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Holidays in Maldives

Understanding Maldives

History

Formerly a Sultanate under Dutch and British protection, the Maldives are now a republic Long ruled over with an iron fist by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who did not hesitate to jail dissidents and was re-elected five times in more or less rigged elections, resistance to his rule culminated in violent rioting in 2003 and 2004 Much to everybody's surprise, free and fair elections were finally held in 2008, and Gayoom gracefully conceded defeat to opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed, "Anni"

The Tsunami of 26 December 2004 caused extensive damage to the Maldives - of a population of only 290,000, over a third was directly affected by the tsunami and more than 29,000 people were left homeless The economic damage alone was over 62% of the GDP or US$470 million

Some islands, including Thaa atoll Vilufushi, felt the brunt of the wave, and residents on the island are now living in temporary shelters on the island of Buruni in the same atoll More than a year later, there are in excess of 11,000 people in temporary shelters across the country It was a brutal shock to the small island state which is so vulnerable to environmental disasters and global warming

Economy

Tourism, Maldives largest industry, accounts for 20% of GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts Over 90% of government tax revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes Almost 400,000 tourists visited the islands in 1998 Fishing is a second leading sector The Maldivian Government began an economic reform program in 1989 initially by lifting import quotas and opening some exports to the private sector Subsequently, it has liberalized regulations to allow more foreign investment Agriculture and manufacturing continue to play a minor role in the economy, constrained by the limited availability of cultivable land and the shortage of domestic labor Most staple foods must be imported Industry, which consists mainly of garment production, boat building, and handicrafts, accounts for about 18% of GDP Maldivian authorities worry about the impact of erosion and possible global warming on their low-lying country; 80% of the area is one meter or less above sea level

Culture

Maldivians are almost entirely Sunni Muslim, and the local culture is a mixture of South Indian, Sinhalese and Arab influences While alcohol, pork, dogs and public observance of non-Muslim religions are banned on the inhabited islands, the resort islands are allowed to exist in a bubble where anything goes

Note that the weekend in the Maldives runs from Friday to Saturday, during which banks, government offices and many shops are closed You won't notice this at the resorts though, except that lunch hours may be shifted for Friday prayers

Climate

The Maldives are tropical, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 30°C throughout the year However, rainfall increases considerably during the April-October southwest monsoon, particularly from June to August


Talking in Maldives

Maldivian Dhivehi, a close relative of Sinhala spoken in Sri Lanka but with borrowings from Urdu, Hindi, Arabic and many other languages, is the official language It is written in a remarkable hybrid script called Thaana, which uses Arabic and Indic numbers as the base of the alphabet, written from right to left with Arabic vowel signs The script is thought to have originated as a secret code for writing magical formulas so that outsiders can't read them, which would also explain why the ordering of the alphabet is, as far as linguists can tell, completely random!

English is widely spoken, particularly by government officials and those working in the tourism industry

What to do in Maldives

Aside from making the water bungalow rock on your honeymoon, the primary activity on the Maldives is scuba diving The atolls are all coral reefs hundreds of kilometers away from any major landmass, meaning that water clarity is excellent and underwater life is abundant Manta rays, sharks, even a few wrecks, you name it, you can find it in the Maldives

While diving is very good by world standards even in the immediate vicinity of Male, visibility and the chance of encountering large pelagics increases as you head to the outer atolls Many divers opt for liveaboards, which can actually work out much cheaper than paying high resort fees Currents vary considerably, with generally little inside the atolls but some powerful streams to be found on the sides facing the open sea Water in the Maldives is warm throughout the year and a 3mm shorty or Lycra diveskin is plenty Decompression chambers can be found on Bandos in Kaafu 15 min from Male, Kuredu in Lhaviyani Atoll and at Kuramathi on Alifu

The one downside to diving in the Maldives is that it's quite expensive by Asian standards Prices vary considerably from resort to resort, with specialist dive resorts offering better prices, but in general, you'll be looking at around US$50 for a single boat dive with your own gear and closer to US$75 without Beware of surcharges: you may be charged extra for boat use, guided dives, larger tanks, etc On the upside, safety standards are usually very high, with well-maintained gear and strict adherence to protocol check dives, maximum depth, computer use, etc being the rule rather than the exception

