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The Maldives is a group of low-lying coral islands, forming an archipelago of 26 major atolls situated south west of Sri Lanka. A small percentage of the islands are inhabited and 87 are exclusively resorts, boasting tropical landscapes hugged by picture-perfect beaches festooned with palm trees. The myriad islands are surrounded by coral reefs enclosing shallow lagoons.
The Dhivehin people of the Maldives are descended from an ethnic mix of many cultures. The history of the area was dominated by a succession of bids for control that began with Muslim rule in the 12th-century.
The Arabs were later supplanted by the Portuguese and then the British, until 1965 when the Maldives finally achieved full independence as a sultanate. The majority of Maldivians are Sunni Muslims and their lifestyle follows the traditions of Islam. Traces of ancient beliefs have endured in the form of superstitions centred on evil spirits.
The Maldives rely on tourism and fishing for their income, and with the large number of foreign visitors, eco-friendly tourism is gaining popularity in order to maintain the Maldives' natural beauty for future generations. Very little tourism in the Maldives is independent, with most visitors opting for all-inclusive resorts and package tours.
The temperature in the Maldives is hot throughout the year and although the humidity is relatively high, the constant sea breezes help to keep the air moving and give some relief from the heat. The weather in the Maldives is fairly constant throughout the year, with average daily temperatures ranging from 87°F (31°C) to 78°F (26°C).
Although there aren't four distinct seasons, there is a wet season in the Maldives, which runs from April to October, when strong winds can also be expected and the weather gradually gets colder (although not by much).
The best time to visit the Maldives is between December and April during the dry season, when the weather is hot and pleasant and there is little wind. However, this is also the tourist high season, and resorts are not only more expensive and crowded but often fully booked and difficult to get into.
Some travellers prefer to brave the wet season to enjoy a more peaceful and private holiday at more reasonable prices. November and April are the best months to travel to the Maldives if you are planning to do a lot of scuba diving and snorkelling.
The Maldivian rufiyaa (MVR) is divided into 100 laari. The resorts in the Maldives are generally expensive and travellers should ensure they bring sufficient funds. ATMs are available, but it's best not to rely. Major credit cards are accepted at most resorts and hotels. US Dollars can be exchanged at the airport, banks, or hotels. Guests staying at resorts can settle their accounts in hard foreign currency (US Dollars are best), or with credit cards. Banks are usually closed on Fridays and Saturdays.
Dhivehi is the national language in Maldives. English is widely spoken in addition to German, French, Italian, and Japanese, spoken by the resort staff.
Electrical current in Maldives is 230 volts, 50Hz. A variety of plugs are in use, including the two-pin flat blade plug and the round three-pin plug.
US nationals: US citizens must have a passport that is valid for 6 months from arrival in the Maldives. A visa is required.
UK nationals: British citizens must have a passport that is valid for 6 months from the arrival date in the Maldives. A visa is required.
CA nationals: Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for 6 months from the arrival date in the Maldives. A visa is required.
AU nationals: Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for 6 months from the arrival date in the Maldives. A visa is required.
ZA nationals: South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for 6 months from the arrival date in the Maldives. A visa is required.
IR nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for 6 months from the arrival date in the Maldives. A visa is required.
NZ nationals: New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for 6 months from the arrival date in the Maldives. A visa is required.
All foreign passengers to the Maldives must hold onward/return tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Furthermore, visitors entering the Maldives without a hotel reservation or a Maldivian sponsor must hold proof of sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. A disembarkation card must be filled in by every passenger, and submitted to the Immigration Officer upon entry into the Maldives. Nationals of most countries can obtain a tourist visa on arrival, for a maximum stay of 30 days. Extensions of stay, to a maximum of 90 days from the date of the visitor's arrival in the Maldives, are possible, by paying a fee of MVR 750 to the Department of Immigration in Male, at least one day prior to the expiry date of the initial 30-day entry period. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter the Maldives, if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Visitors should have at least USD 100 per person per day for the duration of their stay. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Visitors to the Maldives should take precautions against mosquito bites as cases of dengue fever and Chikungunya virus have been reported. Visitors who will be spending a lot of time outdoors and are at risk of animal bites may be advised to get a rabies vaccination.
There are very few fully equipped hospitals on Male and in Hulhumale. Though most resort islands are within reach of a doctor, many are several hours' travel away from the comprehensive facilities on Male. Travel insurance is advised for travel to the Maldives.
If visitors require a certain medication on holiday, it is best to bring it in its original packaging, with a dated and signed letter from a doctor detailing what the medication is and why it is needed.
Tipping is not officially encouraged in the Maldives. But it's customary to tip waiters and room staff in the resorts if the service is good, even if a service charge has already been added.
Crime levels are low in the Maldives but petty theft does occur. It is best not to leave goods unattended on the beaches or in hotel rooms. There is a measure of political instability and visitors are advised to avoid public gatherings and demonstrations, particularly on Male Island, as these can turn violent. However, resorts in the Maldives are considered very safe and there are rarely any disturbances.
Maldivians are predominantly Muslim, and therefore Islamic customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking, and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture.
No pornography is allowed (or any material considered offensive under Islamic law) and homosexuality is illegal. Same-sex relationships are not tolerated and carry jail sentences and fines. Alcohol consumption is confined to the resorts.
Dress is informal but nudism and topless bathing is prohibited. On visits to inhabited islands it is important to respect local customs that adhere to conservative dress codes, and public observance of any religion other than Islam is prohibited. The Maldives has strong anti-drug laws that carry severe penalties.
The Maldives does a lot of trade as everything is imported. Business tends to be conducted in a more informal way, with more casual attire in lightweight materials. Meetings are usually scheduled for mornings and are typically conducted in English. Women, in particular, should dress conservatively. Business hours are usually 7.30am to 2.30pm Sunday to Thursday.
The international access code for the Maldives is +960. Travellers can purchase local SIM cards for unlocked phones; all resorts, hotels and guesthouses offer free WiFi.
Travellers to the Maldives who are older than 16 years of age do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 25 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco; other personal items up to the value of 6000 MVR. Prohibited items include alcohol, firearms, pork, narcotics and psychotropic substances, pornography, religious materials that may be offensive to Islam, and religious idols for worship.
Maldives Tourist Office: +960 323 228 or www.visitmaldives.com
Maldives High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7224 2135.
American Embassy, Colombo, Sri Lanka (also responsible for Maldives): +94 11 249 8500.
British High Commission, Colombo, Sri Lanka (also responsible for Maldives): +94 11 539 0639.
Canadian High Commission, Colombo, Sri Lanka (also responsible for Maldives): +94 11 522 6232.
Australian High Commission, Colombo, Sri Lanka (also responsible for Maldives): +94 11 246 3200.
South African High Commission, Colombo, Sri Lanka (also responsible for Maldives): +94 11 268 9926.
Mission of Ireland to the UN, New York, United States (also responsible for Maldives): +1 212 421 6934.
New Zealand Consulate, Singapore (also responsible for Maldives): +65 6235 9966.
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