Spirit of Maldives: www.SpiritofMaldives.co.uk

 

Visitor Information for the Maldives

Information - Spirit of the Maldives

Introduction
Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean,  470 miles or a short 1/2 hours flying time south-west of Sri Lanka (Colombo) on the equator and approximately 11 hours direct flying time from the UK, the Maldives is the most amazing, tropical aquatic holiday destination on earth. Voted the world's most romantic escape in 2010, the Maldives is a marine country of nearly 1,200 coral islands; none more than a metre above sea level.  Of these atolls only about 90 host amazing individual resorts.

The Maldives is also about space - privacy - and seclusion – often one island will equal just one resort hotel! We at the Spirit of the Maldives  offer our customers an exciting and varied choice of affordable quality/luxury itineraries and resorts - all tailored to your exact requirements, whether it's fabulous diving, beginners scuba diving, or  the best spa resorts for that perfect pampered dream holiday. Enjoy one of our favourite resorts on secluded atolls, or a casual laid-back cruise on the Atoll Explorer.

We cater for all tastes; from honeymooners to romantic getaways for couples; professional singles needing a break from the 'hurly burly' of modern life; families; second time honeymooners and even small groups and conventions. The Maldives defy adjectives and imagination. Year round water temperatures are between 27°and 30°C , and the air a few degrees warmer. Shimmering cobalt blue  (it REALLY is the colour that you see!) amazingly transparent seas showcase breathtaking coral reefs and gardens with rainbow clouds of multi -coloured shoals of tropical fish. Beaches are pristine and yes - talcum power white. Unruffled stunning blue lagoons provide a safe haven for spectacular snorkelling and diving. People are wonderful and friendly. Service is impeccable - smilingly delivered with grace and superb attention to detail.

The Maldives also provides the perfect natural - and ecologically sound - holiday environment on the globe, leading the world in managed ecotourism with the concept: "Think globally and act locally." Finally, we believe that our extensive information, our choice of resorts and activities, our stunning photographic library and our impeccable attention to, and awards for customer service, simply puts us as one of the best small quality tour operators in the business. But - don't take our word for it - try us out! 

Background
The Maldives are a Muslim nation of 1,190 coral islands with a population of around 325,000+ inhabitants, forming an archipelago of 26 major atolls and stretching approximately 820 kilometres north to south and 120 kilometres east to west. Of the some 200 inhabited islands, only 87 atolls are exclusive resorts. The origins of the Maldivians are lost in antiquity, but the islands are a melting pot of early civilisation dating back to 2,500 BC., with early settlers from the Indus Valley Civilisation in India. The people are warm, friendly and gracious by nature with more than a 95 percent literacy rate. Most Maldivians speak English as a second language as tourism now makes up over 20% of the country's GDP.

More extensive in-depth information on the Maldives can be found below by using the blue INFORMATION ICON "i" symbol alongside each heading.  

Airports/Airlines

History

Weather: Climate & clothing: Best time to travel

Language(s)

Communications: (telephone,mail,internet,email)

Local Time

Culture: Religion & observing local customs

Maps

Media: newspapers; radio; television

Duty Free (NO Alcohol is allowed into Maldives)

Money: Banks, ATM access; Credit & Debit cards

Disabled Travellers

Exchange Rates

Distances in Maldives: Vicinity to Sri Lanka & India

Ecotourism

National Holidays

Electricity

Photography

Events & Festivals

Shopping & bargaining

Food and Drink

Tipping

Good to Know: (general information)

Transfers

 

 personal safety; sea and swimming; marine creatures

Vaccinations

 sun burn prevention; insects & animals to avoid;

Visas

Health: doctors & medical facilites; hospitals

   

drinking local water; tummy upsets; drugs etc


Airport/Airlines & Malé

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 Malé is the capital of the Maldives, however the international airport is on a neighbouring island called 'Hulele' about a 15 minute launch ride away. The airport is the gateway to the breathtakingly beautiful Maldive Islands and is one of the fastest growing airports in the region. The airport and terminal is quite modern and very busy, with wide bodied aircraft from regular airlines and charter aircraft from all over the world landing and departing daily. The whole island is taken up by the airport and is probably one of the only airports in the world with a beautiful fringing coral reef. A unique feature of the airport is that instead of the usual bus/taxi/train transport system at airport terminals, you walk 200/300 metres on exit to the nearby large jetty area where transfers to the islands are by powerful motor launch or native dhoni.

