The Maldives are the islands we’ve all fantasised about at some point in our lives. Thankfully, I get to sell these dreamy holidays every single day, but of course, that too makes me sad since I’m not the one that’s actually going. I have been able to get a valuable insight into the Maldives, therefore, I’ve put together a Maldives guide for first-time travellers. Some of the information in this guide is crucial to know before you go because if you’re going to be spending some big money, you’ll want to do your research well in advance.

1. There are 1,200 islands in the Maldives

Maldives

Maldives

Yes, that’s correct. Some of these islands are so small that you would have to zoom into the max on Google Maps if you wanted to see them. Aside from crystal clear waters, luxury resorts and white-washed sands, this destination is truly different to the rest of the world. Out of the 1,200 islands, only 200 islands are inhabited by local Maldivian people. Around 100 islands have already been developed as popular tourist resorts and the remaining islands are completely uninhabited. Technically, there are 26 geographical atolls. Yet most of the resorts are in North Male, South Male, Ari, Felidhu, Baa and Lhaviyani Atolls.

The 200 islands that are inhabited by people are year-round, permanent populations with the likes of traditional finishing villages and farming towns. The uninhabited islands, on the other hand, are used for farming or industry land. There are also picnic islands, which are regularly visited by tourists for private, romantic date nights.

2. When To Go? Hurricane Season & Rain

The best time to travel to the Maldives for dry weather is between November and April. The high season falls between December and March.. The monsoon cycle runs from May to October, peaking around June. During these months, strong storms do regularly occur, though these storms do not approach the severity of hurricanes. It really is worth paying a bit more to travel in the dry season, because there is literally nothing to do on a rainy day other than to take a nap, scuba dive, work out or eat and drink. Unlike Cancun when it rains, you’ve got so much to do within the resorts and out of the resort.

3. Not All Of The Islands Are Natural

Whilst it’s believed that the majority of the islands in the Maldives were formed by volcanoes, some islands are man made. When we discovered earlier that some of the islands are incredibly tiny, these would have been the very tops of volcanoes which explain the sizes. Huhulmale, for example, is a man-made island. In 2004 this island was “reclaimed” and formed with sand and concrete for the solid foundation that it is today: paved pavements, shops, houses and coastline. This island is also the closest to the main airport.

4. Some Of The Islands Are Disappearing

Sunken Islands, Maldives.

Sunken Islands, Maldives.

I felt this should have been at the top due to the distressing importance around it. If you really need that push which will finally make you decide on your dream trip to the Maldives, then this should be the well-needed push. Over 100 islands have already disappeared due to Mother Nature. Natural erosion from the sea and rising sea levels are vastly sinking islands. Most beaches might have sea walls, whilst this might strip the natural beauty of the islands, these have been created to help break waves. Sand pumps can also be found on beaches which help pump sand back onto the beaches after they’ve been affected by natural erosion from the ocean.

5. It Has 100% Islamic Population

The only other country in the world to have 100-percent Islamic population is Saudi Arabia. This is really good to know when planning your trip. If you’re travelling during the month-long holy fasting of Ramadan, most of the local staff you’ll be encountering at the airport and resorts will be unable to eat or drink anything during daylight hours. Therefore, many shops and services including on resort islands will be closed at certain times for prayer.

6. Bathing Suits, Alcohol and Public Displays of Affection Are Illegal

Since the Maldives is an Islamic country, there are a few extremely important and strictly enforced rules that you may not know exist. For example, there is no alcohol available to buy on the island once you leave your resort. Homosexuality is also highly frowned upon and illegal. Women are barred from wearing bathings suits or revealing clothing (i.e. nothing revealing the shoulders, elbows or knees), there are no pork products, and public displays of affection, even just quick kisses, are against the law. You might find that once arriving at the airport, they are more lenient on clothing restrictions, yet we rightfully think it’s always good form to be respectful when in a foreign country. Please do note, this only applies if you’re taking a day trip off your resort. Whilst you’re in resort, you can definitely fill up on the booze, eat pork, where your bathing suits and canoodle where you want too.

