Why should I never visit Maldives

Malé: Tips for your trip

Malé is the capital of the Maldives. Most travelers, however, only know them from the air. If you want to take a closer look at the densely built-up island, you will find useful tips on sights and hotels here.

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Table of Contents

The Maldives is one of those places where opinions differ. Tropical paradise for some, luxury ghetto for others. Tourism is the most important industry in the Maldives, and so the various Maldivian presidents have been working since the 1970s / 80s to attract as many (and as wealthy) tourists as possible and to make their vacation as pleasant as possible.

The main island and capital Malé was left out because the locals live here under strict Islamic laws. Champagne on one island, alcohol ban on the other. Of course, that has tastes and is always criticized. Not much has changed in that respect to this day, but the isolation of the capital, Malé, is noticeably weakening.

Many travelers are no longer satisfied with ten days of luxury resorts, but also want to get in touch with the locals and their culture. Individual tourism is now possible without any problems and is increasing significantly.

That's good, we say, because Malé definitely deserves more attention! You can find out why here. Have fun while reading!

Travel tips for Male

Malé is not only the island where the absolute majority of the local people live, but also the heart of the island nation. This is where the hospitals, the seat of government, the largest port and also: normal life are located.

You can feel this best when the day draws to a close and Malé comes to life. As if the starting gun were being fired, the scooters rattled off. The streets are full and narrow, it's hot, the roar of the scooters echoes off every wall.

The locals gather on the main streets, sit outside in cafes, laugh, drink tea and smoke shisha together. This is Malé.

What Malé is not: A stronghold of Islamist assassins and / or an anarchist cauldron. Unfortunately, both of these things often read that way in media reports. This is certainly also due to the fact that the Federal Foreign Office advised against a trip to Malé after political unrest in 2018.

The tone on the AA website has long since become more moderate and the same travel warning has already been issued for various Asian capitals - but Malé still cannot shake this reputation.

Yes, the Maldives is also a strictly Islamic state. No question. All Islamic laws apply here and are not interpreted very liberally. So you have to live with at least dressing yourself sensibly on the “Local Islands” and avoiding alcohol - feasible, we think.

Worth knowing in advance

And what's up with the Local Islands? Well, that's probably the biggest criticism of the Maldives: There are basically two states. The locals live in one, around 250 islands.

And in the other, the tourists spend their holidays in their chic holiday resorts. This separation was strict until 2009; Tourists were forbidden to visit the Local Islands, and the locals were only allowed to work on the tourist islands as workers.

There was fear of moral decline among the locals, triggered by the western-liberal way of life of the foreign visitors. Fortunately, that has softened in the meantime, today tourists are also welcome on the local islands such as Malé.

Around 5,000 people once lived on the tranquil little island of Malé - today it is considered mercilessly overpopulated. 41 percent of the country's people live here, that's around 150,000 inhabitants on just under 7 km².

Hardly any other island in the world is so densely populated. Malé is therefore extremely densely built up and is still bursting at the seams. Through artificial land reclamation, Malé will (have to) expand significantly in the next few years.

At the same time, the entire island state is literally threatened with extinction. The Maldives are just a few meters above sea level and are therefore at risk from global warming. For this reason, Parliament held an underwater climate conference in October 2009, which was very effective in the media, as a kind of protest.

orientation

Malé refers to both the main island and the capital of the Maldives. It is located in the Indian Ocean on the southern edge of the North Malé Atoll and thus in the center of the country.

Malé consists of six districts, four of which are on the island of Malé, plus Villingili, west of the main island, and Hulhulé with the international airport and Hulhulmalé to the northeast.

What to do in Malé in

Sights and excursions

Masjid Al-Sultan (mosque and Islamic center)

The largest mosque in the country was established in 1984. The white facade with the golden dome is a really magnificent sight. Around 5,000 believers fit into the prayer hall. The mosque is open to visitors all day outside of prayer times. Just please note the dress code!

View on the map

Old Friday Mosque (Hukuru Miskiyy)

One of the oldest mosques in the city is in the neighborhood. Parts of the complex are from the 17th century. Coral blocks were used in the construction. There are elaborate carvings to marvel at. The mosque was added to the temporary UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Sultan Park

Sultan's Park is a beautiful oasis in busy Malé. The former palace garden is now a public park and recreational area for the people of the city.

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National Museum

The National Museum of the Maldives is also located in the Sultan Park. The country's history is told here using archaeological finds and cultural exhibits. Entry is 38 rufiyaa (around € 3).