For island resorts further away from the airport, transfers are by either Maldivian Air Taxis or Trans Maldivian Twin Otter Seaplane and for remote islands, the larger twin engine Dornier fixed wing aircraft operated by Maldivian. For visitors staying on Male', the airport hotel on Hulele is the closest bar to town and the hotel runs regular free boats to Male' and will also let travellers with late departures store their bags and use the pool area for a fixed fee.

 Malé: The Capital of the Maldives
Located in the centre of the island chain 10 minutes launch ride from the airport, Male' is the crowded home to more than a quarter of the population. It is the seat of government and heart of trade and commerce. There are some quite reasonable shops and markets, restaurants, internet cafes and two modern hospitals. Worth a day visit, the main attractions include a good local market; an incredible fish market with boatloads of tuna; the national museum inside the old Sultan's Palace; the Islamic Centre and Grand Mosque, big enough to hold 5,000 worshippers and the 350-year-old Hukuru Miskiiy, the mosque built by Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar, displaying the story of conversion of the Maldives to Islam.


Climate & clothing: Best Time to travel

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Weather to expect
The Maldives has an average of 8 hours of sun per day in  a 12 hour day, regardless of monsoon season.  The Maldives are blessed with a warm year round climate with an average daytime temperature of around 30° (86F), and about 5°less at night; with the water temperature a balmy average of between 27° and 30°. May, June and July are the warmest (hot!) months. Many prefer November to March as the best period with clear skies and hot, sunny weather. Tropical showers tend to be heavy and brief, followed by brilliant sunshine.

There are two monsoon seasons where rain showers are sometimes prevalent, the south-west from mid May to November and the north-east from November to April. Generally in the south-west monsoon wet season you could experience short periods of torrential rain between May and September, however the temperature rarely falls below  a balmy 25°C (77°F).The fact that the Maldives is located on the equator means that they receive lots of sunshine throughout the year. The relatively high humidity of the Maldives is tempered greatly by the gentle - but steady sea breezes

The following climate graph is provided as a guide only and is compiled from information supplied by the Met. Office and local tourist offices. Here is a link to a daily guide to weather in the Maldives:

Annual weather graph for the Maldives

Best Time to Travel
If you are looking for a few extra hours of sunshine then you should visit the Maldives between December and April, which is the dry season. It is still warm between May and November, but the skies can be cloudy, humidity is higher and rain is more likely. The transition months of November and April are said to be associated with increased water clarity and thus better visibility for divers.

Clothes to wear
Dress code is casual: mainly lightweight cottons, linens and a waterproof just in case. For special resort and cruise evenings, smart tropical casual is worn however its is very much up to you and the rule is to dress in what you feel comfortable in. Scanty garb such as bikinis is allowed only at resort islands; NO nudity anywhere. Once again - TOPLESS is total no-no for ladies. When visiting a mosque, please cover your arms and legs, but not your face.


Communications: (telephone, mail, internet, email)

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Communications in the Maldives are quite sophisticated with each island and resort having its own sophisticated satellite communication centre with direct international dial and wireless internet connectivity. Dhiraagu is the telecommunication company for the Maldives and also the internet services provider in the country.  The Maldives' country code is 960. Maldives internet code is '.mv'. Mobile roaming on your UK phone and PDA (iphones etc) devices is offered by all UK mobile phone companies in the Maldives and works well, but check rates with your phone provider before you go as they can be VERY expensive - as you are usually charged for inward texts and emails as well as as outward texts and emails. A local SIM card can be bought to make local calls possible and cheaper. Or you can rent a mobile phone. But why? Relax. Unwind. Lock up the phone. The Maldives is NOT about  i/phones/pda's ...

All the resorts and islands have international direct dial telephone facilities as well as fax facilities and internet facilities, and you can phone direct dial to the UK and world wide from your resort room but charges - as in all hotels -  are very high. Internet facilities also are available all resorts and at internet cafes in the Male but speed is usually 56K. Broadband and ISDN is still very much a "work in progress" and is NOT the 2-8MBPS broadband speeds we are used to in the UK, so checking your emails are fine - but forget about surfing web sites! Cruise vessels also provide wireless internet connection and wireless telephone services (expensive!) to passengers. Yes, there is a postal service; however, you need to allow at least 8-10 days for mail to arrive at your resort from the UK and same for your postcards from the Maldives to the UK.