Legally, if you’re 18 and not a Muslim, you’re allowed to buy and drink alcohol. Alcohol is effectively banned for the rest of the local population. Yet don’t worry, nearly all resorts and liveaboard resorts are licensed to serve alcohol, yet it will usually come with a steep markup. If you purchase alcohol from a duty-free airport on your way out to the Maldives, this will be taken off you. It won’t be thrown away, but the airport does reserve the rights to withhold the alcohol and this will be returned on your departure date, just don’t forget about it!

7. You HAVE to Visit The Glow-in-the-Dark Beach

Glow In The Dark Beach, Baa, Maldives.

Glow In The Dark Beach, Baa, Maldives.

Guests who stay at the Dusit Thani Maldives in the Baa Atoll are in for a real night time treat. This is not something the hotel puts together, it’s an act of nature which is magical. To get a little scientific, what creates this beautiful picturesque event are “ostracod crustaceans“. In basic terms, these are a mass mortality of the ostracod crustaceans organisms which create this breath-taking firefly effect. One word of caution as the photos are taken by a method called long exposure the brightness is increased. In real life the glow is quite faint but still visible to the naked eye (similar to the glow of fireflies). This periodically happens in the Maldives and you can also catch a sight of this in Puerto Rico, Jamaica and even Belgium!

Whilst this is an act of nature, there is no guarantee that you will see this during your trip. However, I made contact with the hotel and spoke to Abdulla Ameer who is the assistant digital marketing manager. He kindly confirmed that they see the most sightings around December and he also gave us an interesting fact about the picture which is listed above.

8. Visas and Entry Requirements

British nationals can get a tourist visa for up to 30 days on arrival in Maldives, provided you hold a valid onward or return ticket and enough funds to cover your stay. If you’re heading to the Maldives for Work and you need further information on entry requirements, then you can head to the official website for Employment Visas.

9. Every Resort Is on Its Own Private Island

When you the Maldives comes with an expensive price tag, this is one reason why. Every resort has it’s own island, meaning that most of the islands are extremely small, so you’ll be around the same people all the time, and unless you take a day trip, you’re in the same small square of sand for the entirety of your vacation. So if you’re not a people person and you don’t like too much seclusion, you might want to look for a larger resort, a multi-centre holiday or a different destination altogether. Unlike most resorts which have been built around tourist demands, there are no shopping malls, restaurants or theatres outside of your resort, so make sure you do your research well or book with a specialist travel advisor.

10. Over-Water Villas Can Be Overrated

Over Water Villa, Non-Private Villas, Maldives

Over Water Villa, Non-Private Villas, Maldives

Always do your research well when you’re looking for your perfect accommodation. A lot of people jet off to the Maldives for a luxurious vacation, therefore, a lot of people seek water villas. We see them day in, day out all over social media. Who wouldn’t want to walk out of their villa and literally walk into the ocean? Yet some villas don’t actually have “access” to the ocean, as in your own steps. Another downside to water villas is that some of them are usually set on the far end of the resort, making them a hike to other facilities. On the topic of privacy, some are not that private too. Poorly-lit jetties have also been a complaint which makes nighttime after-drink navigation a tad scary. But it really comes down to whether you’d prefer your backyard to be a deck over the water or set directly on a tropical beach. Most resorts offer free rental bikes so be sure to check this out when seeking your accommodation.

11. The Water Really Is Different

Most of the water you’ll be drinking whilst in the Maldives will have been recycled and retreated. Whilst the tap water is completely fine to drink without purifying, guests have reported distinctly strong tastes due to the process that the water has been through. It also takes out all the natural minerals from the H20, rendering it less beneficial. You can find a more in-depth article here, about the drinking water in the Maldives. Get dehydrated easily? You’ll definitely want to read the next tip.