  • Atoll Explorer 5 Week long cruises around the Maldives with a diversity of dive sites, resort visits and, local islands and unihabbited islands with a maximum of 40 guests Phone 9603323080, email reservations@uninetcommv

Buying stuff in Maldives

The local currency is the Maldivian rufiyaa MVR, Rf, divided into 100 laari However, by law resorts price services in US dollars and require payment in hard currency or credit card, so there's absolutely no need to change money if you're going to spend all your time at the resorts Most hotels have a shop but this is limited to diving and holiday essentials sun cream, sarongs, disposable cameras, etc Some excursions from resorts will take you to local islands where there are handicraft type things to buy, but there are typically made outside the Maldives and sold at outrageous markups

If you are heading to Male or the other inhabited atolls, exchanging some rufiyaa will come in handy The coins, in particular, are quite attractive and make an interesting souvenir in themselves The official exchange rate to the US dollar is fixed at 1275:1, but while dollars are near-universally accepted, shops usually exchange them at 12:1 or even 10:1

Costs

There's no way around it: the Maldives are expensive, and there is effectively no budget accommodation or transport Resorts have a monopoly on services for their guests and charge accordingly: for mid-range resorts, $1000 per week per couple is a conservative budget for meals, drinks and excursions, above and beyond the cost of flights and accommodation Practically anything — including hotel rooms if booked locally — gets slapped with an arbitrary 10% "service charge", but tips are expected on top

Food and eating in Maldives

All the resorts are self contained so they have at least one restaurant, which generally serve the type of cuisine expected by their guests ie modern European or generic Asian Breakfast is almost always included, and most resorts offer the option of half-board, which means you get a dinner buffet, and full board, which means you get a lunch and dinner buffet These can limit the damage compared to ordering a la carte, but your options are typically very limited and drinks are often not covered, not necessarily even water If you're planning on drinking a lot, it may be worthwhile to go all inclusive, but even this typically restricts you to house drinks

The only other place to find food is Male This comes in two forms Either small restaurants aimed at the tourists of which there are a couple of nice Thai restaurants, which are often expensive, or small cafes called hotaa, selling local Maldivian food at prices as low as Rf20 for a complete meal

Maldivian cuisine

Maldivian food revolves largely around fish mas, in particular tuna kandu mas, and draws heavily from the Sri Lankan and south Indian tradition, especially Kerala Dishes are often hot, spicy and flavored with coconut, but use very few vegetables A traditional meal consists of rice, a clear fish broth called garudhiya and side dishes of lime, chili and onions Curries known as riha are also popular and the rice is often supplemented with roshi, unleavened bread akin to Indian roti, and papadhu, the Maldivian version of crispy Indian poppadums Some other common dishes include:

  • mas huni — shredded smoked fish with grated coconuts and onions, the most common Maldivian breakfast
  • fihunu mas — barbequed fish basted with chili
  • bambukeylu hiti — breadfruit curry

Snacks called hedhikaa, almost invariably fish-based and deep-fried, can be found in any Maldivian restaurant

  • bajiya — pastry stuffed with fish, coconut and onions
  • gulha — pastry balls stuffed with smoked fish
  • keemia — deep-fried fish rolls
  • kulhi borkibaa — spicy fish cake
  • masroshimas huni wrapped in roshi bread and baked
  • theluli mas — fried fish with chili and garlic

Drinking in Maldives

As the Maldives are fairly strongly Muslim, alcohol is banned for the local population However, nearly all resorts and liveaboard boats are licensed to serve it, usually with a steep markup Expatriate residents have an allowance that they can buy in Male

Maldivians generally do not drink alcohol although this is less true of the younger generation They are, however, unhappy about being filmed or photographed while drinking

Tap water in resorts may or may not be drinkable -- check with management Bottled water is extortionately priced, with US$5/bottle being typical

Accommodation in Maldives

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under US$100
Mid-range US$100-300
Splurge Over $300

Aside from the capital Male, there are no hotels in the Maldives, only resorts Most resorts take up their own island 1500x1500m to 250x250m, meaning that the ratio of beach to guests must be one of the best in the world and it is hard to imagine that you would ever have to struggle to find your own private piece of beach to relax on Many have a "no shoes" policy and with such soft sands it is easy to love this idea

The range and themes or the resorts is impressive, and most people will find one they like Broadly speaking, however, they can be grouped into three brackets:

