If you are the type of traveller who loves to explore even on holiday, have unique experiences, but still retain being laid back, then the Maldives is the best place for you to spend a holiday, or perhaps plan for a future Valentine’s getaway trip. All you need is to search this archipelago republic on the internet and be mesmerized by wonderful views, its sunrises and sunsets, the clear waters, amazing islands, pearly white beaches, and the wide variety of marine life thriving in the waters of the Indian Ocean.
What we would usually advice is to either stay in a hotel, a resort, take an exclusive island tour, or get a liveaboard diving cruise (the latter two is readily available in package form at Adventure Maldives). You can still experience island hopping by yourself, sort of like backpacking, in order to experience the exclusive beaches, markets, and cafes along the way. However, the transportation service in the Maldives is not standardized nor government controlled. The ferry system implemented 6 years ago is still somewhat unreliable. We would advice simply exploring Malé and its neighbouring beaches.
You will experience a unique blend of Maldivian culture that is part Sinhalese, part Indian, and part African, and its people so friendly that you won’t be worried about the country being Muslim. The local delicacies are even more unique with tastes coming from Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India.
For a small country the majority of its citizens is well educated and speaks passable to fluent English. Its people are well skilled for the tourism industry, coupled with great talent from its painters, artists, poets, musicians, and the like.
When you do have your holiday in the Maldives, you will realize that all those aerial photos that you’ve seen on the internet will never do justice to the country’s real beauty. There’s something unique about looking out the airplane window and seeing all those little islands lined up in a perfectly blue and clear ocean, free of any pollution. The view will be so breathtaking it will have you reaching for your camera or phone.
Here’s a bonus. When you land at the international airport it seems that you’re landing in the middle of the ocean since all you’ll see is the blue ocean on either side of the plane. And once you leave the plane, you’ll be surprised by the pleasant weather and clear smell, or the lack of any smell in the air, since the whole country is pollution-free.
The Liveaboard Association of Maldives (LAM) says that the liveaboard industry is a flourishing industry in the last 5 years. This is all thanks to more educated workers joining the industry. However, LAM stressed that for the industry to flourish in the next decade or so, it needs more influx of educated staff and workers.
According to LAM’s secretary general, Mr. Mohamed Ignaz, the industry has grown in leaps and bounds because the workers and personnel serving the guests aboard diving boats can fluently communicate with them and understand their needs. Mr. Ignaz added that currently, 80 percent of liveaboard staff and workers are locals, most of them educated. The target of the association is to hire 100 percent local staff that are all educated. This will also reduce the amount of money being sent overseas by non-Maldivian workers.
LAM further stated that members of the association have made huge efforts in the building and operation of safaris and yachts, and as a result, many locals have been recruited into the industry, mostly educated ones.
Safaris and yachts involved in the liveaboard industry plays an important role in the tourism industry as a whole in the Maldives. According to statistics compiled by the Tourism Industry, there are around 150 safaris and liveaboard companies plying the Maldivian seas, with millions of Rufiyaa (Rf) being paid annually by these companies.
An example of one these companies is Adventure Maldives, a branch of the Maldives Boat Club. Adventure Maldives offers its Scuba Escape Liveaboard package for experienced or novice divers.
Liveaboard or live aboard is the term used for any tour or diving package that involves living aboard a yacht or diving boat for the duration of 5 days to 1 week instead of staying on a private island exclusive resort or staying in an inland hotel.
Maldives Visa Policy for Tourists
For anyone entering the Republic of Maldives, especially tourists, the country grants free visa-on-arrival status to all countries of the world for a limit of 30 days. For visa extensions of up to 60 days, there is a visa fee of 700 Maldivian Rufiyaa (Rf.). The only exceptions are India and Brunei. Indian nationals are visa-free for 90 days in the country, while nationals of Brunei can apply for only a 15-day stay visa.
Tourism is obviously the Maldives’ main source of income. In 2017 alone, some 1,300,000 visitors went to the Maldives, mostly tourists on various holidays. The top 10 countries whose nationals visited the Maldives were:
- China – 324,000+
- Germany – 106,000+
- United Kingdom – 101,000+
- Italy – 71,000+
- India – 66,900+
- Russia – 46,000+
- France – 40,000+
- Japan – 39,800+
- United States – 32,000+
- Switzerland – 31,000+
No Visa Fee for Maldivians Visiting UAE
In relation and in positive reciprocity of the above, the government of the United Arab Emirates has waived the visa fee for Maldivians travelling to the UAE beginning January 1, 2019.
