The Maldives is a tropical paradise famous for its plush resorts, pristine white sand beaches, lush tropical vegetation, diverse reefs teeming with marine life and spectacular sunsets that dip into the horizon. It is a unique experience, as you can stay on your island/resort itself, do nothing and still have a fantastic and relaxed Maldives holiday.
Once popular with honeymooners and divers, now the country is also popular amongst those looking to escape their COVID controlled lives. It is an ideal place to visit in the current times because of its secluded location, the air bubbles between the Maldives and various countries, the ease of social distancing in the single resort islands, and the immense amount of measures being taken to keep the resorts COVID-free. These resorts have beach and over-water villas complete with a hot-tub and plunge pool which are calling your name.
We had never thought to go for a vacation to the Maldives but decided to plan a trip there for these very reasons. It is not the kind of travel we look forward to but we absolutely loved it nonetheless because of the serenity of the turquoise waters and the spectacular marine life. We enjoyed our time there so much that we often think of visiting again someday. Here’s our ‘Maldives Travel Guide’ blog post where we tell you how to plan Maldives Trip.
What you'll find below
A Little About The Maldives
- The Republic of Maldives is a small archipelagic country located southwest of India and Sri Lanka in Southern Asia.
- It is located in the Arabian Sea of the Indian Ocean.
- It consists of about 1,200 coral islands and sandbanks grouped in 26 clusters or atolls. Only some 200 of these islands are inhabited by locals.
- Uninhabited islands are turned into luxury resorts. The country has over 150 such resorts.
- The islands extend more than 820 km (510 miles) from north to south and 130 km (80 miles) from east to west.
- Its capital city is Male, where the majority of Maldivians live. It is one of the smallest national capitals in the world.
- The Maldives is an Islamic country with the official language Dhivehi (or Maldivian), a close relative of Sinhala (spoken in Sri Lanka). Arabic, Hindi, and English are also spoken.
- The local currency is the Maldivian Rufiyaa symbolized as Rf or MVR. However, the US Dollar is the standard currency in luxury resorts.
Best Time to Visit Maldives
The rainy season lasts from June to November. The best time to visit Maldives is when there is little or no rain – from December to April.
However, note that the weather in the Maldives is notoriously fickle. We were there just before Christmas and saw it rain daily. Per our butler at the resort, the best time to plan a Maldives trip is February.
How to Reach Maldives and Get Around
The best way to enter the country is via a flight to the Velana International Airport at Male which connects to all major countries in Asia including India, Sri Lanka and China. There are direct flights from Dubai and chartered flights from Europe and Singapore.
Once in the Maldives, you can travel to any of the twelve domestic airports to which several daily flights are operated. Scheduled ferry services also operate from Male to most of the atolls.
Transfers to most luxury resorts are handled by the resort itself. Taking public transport or any other private transport is not allowed. Transfers to resorts around the airport are by speedboat and transfers to resorts and islands further afield are by seaplane.
Rules and Regulations
The VISA policy for the Maldives is simple. Everyone gets a free 30-day visa on arrival, provided that they have a passport valid for 6 months from the date of entry, a pre-paid accommodation booking, a return ticket and proof of sufficient funds. See Maldives Immigration website for complete details.
Getting weapons, firearms, explosives, porn, and any materials contrary to Islam like alcohol, pork, idols for worship and bibles is forbidden. On departure, carrying sand, seashells or coral is not allowed. All luggage is x-rayed, so it’s better to not carry these items in or out. See the Maldives Customs Service website for complete details.
COVID-19 Travel Rules for Maldives
Covid related policies change per the situation, so ensure you read the latest updates. Here are some of the main pointers to take note of.
1. You need to hold a negative COVID-19 PCR test result conducted within 96 hours before the scheduled time of departure from the first port of embarkation enroute the Maldives. Note that airport authorities usually ask for the hard copy of the test report printed on the diagnostic centre letterhead. Soft copies may not be accepted.
- If you make a transit during the journey, the initial PCR test will be valid only if the transit does not exceed 24 hours.
- If you make a transit exceeding 24 hours, you need to repeat the PCR test within 96 hours before embarkation at the port of transit.
2. Ensure you fill the online Health Declaration Form within 24 hours before departure to the Maldives through the IMUGA portal. Keep a photo/screenshot of the QR code generated at the end of the process. This is checked at the Maldives check-in counters and before immigration in the Maldives. This may also be checked when departing from your home country like it is in India.