Culture: Religion & observing local customs

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Although the populace is Sunni Muslim and the business language is Dhivehi (rooted in Indian Sanskrit), those in tourism speak fluent English and other European languages. Maldivians are a relatively private people, immensely proud of their fascinating culture. The rich blend of South-East Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia, East Africa and Arabian race origins provides a wonderful and exotic mixture often making seamless transitions from ancient to modern, from folk music and dance to modern jazz and pop.

During the month of Ramadan (19 July  - 26 August 2012) the drinking of alcohol is allowed only in resorts. Muslims fast by day and feast at night. Business patterns may be interrupted and there may be restrictions on drinking in public places. Resort life, however, is rarely affected.

Bikinis and other revealing attire are allowed only in resorts; nudity is forbidden everywhere. For ladies, do NOT bathe/go topless anywhere in the Maldives, no matter what you have been told. It is the height of bad manners and a cultural disaster. When visiting a mosque, please cover arms and legs, but not your face.


Duty free allowance (NO Alcohol is allowed)

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(NO alcohol whatsoever can be brought into the Maldives.)
Import into the Maldives of alcoholic beverages, narcotic drugs (including cannabis), firearms, pornographic materials, and pork products are strictly prohibited. All are serious offences. If you have alcohol - even duty free - on arrival in the Maldives it will be (politely) confiscated. So. Don't wave good-bye to an expensive bottle of Verve Clique... Any export from the Maldives of tortoise or turtle shell products and black coral in whole form is also a serious offence. Prescription medicines. If in doubt about any prescription medications you are carrying it is usually best to declare them on arrival.

A SPECIAL NOTE. If you are stopping over in Dubai - do NOT take codeine tablets (painkillers) even on prescription into Dubai. You could go to jail as codeine is strictly prohibited in the United Arab Emirates. Alcohol note: alcoholic beverages, including wine, beer and spirits are all available at bars and restaurants in some restaurants and all resort hotels.

Duty-free limit INTO the UK: standard duty-free limits apply when returning to the UK. There is an excellent duty-free shop at Male International Airport where high profile brands for electronics, perfumes, toiletries and makeup can be purchased at reasonable duty free prices, as well as some reasonably decent souvenir shops plus a relatively expensive restaurant and a small supermarket for on-board aircraft snacks.


Disabled Travellers

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Travellers who have difficulty getting around usually can be catered for at all resorts except for some resorts such as Hakurra-Huraa water bungalows, however there are no problems with beach bungalows on Hakurra-Huraa. Note also there are NO disabled facilities on the Atoll Explorer cruise. Please note: all transfers and other transportation in the Maldives are by small boats or seaplane which could cause difficulties. If you have any queries or would like advice before booking, please call us to discuss your booking and we will do our utmost to ensure that your flight(s), transfers and holiday will be as problem free as possible.


Distances in Maldives: Vicinity to Sri Lanka and India

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Southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, the location of the Maldives is pretty much right on the equator, and is approximately 11 hours by air from London and 1 1/2 hours flying time (400 miles) from Colombo in Sri Lanka. Land Area : 1,190 islands with a land area of 115 square miles (298 sq. km)
Sea Area :Approx. 41,500 square miles (107,500 sq. km)
A series of coral islands, grouped into atolls, stretch along the 73rd meridian between latitudes 0 42' south and 8 10' north, for a distance of 468.3 miles (753.6 km), with a width of 73.4 (118.1 km) from east to west. Length : 754 km North to South. Width: 118 km East to West. Shortest distance from the India mainland: 217 miles (350 km) and 460 miles (740 km) from Sri Lanka: Latitude & Longitude: 3° 15' North latitude and 73° 00' East longitude. Male: 4° 10' North and 73° 31' East.
 


Ecotourism

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The Maldives lead the world in managed ecotourism and few countries in the world are greener or more committed to 'doing their bit' to save the planet. The Maldives' approach to environmental issues is in total  harmony with the concept; "Think globally and act locally".concept: As the Maldivians become increasingly dependent on tourism, they are resolute in limiting new resort development with no resort buildings being more than 20 percent of an island's total land mass.

