21 Maldives Tips You Need to Know Before You Go
The Maldives is complicated from a travel logistics standpoint. From the US, you are looking at about 24 hours of flights to arrive in the capital Male, which is home to the only international airport in the Maldives. It is also a pricey destination. The sheer awesomeness of the Maldives makes it worth the effort it takes to get there. But I can't stress enough: you should probably work with a travel professional to plan your trip. But here are my tips for all those DYI'ers out there. (Get help; it will save you time, energy, headaches, and tons of money in the long run, I promise!)
Know when to go.
High Season (June through October plus the holidays) will cost an arm and a leg. Consider traveling during Low Season (November through May). Going during these months will save you a bundle on both flights and hotels. Be aware that the Maldives has their monsoon season from May to October. In general, even during the rainy season, it doesn't rain all day.
Include wiggle room in your budget. The Maldives add 23% resort fees (services and goods tax) Many resorts allow you to pre-pay these, but several do not charge it until you arrive. Ensure you are aware of any fees or additional taxes, so your credit cards don't start crying before you get home.
Go All In (inclusive that is) The Maldives have no farms that produce food, so everything has to come from other countries. Importing everything drives the prices of food and drink sky high. You can offset some of the expense by choosing an all-inclusive resort. Many resorts offer it standard for all guests, and the ones that are not will generally allow you to add it as an upgrade. Usually, I am not a fan of adding the all-inclusive option, but the Maldives is an exception to that rule.
Overnight or spend a couple of days somewhere before heading to the Maldives. It takes a long time to get there. You can get direct flights from Sri Lanka, London, Abu Dhabi, Paris, Rome, and Dubai, to name just a few. Get out of the airport and enjoy the city for a little while. They are all cool, and spending a couple of days in any one of them will help the budget and give you a different experience that you will get in the Maldives.
Don't bring alcohol into the country! The Maldives is a Muslim nation, and alcohol is not permitted. The only place you can imbibe in adult beverages will be at your resort. Don't buy it at the airport either unless you don't mind security taking it.
Stock up at the airport. There are duty-free shops at the airport; this will most likely be the last time that you will be able to buy essential items until you get to your resort. (You don't want to buy things at the resorts, but more on that below) There are tow cell providers right outside the baggage claim at Male. Wi-fi can be iffy at the resorts. They are in the middle of the Indian Ocean, after all. But the islands do have excellent cell service (most have a cell tower on the island), so pick up a sim card at the airport before you leave.
Respect their religion. Outside of the resorts cover up your shoulders, chests, and knees. And keep the PDA down to a minimum. If you are not staying at a resort (totally choose at a resort they are incredible), be aware that tourist beaches allow bikinis and local beaches DON'T. You won't run into issues at Maldivian resorts; they expect that you will be in swimwear the majority of the time.
Remember to arrange your resort transfers. All resorts in Maldivian resorts are on private islands, so you need to take either a boat or a seaplane to get to your final destination. These transfers can run you $150-$300 per person for the boat, or $500-$1000 per person for the seaplane. The resort will make arrangements for you. You need to call them with your flight details, and they will take care of the rest. Since your resort is the only way to get the transfer settled, you will not be able to price shop. It costs whatever they say it costs, and yes, they do turn a hefty profit. Trans Maldivian Airlines only works with resorts!
Arrive on time. To make that transfer to your resort, you must make sure you arrive in at Male NO later than 4 pm! Reaching Male by 3 pm is better if you are doing a seaplane. The planes do not operate late in the day. If you arrive late, you will most likely need to book a hotel in Male for the night.
Should we do a seaplane or boat transfer? Do whatever the resort recommends. If the resort is relatively close, go with a boat. But be wary of lengthy ship transfers. Yes, a ferry transfer will be less expensive than a seaplane, but it will be a long, bumpy and nauseating journey.
Head to the rear. If you are doing a boat transfer, pick a seat in the back of the boat. The swells will be smoother, which will reduce nausea...also Dramamine is your friend!
Wait times suck for both the boats and seaplanes! Plan on lengthy wait times to get to your transfer vehicle. They are not private, and they will be stopping at multiple resorts. You will be waiting at the airport for all the other travelers to board. Transfers can be problematic anyway. Sometimes you have to take a van to get to the seaplane; then you stop at five different resorts (yours is always the very last resort), and when you finally arrive at your island, you have to get into another car that will drive your from the runway to the resort itself. Unfortunately, there isn't much anyone can do to lessen this ordeal. It's just part of the Maldives charm. Forewarned is forearmed.
All-inclusive package details. I did say earlier that I recommend getting an inclusive package even if it's not standard. But you do need to be aware that not all packages are as all-encompassing as others. READ the details. Some packages don't include alcohol, activities, or spa. Many only offer three meals a day, with drinks being extra. The price of food in the Maldives is so high that adding a package is a good idea, but you need to know what additional charges to expect.
Location, Location, Location! Make sure your villa is not near: diving jetties, the place where the seaplanes land, boat docks, or generators. The noise will be well noisy.
Pick your bungalow exposure thoughtfully. Do you like sunrise or sunset? I am not a morning person, and I would be distraught to get woken up by the sun shining into my bedroom every day.
Overwater doesn't always mean overwater! Not all villas are created equal. The Maldives can be expensive, and most people do want an overwater bungalow, so they pick the least expensive option available. But what you might find is that your cottage isn't overwater all the time. When the tide rolls out, it could be beachfront instead. Forget the plans you had of jumping from your deck into the ocean because even when the tide rolls in, the water won't be deep enough for swimming.
A majority of resorts ban drones. If you want to bring a drone to take pictures, you are probably going to be disappointed. Resorts received many complaints from guests that drones were spying on them. Assume your retreat will be a no-fly zone.
Island hopping is not a good idea. Spend time picking a hotel that has everything that you want, because island hopping is a logistic nightmare and hugely expensive.
Don't forget to bring: sunhats, sunscreen, over the counter medicine, feminine products, etc. If you think there is an outside chance that you might need something, pack it. Stores at the resorts have a huge markup. I have seen travel-sized sunscreen priced at $30 a bottle.
Don't overpack (especially if you are doing a seaplane). Yes, take what you might need, but don't take tons of outfits and shoes. Even the most luxurious resort in the Maldives specializes in barefoot luxury. You will spend most of your time in bathing suits, cover-ups, and flip flops. If you have overstuffed bags, they might not make the trip with you. The seaplanes have stringent guidelines for luggage.
You should book reservations and activities before arrival. Pre-book anything you can, especially if it is in your all-inclusive package. The spas, events, and restaurants can fill quickly during high season. You don't want to miss out on your couples massage because there were not any appointments available!
Do you want to honeymoon in the Maldives? Let me help you! I can take all the worry off your shoulders. All you will have to do is show up, and your dream honeymoon will unfold. I will ensure that you have the perfect bungalow, exposure, and all-inclusive package. Even if you don't use Trips to Cherish to plan your Maldives trip, get help. You will be so glad you did.
If you want more tips overwater bungalows read our Essential Tips for Picking Your Overwater Bungalow