Prada, Gucci, Channel, Versace Jimmy Choo and the like aren't why people escape to the Maldives. However, local handicrafts at resort boutiques and village markets offer excellent value and quality. Look for hand-carved masks and carvings, precious pearls and stones and interesting hand-made jewellery especially in the resort shops as well as local markets and village excursions. Maldivian masks are also good buys, make sure however (especially in 'chi chi' resort shops) that they are not mass produced imported from Thailand!
High on the list of favourite buys are lacquered wooden boxes, one of the most distinctive Maldivian handicrafts. Pieces of wood from endemic trees are hollowed out to formed intricately crafted boxes and ornamental objects. Beautiful reed mats, woven throughout the county are also well-liked; the most famous are hand-woven in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll. Hand-decorated in intricate, abstract designs, they range from place mat to mattress size.
If you take a day's excursion to Male', you'll find most of the souvenir shops specialising in Singapore imports at the northern end of Chaandanee Magu. The lively and colourful local market has an abundance of local produce and souvenirs. Personal necessities and simple casual resort wear is available at the resorts and in Male'.
Banned items: it is illegal to sell or purchase any turtle or tortoise shell items and whole coral. If in doubt, please check with your resort or police as such offences are treated seriously.
Shopping hours: very late night shopping seven days a week: Sat-Thurs 0830-2300; Fri 1130-2300. Shops officially close for 15 minutes five times a day in deference to Muslim prayer time; a practice not always adhered to in tourist areas outside Male'.