Coral mining is banned in certain areas. Killing of turtles, who are under serious threat of extinction, is banned and the sale of tortoise shell jewellery and artefacts as well as solid coral is also banned . The main island on which Malé the capital is situated is enclosed with sea walls to protect and reduce the impending hazards of tidal surge and climatic change as sea levels rise. Projects on regeneration of ecosystems are conducted in some areas and a "Million Tree Programme" was put in place by the President of Maldives in 1996.

All resort islands have their own fully developed plant nurseries and many other atolls have small nurseries also to spread the programme nation-wide to make "greening the environment" a national priority. Sport fishing is confined to the 'tag and release' system. Currently, 18 bird species, nine marine species and 25 marine areas are protected. More information on the ecology and eco-tourism here:


Electricity

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Is it compatible to the UK? YesI Electricity in the Maldives is the same as the UK: 230 volts 50 hz AC, which is compatible to most of your travel appliances. Some resorts may still however use the old round 3 pin style sockets (same as Sri Lanka) instead of the standard UK flat 3 pin sockets. Adaptors however are usually available at resorts if these sockets are still used in rooms.  


Events & Activities

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Throughout the year, there are many Maldivian festivals and holidays, celebrating religious and national events. Muslim festivals are timed according to local sightings of various phases of the moon and the dates given are approximations. During the lunar month of Ramadan that precedes Eid al-Fitr, Muslims fast during the day and feast at night and normal business patterns may be interrupted. Many restaurants are closed during the day and there may be restrictions on drinking in public places. Some disruption may continue into Eid al-Fitr itself, although this is generally unlikely to affect life on the resort islands. Eid al-Fitr and Eid el-Kebir may last anything from two to 10 days, depending on the region.

 Many, such as Ramadan, follow the Islamic lunar calendar; others such as Independence Day stick to the Western calendar. Depending on the celebration, dress varies from casual to colourful national costumes. Visitors are welcome, even expected to join in.

Events
Hay Festival Maldives Oct 2011 (annual)
Bizarrely this is the Maldives inaugural offshoot event of the The Hay Literay Festival (originally in Hay on Wye on the borders between Wales and England) The Hay Festival Maldives celebrates Maldivian culture as a focus for talks and discussions that the challenge of climate change brings to the archipelago. The Maldives has been a multi-party democracy for only two years and this new freedom has opened up a host of new opportunities both culturally and politically. The president has set his country a target of becoming 'carbon neutral' within ten years and the festival provides a platform for focusing international attention on the challenges facing the Maldives through climate change.
Fishermen's Day Dec 2011 (annual)
Every year this festival focuses on the importance of fishing and the fishing industry to the Maldives. Chance to taste and revel in the flavours of the Maldives!
National Day Feb 2012 (annual)
This is to celebrate Muhammed Thakurufaanu's victory over the occupying Portuguese forces in 1573.  Celebratory parades in the capital Male Parades in the streets of Male and other islands mark the occasion.
Huravee Day Jul 2012 (annual)
Huravee Day is celebrated in the Maldives to commemorate the overthrow of south Indian invaders who briefly occupied the islands in 1752. They were repelled by forces under the leadership of Sultan Hassan Izzudin, from Huraa in the Male Atoll.
Independence Day Jul 2012 (annual)
Each 26 July the Maldives celebrates Independence Day. Male's Republic Square hosts official celebrations marking independence from the British in 1965. The National Security Services parade through the streets and hundreds of school children perform traditional dances and modern drills.

Activities
Male Fish Market
Daily
Male Fish Market is always a hive of activity. Located on the beachfront to the west of Republic Square, it is where fishermen from all over the archipelago come to sell their catch.
Huskuru Miskiiy Daily
Built in the 17th century by Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar, Hukuru Miskiiy the Huskuru Miskiiy (or Friday Mosque) is the biggest and the oldest mosque in the Maldives and was built around 1656 and is the Maldives and the islands' principal place of worship.The exterior is a very unattractive corrugated-iron, however the  coral-stone walls behind it are intricately carved with wonderful patterns and old Arabic script. The interior is superb and famous for its detailed lacquer work and elaborate carvings.
Esjehi Gallery Daily
On Medhu-Ziyaarath Magu, just east out of the Sultan Park inMalé and housed in one of Male's oldest buildings, the Esjehi Gallery is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of traditional and contemporary Maldivian arts and crafts.
National Museum Daily; (not open Friday)
The National Museum contains an extensive collection of artifacts from the history of the Maldives, from the pre-Islamic period to the modern day.


