Maldives Travel Guide- If you are looking to spend quality time with friends or family while experiencing life-changing adventure activities like scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming amidst nurse sharks and manta rays, chasing turtles, immersing yourself in finding Nemo (clown fish), parasailing, jet-skiing and much more, then Maldives is your go-to location.
Yes, you’ve read it right; it’s the Maldives, and it has plenty to offer. Being the world’s most sought-after destination for the years 2020 and 2021, this island nation keeps mesmerising everyone with its astonishing beauty and, moreover, can never let anyone down.
- Maldives’ General Persona
- Brief on the Maldives
- Beginning of my journey
- Proper Planning and Execution – The key
- VISA Procedure and Formalities
- Currency to Carry
- Travel Trump Cards
- Hospitable Hotels
- Non-Fancy Fooding
- Lovely Locals
- Strict Don’t’s
- Things to do on Maafushi Island
- Adventure Activities in Maafushi Island
- Selecting Tour Operators – Day Tour
- Private Island – Day Tour
- Romantic Beachside Dinners
- Scuba Dive / Fun Dive – A MUST
- Professional Scuba – Get Yourself PADI Certified
- Carrying GoPros/Drones – Should I or Should I Not?
- Swimmers vs Non-Swimmers
- Things to pack for Maldives
- Join Our Exclusive Travel Community!
Maldives’ General Persona
For most of you, the first thing that comes to mind about Maldives is that it is a popular honeymoon holiday destination, mainly meant for newlywed couples.
And yes, pristine beaches, white sand, natural coral islands, breathtaking water villas, picture-perfect scenery, blue and green waters, etc., form the perfect setting for any couple looking forward to a memorable and unique honeymoon.
Whether it is sunset or sunrise, sunny or windy, the beauty only gets multiplied with each passing moment.
Every turn, every road, and even the graffiti walls on any given island, are natural canvases for Instagram-worthy photos.
Of course, each and every bit of what you’ve read above is absolutely true, but what you’re about to read is the other side of the same coin. An adventure-filled world that makes you want more and more of it.
Brief on the Maldives
Maldives are a group of approximately 1200 islands. The cheapest flight to these islands from India is either from Cochin or Bangalore. However, numerous flights are available from all major cities across India. And, if you plan ahead of time, airfares may also surprise you.
The Maldivian islands are classified into public and private islands. As the name suggests, public islands are islands where local people reside, while private islands are meant purely for tourists.
The cost of accommodation, food, adventure activities, etc., is higher on a private island. Public islands, on the other hand, provide the same service at a lower cost.
The major difference between these islands is the lavishness and comforts that the private islands offer, but they do come at a hefty price. However, it is absolutely worth spending extra money to experience the world-class facilities, especially if you’re on honeymoon.
But if you’re travelling solo or on a budget, then public islands are your go-to places. A private island can be explored on a “day tour” as well.
Beginning of my journey
After hearing so much about these beautiful islands in the post-COVID-19 era, my desire to visit them grew exponentially.
Finally, in May 2022, I decided to travel to the Maldives with four other friends, planning a stay of seven nights and eight days. And this decision added one of the most beautiful chapters to my life.
We were surprised to discover that there was much more to explore in Maldives than what was readily available online (Google, YouTube, Instagram, etc.).
After doing the majority of our research on planning our stay, travel, air tickets, hotel bookings, food, etc. through Google and other people’s testimonials, we were shocked to see that a lot was still not available or uncovered on the internet.
Maldives surprised us by being a destination not only for romantic couples but also for friends and families to visit, be awed by its breathtaking beauty, and explore numerous adventure activities.
Proper Planning and Execution – The key
The key to any trip is proper planning of key routes, stays, and accommodations, knowledge of local cuisine, and marking the places to visit. Since a lot of this information was available on the internet, it was not a difficult task for us to mark these areas.
However, the execution of the plan made all the difference. The better you prepare for the worst-case scenario, the more enjoyable your trip will be.
VISA Procedure and Formalities
Indians can obtain visas on arrival at Male International Airport, the capital city of the Maldives.