3. Note that tourists are not allowed to visit islands inhabited by locals. However, slowly these islands are opening up. Tourist hotels and guesthouses in the greater Male Area were finally allowed to open from December 14, 2020, per the circular dated December 8, 2020.
If you’ve booked directly, then the resort will e-mail you the latest pre-requisites about a week before departure. If they don’t, email and ask them. If you’ve booked through an agent they should be able to help. However, we saw so many people filling these forms out at the airport at the moment, that it led us to believe that some resorts/agents don’t handle this properly.
- Quarantine upon arrival is not required. However, if you have a fever, cough or shortness of breath on board the flight, it should be informed.
- The authorities may randomly select you for a COVID-19 test at the Male Airport.
- You will undergo thermal screening at the arrival terminal.
- Wearing a mask is compulsory in the flight and airport.
- Ensure you’re physical distancing. All physical distancing guidelines are clearly marked.
- All tourists are encouraged to install the Contact Tracing app “TraceEkee.” This is not mandatory, however.
- If your destination country requires a COVID-19 test result then you can get tested at your resort. Just ask a hotel rep to arrange it for you. Let your resort rep know about this as soon as you arrive as testing kits usually arrive from Male and are sent back to Male for reports.
- You are required to submit an online Health Declaration Form within 24 hours before departure through the IMUGA portal. Keep a screenshot of the QR code handy.
- Ensure you check what formalities are required to return to your country or next destination.
If you plan a trip to Maldives from India, this one is for you. Before your return to India, you will have to fill the Air Suvidha Self Reporting Form. Ensure you are carrying a pen for any other formalities because no one at the airport will lend you their pen or anything else due to COVID.
As mentioned earlier, please check the Visit Maldives Website for updates when planning your travel.
Tip: We always take travel insurance before heading for a trip. This time we thought it necessary to take travel insurance that included COVID cover. We took one from India itself that advertised that it covered COVID. But we still thought there may be issues if we really do get COVID. To avoid such uncertainty it would be better to take the regular travel insurance you prefer plus a Maldives COVID 19 specific travel insurance. It is an expensive country for tourists, so medical expenses could be exorbitant on a Maldives vacation. Better safe than sorry.
How to Decide Where to Stay in Maldives?
Your stay on your vacation to the Maldives would be determined primarily by your budget. Keeping the budget in mind, you would then have to look at several other factors mentioned below and choose a resort or guesthouse accordingly.
Most resorts in the Maldives that attract you to visit it in the first place have a one island one resort concept. However, these are quite expensive as the Maldives is a luxury holiday destination. You can expect to spend over $200 (INR15,000) per day on the lower side and on the higher side this could go up to $4000 (INR 3,00,000) a day or more. However, if you stay at an island inhabited by locals you can spend about $80 (INR 5000) per day too. The breakup of cost budget wise and some amazing resort recommendations are given in the ‘Trip Cost to Maldives’ section below.
2. Meal Plan (For Resort Only)
All the resorts are self-contained, so they have at least one restaurant that generally serves a combination of different popular cuisines. Breakfast is almost always included in the basic fare. When booking, however, ensure you also check out the following meal plans as ala carte can get quite expensive.
- Half-Board: This implies that you will be provided breakfast and dinner.
- Full-Board: This implies you will be provided breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- All-Inclusive: This implies you get breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with free house drinks. It is a great option if you plan to drink a lot.
An ‘All Inclusive Meal Plan’ is different from an ‘All Inclusive Resort’. All inclusive resorts, in addition to including all meals and drinks, may also include other complimentary services like – transfers, a champagne bottle, minibar replenishments, guided snorkelling trips and excursions, spa credit, free use of water-sport equipments, etc. In our opinion, all-inclusive resorts give amazing deals that are perfect for worry-free indulgent holidays, honeymoon and other occasions or if you’re looking to do a couple of activities that are being offered for free.
If you’re trying to reduce the cost of your trip and don’t care about doing too many activities or drink a ton of alcohol then opt for resorts that aren’t fully inclusive. Take a half-board meal plan, if you can go without lunch or snack away to glory.
When researching these meal plans, ensure you check which restaurants at the resort qualify for the meal plan you’re considering. It could so happen that you take a full board plan that includes meals only at the main restaurant, but you would prefer to eat at other restaurants at the property. In such a case, a full board/ half board plan may not make sense.