Food & Drink

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Food:
About the last thing first time visitors expect in the Maldives is REALLY good food. Prepared to be surprised. Maldivian cuisine is seriously good, often excellent and can often be sensational. Over the years passing traders and international visitors have left their mark on the cuisine.
Tuna is the main fish of the Maldives but this has been added to with different seasoning and vegetables. Specialty seafood is tuna, octopus, grouper, jobfish and swordfish.

Maldives cuisine is a blend of Arabic, Indian, Sri Lankan and oriental cooking, which in itself forms a cuisine of its own. In the capital (Male) you will find not only international cuisine but a more varied  experience of local cuisine.

The local restaurants and cafes known as 'hotaa' is the place to go to  experience local tastes. Some local foods are called 'hedhikaa' which must be tried and many are known only in the Maldives and come in different varieties - sweet, spicy or savory. 'Kavaabu' (Maldivian version of tapas)are deep-fried snacks made from rice, tuna, coconut, lentils and spices.
'mas huni': shredded smoked fish with grated coconuts and onions - a normal Maldivian breakfast
'fihunu mas': barbequed fish basted with chilli
'bambukeylu hiti' : breadfruit curry

Obviously fresh seafood is the star cuisine in this aquatic paradise. Think; rock lobster, tuna, swordfish and grouper - which head the list of brilliant local seafood dishes. But - prepare to be suprised (as most foodstuffs are imported) with imported meat such as New Zealand lamb - Maldivian style - which is superb. Not only are curries popular, but they can be fantastic. In fact, curry leaves are added to many dishes. Also the dining atmosphere can be incredible as even the best food tastes better outdoors by the sea on perfect warm nights. To complement this - the imported wine selection, mostly from Australia and New Zealand, is excellent. More information on Food and Dining:
Bars:
The only bars in the Maldives are in the resorts or hotels themselves as the Maldives is a strict Muslim country and alcohol is forbidden with the Muslim religion. Spirits, beer, wine, brandy and soft drinks are all available. Most popular national drink is the 'Maldive Lady', a delicious and powerful (very!) cocktail, which varies from bar to bar. Please note: during the month of Ramadan, drinking of alcohol is allowed only in resorts.


'Good to Know' (general information)
Personal safety; sea/swimming; marine creatures; sun exposure; insects/animals to avoid

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Insects, snakes and animals to avoid:
 None. Surprisingly, and unlike most tropical environments, the Maldives is free of and dangerous and poisonous creatures on land. Be wary in the sea especially walking in the shallows (we strongly recommend strong reef shoes for reef walking) for the odd sting ray (they look innocuous enough but can inflict an agonising and life threatening sting from their barbed tail when they flick it upwards to protect themselves if trodden upon in the shallows) and, especially, jelly fish. If stung by either a stingray or jellyfish seek immediate first aid from your resort. Swimming in your resort lagoons is clean and safe and usually presents no hazards with dangerous undercurrents or rough waves. The open sea is a different story. If in doubt, check with your resort. Note: admire the coral, but please do not touch or break off pieces as it is a criminal offence.

Mosquitoes. No malaria is present in the Maldives so no anti-malaria medication is required, however there have been cases of Dengue fever (transmitted by mosquitoes) in Malé. A good insect repellant (you do NOT need industrial strength repellant however!)is recommended after sundown on resort islands for peace of mind, however most - if not all resorts spray daily to minimise mosquitoes and gnats.


Personal Safety
Although crime in the Maldives is rare, it is still best to avoid leaving valuables unattended when out. Some resorts have room safes and all have lock-up facilities for your valuables at reception.
Malé, recently the scene of some small political demonstrations is completely safe to move around in by day or night. However, if you encounter any political protest(s) you are advised to steer well clear. There is currently NO travel advisory in place for UK citizens to travel to the Maldives.