All one needs to carry is a valid Indian passport with at least 1 month of validity (preferably 6 months), confirmed hotel bookings, onward and return tickets, sufficient funds for expenses during the stay, and a pre-filled travel declaration (to be filled out within 96 hours of the journey) from the IMUGA website (https://travel.immigration.gov.mv/).
When you arrive at the immigration counter, the immigration officer will ask you some basic questions, such as who you are travelling with (alone, with family, or in a group), where you plan to stay, how long your journey is, and whether you have a hotel reservation and return ticket or not.
However, it completely depends on what the immigration officer asks. I was asked only one question, that of whether I was travelling alone or in a group.
Currency to Carry
The Maldivian Rufiyaa is the country’s official currency. Carrying dollars (USD) is, however, a panacea for any international travel because of its global acceptance. While dollars are easily accepted by any merchant or tour operator on these islands, carrying Maldivian Rufiyaa will surely work as a significant contributor to your savings.
Please note that there is no option for converting Indian rupees to dollars or any other currency, nor are Indian rupees accepted on any island in the Maldives, except for the airports.
Some private islands and restaurants, however, accept credit cards. But I would recommend carrying sufficient dollars, or Rufiyaa, keeping in mind the additional charges these credit cards charge on international transactions.
Travel Trump Cards
To start with, I first opened the Skyscanner website to book to-and-from air tickets. Skyscanner is an intermediary website for booking air tickets. From all major cities in India, multiple airlines offer direct and indirect, non-stop and one-stop flights.
Skyscanner offers almost all available options with comparative rates offered by various airlines, making it a bounty of options served in one place.
Compare the price with their official website, and in all probability, opt for refundable tickets, just to reduce the risk of losing money to any airline in the event of a non-travel emergency, and only book from well-known sites.
For hotel bookings, I opted for agoda.com mainly because of its “pay at hotel” and “zero cancellation charges” options. It’s an easy-to-browse website, providing one with plenty of hotels to choose from. Always choose a hotel that includes breakfast.
One can also contact any hotel directly after exploring the rates and location on these websites. But I personally felt that the rates shown on this website were quite affordable and reasonable when compared to the rates offered by the hotels when contacted directly.
All the hotels are located within 100–200 metres of the seashore on Maafushi Island and are quite well maintained. However few amenities gets added if you’re ready to add a bit more to the price depending on whether the hotel is 3/4/5 starred. We stayed at the White Shell Hotel, which is centrally located on Maafushi Island.
And I can blindly recommend anyone to opt for the White Shell Hotel.
The rooms are spacious and well-kept; the food is delicious, especially the breakfast; and the staff is cultured, friendly, and well-trained. The housekeeping staff is simply superb, making us feel like we are walking into the hotel for the first time every day.
Having the right kind of food contributes significantly to your travel experience. If you choose the wrong food, it can upset your entire trip. Food on any island is costly, as everything is imported in this country. But if planned properly, a lot of expenses for food can be easily saved.
We got breakfast included in the hotel we stayed in for all four days and also made sure that lunch was included in the day trips and tours we took. For dinner, we carried “ready to cook food” with us, sufficient for 06–07 days. And believe me, it made all the difference.
The ready-to-cook food was not just healthy; it also soothed our taste buds, as these were made as per Indian taste standards. Even if you step out to explore the local cuisines, they will mostly lack salt, pepper, and spices, which are the prime ingredients of Indian food and also cost a lot. All we needed was hot water from the hotel.
01 litre of water per day per person is provided by the hotel, so spending on the water is inevitable. And the most important thing to consider when it comes to water is that one should only drink mineral water available at any store on the island. The water from the hotel’s taps is unsuitable because it lacks all minerals and is likely to upset your stomach.
The locals are quite friendly and speak English fluently. They are quite helpful in sharing their knowledge as well, if you want to know about how life evolved and stood the test of time at the time of COVID-19 on these islands.
I personally met a few locals who were also operators offering adventure activities like parasailing, jet skiing, etc. and got to know their views and experiences on life on an island and the hardships associated with it. They also helped me find the finest of the seashells, which I also carried back with me as a souvenir.
There is a specific area marked for swimming in bikinis and swimsuits on the Maafushi island, known as “Bikini Beach,” which lies on the southern part of the island, right in front of the Kaani Beach Hotel.
