idyllic beaches await you in the Maldives, where you can dive under the waves or bask in the sun to complete your perfect vacation.