Health (general information)
 Doctors & medical facilites; hospitals, drinking local water; sunburn, tummy upsets; drugs, vaccinations  

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Health, hospitals and insurance
There are two modern hospitals in Male' and excellent first aid facilities on all resort islands. Neither hospital however has a trauma unit. Most resorts have full-time excellent qualified first aid staff with many resorts also having their own resident nurse. A few larger resorts also have a full time doctor. Note: unlike the UK and many other countries, health care is expensive and you MUST take out private health insurance before arriving.
Drinking water
Generally, water and ice are safe to consume in all resort rooms, restaurants and bars. Elsewhere it is advisable to use bottled water; i.e., beach barbecues and excursions. Bottled water can be purchased at all resorts.
Sunburn
Strong Sun cream protection (30+) is a year round must as the equatorial Maldives are tropical and serious sunburn is easily come by if you are not very careful. Our advice is to take it easy for the first few days after arrival. The biggest danger in particular is sunstroke, heat exhaustion and sunburn. Please be EXTREMELY careful of the time you spend in the sun, and increase your time in direct sunlight from your initial arrival (10-15 minutes a day) to increase by say 5 minutes per day - or whatever you feel comfortable with during your stay. Always wear a t-shirt or shirt (and preferably a hat to shield the back of your neck when snorkeling or swimming).
Prescription drugs
If you are taking any prescription drugs, we strongly advise that you take a spare supply with you in another bag (in case you lose your original supply) to avoid a trip to Male. Declare ALL your prescription drugs ON ARRIVAL.
Hard and soft drugs
The Maldives make no classification. From cannabis to cocaine - any illegal drugs are just that- illegal - and all offences carry serious cash and very stiff jail penalties. Don't even think about it.
Keeping healthy
Looking after your own health is imperative. Take particular care of your current health requirements  – for instance, if pregnant, diabetes, taking warfarin  etc. Make SURE you take enough prescription drugs for your ENTIRE stay. It is EXTREMELY difficult to obtain prescription drugs when on an island as they have to come from Malé . Watch out for tummy bugs and eating rich foods, and we recommend that you take your own anti-diarrhea pills from the UK such as Imodium.
Diving Health
If you are diving you must observe the maximum dive limit depth in the Maldives which is 30 metres and take care to decompress whilst surfacing if diving past 12 metres.
Diving Recompression Chambers
The Maldives however is well equipped with recompression chambers with five recompression chambers. The largest and longest operating recompression chamber is on Bandos Island (15 minutes by speedboat from Male). The others are located on Cinnamon Alidhoo Resort, Villingili Resort in Addu, Kuramathi Resort, and Kandholhudhoo Islands. More extensive information for Diving can be found here:

Vaccinations more>>


History

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From the Phoenicians, Egyptians and Mesopotamians to the Portuguese and British, the Maldives boast a wonderfully rich history dating back to 2,500 BC. In the millenniums between, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Indians, Ottomans, French and more all left their footprints. Then, just over 40 years ago, on 26 July 1965, the Maldives gained full independence from the British; two months later the country became a member of the United Stations. Soon after, the miracle of a tourism paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean was born.

Today, the vast majority of the 300,000 islanders are Sunni; and the business language is Dhivehi (rooted in Sanskrit). However, as tourism continues to flourish it now has overtaken tuna fishing as the country's primary industry.  More information:


Language(s)

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The official national language is Dhivehi, which has evolved from Indian Sanskrit and is taught in all Maldivian schools and is the country's business language. However, with globalisation and tourism, English is also taught in all schools and commercial hubs and is the second language of the Maldives and is spoken in all resorts, restaurants, bars and shops. All major European languages and Chinese & Japanese languages are also spoken by most resort/hotel staff especially in major hotels/resorts


Local Time

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The Maldives are five hours ahead of GMT. So when it is midnight in the UK, it is 5 am in the Maldives.


Maps

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A good selection of maps for the Maldives is available on this site including comprehensive maps for seaplane transfers to Maldive island resorts from Trans Maldivian Airlines and and also land based fixed wing airline services from Maldivian Airlines. Map links can be found here>>


Media: newspapers; radio; television

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Radio is pretty much limited to local stations and is broadcast in Dhivehi. All resorts have cable and satellite TV with limited coverage as well as some resorts have DVD players in the rooms with DVD movies available from reception - usually for free. Recommended for occasional late night after dinner relaxing - as your are NOT going to watch TV or videos on your holiday - are you..??  British newspapers are also usually available in resorts, but often three to five days+ past their publication date.