Swimming is allowed at any part of the island, but if you want to get sun-tanned wearing a bikini or a swimsuit, then it has to be done strictly at Bikini Beach. Since locals reside on Maafushi island, it is advised to follow the local customs and respect the rules laid down by the authorities.
Apart from this, there aren’t any major restrictions on the island. Tourists are free to wander around the island at will at any given point in time.
Things to do on Maafushi Island
The best thing to do on this island is to view the sunset or sunrise from your balcony or while standing on the seashore. Also, one of the prominent things to do here is to just go for a stroll and feel the freshness of the breeze. The candlelight dinners, with the waves tickling your feet from time to time, make the perfect setting for any romantic couple.
Apart from these, one can visit the football ground on this island, where you can spot the young talent of this country practising with full enthusiasm and energy. The colourful imported Macaw parrots that are placed outside a few restaurants are also a sight to behold.
One can get pictures clicked along with these imported macaw parrots, but should keep in mind not to feed, touch, or play with them. They do bite and scratch with their claws.
When compared to other public islands, Maafushi Island is a comparatively larger island, measuring 1 km in length and 300 metres in width. It’s the second-biggest island in the Maldives, apart from Male, the capital city of the Maldives.
Adventure Activities in Maafushi Island
There are numerous activities available on Maafushi Island, with operators offering them for almost the same price ($35–$50 per person). These activities include flyboarding, fun tubing, parasailing, kayaking, snorkelling, kitesurfing, jet skiing, banana boat rides, tube riding, stand-up paddling, and kneeboarding.
These activities are available at fixed prices across the island; however, an extra amount will be charged to get drone pictures and videos. But if you’re travelling in groups, then you can bargain as well. They are very accommodating and take really good pictures and videos.
Selecting Tour Operators – Day Tour
Day tours are readily available at the hotel where you check-in and also across the island. But there will be a slight difference in price if you book directly at the hotel compared to booking at various beachside outlets.
And in case you’re looking for customised tour packages in accordance with your convenience and availability, any operator will be happy to arrange that as well, at some additional cost. All day tours follow similar routes, so it’s best to check with three or four operators before deciding on one.
Things to keep in mind before opting for any day tour:
1) Package price
2) Inclusions (GoPro or drone pictures or videos included or excluded)
3) The day’s weather
4) Lunch (optional or included)
**No extra charge is charged by any operator for providing life jackets, snorkels, fins, dry towels, etc.
**Before beginning the day tour, choose and set aside your snorkel and fins. Take the help of the operator in selecting the perfectly fitting equipment. The right equipment makes all the difference. Also, be careful with the equipment, because if you happen to lose any, then a significant amount will be collected for the lost equipment.
Private Island – Day Tour
Visiting at least one private island on a day tour is a must when visiting Maldives, especially if you’re on a budget. There are numerous private islands to choose from, depending on their price, location, and amenities offered. All day tours to private islands include to-and-fro travel and a buffet lunch.
The cost of visiting any private island would be between $90 and $135 per person.
Other facilities like access to a swimming pool, unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, changing rooms, wi-fi, a sunbed, and a towel are included in the package.
Professional photoshoots are also available, subject to prior booking, and a bike ride across the island can also be arranged by paying extra charges.
We took a day tour of Sun Siyan Ohluveli Resort, and it’s definitely one of the best private islands to stay on or take a day tour of.
Romantic Beachside Dinners
Candlelight dinners are a must for any couple, and if they’re arranged on the beach, it becomes the perfect setting for any couple to spend some quality time immersed in each other. Numerous restaurants arrange candlelight dinners on the shores at absolutely zero cost.
So, if you want to spend quality time with your partner under the stars, with waves kissing your feet and breezes setting up the mood, then all you have to do is just walk up to the beach, find yourself a table, order a glass of wine or champagne, and get lost in each other.
However, the availability of tables is subject to the number of tourists present on that particular day. If there are more tourists, it is necessary to book ahead of time, which is free.
Scuba Dive / Fun Dive – A MUST
Scuba diving is an unbelievable experience. Trust me. No pictures or videos can do justice to the underwater colours and aquatic life you’ll explore yourself. The underwater world of the Maldives is unique because its aquatic life is more beautiful than coral.
