Monday, September 30, 2019

8 Things to Keep in Mind Before Traveling to Maldives

The Maldives is perhaps one of the most picture-perfect beach destinations in the world. Situated in the Indian Ocean, this archipelago composed of more than 1,000 small islands has miles and miles of white sand beaches and crystal-clear blue waters. It’s also famous for those over-water beach bungalows, perfect for honeymooners or couples out on a romantic holiday.

Thankfully, it’s now easier than ever to book a Maldives tour package and to visit this slice of heaven on earth. Before you do, however, make sure you’re aware of critical bits of information to make your trip so much smoother. Here are a few to keep in mind.

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

No Visas Needed

Yes, you read that right. There’s no need for a visa to visit the Maldives for ALL nationalities. You can stay visa-free for 30 days, as long as you have a passport with at least 6 months validity upon your arrival. You should also have a ticket for your departure, of course, one that is valid within the 30-day duration of your stay.

It’s a 100% Muslim Country

The Maldives is the only one of two countries in the world with a 100% Muslim population (the other is Saudi Arabia). As such, be mindful of religious sensibilities. For women, particularly, make sure that you dress appropriately, i.e., no skimpy or revealing clothing unless you’re on areas where it’s allowed. Salat, the obligatory Muslim daily prayers, are performed five times daily: dawn, midday, noon, sunset, and night. As such, be prepared to hear calls for prayer throughout the day. If your trip coincides with Ramadan, note that there will be additional prayers each day.Many of the shops will be also be closed, and many services will be unavailable for the duration of the holidays.

No Alcohol, Pork, and PDA

Because of their religion, there are quite a few things that are banned in the Maldives. For one, eating pork and drinking alcohol are not allowed. The strictest Muslims don’t even touch alcoholic beverages or anything that contains alcohol. Other things that are not allowed are tobacco products (at least, those without printed health warnings) and religious texts that may be interpreted as something that can be used for preaching or proselytizing. It’s best that you leave these products at home.

Public displays of affection are also against the law, even quick, tiny kisses. For women, clothes that expose the shoulders, elbows, and knees are typically not allowed. The clothing restrictions are a little more relaxed at the airport, but it’s still better to err on the side of caution.

Most of these rules are forgotten or at least ignored on private resort islands, however. You can freely consume alcohol, eat pork, wear short shorts, bikinis, spaghetti-strap dresses and tops, and maybe engage in some PDA. As long as you’re not sunbathing in the nude, almost everything is allowed. Just remember that when you go back to the city center and other islands inhabited by locals, you’re expected to observe and follow the customs.

Best Times to Visit: November to April

For beach bums, the best time to visit the Maldives is around late November to early April. There isn’t much rain during these months, so you can soak up the sun as much as you like. In particular, the months of November to January are windy and not as humid. Meanwhile, for surfers, the best time to visit is during the monsoon season. Avid, competitive surfers can conquer huge waves around June to August; those who are on the inexperienced side can visit from late April to May and from September to October, when the swells are a little more manageable. Note that the monsoon season is considered the off-peak season, as the Maldives is still primarily a swimming, snorkeling, and diving destination more than a surfing one.

Bring US Dollars

The Maldivian currency is called the rufiyaa, but it’s often easier to pay using US dollars. Some resort islands also accept euros or British pounds. It’s best to use smaller notes, however. In the capital, Male, you can pay using US dollars but note that you’ll be given change in rufiyaa. There are establishments that accept credit cards, but the fees can be a little exorbitant. Cash is still your best option.

Their Drinking Water is Recycled

Most of the drinking water in the Maldives is recycled and treated. It’s perfectly safe to drink, but it doesn’t have natural minerals, so you might feel a little dehydrated. Keep this in mind, and drink more if  you need to.

It’s Incredibly Safe

The Maldives doesn’t have a huge problem with petty and violent crimes. In fact, it has a Level 2 threat level from the U.S. State Department. Some of the countries that share the same rating are France, Italy, and the United Kingdom, so that already gives you an idea regarding the Maldives’ safety. What you have to worry about more are powerful waves, since the Indian Ocean is known for its strong currents. For those who love posting on social media, internet access is a little expensive, but free Wi-Fi is usually available in resorts and hotels. You may want to download a VPN, though, since the Maldivian government blocks some websites.

You Don’t Need an Over-water Villa

It’s probably one of the reasons why you want to visit the Maldives: staying in a cabana or villa in the middle of the sparkling blue sea that you saw on social media. However, those can be quite expensive and staying in one is not really necessary to enjoy the beauty of the place. A hotel near the sea is more than adequate. In fact, it can even be the better choice when it’s rainy or windy. Don’t think that you have to stay in an over-water bungalow to have a “legit” Maldives experience.

Got all that? Now go and book that Maldives tour package and prepare your bags. Paradise awaits!

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