The Maldives are the epitome of island paradise and the dream destination of pretty much everyone you ask – seriously, ask anyone around you right now if they’d want to visit the Maldives. 🙂
These pristine, beautiful islands in the Indian Ocean are a haven of natural beauty and one of those places that definitely lives up to the hype, as we got to discover recently.
Prior to booking our flights, I hadn’t really done much research into the Maldives (it was just one of those places I knew I wanted to go to) and shortly after booking, I soon realised how it was a lot trickier than I initially anticipated. There’s a lot more choice than I realised, so many things you should pack (and so many thing you shouldn’t), local laws I had no clue about and a whole range of activities those pretty Pinterest photos never seem to highlight.
To that end, I’ve put together this guide to helping you plan your stay in the Maldives. Some stuff might seem more obvious than some other but hopefully, each of these will help you make the most out of your time in one of the most beautiful places on earth!
7 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
1.) The Maldives is a muslim country. This means no alcohol so on your way over, skip the duty free purchases. If you buy any, you will get it taken off you at the airport (they used to keep it for you until you left but I’m not sure if that still happens). Point is, you’re not allowed to bring alcohol with you.
2.) The capital city of Male is a proper city and probably one of the least photographed places on here. This is where a lot of locals live and tourists never seem to visit. Even when you arrive at Male airport, you really don’t arrive on Male island itself, you actually arrive on Hulhulé Island.
3.) Now while the individual resort islands in the Maldives are pretty liberal, the Maldives as a country is quite conservative so act accordingly when you’re in places like the airport. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to get into your bikini and speedos when you get to your own island resort.
4.) Each resort tends to be on its own island.
5.) Each resort typically has unique features and characters so bear this in mind when booking. They are NOT all the same – despite what the water-villa and snorkelling photos might have you believe.
6.) Peak season in the Maldives is December till April and the prices during this period will reflect this! There’s a good reason to visit in peak season of course (the amazing weather being one of them) but Maldivian weather is pretty good all year round so if you want to save on some money, it’s worth considering visiting outside of peak season.
7.) A lot of the islands here have their own time (island time is a real thing here). It’s typically an hour behind local time in Male and leaves you with ‘more time’ to do things like enjoy the sunset before dinner and generally feel like you’re somewhere entirely different (yes, I know moving the time back an hour doesn’t actually add time but trust me, once you get started with island time, you’ll find yourself settling rather nicely into the island bubble).
WHAT TO PACK
Seriously, this is one place you definitely do NOT need to over pack for.
We’re talking light and breezy summer clothes. No one is here for your fashion and the vibe everywhere is definitely too laid back to care. Pack a couple of smart clothes in case you feel like dressing up in the evenings but you might find that you’re the only one who wants to.
If you do decide to go uber-stylish, do remain practical – almost everything except your room is outdoors and heavy clothing will not work here.
Pack the usual stuff. Do remember to take extra sunscreen though as there’s a lot of water based activities here so you’ll find that you need to top up a lot more here.
Pack as usual. These islands are used to having guests and there are shops on them so if you forget any essentials, chances are that you can get them here so don’t worry.
Don’t forget your medication (if you’re on any) though some islands have their own on island Doctors
HOW TO GET THERE
Flights from whatever country you’re travelling from to the Maldives is fairly straight-forward and no different than booking a flight from say, London to Paris.
The getting to the islands is the bit you need to remember to sort out and plan ahead.
GOING BETWEEN ISLANDS
Booking a stay at more than one place in the Maldives is a great way to cram in as many new experiences as possible in your time there (even the snorkelling will be different). Each island is unique and moving around helps you relive the excitement of discovering somewhere new in the Maldives. I can’t recommend it enough. (Plus, you get to be smug when others are leaving for home and you’re just transferring to your next stunning Maldivian island).
To get to and from the islands, you tend to have one (or two) of three options depending on which island you’re in. You can either:
1.) Arrive by boat
2.) Travel by seaplane (the most expensive option and by far the most scenic). Seaplane journeys are dependent on the weather so do bear that in mind when it comes to arranging your return.
3.) Travel to a local airport and then connect by boat.
You have to contact wherever you’re staying to have them organise your transfer in advance. Don’t leave this till the last minute.
If you’re moving between islands, let the islands know where you’ll be arriving from and leaving for. You won’t have much control with the time if you’re flying in between islands as the flights are scheduled however the islands will talk to each other and make sure they synchronise your departures and arrivals. All you need to do is to tell them the name of the place your going to and head back to enjoying your cocktails on the beach.