  • Dive resorts, designed primarily for divers Geared expressly for people who want to spend most of their time underwater, facilities on land are limited, but the house reef is usually excellent Often found in the more far-flung parts of the archipelago
  • Holiday resorts, designed primarily for families These are large and have a full complement of facilities multiple restaurants, day-care centers, etc, but don't have over-the-top luxury and have less privacy Most of these are located on Kaafu, with easy access from Male
  • Luxury resorts, designed primarily for honeymooners and the jet set The place to be if you want designer furniture, gourmet food and a plasma TV in an overwater villa reachable only by rowboat, and are willing to pay top dollar for the privilege


A Maldivian classic is the overwater bungalow, built on stilts directly above a lagoon While these look fabulous and sound appealing, they have their downsides:

  • They're usually packed tightly together often sharing a wall, meaning little privacy
  • Especially at low tide, the water level may be too low to allow swimming or snorkeling
  • Resort facilities may be a fair distance from the bungalows
  • The lapping of waves is romantic enough on a calm day, but can make it next to impossible to sleep if a storm blows through

These factors vary from resort to resort, so research carefully A good one is definitely worth trying at least once, but many Maldives repeaters prefer a bungalow with a private beach

When considering where to go, factor in transport time and costs from the airport: the more far-flung resorts generally require an expensive seaplane transfer and you may have to stay overnight at the airport on the way On the upside, the further away you are from Male, the more peaceful the islands and the better the diving

Many resorts, especially the smaller dive-oriented ones, cater largely to a single nationality, leading to "Italian" resorts, "Dutch" resorts, "German" resorts, etc While almost all welcome any nationality and have some English-speaking staff on hand, you may be cut off from any evening entertainment and have problems eg diving if you don't speak the local lingo

Working in Maldives

Getting a Job in the Maldives can be tricky It is not the kind of place where you can just turn up and start job hunting Generally the resorts take on a mix of local and international staff so you need to approach the resort Human Resources departments There is a good mix of jobs but a lot of the roles are diving based divemasters, instructors, photographers etc

Most resorts are predominately one or two nationalities so finding the resorts that match your language skills helps After that experience always helps especially for diving instructors as the Maldives are well known for their strong currents and half of the time the currents will take you straight out into the Indian Ocean

Generally if you get a job with a resort then they will get you a work permit and pay for your flight, food and accommodation They don't really have much choice its hardly as if you can pop out to the supermarket and pick up a Pizza for dinner

All foreign workers have to have a series of medical tests before you can start work in the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital This includes a blood sample lots of tests including HIV as well as x-ray etc It is quick and easy but they are very uncommunicative about what they are doing

Cities in Maldives

dhidhdhoo  eydhafushi  felidhoo  funadhoo  hithadhoo  hithadhoo  kudahuvadhoo  kulhudhuffushi  magoodhoo  mahibadhoo  male  manadhoo  muli  naifaru  nolhivaranfaru  thinadhoo  ugoofaaru  viligili  

What do you think about Maldives?

How expensive is Maldives?
(1 MVR = 0.07 USD)
Meal in inexpensive restaurant52.8 MVR
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)450 MVR
McDonalds meal138.5 MVR
Local beer (0.5 draft)52.8 MVR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 84.71 MVR
Cappuccino35.63 MVR
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)17.53 MVR
Water (0.33 bottle)6.66 MVR
Milk (1l)30.61 MVR
Fresh bread (500g)24.14 MVR
White Rice (1kg)26.86 MVR
Eggs (12) 32.38 MVR
Local Cheese (1kg) 141.9 MVR
Chicken Breast (1kg) 88.4 MVR
Apples (1kg) 32.5 MVR
Oranges (1kg) 29.44 MVR
Tomato (1kg) 42.39 MVR
Potato (1kg) 30.33 MVR
Lettuce (1 head) 28.02 MVR
Water (1.5l)9.03 MVR
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 330.9 MVR
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)100.1 MVR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 104.5 MVR
Cigarettes36 MVR
One way local bus ticket6.07 MVR
Monthly pass for bus503.38 MVR
Taxi start23 MVR
Taxi 1km22.5 MVR
Taxi 1hour waiting110.9 MVR
Gasoline (1 liter) 17.76 MVR
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 371.25 MVR
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 12.11 MVR
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre 26.57 MVR
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre 19.2 MVR
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