Money Matters: Banks, ATM access; credit & debit cards; exchange rates

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Local Currency:
Maldivian currency is the Rufiya. One Rufiya =100 laari. 24.40 Rufiyas = 1 British Pound. Note you will in all honesty probably never see or use Maldivian currency as the resorts all use US dollars for pricing and charging.  
Maldivian Rufiyas:
Are accepted, but US dollars are preferred (nearly mandatory!) on resorts and by the islanders or local shops.
Cash:
All major banks recommend visitors bring U.S. dollars, preferably in cash. Pounds are also accepted, but if you are using cash instead of a credit card to pay for your resort incidentals bill you'll save money by buying dollars in the UK and taking them to the Maldives.
Travellers Cheques:
Accepted but only at very few places. Not recommended.
ATMs:
 Available in Male' and a very few resorts. Not recommended you use.
Debit/Credit cards:
Visa and MasterCard credit cards are accepted at nearly all resorts and better shops. Please note that other Credit cards such as American Express and Diners Club are usually not accepted. If using your UK switch (Debit) card we recommend that you use this only if you do not have a valid UK credit card as using a credit card is frankly much safer than using your bank account linked Debit card due to the now very high risk with Debit Card information being compromised when not directly using an automated UK Debit card authorization system.
Payments:
 If possible, always pay your resort bill with your UK Visa/MasterCard credit cards or if paying by cash, US dollars as you wont get a very good exchange rate with converting UK Pounds to US dollars at the resort when you pay your bill.
Money exchange Be safe – and only exchange if necessary. Best rates in the UK at the airport before you leave. Otherwise, in the Maldives on arrival at Male' International Airport. Otherwise, only at banks, resort hotels and better shops but you will get very unattractive rates at these places.


National Holidays

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National Maldivian Holidays
2011
January 01: New Year's Day
February 04: National Day
February 15: Mawlid al-Nabi (Birth of the Prophet)
March 29: The Day Maldives Embraced Islam
July 26: Independence Day
August 01: Ramadan begins
August 31:  Eid al-Fitr (Ramadan ends)
November 03:  Victory Day
November 04: Hajj Day
November 06: Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
November 11: Republic Day
November: 26 Islamic New Year

2012
January 01: New Year's Day
January 24: National Day
February 04: Mawlid al-Nabi (Birth of the Prophet)
March 29: The Day Maldives Embraced Islam
July 19: Ramadan begins
July 26: Independence Day
August 19: Eid al-Fitr (Ramadan ends)
October 24: Hajj Day
October 26: Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
November 03: Victory Day
November 11: Republic Day
November 15: Islamic New Year


Photography

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Photography in the Maldives presents exceptional opportunities with its incredible colours and amazing vistas. As most photography nowadays  is digital using digital cameras and digital camcorders, very little emulsion film - if any - is available from resort shops for film only cameras . A couple of pointers are: Make sure you have at least 2 (preferably minimum 8GB) memory cards for your digital camera or camcorder (about £25-30 these days) so you always have one card spare.

Secondly, it is highly advisable that you take some sort of portable digital image storage device with you to download your digital photos onto for your camera cards so you can edit them once back home. This also will give you unlimited opportunity to take as many photos as you wish and back up your photos without having to lug a laptop around! We suggest looking at a portable digital camera/camcorder storage device such as a the XS-Drivesmart 2300 160GB model for about £130. It is a high capacity battery powered digital photo storage device that is suitable for storing any type of digital photo from most digital camera makes and models including RAW files. It transfers data from the camera's memory card onto the internal hard drive so you can immediately empty and re-use use your camera memory card. Taking a couple of spare USB memory sticks is also a good idea.

Finally, we suggest that you buy a underwater case for your digital camera or purchase a throwaway underwater digital camera once at your resort, as the photography opportunities when snorkelling or diving are truly breathtaking. If buying a new digital camera for your Maldives trip try and buy a camera that also has an optional underwater case as part of the camera accessories. And - happy photography - The Maldives is truly AMAZING for photo and video opportunities!


Shopping & bargaining

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Prada, Gucci, Channel, Jimmy Choo and the like aren't why people escape to the Maldives. However, even the most discerning shoppers will appreciate the very affordable prices for excellent quality pearls and precious stones readily available at excellent prices. Be careful however and only shop at reputable shops. Most resorts have their own gem shops, in many cases selling gems from Sri Lanka which has an amazing array of precious and precious stones. Local handicrafts in the markets and fishing villages also offer excellent value and quality. In most places with local crafts and to an extent gems, ask the price, offer half and then have fun of negotiating!