This was announced by the state minister of Foreign Ministry, Mr. Ahmed Khaleel. He also added that all airlines have been notified about this visa-less arrangement between the Republic of Maldives and the United Arab Emirates.
Maldivians of all categories, whether carrying an official, diplomatic, or ordinary passport, will be allowed to travel to the UAE without applying for a visa. As for special business visas, the procedure will still follow normal protocols.
In addition, it was also announced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Abdhulla Shahid that some agreements have been reached with India regarding visas for Maldivians travelling to India.
Malé City to be Illuminated by over 4,000 Solar Lights
Tourists will be happy to know that over 4,000 solar LED lights will be installed around the capital City Malé, as well as in the suburbs of Hulhumale’ and Vilimale’. This was announced by the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Athifa Shukoor. The project, conducted through international assistance, involves the Malé City Council, Hulhumale’ Development Corporation (HDC), and the Maldives Stated Electric Company (STELCO).
More than half of the world seriously celebrating the Christmas holidays will be doing so with the freezing cold, white snow, or both. So if you decide to spend the holidays by replacing the white snow with pearly white beaches and the cold with tropical calm and warm weather, the Maldives is the perfect holiday getaway to celebrate the arrival of the New Year.
What better way to meet 2019 than with paradise-like waters and beaches as well as picture-perfect sceneries and a tropical climate free of pollution and hurricanes. In Malé city and most towns and villages, Maldivians are already celebrating through New Year’s Eve with performances by singers, dancers, and drummers usually provided just by the local residents. Houses and streets are decorated with colourful lights like it is during Christmas. Some of the restaurants and all of the resorts will be throwing their own New Year’s Eve party.
Surprisingly, carol singing from house to house is done in the Maldives on New Year’s Eve and households prepare dishes for the entertainers. Some exclusive beaches hold their own big event with buffets and dancing.
Resorts or Hotels
If you decide to spend the New Year holidays in a resort or hotel to be part of the exclusive large party celebration with buffet, you need to book in advance as often these resorts and hotels get filled to capacity during the holidays.
Before you book a resort or hotel, do inquire what New Year celebrations they will be doing. Do not book into a place that asks you to pay a mandatory fee for the New Year’s Eve buffet party. Remember that the Maldives is a Muslim country so liquor and alcohol is strictly prohibited except for the most isolated and expensive island resorts. Also, since pork is prohibited, you may not enjoy most of what is served in the buffet, and you will end up paying too much.
One suggestion is to just check into a hotel or resort and spend New Year’s Eve down at the Marine Centre for the big barbecue. Local people as well as other tourists will be there, with several local groups in charge of the barbecues. Though no pork will be served, beef, chicken, and a variety of fish barbecue dishes will be served.
If you’ve lived your whole life in the Western Hemisphere then you know how cold, damp, and miserable the winters can be. No matter how many times you hear “Winter Wonderland” and “White Christmas” played in the malls, you know better. If you’re living in the Southern Hemisphere, then you know how hot summers can get during December. To escape the miseries of extreme cold or heat, a holiday in the Maldives sounds dashing, with all the pearly white pristine beaches and clear turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, untouched by any pollution.
But what is Christmas really like in the Maldives? Oh, did we mention the lovely weather? It’s mostly sunny and clear, with some occasional rainfall but none that lasts a full day.
December Public Holiday
Not many know that the Maldives celebrates a holiday in December called Shaheedhunge Dhuvas or The Martyrs Day. It is an official Maldives public holiday that honours the death of Sultan Ali VI who is considered a national hero and religious martyr. In 1558 the Sultan fought the Portuguese and died bravely in battle. This religious holiday is roughly the equivalent of Christmas in the Maldives. Many locals encourage tourists to experience Martyrs Day instead of Christmas for a different experience. Most of the locals simply attend prayers at a local mosque and afterwards prepare a meal at home or explore and relax at a neighbouring island.