Also, if you’ve already done scuba before, I would suggest going scuba diving in the Maldives too. In my opinion, scuba diving is a must for everyone visiting the Maldives. There are numerous PADI-certified outlets on the island offering fun dives for $50 per person under professional guidance.
It’s extremely safe and filled with fun. Before taking you to the dive site, you will receive half an hour of basic training. After your first dive, you’ll definitely feel something you’ve never felt before.
All you need to do is keep breathing and keep your eyes wide open.
And if you’ve got some extra time and money on your visit to the Maldives or are interested in becoming a certified PADI diver, then there are various basic and advanced-level courses too.
The cost of these courses is a bit higher when compared to other countries, but after finishing the course, you’ll never regret having paid those extra dollars.
Underwater life in the Maldives is very beautiful. I myself undertook a PADI Open Water Diver Course with Maafushi Dive, and the experience was mind-boggling.
Professional Scuba – Get Yourself PADI Certified
The Maldives also cater to extreme adventure enthusiasts (amateur or professional) who want to go over the edge and explore the aquatic life closely on their own after being professionally certified. Yes, you read it right.
There are numerous internationally accredited PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors)-certified outlets offering various basic and advanced diving courses on public islands.
Once you enroll yourself in any course of your choice, depending on your experience (Open Water Diver Course, Advanced Open Water Course, Diving Instructor Course, etc.).
The instructors will guide you throughout the course, and if you want to finish the theory part of the syllabus before visiting the Maldives, then that is possible too and will save a lot of your time as well.
I opted for the PADI Open Water Diver Course with Maafushi Dive and finished my course within a span of four days. After enrolling myself in the course, I was provided with online material to finish the theory part and tests.
I was only allowed to dive after passing these tests and learning the theory.
A total of four life-changing dives along with one practice session were provided to me, and each second spent underwater was like meditating amidst colourful aquatic life. There is so much to feel and explore underwater that words can’t do it justice.
**Only swimmers can enrol in PADI diving courses.
Carrying GoPros/Drones – Should I or Should I Not?
If you’re used to recording from GoPro cams or using drones, then you can very well use them here.
But if you’re trying it for the first time, then my personal suggestion is to just pay the tour operator a little extra (10–15 dollars per person) and get amazing pictures clicked and videos taken by the operator.
They are pros at this and will guarantee you the best shots. In this way, you can enjoy and explore nature more without worrying about capturing the moment.
Also, in some packages, the drone shots and pictures are included without any extra charges, but if you want to customise them further, then that can be done as per your requirements too.
Tour operators are very accommodating when it comes to satisfying tourists.
Swimmers vs Non-Swimmers
All required precautions are well taken, and necessary articles (like life jackets, snorkels, swimming fins, etc.) are provided by the tour operators before letting anyone (swimmer or non-swimmer) step into the waters.
Swimmers have an advantage over non-swimmers because they can freely dive deep into the ocean and explore the marine life and corals up close.
Non-swimmers, on the other hand, step into the water with life jackets and can therefore float or swim confidently in the water. It’s totally safe with a life jacket, and there is no need to be afraid of getting drowned.
Saltwater has a high density, so the body automatically floats in it.
All operators offer customised GoPro pictures and videos at additional costs, which are worth opting for. However, only basic instructions on how to use a snorkel are given by the operator, so it’s better to practise on the boat itself before stepping into the water, especially if you’re using a snorkel for the first time.
It is strictly advised not to try and touch aquatic life, as you’ll be allowed to explore it in its natural habitat.
Things to pack for Maldives
i) Original Passport (with at least six months’ validity)
ii) To and From Air Tickets (soft or hard copy)
iii) Hotel reservations (soft or hard copy)
iv) Sufficient Dollars/Rifuyaa
vi) Sunscreen (30–50 SPF)
vii) Clothing/Wardrobe (swimsuits)
Maldives is no longer portrayed as a perfect honeymoon destination. It surely has more to offer and can be cherished to the fullest only when personally experienced.
And trust me, a trip to the Maldives will surely change your life forever, whether you visit here with the love of your life, friends, or family.