The softly lapping Indian Ocean has sculpted the Maldives into the most beautiful collection of islands in the world.
Its crystal clear turquoise lagoons and powdered beaches have long been a honeymoon hotspot, but in more recent years these dream islands have become a popular surfing, adventure and backpacking destination – meaning the Maldives has moved away from just being a romantic destination.
If you’re planning on going on your first Maldives holiday, or if you’ve been before a long time ago, it is worth working out what you will need to pack, the best attractions to visit and other activities to try during your holiday. Here we take you through some of the best insider tips to help you before you arrive.
While we all love going on holiday, something that most of us really don’t like is packing and a common mistake that we’ve all made is to pack too much. Before you start packing for your holiday to the Maldives, take a look at the items that you should definitely bring along.
Snorkel and mask
The Maldives is famed for its underwater wonders and the paradise islands are regarded for boasting some of the best diving and snorkelling spots in the world.
Paul, the editor of A Luxury Travel Blog, says that packing a snorkel and a mask is a must.
“The Maldives is home to some of the world’s most incredible house reefs so a snorkel and mask are a must. These warm waters of the Indian Ocean are home to some very rare marine life including the giant Napoleon Wrasse.”
Monica, who founded the adventure travel and affordable luxury blog The Travel Hack, agrees that packing a decent snorkel and mask in your suitcase is a great idea.
“The snorkelling in the Maldives is incredible, the water is so clear and there are so many fish to see. Most resorts will have snorkels and masks you can borrow but I recommend investing in a really good quality mask of your own that fits perfectly, won’t leak and won’t fog up.”
Sun hat, sunglasses and splash proof bag
Kiersten, a Californian native turned world traveller and founder of the popular travel blog The Blonde Abroad, says the essentials that she packed for her holiday to the Maldives were a sun hat, sunglasses and a splash proof bag.
“It gets hot on those white-sand beaches and you WILL need a hat. I love big brimmed hats for days by the resort pool and beach.
“Aloha bags (splash proof bags) are a lifesaver on any vacation involving bikinis. Use them as a sand proof bag for storing your phone on the beach, or pack your wet bikini inside to avoid soaking your other clothes. They’re water resistant so they keep water out or in depending on what you need!”
Sunglasses are also essential as they will help protect your eyes from the sun and will of course make you look even more stylish.
Whether its swim shorts or bikinis, an essential item you need to pack is swimwear as the Maldives is famed for its water-based activities.
It is wise to bring more than one swimwear outfit as you are likely to be spending a lot of time in the water, especially if you get hooked on snorkelling around the fascinating coral reefs.
It is worth noting that you will not be allowed to wear revealing swimwear such as bikinis or swimming trunks on inhabited islands, but you are free to wear what you like on the resort islands.
On inhabited islands men can wear swimming shorts, but women are asked to cover up their shoulders and knees.
Sun cream and a book
Jean, who runs the luxury travel site Holy Smithereens, says packing sun cream is an essential item.
She says, “Now the sunscreen, it’s my first time to try sunscreen in a spray can (in the Maldives).
“I prefer this much better than the traditional bottle/cream. First, it’s quick! And most importantly, the formula is not sticky. It feels much thinner than a lotion form, and I actually thought it would have less coverage because of that. But I didn’t get or feel any burns at all (compared to my previous trips in the Philippines and Tahiti).”
Bringing a book or two is another great idea as no matter whether you’re relaxing on the beach or are on a boat trip; it is the perfect time to lose yourself in a gripping novel.
It can be difficult to choose what type of clothes you want to wear in the evenings of your holiday and you can often end up packing far too much.
Every resort is different, but generally, laid-back luxury is the vibe most resorts go for. So ladies can wear anything from cocktail dresses to maxi dresses to shorts, whilst men can wear full-length trousers, smart shorts and collared shirts.
Attractions to visit and activities to try
Book a boat trip
There are more than 1,100 coral islands that make-up the Maldives so naturally boat trips are a popular activity for many visitors.
Monica from The Travel Hack recommends going on a boat trip, “I’d recommend taking as many boat trips as you can to explore the waters. I took scuba diving trips, snorkelling trips, fishing trips and whale watching trips and I loved them all. It’s a great way to see a different side to the islands and try something new.”
Stay in a water villa
We’re sure that you’ve seen the luxurious water villas that the Maldives is home to and spending a couple of nights in one of these should certainly be on your bucket list.
In an article on A Luxury Travel Blog they recommend this as a must-do experience in the Maldives.
“There is nothing quite like staying in a water villa or overwater bungalow during your time in the Maldives. Imagine waking up to astounding views of the calm blue lagoon around you. Many resorts in the Maldives offer luxurious water villas set upon spacious living quarters. Of the 80 plus resorts dotted around the Maldives, two thirds of rooms available are water villas with features including a glass floor section to see marine life at your feet.”
Use the local ferries
Often visitors to the Maldives will jump on a speedboat or a seaplane to transfer from the airport to their resort, but Nick and Dariece from Goats on the Road recommend using the local ferry.
“If time isn’t a factor for you, consider using the public ferry for transfer. The public ferries are used by the local Maldivians to travel between the capital & other islands. While there won’t be any welcome drink or wet tissues upon boarding, it will take you from point A to point B safely for as low as $2 – $3.
“If you can time your flight to match with the public ferry timings, you’ll save upwards of $100!”
The timing of these ferries can vary and they do only run a few days of the week and at specific times. To find out more about the schedule for ferries, click here.
If you are staying on a resort island you should look to book an excursion to get an insight into local life and to do this you’ll need to visit one of the officially designated inhabited islands.
Up until 2009 you would have needed a permit to explore the inhabited islands, but now these islands are open to day trips and overnight stays.
Overnight stays will naturally give you more time to explore, allowing you to enjoy boduberu (traditional folk music and dance), wander the local villages and sample the local foods, which you can read about in our guide eating your way around the Maldives.
Travellers will need to cover their shoulders and knees up so if you’re taking a day trip you’ll need to wear a t-shirt and trousers, shorts, or skirts which go over the knee.
Try some different water sports
Lots of resorts in the Maldives will give you the opportunity to try many different water sports and you should definitely try some of these activities.
Canoeing, windsurfing and catamaran sailing are some of the most popular water sports that you can try as well as banana boat rides, paragliding, jet skiing, fly boarding and water-skiing.
Resorts such as Kurumba boast lots of water sports facilities and just a short ride away from this particular resort is one of the prime spots for surfing in the world: Male Atoll. You can enjoy surfing lessons or if you’re a more experienced surfer, you will be able to instantly enjoy the great surf in the area.
The surfing season in North Male Atoll runs from mid-April to mid-October.
Other useful tips
Take lots of US Dollars
While the Maldives has its own currency and you can pay for most things by card, it is worth taking some cash with you.
“Though the Maldives has its own currency, US dollars are widely accepted, and you often get a better price if you pay in USD. This varies from one restaurant or shop to another, so I carried both currencies with me and paid in whatever currency had a lower price. (Though you’re talking the difference of 50 cents, every penny counts!)
“Moreover, Maldivian ATMs charge 100 MVR ($6.50 USD) per withdrawal. Taking cash or making one large withdrawal eliminates or reduces those fees (and so does having a bank that reimburses those fees).”
Rules outside the resorts
The majority of Maldivians are Muslim and this means there are strict rules around drinking alcohol.
Holidaymakers are not allowed to bring alcohol into the country or drink it outside of their resorts on inhabited islands.
If you like to relax with a nice cold beer or cocktail you don’t need to worry as the resorts and liveaboard boats are licenced to serve alcohol.