The island life in the Maldives is as dreamy as you can imagine. The untouched groups of Maldivian islands have recently become one of the most popular travel destinations among beach lovers and water adventure enthusiasts. While the locals love tourists from all over the place, there are some very important things you must know before you pack for the Maldives. Right from respecting the local culture to the strict no alcohol policies in local islands, here’s a guide for the first time traveller.
Keep it clean: The official Maldives Tourism board encourages responsible tourism across the 1,190 plus islands in the country to maintain the beauty of the pristine azure waters of the Indian Ocean. According to the latest reports, around 188 islands out of 1,190 are inhabited and tourism contributes to 23 per cent of their economy. To keep the white sandy beaches crystal clear and vivid sea coral vegetation alive, the government puts in a lot of effort and has strict policies on pollution.
While the locals are roped in occasional cleaning drives, tourists are also encouraged to join hands keep the oceans clean and protect the natural environs of the islands. A huge emphasis is paid on not using polythene and plastic bottles, so it is advisable to carry sustainable products like jute bags, loose cotton clothes, flip flops and metallic straws that can be reused. Keep a reusable water bottle with you at all times as the sun is quite harsh in the day time and it gets very humid outdoors, so being hydrated is very important.
Respect the local culture: The most commonly practiced religion in the Maldives is Islam and there is a strict no alcohol policy in public places. Carrying alcohol to the country is regarded as an offense, and only resorts and hotels with valid alcohol license can serve any kind of liquor to the tourists. While chilling in the gorgeous sea beaches at local islands, one needs to be mindful of the local sentiments and beliefs. Due to strict religious sentiments, it is preferred to cover the shoulders and legs while moving within the islands and visiting local destinations. However, once you are at the beach, you can wear any kind of swimwear. Avoid carrying leather clothes, shoes and things that can be spoiled and keep waterproof bags and an umbrella handy for any untimely rains.
Spend wisely: Although there are phenomenal luxury ocean villas and resorts that are popular among couples, one can also look at spending a few days in local islands and experiencing the authentic Maldivian lifestyle. By buying local hand made products and sampling homemade Maldivian cuisine, you can help the local economy and get some pocket-friendly deals. One can try very many aquatic activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, para-sailing, dolphin tours, experience to stay overnight on a liveaboats, romantic dinners on sandbanks and a lot of activities by going through authorized tour operators that also provide local guide and trained professionals for conducting various activities under the water. Do carry comfortable swimwear, kaftans, swimming shorts, and tee shirts along with a good sunscreen to protect your skin from tanning.
What to eat: There are multiple cafes and local street food shops in Male and the tourist islands that sell good food for affordable rates. Do not forget to try the local delicacies like Mashuni (a mix of coconut and tuna with finely chopped chilli, onion, and some lemon) served with flatbread called Roshi, Rice and Garudhiya (tuna broth), Rihaakuru (tuna paste), fresh ocean fish and desserts made of sago, palm and tropical fruits like screw pine and figs. The currency used in the country is Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR), which can be converted to US dollars (USD) easily at all shops and hotels. A lot of places also accept US dollars directly for buying and selling things, so keep some cash handy when you explore local streets.
How to commute: The tourist islands are occupied throughout the year, but during monsoon (June and July) the footfall goes down as the sea gets rough and it becomes hard to hop islands or do underwater activities. From this season onward, a special budget flight from Go Air which costs less than Rs 15,000 for a return flight from Delhi and Mumbai to Male has started operating for Indian consumers. Once you land in Male, most local islands are connected by ferries that run on set time tables, so instead of hiring private speed boats or seaplanes that cost a bomb, one can use the public transport and save a lot of money on commuting from one island to another. Also, a very important instruction is to wear life jackets all the time while on the sea commute and keep the curtains down while the speed boats throttle in the middle of the vast ocean, so do not ignore that. Now that you know so much about this gorgeous destination and how to plan it within a budget, what are waiting for? Fly to the paradise islands and enjoy the sunny side of life.