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Maldives 101: Everything You Need to Know

Thinking about visiting this paradise destination? Here is everything you need to know before you go on your Maldives holiday. I have included a Maldives island guide with all the islands I have visited with island reviews and suggestions. I have shared all the information and facts I know about travel in the Maldives after a year and a half of working there.

Here is everything you need to know about your Maldives holiday whether it’s a luxury resort or a budget Maldives trip to experience local islands in the Maldives.

Please note: this Maldives travel blog is being updated in 2022. Some of the local islands and the resort islands I visited before covid and then my next budget Maldives trip was in mid 2022, post covid pandemic.

How many islands are there in the Maldives?

There are 1192 islands of which approximately 200 are inhabited. It is the smallest country in Asia! The islands are grouped into 26 atolls.

Maldives on the cheap Thulusdhoo Local Island Maldives
Local Island or Resort?
Where is the Maldives?

The Maldives is in the Indian Ocean and a short flight from both Southern India and Sri Lanka.

How to get to the Maldives?

The main airport that you can fly into is Velana International Airport near the capital city and island of Male (pronounced Maa-ley). Visiting the Maldives from India or Sri Lanka is cheap way to find budget flights to the Maldives. Flying from other countries in Asia like Thailand or Malaysia is also a budget option to visit the Maldives.

Do you need a visa for the Maldives?

The Maldives offer a one month free visa on arrival to almost every nationality. Check with your government website to make sure.

What’s the weather like in the Maldives?

The Maldives is a tropical country in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It therefore has hot, humid weather and experiences monsoon seasons.

What temperature is it in the Maldives?

It is usually around 30 degrees Celsius in the Maldives and it rarely changes much over the year.

When is the best time of year to visit the Maldives?

It depends which islands and atolls you are planning to visit on your Maldives holiday. For most atolls the rainy season is between May to October. However, this definitely doesn’t mean that it will rain every day and the weather is extremely unpredictable. Rainy season also brings ocean adventures and is the best time to see manta rays in Hanifaru bay.

Maldives 101: What is a resort island?

A resort island refers to an island which is owned by a hotel. Resort Islands in the Maldives range from luxury travel destinations to cheaper, affordable resorts like Kihaa and Bandos Maldives. Resort islands can serve alcohol, guests can wear any clothing and the whole island is the resort and staff usually live on the same island in staff accommodation.

Photo of the picturesque arrival jetty at Kihaa
Kihaa Resort
What is a local island in the Maldives?

A local island is where Maldivians live and work and local islands are different to resort islands.

What is the difference between local islands and resort islands?

You cannot legally drink alcohol on a local island and you will not be able to buy alcohol on local islands in the Maldives. There are no bars or places to drink on local islands. Another main difference is that you are expected to respect the local customs and culture when visiting local islands in the Maldives, whereas resort islands are merely a holiday destination and guests are rarely expected to adhere to local customs and laws.

Maldives 101 : Can I stay on a local island?

Yes! I strongly recommend experiencing and staying on a local island in the Maldives. I love visiting local islands and I think it is a great way to experience the real Maldives. Read all about local islands on this post.

Photo of local island Thulusdhoo
Visit Thulusdhoo: One of my favourite local islands only 30 minutes from Male airport
If I stay at a resort can I visit a local island?

Yes. Many Maldives resorts will offer local island tours where you are given a tour around a nearby local island.

 What religion is the Maldives?

Many people are surprised that the Maldives’ only religion is Islam. Maldivians must be muslim by law.

Is the Maldives only a honeymoon destination?

Absolutely not. During the 1.5 years I spent living and working in the Maldives, I travelled with friends, family and lovers. If you are a diver or would like to learn to scuba dive with PADI or SSI,  or you just love being in the water then the Maldives is a perfect holiday destination for you because of all the things you can do in the Maldives. 

Staying in Gulhi with my family and beach walks with my Mum
Can I travel solo in the Maldives?

I am a huge fan of solo travel around Asia, particularly travelling as a solo female. However, the Maldives has certain challenges when travelling solo, mainly the cost of rooms and there are limited ways to meet other travellers. That said, I have been and enjoyed my solo travel

Backpacker Maldives: Can I backpack in the Maldives?

There are no hostels and therefore you cannot find budget accommodation like in India and Sri Lanka and South East Asia. Even on local islands in the Maldives the cost of accommodation is from $30-$50 per night. There are still affordable Maldives hotels on local islands but note it will not be backpacker rates like some other countries in Asia.