If you plan to spend your Christmas or New Year in Male City or in one of the towns on one of the islands, you will definitely get to experience the Sultan’s public holiday since restaurants and coffee shops will offer their special holiday food preparations and coffee brews. If you plan to spend the holidays at a resort, they offer options for preparing a Christmas meal, except for pork products, which is a bit rare, the Maldives being a Muslim country. Some resorts are willing to prepare pork as an inclusion option, but you need to tell them far in advance.
Some restaurants may also offer special “holiday season” buffets for tourists, especially those that are near special events for “Street Art” and “Graffiti Art.”
If you have that one relative or one friend who has experienced a holiday in the Maldives, then you need to hear their stories about the almost paradise-like beauty of the islands. But if you can, compare the stories of spending a holiday on just one island or going around the islands and doing some exploring. So if you’re not the type to just lay around the beach or hammock all day, perhaps you need to see the different islands of the Maldives up close and personal. And remember that some of these islands are uninhabited.
Boat cruises are popular
Cost wise, a boat cruise Maldives is much more affordable than staying at an exclusive island resort. But unlike a live aboard diving cruise, you don’t get to live on the boat. You stay either at pre-destined accommodations on land and you get to camp on uninhabited islands. Boat cruise tours usually last between 4 and 7 days. These tours even provide a great platform to get to know the local populace.
The benefits of a boat cruise becomes evident on the first morning when you come face to face with a new reef or atoll to explore, inhabited by a variety of marine life such as turtles, sharks, or manta rays, to name a few. Each morning is more or less this way, and during meal times the on-board chef provides brilliantly prepared fresh meals and snacks. On the way to a new island the boat captain and tour guide will engage you with talk about the island, its history, and what possible species you might encounter in those waters.
There will be many memorable moments on a boat cruise that you won’t experience stuck on an exclusive island. You get to swim with turtles, beautiful angel fish, and explore uninhabited islands. At night, you’re safe on land at predestined accommodations or on the beach in a warm tent.
Imagine yourself in that yoga pose while feeling the flow of your mind and body with every breath you take. You then inhale the very fresh inland or sea air, free of any kind of pollution. You may do your yoga on the beach to see and feel the pearl white sand and the clear and turquoise waters while feeling the waves strike the beach. There is no other place as tranquil, beautiful, and a paradise as the Maldives while doing any of the different yoga experiences guided by expert in-house yogis.
Yoga for Beginners
This is the usual introductory yoga instruction for anyone new to yoga. It includes easy postures, meditation, and breathing exercises.
Yoga for Stress
This is an easy and practical yoga technique to train the mind and body to work in harmony in order to release stress and bring in a healthier vibe.
Yoga for Back Pain
The sessions here are quite safe for people with back issues and even help to alleviate pain when done on a regular basis.
Yoga as Pre-Natal Aid
This yoga art helps pregnant women to focus complete attention on one area that usually leads to a state of peace and harmony.
Meditation is the yoga art of focusing your complete attention on one area that can lead to a state of complete harmony and peace.
Called Pranayama, this technique is used to measure, control, and direct a person’s breathing. The technique is used to restore and maintain the health of a person while increasing the capacity of the lungs to direct more oxygen into the whole body.
Called Yogic Sleep or Nindra, this is the extremely deep relaxation of the nervous system in order to heal the body by making it rest and recharge. This is the only yoga session done using the lying position.
This dynamic session is for people who prefer more of a workout. Yoga poses are done without stopping and are combined with yogic breathing.
Sunrise and Sunset Yoga
This session allows you to enjoy the sounds of the sea and the warmth of the sun on the beach. This session combines different poses, Pranayama breathing, and meditation.
Planning to spend the holidays in the Maldives? Wonderful and jolly good choice, and so, here are some minor things to remember before and during your travels.
All tourists are issued a 30-day visa, the normal valid international travel requirement issued by the Maldivian government as an entry permit to the country. There are daily flights from around the world to Velana International Airport (formerly Ibrahim Nasir International) in Malé City, the capital city. While some resort and holiday packages include flights, most do not, so you will need to book your own tickets in conjunction with whatever packages you procured. Almost all major airlines cover flights to and from the Maldives. If you booked for a holiday package, a representative will always be at whatever airport you are arriving to meet you.