Look for traditional hand-carved masks and statues.  Lacquered wooden boxes are another popular and distinctive Maldivian handicraft. As are unique reed mats, hand-woven and decorated in intricate, abstract designs, they range from place mat to mattress size. Personal necessities and excellent casual resort wear is available at all resorts. In Malé, most of the souvenir shops (specialising in Singapore imports!) are at the northern end of Chaandanee Magu. The lively and colourful local market would be our choice for an abundance of authentic local produce and souvenirs.


Tipping

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Although tipping is officially discouraged, good service is always appreciated. Suggested guidelines: room boys (USD) $10 per week (they do a fabulous job on bedrooms - their bed decoration skills of an evening turndown with flower petals are truly amazing!) porters, $2.00 on check-in and check-out; waiter, $5.00 per week, skipper of excursion boat (eg: snorkelling trip) $2 per trip.


Transfers

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All transfers to your resort in the Maldives are either by launch/boat or aircraft. Each resort has its own method of transfer from the airport to the resort, which may be a boat or a seaplane depending on the distance of the island from the airport. These are not scheduled services but connect with incoming flights and we usually book them with your initial booking.

Launch/Boat
Boat transfers usually are by large powerful fast launches that can carry up to 30 people, running very big outboard motor rigs e.g twin 200 hp outboards. These boats are safe, powerful and very fast and custom built for this purpose. Quite a spectacular trip in fact! Alternatively, some transfers are by native 'Dhoni' (Arab style Dhow), a large broad beamed stable traditional wooden boat - much slower that the fast cruise boats but quite elegant and sometimes more suitable for you to lay back and enjoy the ride.

Aircraft
Aircraft transfers are either by seaplane with either Maldivian Air Taxis or Trans Maldivian Airways. Both use the powerful and rugged Canadian De Havilland twin engine 'Twin Otter' float equipped seaplane and take approximately 15 passengers and luggage. The land based domestic airline Maldivian Airlines uses a fleet of modern twin engine Dornier aircraft that seat approximately 20 persons and luggage, and are used primarily for flights to the outer islands of the Maldives. These are Hanimaadhoo in the north (for the beautiful 4 star plus Dhonveli Beach and Spa Resort) and Gan in the south, the first ever airport in the Maldives which was established by the British Royal Air Force in WW2. This airport has now been upgraded to international standards in order to accommodate an expected influx of new tourists. A causeway, unique in the country, connects Gan with all the islands on the west side of the atoll up to Hithadhoo.

Seaplane Transfers
Note: Seaplane transfers are ONLY in daylight hours!

Seaplane Baggage allowance Each person may carry 20kg of checked luggage and 5kg of hand luggage. Also - in some cases (for some more distant  island resorts) your main luggage could come later by boat transfer if it is over 20kg.  If this is the case you will only take hand luggage and a small bag with you on arrival with your main suitcases arriving later.
Example Transfer Times to Islands (Approx)
Malé  Airport/Velidhu, North Ari Atoll: speedboat: (not applicable) seaplane: 30 minutes.
Malé  Airport/Hakuraa Huraa, Meemu Atoll: speedboat: (not applicable) seaplane: 50 minutes
Malé  Airport/Kuramathi Village, Rashadoo Atoll: speedboat 90 minutes; seaplane (optional) 20 minutes.
Malé Airport/Full Moon Maldives, Furanafusi Island: speedboat 25 minutes, seaplane 20 minutes.
Malé Airport/Atoll Explorer Cruise: A short 10 minute coach transfer to boat. 

 


Vaccinations

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Currently, Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid are strongly recommended, although not essential. We strongly suggest you visit your local authorised travel clinic or doctor in the UK for up to date inoculation and health advice at least FOUR weeks before you travel as inoculation policy can change with minimal notice.


Visas

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Visas, passports and immigration
Easy and straightforward. None of the arrival hassle often experienced on entering the U.S and many non EU countries. Just present a valid UK or EU passport and return ticket on arrival at
Malé
International Airport. You'll immediately receive a free 30-day visa.  If for any unexpected reason, you have to extend your stay, you'll need to apply at the Department of Immigration in Malé. (Note: for those with passports other than UK or EU, please check with us prior to booking, however most foreign nationals are also allowed into the Maldives with a valid passport and a 30 day visa on arrival. Note: Your passport must have at least 6 months validity at your date of travel.


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