COVID Note: Not all restaurants at a resort will be open due to COVID. Ensure you check with the resort incase this is a big factor for you when choosing a particular resort.
We took a half-board plan for our stay at Coco Bodu Hithi. We figured that we could survive on a heavy breakfast and dinner. We carried Indian snacks (Read Theplas. We know. We know. So typical. But they last long and are tasty as well) and Ramen with us to eat during lunch. In the evenings, we sat at the bar for a round of drinks and Hookah. It turned out to be perfect.
3. Other Aspects to Consider
All resorts are mesmerizing and quite alike on the face of it, so it’s really tough to choose a property to stay at. It would help to pick a few things that matter to you the most for a Maldives holiday and choose accordingly. These are things you might look for:
- House Reef: The house reef is such an important factor to consider and one that you’ll not find mentioned explicitly anywhere except in reviews. So read a ton of reviews (hello tripadvisor) about the property you’re considering to determine the quality and abundance of coral and marine life at the resort and obviously to know other’s experiences and what issues you could potentially face. You could also check pictures of the resort and see if the water around the resort has a lot of black spots. This may not look very appealing in photos but the black spots are actually coral. And coral attracts the marine life. Yeah, we know its a weird way to check.
- Beach or over-water villa: Choose an over-water villa for the ultimate luxurious vacation or a beach villa for an amazing beach experience that will also help save some money. If you want to save money but also stay at an over-water villa consider splitting your stay between both sorts of villas.
- Villa amenities and size: Some resorts are steeply-priced yet have the smallest villas ever (less than 100 square meters). Ensure you check this aspect. Also, as a rule of thumb beach villas are bigger than water villas.
- Plunge pool availability and size: Not all villas have pools. Some that do that a really teeny weeny one. If the pool size matters, check guest uploaded pictures in addition to management uploaded ones to get a better idea. Exact pool size will not be mentioned anywhere.
- Availability of a hot tub/bathtub: Again, not all rooms have tubs. If you’re a sucker for them, make sure your villa has it. We usually also care for the view from the hot tub so we try to find a resort/villa accordingly.
- Outdoor Deck Furnishments like a deck chair, dining table, outdoor bed, swing, over-water hammock and especially lagoon access. Not all water villas have lagoon access.
- Facilities on the property such as a spa, free fitness classes, a gym, an infinity swimming pool, etc.
- Activities (paid and free): Check if your resort offers activities you like. Look for water activities like snorkelling, cruises, fishing, diving, canoeing. Also, look for on-land activities and entertainment like movie nights, live performances, cycling, indoor games, outdoor sports, beach or water swings, beach and over-water hammocks and slides etc. Check which activities are free at the resort and the cost of the paid activities you would really like to do. Typically, you get snorkel gear free. You might also get a canoe, standup paddleboards and the likes for free. Most other activities are paid, with group activities being considerably more affordable than couple/private ones.
- Free-WIFI and streaming services (Netflix etc.)
- Cost of transfers, mode of transfer (seaplane or speedboat or both), and time to reach the resort: Some resorts require you to reach or leave the Male airport between certain timings so that they can pick you and drop you. So, ensure that flights are available to and from your destination at requisite timings. Also, while booking the resort do check the cost of trasnfer. This will depend on the proximity of the resort island from Male and the mode of transport – speed boats being cheaper than sea plane. The fare typically ranges from $200 (INR 15,000) per person per stay to $500 (INR 35,000) per per person per stay.
- Family resort or not: Check if children are allowed at resorts or not and if children related facilities are available.
- Honeymoon inclusions (if you’re going within one year of your wedding). Actually, you might want to get in touch with the property to tell them about any special occasions so that they can make your stay extra special or tell you about any inclusions they have for such occasions.
- Drone: Most of us photography enthusiasts want to capture our dream drone shots in the Maldives. However, these days drones are increasing not allowed at resorts to maintain the privacy of guests. Please check this while booking. It is mentioned in the fine print of the resort on booking websites. if not, contact the resort directly.
- Any other resort specific inclusions like complimentary excursions, drinks, spa credit, etc.
We picked a property that had a biggish overwater villa (144 square meters) with a decent-sized plunge pool, a big hot-tub that could fit us both, a good house reef, free snorkelling equipment, and the lowest price amongst all we shortlisted. We were aware that our property was old and we might see maintenance issues. Yet we decided to go ahead with it. No regrets!