The usual advice from resorts will be from November to April. However, the Maldives can be visited any time of the year since whether the weather is in the wet or dry season, the islands are always bathed in fair weather since they are not in the usual path of storms, hurricanes, or cyclones in the Indian Ocean.
If you are a diving and snorkelling enthusiast, there are available diving packages such as that offered by Adventure Maldives. Most of the islands are beautiful to explore underwater with natural rock formations, lagoons, and a variety of undersea life. Some islands have dive wrecks that date back to World War 2 or are old boats and ships that have been sunk purposely. For diving professionals, you only need to bring your C-cards, log books, and dive gear. Tanks and weights are provided in diving packages. Should you choose an itinerary for “live aboard diving,” the diving boats are first class and well maintained. The ocean is calm most of the time. Each diving boat has at least 3 Padi certified diving guide on board.
All resorts and travel firms in the Maldives accept most major credit and debit cards, except American Express and Diners Club. Bank transfers are also accepted. All credit cards are subject to a 5% fee. Currency accepted for transactions is the local currency Rufiyaa and U.S. Dollar. Other major currencies can be exchanged at all banks, tourist island resorts, and hotels.
This year, you finally got your family to agree to spend the Christmas holidays in the Maldives. This will be one of your best holiday choices especially for Christmas, spending the holidays surrounded by the beautiful clear and warm waters of the Indian Ocean instead of the freezing temperatures and snow.
The weather and temperature in the Maldives is almost consistent throughout the year, with only occasional rain showers during the wet season and a warm 30ºC. Of course, if you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, instead of snow, you’re surrounded by white and sun-illuminated beach sands.
The Christmas Season
Being a Muslim country, the Maldives does not officially celebrate Christmas. However, the island resorts cater to guests who opt for a Christmas dinner as well as a few decorations. It is suggested that instead of celebrating Christmas the traditional way, spend it with your family on a quiet and relaxing beach with the white sands and beautiful ocean all around.
As a Muslim country, pork products are not allowed on the local islands and there is very little chicken products. Island resorts are allowed to serve pork and chicken products, but finding roast turkey with potatoes for a Christmas dinner will be very hard. Instead, why not enjoy a Christmas dinner with the fish cuisine the Maldives is known for. There is a variety of delectable tuna, fish broth, spicy and non-spicy fish dishes, paired with rice cooked in coconut oil.
Explore the Islands
Even if you spend Christmas on an exclusive island resort, spend a day or two island hopping or exploring. You can explore other beaches, coves, islets, and atolls, or take a safari through the dense forest. You can experience having a massage on one of the islands while facing the clear waters or go on a yoga retreat for health and wellness during the holidays.
The Republic of Maldives president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will be sworn in as the nation’s only 7th president in Male City, since it became a republic in 1953. His swearing in is hailed as the end of the so-called “Maldives Crisis” created by the outgoing president, Abdulla Yameen.
India has also announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Male City to attend Solih’s swearing-in ceremony, another indication of the end of the crisis and an attempt to mend bilateral ties between the two countries that spiralled down during the Yameen government.
Still, although PM Modi has accepted the invitation of president-elect Solih’s invitation to the ceremony in order to mend ties, Modi has made it clear that his attendance “is not a bilateral visit.” However, it is a step in that direction “in keeping with its neighbourhood first policy as India looks forward to work closely with Maldives in further deepening the partnership.”
Ties between India and Maldives became strained under the presidency of Abdullah Yameen who preferred close ties with China. Some decisions by Yameen in the past such as the signing of a new Free Trade Agreement with Beijing and imposing restrictions on work visas for Indians did not sit well with the government of New Delhi. Relationships deteriorated further when Yameen imposed a 45 day “emergency” in February this year in order to arrest “political dissidents.”
Presidential elections in the Maldives were held on September 23, with Yameen being defeated by the joint opposition led by leader Ibrahim Solih. People are seeing Solih’s victory as a capping of the political upheaval and a return of the tourist paradise’s focus on the country’s number one economy: Tourism. Solih has in fact promised to increase marketing and infrastructure for tourism in order to attract more visitors to the islands especially during the winter months in other countries.
Aside from being the most beautiful tourist holiday getaway in Asia, if not the world, the Maldives is an important country for India’s maritime security especially in the Indian Ocean.