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Fish Market

One of the absolute highlights of Malé is the fish market. Here you can really immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the islanders and experience the market day with all your senses - especially with your sense of smell. It's busiest here in the early morning, when the fish market is just opening, and a more relaxed stroll is in the early afternoon.

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Republic Square / Jumhooree Maidhaan

The first thing you see when you come to Malé by boat from the airport is Republic Square with its huge flagpole. A great place for photos and to orientate yourself.

View on the map

Tsunami memorial

The Tsunami Monument is also a very special building - both because of its importance and the way it was built. The Maldives were also affected by the devastating tsunami in 2004, when over 110 people died in the capital. The tsunami memorial commemorates the accident and its victims.

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Snorkeling trips and island hopping

From Malé you can go on snorkeling and diving trips as well as island tours without any problems. The offer is huge, so it is best if you simply find out more on site. Your accommodation will surely help you with the organization and there are also numerous providers on Majedhee Magu Road.

Eating & Drinking: Restaurants in Malé

There are two things that are absolutely essential in local Maldivian cuisine: fish and coconut. Sure, both are easily available here. Otherwise you will notice a great similarity to the cuisine of India and Sri Lanka, especially in terms of spiciness.

The dishes are usually served with rice and / or roshi, a flatbread baked in a pan, also known as roti elsewhere. If you want to try the local cuisine in a very authentic and inexpensive way, it is best to go to one of the small restaurants at the fish market.

These are absolutely unbeatable in terms of price, experience and taste. The fruit and vegetable market next door is also a feast for all the senses! And of course you can also buy delicious snacks here.

Otherwise it is obvious that everything that is not available there has to be imported. In Malé, however, the food is still relatively cheap, even a pizza with imported cheese can be bought for as little as € 2.50.

Popular local dishes include hiki mas (dried fish), mas huni (tuna salad, eaten with roshi for breakfast) or mas riha (fish goulash). And you learned your first Divehi vocabulary right away: Fish means “Mas”.

Nightlife in Male

Malé is not a party island, which shouldn't come as a surprise at this point. You can only find bars in the classic sense in international hotels. Alcohol is forbidden on the Muslim island, the really only place where you can drink, if you absolutely have to, is the hotel bar of the Island Hotel on the airport island of Hulhulé.

In Malé, however, there are small restaurants, cafes and tea rooms on every corner. After the last prayer of the day, the locals prefer to stroll along Majedhee Magu Road or by the sea.

Shopping: Shopping tips for Malé

There are many small shops and boutiques in Malé. The best streets for shopping are the two main streets, Majedhee Magu Road, which runs directly across the island from east to west, and Chaandhanee Magu, which runs north to south.

Here you will find shops to stroll around everywhere. At the northern end of Chaandanee Magu you will find a number of shops and street stalls that are called the “Singapore Bazaar” because of their range of goods, but are also officially called simply “Chaandhanee Magu”.

This is a real treasure trove for kitsch and souvenirs. The shops are usually open all day, of course there is only a short break during Muslim prayer times.

Male with child

The Maldives are a great beach holiday destination for the whole family - but everyone has to know for themselves whether this also applies to the main island of Malé in particular.

A short stopover with children is certainly perfectly fine, for a longer stay there are simply not enough leisure activities for children, which is why the days could be a bit long.

There are some children's playgrounds in Malé, especially in the capital's parks.

Tips for your stay in Malé

Overnight in Malé

Since Malé is neither particularly large nor particularly touristy, the available accommodations are quickly identified. The cheap guest houses are around 40 - 50 € per night, in the middle segment you should plan 80 - 150 €, and the most exclusive accommodation, the Jen Maldives Malé by Shangri-La (with a great pool on the roof terrace), is for around 200 € per night your host. Many hotels on Hulhumalé are located directly at the airport.

Public transportation

The closest thing to public transport in Malé is probably the dhoni. These are motor boats that were once used to transport goods and are now used as ferries between nearby islands.

The chance to come into contact with locals here is very good, as they also like to use dhonis. Accordingly, tickets are very cheap, just be at the branch 30 minutes before departure.

There is no public transport in Malé itself, but it is not necessary either. You walk a maximum of 30 minutes from one end of the island to the other. The locals are of course mostly on the move by scooter.

Budget: How expensive is Malé?

The Maldives are not, and they don't want to be, budget travelers. But what about apart from the luxury islands in Malé? The main island has the best local infrastructure with shops, markets and cheap restaurants and cafes.