Trip Cost to Maldives
You total Maldives Trip Budget will be dependent on the cost of the following:
- Resort/Villa Fare including Meal Plan
- Ala Carte Meals
- Alcohol and Hookah
- Covid Tests
Since the cost of points 2-6 could be highly variable so we are not mentioning them below. This section will give you a basic idea on the required budget for a Maldives trip of your liking so you can plan your travel accordingly.
Luxury Resort (>$2000 per couple per night)
The sky is the limit if you’re staying at a luxury resort. For example, if you book an overwater villa with a pool at a super exclusive resort like Soneva Jani, the fare would be a whopping $7,500 (INR 5,50,000) per night. To generalize, you could consider the price of an over-water villa at a super luxury resort to be above $2000 (INR 1,50,000) per night with breakfast and dinner included. The over-water villa fare for some popular resorts are given below:
Alternatively, if you stay at a lower budget 5-star all-inclusive resort or at a resort with the all-inclusive package, you would spend about $1000-$1500 (INR 75,000-1,50,000) per night per couple. This would be luxurious but not super luxurious like the ones mentioned above. Some resorts in this price range to consider are:
Mid-Budget Resort ($500-$1000 per couple per night)
We would classify ourselves as mid-budget travellers who want a taste of luxury and convenience at a budget. You’ll spend about $500 to $1000 (INR 35,000 to 75,000) per night per couple. The best tip to save money would be to opt for beach/garden villas (cheapest), over-water villa without a pool, or get the best of both worlds – split your stay between over-water and beach villas.
Coco Bodu Hithi
Here is how much we spent for a four-night stay at Coco Bodu Hithi. It is was still pricey, but we were sure we wanted to spend all nights at an over-water villa with a pool instead of splitting our stay between over-water and beach villas.
Resort Fare with Half-Board Meal Plan: $2428 (with taxes) which amounts to $607 per day
Alcohol and Hookah: $155
Covid-19 tests: $320
Total: $3343 (INR 2,44,642)
Per day cost: $835 (INR 61,105)
To compare this cost with other resorts, take the amount of $630 (INR 46,000) per night as this is the amount we would have spent without Transfers, Hookah and COVID tests.
Read our detailed review of Coco Bodu Hithi.
Budget Resort ($200 to $500 per couple per night)
This will not exactly be a budget vacation but the best that can be managed at a luxury destination whilst staying at a 4-5 star resort. You’d spend about $200-$500 (INR15,000 to 35,000) per night per couple or a bit more. You can opt to stay most basic room/villa at an budget resort, spend a bit more and and stay at a beach villa again at a budget resort or spend even a bit more and stay at the most basic villa at a mid budget resort. If you’re from India, look out for deals on CRED, Luxury Escapes, Thrillophilia. These have really low-priced packages sometimes. Here are some resorts worth checking out.
Backpacker- Local Island Stay ($80-$100 per person per night)
It is often assumed that the Maldives can’t be visited on a budget as resorts are super expensive. If you also think that, then let me break it to you- you can absolutely have a Maldives vacation on a budget.
Here is how to travel the Maldives on a Budget
You can do this by opting for hotels and guesthouses on islands inhabited by locals. Some of the best known islands are Maafushi (main budget tourist hub), Fulidhoo, Guraidhoo, Ukulhas, Dhigurah, Thoddoo, Rasdhoo. Staying at these island would cost you about $80-$100 (INR 5,000 to 7,000) per day person. You can book these guesthouses or hotels on Agoda or Airbnb. Remember you get INR 5,000 off on your first Airbnb booking if you’re a first-time user. Register and avail discount here.
Here’s how much you’ll spend including activities, transfers and food:
Accommodation: Guesthouse ranging from $40 to $100 (INR 3,000-7,000) depending on the season.
Food: $10 (INR 700) per day on dinner (assuming breakfast is included in the price of the guest house and you’re not spending on lunch)
Ferry: $1-$15 (INR 100-1000). Alternatively, hire a local speed boat that would be faster and cost about $25-$40 (INR 1800-3000). It is still less than a resort would charge.
Activities: You can dive here at $100 (INR 7,000) for two dives – see mantas rays and whale sharks on tours. You can rent snorkel equipment for about $8 (INR 500), take guided snorkelling trips at $50 (INR 3,500), go island hopping around the atoll at $50.
