in the middle
The distant delights of the Maldives make travelling there well worth the hours you will spend in transit. Beautiful beaches, warm seas and guaranteed sun make it a great summer holiday getaway. Unfortunately the Maldives is still an expensive destination, with 'budget' accommodation more likely to fall in the mid-range for us commoners! If you are looking for an extra special holiday destination, however, the Maldives is certainly a top candidate!
A flight to the Maldives will take 13 hours or more depending on your route, airline and starting point. Do note that it is quite rare to get direct flights. Airlines such as British Airways, Emirates, Swiss and Turkish Airlines offer flights from a number of UK airports, including Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester and London City. As most flights are not direct it gives you a chance to compare different routes to ensure you are getting those cheap flight tickets to Maldives. We suggest comparing airlines who connect via the Middle East as well as those who offer connections through the major European cities such as Istanbul and Paris.
Male flights arrive at the Male International Airport on Hulhule Island; despite its name, the airport is not based in Male.
After arriving at the airport, you will have a few options for onwards travel to your resort. Speedboats are a quick and convenient way to reach your resort, while travelling by dhoni (traditional fishing boat) is a cheaper and more unique way to get around. The other popular method of transport is by seaplane or air taxi. Seaplane companies regularly fly visitors from Male International Airport to the nearby island resorts. This is a great way to get overhead photos of the beautiful reefs, lagoons and islands!
The Maldives is a popular destination with divers as the mysterious and beautiful world under the sea becomes the centrepiece. At the Fushifaru Thila reef, you will see marine life of all kinds, from turtles to sharks and manta rays to clownfish. Banana Reef is another famous diving site, home to many different types of fish such as pufferfish, grubfish, barracuda and bannerfish.
For a more historical and cultural outing, the island of Isdhoo showcases the ancient Buddhist architecture and artefacts which were left here by settlers in a bygone age. The ruins provide fascinating insight into the history of a now thoroughly Muslim country.
The capital of Male is the most lively and contemporary area of the island chain, although it's forging its own path rather than copying other urban centres. The National Museum is a real highlight; located in the Sultan's Park, it is the only remaining part of the original palace and educates visitors on the area's history. The park itself is a lovely place to wander around. In contrast to the resort islands, be aware that alcohol is prohibited in Male and respect the local customs by dressing appropriately.
The main airport in the Maldives is in Male, the capital, and most international flights arrive here. There is a direct service from London Gatwick to Male three times a week, which is the easiest way to get there from the UK. Alternative routes with stopovers in Dubai or Singapore are also available, meaning you catch flights to the Maldives from London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow as well. Direct flight times are around 10 hours, with indirect flights taking upwards of 12 hours.
All the destinations in the Maldives are pretty close to Male and air taxis are the usual way of reaching your hotel. A word of advice though, these tend not to run after dark so you may have to stay the night in a Male hotel, or you can pay for a private transfer if you prefer. Boats are also a great way of getting to your hotel if you're staying somewhere within the North or South Male atolls. In all cases it's worth checking if your hotel offers free transfers.
Organised island-hopping tours are the easiest way to get around the Maldive atolls. These can be a combination of air taxi and boat travel. Independent travel is possible using the same methods but to do this you'll need an inter-atoll travel permit which requires you to have an invitation from a resident of the island you are visiting. This is because only some of the islands are open to tourists and so they are worried about lone travellers.
The temperature in the Maldives remains pretty constant throughout the year with daytime temperatures around 30°C and night time ones of around 24°C. The humidity is fairly high but the sea breezes keep the air moving and the heat down. The rainy season runs from May to October when rough seas and high winds are possible, although there is likely to be at least a few hours of sun every day too. The dry season runs from January to March, when thunderstorms are greeted as a short and welcome respite from the sun!
December to March are the most popular months with Christmas and New Year being the most expensive times to visit. Prices tend to be fairly constant the rest of the time. November and April are touted by divers as the best times to take a holiday in the Maldives because of the clarity of the water. But that doesn't mean you should write off the rest of the year, there will always be sun, sand and corals to dive even if it does rain a little more. The best value for your Maldives break can be opting for all inclusive board.
Rufiyaa. Exchange facilities in the airport, banks and hotels offer very similar rates. Many hotels will accept card payments too. The Maldives is an expensive place to visit, particularly if you wish to travel around some of the islands, so make sure you have enough cash with you. US$ are most widely exchanged.
Dhivehi is the official language of the Maldives, but English is widely spoken in the resorts as is German, French, Italian and Japanese.
+960 for the Maldives, there are no other codes for the different towns.
The main dangers in the Maldives come from the sea. The currents in the sea can be quite strong, so pay attention to any warnings about this and don't dive alone. Heatstroke can be a big problem, especially if you're wearing a wetsuit all day and not hydrating properly so take regular breaks.
Everybody gets a free 30-day visa provided that they have a return ticket booked, and proof of funds. Proof of funds can either be a reservation for a hotel or a minimum of US$25 per day. Importing alcohol, pork or pornography is forbidden.