You pay significantly less for food and drinks here than on the holiday islands, that should be clear. Accommodation is also much cheaper than on the islands, if only because there is more to choose from. So when we talk about the Maldives, Malé is one of the most affordable islands.

ATM / Withdraw money in Malé

When it comes to making money and withdrawing money, it depends a lot on how you travel. On the holiday islands, cash is actually only needed for tips, small purchases and excursions, so you don't need much.

That is why there are ATMs on the holiday islands at most in the hotel - sometimes not even there. Most tourists only consume food and drinks in the hotel and at the end of their stay there is the bill - in US dollars, by the way. Payment is made directly by credit card.

But if you are in Malé, you will of course need cash to eat, shop and maybe also for your accommodation. There are enough ATMs in the capital, so you don't have to worry about that.

You won't get US dollars there either, but the local currency rufiyaa. All major credit cards are accepted, but EC cards only very rarely.

At this point we would like to point out the following: The banks in the Maldives do indeed sometimes charge astronomical withdrawal fees, the equivalent of € 10 is not uncommon.

Even if this fact can lead you to rarely withdraw a big chunk of money, we would rather advise you to find the golden mean. Nobody should ever be walking around with their pockets full of cash - annoying as those fees are.

Unfortunately, nobody can spare you them, but with a credit card that allows free withdrawals abroad, you can at least avoid the foreign fees of your own bank. Having a small cash reserve in US dollars with you never hurts either.

The best travel credit card for the Maldives

You can save a lot of money on your travels with the right credit card. Here you can find out which cards you can use to withdraw cash free of charge worldwide and pay in local currency at no additional cost. And who is currently the only provider who reimburses you for third-party fees at the machine, for example in Thailand or Vietnam.

Here is the credit card comparison

Medical care in Malé

The Maldives are not a malaria area. Nevertheless, you should not neglect exposure prophylaxis with DEET-containing mosquito spray, because the number of infections with dengue fever has been increasing rapidly for some time.

The only way to protect yourself from this is to be careful not to get stung. There are also other unpleasant diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes. You don't want any of them.

Apart from mosquitoes, there are no significant dangers on land, apart from the possibility of developing traveler's diarrhea. But this is harmless and usually over after three days. However, if you get a fever, always have Uncle Doc check you out - especially if it rises quickly.

What you should know, however, are the dangers in the water or under the water surface. There are a few of them. All kinds of animals live around the islands and most of them are completely harmless. But then there are poisonous stone fish, corals, jellyfish, stingrays and the like.

Serious collisions with wildlife are rare, but it can't hurt to just be careful where you step if you're about to plunge into the waves. As a rule, the hotels also warn of anything that could actually be dangerous - e.g. if there is an increased number of jellyfish or dangerous currents.

And last but not least: You should of course never underestimate the blazing tropical sun when it comes to sun protection and hydration!

One way or another, get advice from a trained tropical medicine doctor before your trip.

There are many English-speaking hospitals on Malé, but whether these meet international standards is questionable. The Federal Foreign Office recommends moving to India or Sri Lanka in the event of serious illness. Normal travel ailments are always treated in Malé, for example here:

Tree Top Hospital
Address: Asurumaa Hingun, Malé, Maldives
Phone: + 9603351610
Homepage: https://treetophospital.com/
Opening hours: 24/7

There are a few pharmacies in Malé, so should you ever need medication, that's not a problem. Even if your English skills are generally very good, you should be able to explain precisely and simply what medication you need and what for.

Having a personal first-aid kit with you definitely doesn't hurt.

Medical treatment abroad must be paid for immediately on site, anytime and anywhere, as our domestic health insurance does not apply outside the European Union.If you have international health insurance, you can have the costs reimbursed later. To do this, you should definitely keep every single proof of treatment and payment, even if someone just sticks a plaster on you.

Packing list for Malé

What else do you need besides a credit card and swimming trunks or bikini? Well, a lot more. Have a look at our packing list - after that we have thought of everything!

You can easily buy everyday items in Malé, so don't worry about shower gel and bath towels.

Climate, weather, best travel time

As in every South Asian country, the year in the Maldives is divided into rainy and dry seasons. The months of November to April are considered the best travel time, the main season is in March.

From May to October, the southwest monsoon brings the rainy season across the country. But that does not mean that these months are canceled for traveling. Temperatures of over 25 ° C are usually guaranteed - all year round!