Can I travel solo and stay in luxury resorts?

Yes, you definitely can if you can afford the expensive resorts in the Maldives. Generally speaking, the cheapest resort is around $300 US dollars per night so travelling with someone and sharing the cost of a luxury resort makes it more affordable.

Can I travel solo in the Maldives and stay in a guesthouse on a local island?

Yes. Guesthouses start from around $40 per night so staying on local islands is a much more affordable option for solo travel than staying in a luxury Maldives resort. If you are a diver or join other trips such as dolphin watching or snorkelling trips, then you are likely to find other like-minded travellers as well.

What is the cheapest time to go to the Maldives?

For staying in luxury resorts the cheapest time will be rainy season so between the months of May- October. The most expensive season is over Christmas and New Year and many resorts experience full occupancy.

How many days do you need in the Maldives?

I think this depends on what activities you are planning to do on your Maldives vacation. For honeymooners staying at expensive resorts, many stay for around 4-5 days to experience a luxury resort. For me personally, I could easily spend a month island hopping around different islands.

Cheap diving in the Maldives with tiger sharks
Big fans of our dive boat
How to travel around the Maldives?

Boats and airplanes. If you are staying at a resort then the resort will usually arrange a speedboat transfer or a seaplane or a domestic flight for you at an additional cost. If you are staying on local islands then you can take a speedboat transfer from the airport or from Male. Ferries are the cheapest way to travel around the Maldives as domestic flights can still be expensive (around $200 return).

What are the cheapest resorts in the Maldives?

The cheapest resorts will be resorts that are near to Male  and near to the airport because you will not have to pay for expensive seaplane transfers or domestic flights. Kihaa Resort is one of the best budget resorts although it is not near Male, it is in Baa atoll.

What are the cheapest local islands in the Maldives?

Many local islands offer budget accommodation and cheap diving and affordable excursions. Here I have written about the local islands of Gulhi, Maafushi, Dhiffushi, Thoddoo , Fuvahmulah and Thulusdhoo.

How to plan a Maldives trip on a low budget?

The best budget Maldives trip will be to local islands. I’ve written blog posts about all the different local Maldivian islands I have visited here for you to choose which island to visit and what activities you can do on each island. On this blog post I have suggested a perfect Maldives itinerary.

What to bring to the Maldives?

I have written a separate blog post about what items to bring to the Maldives and an important packing guide for your Maldives trip.

Maldives on the cheap Thulusdhoo Local Island Maldives

Maldives 101: What to wear in the Maldives?

This depends if you are intending to visit local islands. In resort islands anything goes and you are welcome to wear whatever you like, including bikinis. Most local islands that welcome tourists now have bikini beaches so you can wear a bikini and swimsuit on these beaches on local islands but should cover up when walking around the rest of the island. Click to this Maldives blog post for information about what to pack for the Maldives. 

Can unmarried couples visit the Maldives?

Yes definitely. Both resorts and local island guesthouses welcome unmarried couples and this is no problem at all. Guesthouses can refuse to accept an unmarried couple where one of the party is Maldivian and I have heard of this happening to friends. However, I have never personally experienced this and all guesthouses and hotels that I recommend I was able to stay at in a mixed nationality couple.

Is it safe to visit the Maldives?

I have always felt safe travelling in the Maldives and staying on different islands.

How much does it cost to go to the Maldives?

This definitely depends on how much you are willing to spend! Resorts start from $300 per night and can rise to $40,000 per night for private islands. Guesthouses on local islands usually range from $40-100 per night.




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Visit Dhiffushi Island: Local Island Maldives

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Local Island Guide Maldives: Dhiffushi Island

Dhiffushi is probably one of the smallest local islands that I have visited in the Maldives so far. A walk, all around it, only took approximately 20 minutes. For such a tiny island it has some budget accommodation, boutique hotels and a white sand stretch of beach around most of the island. It is also the first local island that I have been to so far that had seagrass growing in the shallows which means good snorkelling and chance of green turtles who feed on seagrass.

Gorgeous stretches of sand all around the island
Cheap Maldives vacation: What to do in Maldives, Dhiffushi

Although Dhiffushi is a tiny island, it offered all the usual water activities that you would expect in the Maldives like kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, kite surfing, scuba diving, snorkelling, banana boats, wakeboarding are just a few of the activities I saw both tourists and locals doing while I was there.

