Cruise ships dock at Male Sea Port, on the capital city of Male, Maldives. This is not a deep-water harbour, so ships anchor offshore and the passengers are transferred either via ferries of tenders. The harbour is at the north end of the island and is minutes from the city walking distance. There are shops and restaurants, ATMs, banks, post office, internet cafes all right outside the harbour. You could easily walk through the whole city, it’s only 5.8 sq. km in size. Taxis are cheap and regular and there is a public bus system as well. The Airport is about 40 min away by ferry, as it is situated on a separate island. From the port it is also possible to pick inexpensive ferries to nearby islands, inhabited by locals.
The local currency - Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR) is linked to the US dollar at about 12.75 Rufiyaa to the dollar. There is no need to exchange your home currency to local Rufiyaa, as American dollars are widely accepted, and you may not be able to change the Rufiyaa back to your local currency. So the best thing to do would be to arrive with as much dollars as you think you would be spending. Make sure you have small notes if you are planning to visit the local markets and restaurants on Male. You may receive change back in Rufiyaa though – bear that in mind. There are bank offices and ATMs in Male, however they are not available in island-resorts and the islands, inhabited by residents. You can settle your resort bill in USD or pay with any major credit card – they are widely accepted at hotels and resorts.
Opening hours and bank holidays – the opening hours in Male are normally from about 9 am to 5 pm, with some shops being open until as late as 11pm. The working week is Sunday to Thursday and the weekend is Friday and Saturday. The government offices, banks and post offices are normally open from 8.30 am to 2.30 pm. Most businesses and shops are closed on Fridays, and close for about 15 minutes for prayer time. There are a number of bank holidays in Maldives and some of the businesses, banks and government offices will be closed. The resorts will all work as normal, even on New Year’s Eve.
Bear in mind that the local inter-island means of transportation (seaplanes, boats and ferries) wouldn’t operate after 5 or 6 pm, as visibility decreases significantly. This would especially affect you if you have a late flight home. Do make sure you have organised a night in a hotel, or a room for the day in Male.
Tipping is not compulsory in Maldives, as there is 10% service charge, added to almost everything. This “tip” is, however, not guaranteed to reach the people that are actually serving you, so a few dollars would go a long way, if you decide to show appreciation. You would be served with the same courtesy if you don’t. The general guide is to round your bill at restaurants, leave a few dollars to the bellboy and the maid, that is looking after your room at the hotel. There is no need to tip tour guides, especially for boat and seaplane trips as those are quite pricey.
The Maldives are a Muslim country and as such, there is a strict dress code of covering arms, shoulders and knees for women. If you decide to visit Male’s artificial beach – wearing bikini is not allowed, the local citizens swim there fully clothed. Consuming alcohol is not allowed either. You can wear bikini and drink alcohol in the island-resorts. If you carry with you any bottles of alcohol, purchased at duty-free, any pork products (including bacon-flavoured crisps), or any non-Muslim idols (forget that round-belly lucky Buddha) at arrival, the authorities will store them for you and will give you back at departure.
The local language is called Dhivehi and is a close relative to the language, spoken in Sri Lanka. English is one of the languages of the schools, so it’s widely spoken in the Maldives and you would have no issues of being understood.
The local language is called
The local time is GMT + 5 and the international dialling code is 00 960.
Things To Do
The most popular landmark in Male is the Old Friday Mosque (Hukuru Miskiy) – built in 1656 by Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, it’s the only one where the sultan himself worships. It’s a beautiful building, constructed from coral stone, teak, sandalwood and redwood, decorated with complex ornaments and chiselled Quranic scripts. One of the long panels, carved in the 13th century, commemorates the introduction of Islam to the Maldives. To one side of the mosque is a cemetery with carved tombstones with rounded tops for females, pointy tops for males, gold-plated lettering for former sultans and family mausoleums with carved stone walls.
The National museum is also worth seeing – in a building, gifted by China you can see a collection of artefacts, tracing the unusual history of these unique islands. There is weaponry, religious and household objects that mark the Maldives’ conversion to Islam in 1153. There are also more recent and modern exhibits, including the country’s first gramophone, telephone and computer. You can also see an eccentric collection, including a recording from President Nasheed’s underwater meeting from 2009 and a marine collection, including an impressive and rare skeleton of a Longman’s Beaked Whale, yet to be sighted alive in its natural habitat.
The tomb of one of the national heroes of Maldives – Mohammed Thakurufaanu lies on the grounds of a small mosque in the middle of town. He was the one, who liberated Maldivians from the Portugese and then ruled the country from 1573 to 1585. The ring-road around Male also commemorates him (Boduthakurufaanu).
If time permits, head over to the fish market in the morning for the catch of the day – which you can buy and then have it cooked at one of the many restaurants – or head to the main market for spices, clothes, local handcrafts, fruits and basically anything and everything under the sun. There is an artificial beach in Male as well, good for swimming, however, make sure you observe the local dress code.
Island trips are a great way to see more of the remarkable islands of Maldives. Some island-resorts also offer day visits. There are ferries you can catch to some of the inhabited islands, or you can pre-book a luxurious yacht trip. When you are looking to book one of the latter, make sure you are booking with a licensed provider. If you are on a cruise, make sure the location is not too far from Male, as you wouldn’t want to miss your ship. Any trips may get cancelled last minute because of weather conditions.
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