If you are a diver, then the cheapest way to explore the waters is by living on a liveaboard. Here you will get accommodation and meals and can dive all day long. These would cost about $200-$300 (INR 15,000-20,000) per day.
If you’re planning to stay at an island where locals reside then make note of the following:
- Don’t expect luxury.
- You will not get any alcohol.
- Food will be Maldivian (fish, curry, rice) and you’ll have to dine at your accommodation itself (except in Maafushi which has developed to accommodate tourism).
- You will need to get some money converted to MVR/ Rf as local islands accept local currency.
- Activity prices will be much cheaper than resorts, so you can better explore the ocean.
- Don’t live at the local island if you’re not into water activities, you’ll not find anything else to do.
- You will have to wear conservative clothing, unlike a typical beach holiday. Shoulders and knees should be covered even when at the beach. Some of the above-mentioned local islands have ‘Bikini Beaches’ where you can wear a swimsuit. Read our Maldives Packing List.
- Ferry transfers will be cheap but incredibly slow – about more than 5 times slower than the time a speed boat will take. You’ll pay in terms of time what you save in terms of money.
COVID Note: Island hopping and staying at local islands is not allowed due to COVID. However, recently the greater Male Area (Male, Hulhumale, Villimale) opened for tourism. Read here. Please ensure you get all details from the hotel/guesthouse/resort/Airbnb you consider and from the Maldives tourism website before considering staying at a local island.
Things to Do During a Maldives Holiday
Besides relaxing in your pool, chilling at the beach and sipping on your favourite cocktails at the bar, there are plenty of activities you can do in the Maldives. However, these might be expensive, so choose accordingly.
- Try Water Sports: You can pick from all sorts of water sports including jet boating, canoeing, stand up paddleboarding, parasailing, water-skiing, kitesurfing and the ever-popular fun tubing.
- Snorkel All Day Long: Clear water, the proximity of resorts to corals and the abundance of marine life makes the Maldives a hot destination for snorkelling. You can rent snorkel equipment (life jackets too if needed) and head into the house reef. You’ll spot a variety of fish and probably reef sharks, turtles, and stingrays. This is the best and most inexpensive way to see ocean life. Alternatively, you can opt for a guided excursion to places like manta point, turtle point, etc.
- Dive in the Marine Life Rich Waters: With resorts having certified PADI dive centres, the Maldives makes for a great place to dive. Beginners can only go as deep at 12 meters. You can also book a tour to swim beside the mighty whale sharks.
- Indulge in a Spa Treatment: Sooth your muscles with an endless view of the ocean.
- Admire the Maldivian Sunset on a Sunset Cruise: Sunset cruises are not only a spectacular way to watch the brilliant Maldivian sunset with a glass of bubbly in hand but can also provide an opportunity to spot dolphins.
- Watch a Movie Beneath the Stars: Most resorts set up a projector screen on the beach with fun family movies. You can also have a private movie night just with just your partner, depending on the resort you’re staying at though you’ll have to pay up for it.
- Have the Ultimate Date at an Underwater Restaurant: Relish some Maldivian delicacies while gazing at sea life. These can be found at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Hurawalhi Island Resort, Anantara Kihawah, Niyama Private Islands, Ozen Life Madhoo and You & Me Maldives.
- Go Fishing: Fishing trips are organized by resorts and local islands usually around sunset time. You will be provided with all the necessary equipment to fish and have a good time while enjoying the beautiful blue waters and spectacular sunset.
- Visit a Sand Bank: There are several sandbanks in the Maldives. These are tiny islands covered with sand and surrounded by beautiful clear water and corals. Your boat will usually carry a gazebo or umbrella to create some shade as it can get terribly hot. Some resorts even offer the chance of having lunch at such a sandbank for the ultimate romantic experience.
- Visit a Local Island and Explore Male: Take an excursion to Male to get a flavour of Maldivian city life, see its colourful buildings and the ancient mosque. Local islands provide an altogether different experience with a peep into Maldivian rural life.
In all honesty, we did not do any of these activities except snorkelling and watching a movie outdoors. Besides the diving, we did not wish we did anything else on our 4 nights 5 days vacation to the Maldives. Here is a little video of the fun time we had on our Maldives holiday.
Phew, that was long! And here we were thinking we won’t write a Maldives vacation guide. We hope this blog post helps plan your ideal trip to the Maldives and has all the information you’re looking for. Do let us know what aspect of the post was most helpful and what else you’d like to see mentioned above.
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