12. Gatorade Does Not Exist On The Island

Whilst you’ll be soaking up the rays and sweating out those city toxins whilst you’re lay on those dreamy beaches, you’ll also be losing precious salts and minerals. Since most of the water is demineralized, you might not feel fully quenched at any point on your trip. You may also feel sluggish on your trip, definitely not a feeling you want to come by when you’re trying to relax on holiday in hot temperatures. Unfortunately, rehydration drinks and sports drinks are virtually impossible to find because everyone mainly drinks “energy drinks” on the island. Yet if you get dehydrated easily, you will be able to purchase some rehydration salt packets at the main airport’s pharmacy. If you want to save some money, you might want to purchase some before you go and stick them in your suitcase.

13. You Can’t Buy The Local Currency Until You Get There

Maldives introduces new Rufiyaa banknotes.

Maldives introduces new banknotes.

Maldivian Rufiyaa is the official currency for the Maldives. This is a closed currency, which means it is only available to buy in the Maldives. Saying that most people do bring US Dollars and credit cards whilst on holiday which are accepted within resorts, but you can only buy local currency at your resort, as well as banks, hotels, and larger shops in Malé, the Maldives’ capital. You won’t need to bring a lot of cash because hopefully, you’ve booked or you’re going to book an all inclusive package. If anything is added on in your resort, this will be payable when you’re leaving the resort for departure. Traveller cheques are no longer accepted as well.

13. Tipping

Ten to 15 percent of your bill is a standard tip in most island resorts, as well as larger international restaurants in Malé. What you might find is that many resorts will add this service charge automatically, just like cruise ships do. However, tipping isn’t expected in Malé’s local cafés, although it would be a nice surprise for the local workers and employees.

14. Zika Virus and General Health

In certain countries in the world (long-haul destinations) there is a virus called Zika. The Zika virus is a mosquito born illness which cannot be prevented due to the hot climates. Typically, if you’re bitten by a mosquito in a destination which has claimed that the virus is there, then it should be no different than a normal mosquito bite. You might experience mild symptoms such as a fever or a rash.

However, if you’re planning to get pregnant or you’re already pregnant, it’s strongly advised that you do not travel to the country until the baby is born. This is because the virus has been linked unusually small heads and brain damage in newborns which is called microcephaly, as well as blindness, deafness, seizures and other congenital effects.

15. Suffer From Sea Sickness?

Transportation from Male Airport, Maldives

Sea Plane & Speed Boat.

A lot of travellers don’t want to travel to the Maldives specifically for the transfer reasons. As you know every island has it’s own resort, therefore, you will need a form of transportation from Male airport to your island. You can either choose from a seaplane, ferry boat or a speed boat. If you do suffer from sea sickness, a seaplane would be much more beneficial to you. If you’re booking your holiday with a travel agent in store or over the phone, they will ask you which is your preference. You will have transport included in the cost i.e. speed boat, but if you want to upgrade you will pay the additional cost. However, if you’re booking your holiday online, you must book transport arrangements before you arrive. Once you arrive, tickets are usually fully booked so you must book in advance. Transportation requirements are compulsory.

16. Check Flight Times Before You Confirm The Booking

Transfers from the airport to resort in the Maldives do not work like typical European holidays. Transportation to islands in the Maldives is not 24/7. Seaplane transfers in the Maldives operate during daylight hours and are subject to your international arrival and departure times. Your outbound flight must arrive between 0600hrs and 1500hrs. Your inbound flight must depart between 0850hrs and 2000hrs. If your flights operate outside of these times we would recommend booking a room at an airport hotel at an additional cost.

On some days typically during peak times, you might have to wait at the seaplane terminal due to passenger volumes / combined transfers with other flights or the weather. On the return journey, you may also find that your luggage is collected earlier than your own departure time to ensure that it arrives in time for your international flight.

I hope you enjoyed this Maldives guide and that it’s given you a great insight into this beautiful destination. The links provided in this guide are not affiliated and are linked to all relevant websites for the correct information and guidelines. The information that has been sourced is from personal experience, in-resort staff and male airport regulations and important information.