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Home » Travel » Destinations Guide

Maldives

Soft, sandy beaches and a sparkling turquoise lagoon makes the Maldives a destination not for the bargain hunters... most travelers will find the unspoiled beauty and serenity they discover in the Maldives to be well worth the cost.

The Maldives is a great place to play Robinson Crusoe: You can stay on a tiny island that has a soft, sandy beach, a sparkling turquoise lagoon and only a single dwelling.
And if you plunge beneath the surface of the lagoon, you'll find extraordinary underwater scenery that more than compensates for any lack of aboveground drama. Beneath the Maldives waters are coral pinnacles, cliffs and caverns inhabited by an amazing variety of colorful reef fish.


The seclusion you'll find in the Maldives (pronounced MAHL-dives) is not merely an accident of geography, but a matter of deliberate design. Overwhelmed by an influx of tourists during the 1970s, government leaders created a master plan for the tourist industry, with the aim of emphasizing quality over quantity and minimizing the impact of tourism on the natural and human environment. The result was the development of a series of high-quality island resorts that have been cited as models for sustainable tourism development.

These improvements have come at a cost to travelers: The Maldives is not a place for bargain hunters. And you won't be free to travel wherever you wish within the islands, many of them remain off limits to outsiders except by hard-to-obtain permits. Nevertheless, most travelers will find the unspoiled beauty and serenity they discover in the Maldives to be well worth the cost.


BASICS

Capital City: Male

Economy: Fishing, tourism.

Language Description: Divehi, some English.

Passport/Visa U.S.: Passports, visas (issued free upon arrival for stays less than 30 days), proof of onward passage and sufficient funds are needed by citizens of Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. Reconfirm travel documentation requirements with your carrier before departure.

Population: 301,475

Religion: Islamic (Sunni).

Telephone Codes: 960, country code

Time Zone: 5 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+5 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is not observed

Tipping Overview: A 10% service charge is usually added to the bill at tourist restaurants and resorts.

Voltage Requirements: 220 volts


TRANSPORTATION

Male International Airport (MLE) is 1-2 km by ferry or water taxi from the capital. The Maldives lie an hour's flight south of Trivandrum, India, and about the same flying time southwest of Sri Lanka. Air Maldives flies from Male to Gan (on Seenu), but travel between islands is most often by boat, ranging from 10-ft/3-m outboards to large square-sailed boats and dhonis.

With the exception of Male, transportation on the islands is by foot, as almost any of them can be circled, walking very leisurely, in less than half an hour. Limited taxi service is available on Male. Traffic moves on the left.


DINING

Fortunately, the food is usually decent and will include fresh seafood, tropical fruit (especially coconuts), vegetables and some Indian dishes. In addition, most hotels will prepare any fish you catch. Now that more Europeans are visiting the islands, some properties are adding a bit of Continental flavor to their main dishes.

Cafes and teahouses (there are many in Male) discourage local female customers, but they will serve foreign women!!!


SHOPPING

Look for stamps, colorful island fabrics, T-shirts and shells. Local crafts include lacquer work and weaving. We particularly like the woven mats known as kuna, with elegant geometric designs. Some of the stores sell black coral jewelry, often in tacky settings. You may also see items made from turtle shell. (In general, we don't recommend buying things made from coral or turtles: Purchasing them encourages further destruction of reefs, and the turtles of the Maldives are endangered.) There is some duty-free shopping as well.


WEATHER

Weather patterns are fairly unpredictable in the Maldives, although sea breezes keep the air comfortable most of the year and the water remains a remarkably steady, comfortable 75 F/30 C. The air temperature is also fairly constant, averaging 77-86 F/25-30 C year-round.

The calmest seas and bluest skies generally occur from December-April, which is high season. There are two monsoon seasons, which just means it's a little more cloudy and there's a slightly greater chance of rain. The northeast monsoon, or iruvai, is December-March. It brings more wind than rain.

The wetter southwest monsoon, or hulhangu, is May-October or November. Humidity is high all year.

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