The Maldives is a by-word for luxury, romance and tropical bliss. A beautiful string of low-lying coral islands in the Indian Ocean, they’re also a paradise for diving enthusiasts and sun seekers alike.
The country’s 26 natural atolls and over 1000 islands boast uniformly perfect coasts lapped by turquoise lagoons the temperature of bath water. White powdery sand fringes most of the islands, which partly explains why more than a million people come here a year.
Tourism only began in the 1970s. Now the Maldives’ most important industry, it concentrates on the luxury market, meaning that the country is home to some of the world’s best hotels. Pretty much every resort here has its own private island. With the finest hotels offering personal butlers and in-room massages, the Maldives are a firm favourite with honeymooners. There are also islands offering slightly less opulent options, and some are aimed at families and divers.
Sadly, even in paradise, trouble can bubble beneath the surface. It is precisely because the Maldives is so low-lying (80% of the territory is less than 1m/3.3ft above sea level) that their very existence is threatened by global warming.
Beyond all the luxury and tourism, these coral islands are not the most hospitable, with inhabitants having long struggled in previous times to eke out a living here. There is little in the way of local resources, and while the immaculate ocean may make visitors wonder, it also serves as a constant threat.
Recently, it has become more feasible on the Maldives for independent travellers and backpackers to avoid the luxury hotels and stay among the local people. The growing number of private guesthouses may well give the Maldives a new lease of life away from big-money tourism. What luxury means, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.
Weather and climate
Best time to visit
The Maldives has a year-round hot tropical climate. There are two monsoons, the southwest from May to October and the northeast from November to April. Generally the southwest brings more wind and rain in June and July. The temperature rarely falls below 25°C (77°F).
Lightweight cottons and linens throughout the year. Light waterproofs are advised during the rainy season.
The Republic of Maldives consists of about 1,190 low-lying coral islands, of which only 200 are inhabited. Most of the inhabited islands are covered by lush tropical vegetation and palm trees, while the numerous uninhabited islands, some of which are mere sand spits or coral tips, are covered in shrubs.
Each island is surrounded by a reef enclosing a shallow lagoon. Hundreds of these islands together with other coral growth form an atoll, surrounding a lagoon. All the islands are low-lying, none more than 2m (7ft) above sea level.
On 22 March 2018, the state of emergency in Maldives was lifted. There could still be further anti-government protests in the capital Malé and a number of other towns. Recent protests have resulted in pepper spray being used by the security forces. You should exercise caution and avoid any protests or rallies. There are no reports that outlying islands, resorts or Malé International Airport have been affected.
UK health authorities have classified Maldives as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in the Maldives.
Most visits to Maldives are trouble free. The most common problems faced by visiting British nationals are lost and stolen passports, and swimming and diving related accidents.
Petty crime occurs. Take care of your valuables and other personal possessions.
Safety and security
Crime levels in Maldives are relatively low, but petty crime, including the theft of goods left unattended on the beach or in hotel rooms, does occur. You should take care of your valuables and other personal possessions, especially when travelling in Malé. Use safe deposit boxes on island resorts.
Gang related violence including knife crime in locally populated areas, including the capital Malé, has increased recently. There is no evidence that British nationals are being targeted. You should be vigilant when travelling to areas outside of resorts.
The majority of visitors to Maldives spend their time on resort islands and would only visit the capital island, Malé, if they choose to go on a specific excursion there. The international airport is on a separate island within the larger Malé atoll. There are also many resort islands within Malé atoll. Advance approval is normally required to visit most non-resort islands, other than the capital island. Travel between islands is by boat or seaplane, and many of these services stop before sunset.
Recent piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, highlight that the threat of piracy related activity and armed robbery in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean remains significant. Reports of attacks on local fishing dhows in the area around the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa continue. The combined threat assessment of the international Naval Counter Piracy Forces remains that all sailing yachts under their own passage should remain out of the designated High Risk Areaor face the risk of being hijacked and held hostage for ransom. For more information and advice, see our Piracy and armed robbery at sea page.
The sea around the Maldives can have strong tidal currents and a number of foreign nationals drown every year. You should always take local advice before entering the sea.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in the Maldives. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers including tourists.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Local laws reflect the fact that Maldives is an Islamic country. Serious violations of local laws may lead to a prison sentence. Public observance of any religion other than Islam is prohibited. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they don’t offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
It is an offence to import the following items into Maldives: explosives, weapons, firearms, ammunition, pornographic material, materials deemed contrary to Islam including ‘idols for worship’ and bibles, pork and pork products, and alcohol.
Alcoholic drinks are only available on resort islands. Don’t take any alcohol away from a resort.
The export of tortoise shell and coral is forbidden.
Dress is generally informal but you should be sensitive to local dress standards when visiting non-resort islands. Nudism and topless sunbathing are not allowed anywhere, including on resort islands.
Mariners in possession of firearms must surrender them to the local authorities. Any unregistered firearms will not be returned to the owner.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.
Check the latest country-specific information and advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website or on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Europian health authorities have classified Maldives as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website
Medical facilities are limited. There are only 2 hospitals and these are on the capital island, Malé. Neither has a trauma unit. Although most resort islands are within easy reach of a doctor, many are several hours’ travel away from the hospital facilities on Malé. Many resort islands are more than an hour away from the nearest decompression chamber.
Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 102 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
You 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. Staying for longer than 30 days without the proper authority is an offence.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into the Maldives.
Yellow Fever vaccination certificate
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Emergency Travel Documents
Previous travel to countries affected by Ebola You won’t be able to get a visa on arrival if you’ve travelled to Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea within 21 days of your arrival in Maldives.
Maldives was hit by the December 2004 tsunami. More than 90 people were killed. There was serious damage to a number of islands, including 19 resort islands. The large majority of resorts affected are now operating normally.
Island resorts are generally expensive. Make sure you bring sufficient funds. There are no cash machines. Travellers’ cheques are not widely used. Major credit cards are accepted at most resorts and hotels. US dollars can be exchanged at the airport, banks or hotels.
We can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund.