By Rachael Funk
The Maldives is a gorgeous getaway for anyone who wants sun, sand, and seafood. Though the resort islands are a world of their own and have more lenient rules than the inhabited islands, the nation itself is very conservative. Here are a few things to keep in mind to avoid making any faux pas and to ensure you have a problem-free trip!
Be out late in Malé City
The capital city of the Maldives has a curfew that starts around 10:00 pm. If you are waiting on a transfer to your island and have a little time to explore, make sure you’re back inside in time to comply with the mandate.
Bring banned items on your trip
A strictly Muslim country, the Maldives has a list of prohibited items that will not be allowed past customs. These include alcohol, any kind of drugs, pork, religious materials for distribution, and dogs. You can see a comprehensive list here: http://www.themaldives.com/travel/customs.html
Engage in PDA on inhabited islands
For straight and LGBTQ couples alike, public displays of affection on non-resort islands such as Malé City are considered extremely offensive and may result in punitive action. This includes behavior that is acceptable in the West, such as hand holding and kissing. Though homosexuality is strictly forbidden for residents, it is practically unheard of for LQBTQ visitors to have any issues on the resort islands. Until you reach your destination, discretion in the city is key for all traveling couples, regardless of orientation.
Touch pink corals
The local environment is very delicate in the Maldives, so do your part to help life thrive! While you are snorkeling, take care not to disrupt any of the ecosystems around you.
Expect free or speedy Wi-Fi
Keep in mind that the Maldives are a remote chain of islands and won’t have the same connectivity you may expect in a big city. Some resorts do include free Wi-Fi in their amenities, but don’t be surprised if the connection is slow and/or spotty. DO remember you’re in paradise, so shut that thing off and go explore the island instead!
Put off a trip
As the world’s lowest and flattest nation, some of the islands are slowly disappearing. Don’t miss a chance to see these spectacular worlds before they’re gone for good!
Dress modestly on inhabited islands
A good rule of thumb in all conservative countries is to err on the side of caution. On inhabited islands, women should keep their shoulders and legs covered and men may want to opt for long pants instead of shorts. Bikinis and topless sunbathing are strictly prohibited outside of non-resort islands, but once you’re at your resort, feel free to bust out your vacation swimsuit!
Remove your shoes at the door of a home or mosque
Before you enter a residence or place of worship, remove your shoes. Mosques should be entered barefoot. If you’re not sure if you should remove your shoes, take a peek at what other people are doing and follow suit, or ask someone! The locals are known for being very friendly and accommodating to tourists, so don’t be afraid to check with someone if you’re not sure what to do.
Be extra respectful during Ramadan
With a 100% Muslim population, strict fasting is observed by everyone during the month of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset. Because of this, many restaurants may be closed during the day. If you are on an inhabited island, avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in public.
Choose your souvenirs carefully
While items such as crafts made from coral or turtle shells may be available for purchase on the islands, it is illegal to export them. Be sure the keepsakes you pick are ones you can bring back with you!
Check out reef locations in proximity to your resort
Depending where you stay, you may be able to easily swim to the reefs, but some resort islands are surrounded by lagoons and may require a boat ride to get to them. If being near the reef is important to you, ask when you book to make sure your location is exactly what you expect.
Expect extra taxes due to import costs
In general, you will find a 10% service charge plus 8% goods and services tax (which changes often and may be higher by the time of your visit) on every receipt. Some resorts include them on their public prices, like restaurant menus, some do not. The taxes apply to whatever you use or consume on the island including activities, rentals, spa treatments, food, and drinks.
Bring lots of sunscreen
The island sits on the equator, which means the sun’s rays beat down at a 90 degree angle. The risk of sun damage increases there, so be sure to pack lots of sunscreen and sun protection such as hats, sleeves, and tightly woven clothing.