Malé: events, festivals and holidays

You don't have any contact with it on the holiday islands, but definitely in the capital: Of course, all Islamic holidays and times apply to the Maldives, such as Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr, the festival of the breaking of the fast.

In addition, there are some secular holidays when businesses may be closed. You can find the complete overview here.

facts and figures

How is the time change?

Malé (GMT / UTC +5) is five hours ahead of Germany, Austria and Switzerland during summer time and four hours in winter time.

What is the currency like?

The local currency has the beautiful name Rufiyaa, sometimes also called the Maldivian rupee. One rufiyaa makes 100 laari.

The rufiyaa exchange rate is closely linked to the US dollar, as tourists usually pay everything in US currency. There are banknotes in the amount of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 rufiyaa and coins of 1 and 2 rufiyaa.

The euro is also occasionally accepted as a means of payment, but that is more of the exception that you should not rely on. You can check the current exchange rate here.

What language is spoken?

The official language of the Maldives is Dhivehi, which has an elaborate and complicated alphabet called Thaana. To learn that on the side - forget it. But you don't have to, because thanks to tourism, English is extremely widespread in the Maldives and you usually have no communication problems at all.

At the same time, of course, it cannot be assumed that every street vendor and market woman can master flawless Oxford English - but for such cases there are still hands, feet and a smile.

How many people live in Malé?

Over 40% of the country's population in the Maldives lives in the capital Malé, which is around 150,000 people.

post

The Malé post office is located in close proximity to the Hulhulé ferry. You can also send postcards from any hotel, the Maldivian Post is considered very reliable.

WLAN / SIM card

Having free WiFi in the hotel is a matter of course in the Maldives, especially in the capital Malé. Most cafes and restaurants also offer their guests free wifi.

The surfing speed is perfectly fine to orientate yourself and to be active in social networks.

If you want to use mobile internet, you can buy a cheap SIM card with data volume - for example at the airport or in small street shops. The best providers for prepaid tariffs are Dhiraagu and Ooredoo.

Travel guide to the Maldives

If you want to turn the page again on the way, you can do so, for example, in the English-language Lonely Planet. There are not many German-speaking travel guides to the Maldives - but we are sure that you can get along well without them, especially if you spend most of your time on a resort island.

The e-book “Discover the Maldives on your own” is available exclusively from us.

Arrival and onward travel

Malé International Airport (official name: Velana International Airport) has the airport abbreviation MLE.

The flight time to Malé is 9-10 hours for a direct flight, for a flight with a stopover the transfer time (e.g. in Dubai) is added accordingly.

When you arrive in the Maldives, you won't find yourself in Malé at first, but in Hulhulé. Hulhulé is only about one and a half kilometers from Malé, and both islands are connected by a bridge and by regular ferries.

So don't worry about getting stranded on Hulhulé.

But be careful: If you want to travel to an island other than Malé by seaplane, you should pay attention to the latest departure times. Because of the no-night flight ban, these are in the late afternoon and there is a maximum of waiting times. And after that, all you have to do is stop over in the capital. That has often led to tears at the airport.

There are direct flights from Germany to Malé, but flights with a stopover are generally cheaper. Here you will find tips on how to find the cheapest flights. Skyscanner is suitable as a flight search engine.

If you want to travel on from Malé on your own, there are only two options: air or water. The everyday means of transport include the speedboat and the seaplane - a real experience for everyone who is new to it.

In any case, inquire locally about the best method to achieve your goal. It is still the exception that tourists move around on their own, which is why there is little general information such as ferry schedules.

In the vast majority of cases, the accommodation with which the reservation was made will organize the journey from Malé.

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Photos:

Bridge from the airport to Male, aerial view of Male, aerial view of Male and Airport 2, Male Panorama and Male Airport from Shutterstock.com

Jumhooree Maidhaan from JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock.com

Tsunami Monument by Sarath maroli / Shutterstock.com

National Museum of Sana naeem / Shutterstock.com

Street scene Male, shops in Male from The Road Provides / Shutterstock.com

Fruit and Vegetable Market, Old Friday Mosque by Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com

Malé Fish Market by Damian Pankowiec / Shutterstock.com

Masjidh Al-Sulthan by Damian Pankowiec / Shutterstock.com

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About the author

Josie lives in Hamburg and lost her heart to Southeast Asia many years ago. Her main job is in the office, but whenever time permits, she takes the plane eastwards. In addition to her great loves Cambodia and Myanmar, to which she returns again and again, she and her camera also enjoy discovering new places, markets and food. You can find more pictures and stories from Josie on Instagram.

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