If possible, the general consensus is that you have to try to experience the seaplane at least one. The journey on this is quite picturesque and it’s a unique way to see the Maldives.
WHERE TO STAY
We search far and wide for where to stay and came up trumps on when it comes to amazing places to stay in the Maldives. Here are our recommendations on where to stay and why (in no particular order and absolutely backed by our personal experience):
1.) Dusit Thani Maldives
This Dusit Thani comes with it’s own personal butler and a range of different luxurious places to stay in (ocean villas, beach villas… etc). You get your own butler and it has the largest infinity pool in the Maldives. You can either choose to be carted around in a golf buggy or cycle around. Oh, and this is the island where you get those bioluminescent plankton on the beach at night so do look out for those when you visit. See more from our time at the Dusit Thani here and here.
2.) Angsana Ihuru
It’s is all about intimacy at the Angsana Ihuru. It’s one of the smallest islands here and from sunset cruises, to candlelit dinners on the beach (plus a tiny deserted sandy island) the service is all intended to make you feel very special indeed. The coral reef here is one of the best on offer here (you’ve got dolphins, turtles, sharks, clownfish – the works) and you’ll get to see animals that you wouldn’t easily see anywhere else. See more details and photos from our time at the Angsana Ihuru here and here.
3.) Kurumba Maldives
The Kurumba is the biggest one of the lot and part of this means that it comes with so much to do and see when you’re here. The range of accommodations here is quite huge which means that even though it’s premium (it is a 5 star resort, after all) it caters to a wider range of budgets (e.g. if you’re someone who wants a 1 bed own villa or 4 bed mansion, you can find it all here). The sea life here is pretty good too and as it’s really close to Male so it’s the perfect place to start or end your Maldivian holiday here. See more from our time at the Kurumba here and here.
WHAT TO EAT
In our experience, the food in the Maldives will be the least of your worries. Every place has a lot of variety on offer and if you have specific dietary requirements, inquire in advance though you’ll be hard-pressed to find a place that can’t cater to you.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
There’s so much you can get up to here and although it’s best to check with you island resort to see what’s on offer, here are some reliable options you can count on regardless of where you’re located.
1.) Go snorkelling.
Even from beach in front of you, you jump right in can straight away start to experience the beautiful and rather varied Maldivian wildlife.
2.) Have a romantic meal.
Private island dining, candlelit dinner by the beach, special villas – the choices are endless. Choose one and make it special.
3.) Go swimming with sharks.
Swimming with whale sharks is definitely one of those unique experience you’ll be talking about for ages but even if you arrive out of season, you can still go swimming with black tip sharks who are around pretty much all year round.
4.) Take a guided tour with marine biologist.
Snorkelling on your own is great but going with an expert is so much better. They spot things you might otherwise miss and are able to help you make the most of your experience here.
5.) Go on a sunset tour.
If you’re lucky, you’ll see some dolphins while you’re at it too. Even if you don’t, the sunset here is absolutely incredible and goes down quite well with a few glasses of champagne.
6.) Have a spa day.
You don’t even need to over-think this one. Just do it.
7.) Go swimming with manta rays.
Like whale sharks, manta rays are huge and very impressive to see in the wild. The Maldives is the perfect place to see them though you do have to visit in season for this. 🙂
I’m going to be frank about this, a trip to the Maldives will set you back a few bob. It’s a premium, luxury destination and that’s the honest truth though there are a few ways to make savvy savings while having the holiday of a lifetime.
1.) Go half board.
You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to do this here. You end up having breakfast quite late anyway and if like me, you tend to over-indulge at every meal, you’ll find that by the time lunch-time rolls by, you’re not hungry enough for another meal. You can choose to have a light snack for lunch or do it like the pros and lunch on champagne but effectively, going half-board is a very sensible option for a trip to the Maldives. We were full-board but we even had days where we just stayed out to snorkel or chill by the pool because we weren’t hungry and know know much I like my food, that says a lot!
2.) Visit out of season.
Prices are lower, availability is better and you still get the great weather. You can definitely save yourself some money by visiting between the months of May till November.
3.) Move around.
Stay in the more expensive water villas to start (or at the end of your holidays) and move to a beach villa later on. Or perhaps even just move across islands.