Snorkelling in Dhiffushi Island

While the visibility was not great during my snorkelling afternoon in Dhiffushi, the seagrass growing there, along with some patches of coral off of the bikini beach mean that there is a decent area for snorkelling.

The main bikini beach with seagrass for snorkelling
Marine Life Maldives: Dhiffushi Island

I saw a variety of reef fish while snorkelling and a couple of stingrays came close to the beach in the evening , right into the shallows. I also suspect that this is a good area to spot turtles because of the seagrass growing in the shallows of the beach. Because of the nearby resort (which is almost close enough to swim to) there is quite a lot of boat traffic.

Cheap Scuba Diving in the Maldives: Dhiffushi Island

I didn’t dive in Dhiffushi but I saw divers going for a shore dive which means that costs would be kept cheap by not paying for a speedboat. If you aren’t already a scuba diver and are interested in learning, then do your Open Water course with a local dive centre through PADI or SSI. 

Dhiffushi Island Accommodation: Where to stay in Dhiffushi

I loved the guesthouse that we stayed in, Infinity Dhiffushi (Agoda) or (Booking.com  Infinity Dhiffushi). The owner was really friendly, the rooms were clean and well equipped and we enjoyed the upstairs restaurant with sea views. Breakfast was included and was pancakes with maple syrup and apple slices with tea or coffee and an orange juice. I paid a work permit rate of approximately $50 per room per night which is great budget accommodation in the Maldives. They also arranged our boat transfer and let us extend by an extra day when we decided to stay longer. There was no problem for a Maldivian national to stay with a foreigner.

Bikini Beach in Dhiffushi

You can wear a bikini on the two bikini beaches in Dhiffushi. You can wear a bikini while on the beach, however it is not considered respectful to walk around in a bikini or bikini top so take a cover up. Our guesthouse said there was no need to cover shoulders and knees and shorts were fine to wear around the island. Men should also not walk around topless.

Drinking alcohol in the Maldives: Dhiffushi

Dhiffushi is a local island and therefore under Maldivian law you cannot drink or buy alcohol on this island. However, as it is not too far from Thulusdhoo island there is a floating bar next to this island which I am sure a speedboat would take you to for a small fee. Floating bars in the Maldives are actually liveaboard boats with licenses to sell alcohol so you can take a short speedboat to these safari boats to have a drink or enjoy a party boat evening. Drinks are not expensive, a rum and coke was approximately $5. I was recently told that one of Thulusdhoo’s floating bar boats is only open on Thursday so check with your guesthouse or places advertising trips.

Stroll around Dhiffushi island for sunset views and these cute swings
Dhiffushi Restaurants: Where to Eat

Cozy cafe near the harbour was great for local Maldivian food although it took some explaining to get a vegetarian meal there! Eventually I got a vegetable kottu roshi which I enjoyed. The Kettle also has a cute beach front to enjoy the sea view while eating and I enjoyed the food and fruit smoothies at the upstairs restaurant near the water sports.

Transport to Dhiffushi from Male

You can take the speedboat from Male or from the airport to Dhiffushi. The journey takes around 30 minutes and costs 175 rufiya for work permit holders/Maldivian Nationals.

Speedboat Schedule for Dhiffushi to Male Ferry
Contact the number above by calling or on whatsapp to organise your ferry booking
Dhiffushi Location

Dhiffushi is one of the local islands close to the airport and to Male. It is very easy to travel to islands in Kaafu Atoll (Male atoll) because Male has such good speedboat and ferry transport options. This means it is a cheap option because the speedboat isn’t too expensive.

More wings on local islands – Dhiffushi Island Wings
More Travel Advice for Visiting the Maldives on my Travel Blog:

For further information about staying on Maldives local islands, read my post of Maldives FAQs here

For the cheapest island to visit in the Maldives, check out Maafushi for cheap diving and water sports.

This is the quietest island in the Maldives where you can avoid the crowds, check out Gulhi island. It also has the best beach in the Maldives (that I’ve seen so far!) Thoddoo also has one of the best bikini beaches in the Maldives that is also full of turtles!

For the best budget scuba diving in the Maldives (and some of the top diving of my life) find out about Fuvahmulah island.

Planning a Maldives trip? Read my Maldives packing list here

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