Getting to the Maldives
Updated: Dec 4, 2021
You've seen images of the Maldives before: picture-perfect private homes hung above azure blue waters, alabaster white sand beaches, and stunning sunsets that fall below the horizon. The Maldives' beautiful grandeur is amazing to witness, something that cannot be fully appreciated until one is there in person. A question that we are always asked is: Where is the Maldives?
The Maldives is located in the Indian Ocean between the Arabian and Indian Sub continents, approximately 750km southwest of Sri Lanka.Getting there and staying in this tropical paradise, is easy with all flights into the Country flying into the Velana Internation Airport (MLE) in Malé.
Seen as a favourite destination not only for honeymooners seeking privacy as well as adventurers seeking to explore the abundance of marine life in the area, the Maldives has it all! The resorts in this region are magnificent, ranging from underwater hotels to overwater bungalows to stunning resorts, and the local islands are a slow paced, cheaper way to peel back a layer and discover the real Maldives.
Flying into the Maldives
Velana International Airport (MLE) in Malé in the epicentre of tourism in The Maldives, with all international flights coming through this airport. The airport is actually located on the manmade island of Hulhumale which is connected to the Malé via the Sinamalé Bridge.
There are direct flight connections to the Maldives from the UK, Germany, France, Swizterland, Russia, Turkey, EAU, Qatar, Bahrain, India, Sri Lanka, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand to name a few, with more seasonal flights opening up at different times as well.
Once you have landed and cleared passport control you will enter the open air terminal of Velana International Airport (MLE) and you will have the following options: Domestic Airline Flight, Sea Plane, Private Resort Speed Boat, Local Speed Boat, Local Ferry or a Bus or Taxi to you hotel in Male.
The Maldives offer a visa on arrival to all nationalities, pending a few conditions. This entitles tourists to a 30 day stay and most are confirming that you will have sufficient funds and that you actually plan on leaving the country.
If you are staying at a resort in the Maldives, you will be greeted by a resort employee who will assist you in locating your speedboat or seaplane transfer. These transfers must be booked at the time of booking with your resort. At the airport, there are no public ferries or water taxis to the resorts, so scheduling your transfers in advance is critical. Your resort will tell you of the best method, times, and pricing for island transfers and will arrange everything for you. This is also the case for tours groups but if you are travelling solo in the Maldives then, keep reading to find out how to navigate this tropical labyrinth of boats, ferries and planes.
Domestic Flights in The Maldives
The domestic airport at the Maldives has two features, a standard inter-isalnd service which connects some of the capital cities of the local atolls to Malé via return flights with Maldivian Airlines, Flyme and Manta Air on most days. A handy website to know is Atoll Transfer, which outlines all of the below connections between the islands and Malé.
Dharavandhoo domestic Airport ( DRV) Baa Atol South Alif Atoll (30 minutes from (MLE)
Maamigili or Villa international Airport (VAM) South Alif Atoll (30 minutes from MLE)
Maafaru International Airport (NMF) Noonu Atoll (40 minutes from MLE)
Maavarulu Airport (RUL) Gaaf dhaal Atoll (75 minutes from MLE)
Funadhoo Airport (FND) Shaviyani Atoll Runway (40 minutes from MLE)
Ifuru Airport (IFU) Raa Atoll Runway (32 minutes from MLE)
Thimarafushi Airport ( TMF) Thaa Atoll (40 minutes from MLE)
Kulhuduffushi Airport ( HDK) Haa Dhaal Atoll (48 minutes from MLE)
Hanimadhoo International Airport ( HAQ) Haa Alif Atoll (50 minutes from MLE)
Kudahuvadhoo Airport or Dhaal Airport( DDD) Dhaal Atoll (31 minutes from MLE)
Koodoo Airport (GKK) Gaafu Alif Atoll (67 miuntes from MLE)
Kaadedhoo Airport ( KDM) Gaafu Dhaal Atoll (73 minutes from MLE)
Kadhdhoo Airport ( KDO) Laamu Atoll (45 minutes from MLE)
Fuvahmulaku Airport ( FVM) Ganviyani Atoll Runway (87 minutes from MLE)
Gan international Airport ( GAN) Addu or Seenu Atoll (95 minutes from (MLE)
Sea Planes in The Maldives
The second feature of the domestic airport is the being home to the largest sea plane fleet in the world. Trans Maldivian Airways is a more exclusive way to travel and connects guests with their resorts by landing directly out the front on the water. This is a truely phenomenal way to travel and also a huge item to tick off your bucket list but it does come at a price as resort transfers in a seaplane can be anywhere from $500 USD - $2,000 USD depending on the location.
Maldives Boat Transfers
The Maldives are made up of over 1,200 islands, with around 185 of these being inhabited by Maldivians and branded as local islands. The local islands are full of small hotels and guesthouses where tourists can stay at a fraction of the cost of a resort, the only catch is that you pay for what you get and there will be no swim up pool, spa or cocktails as alcohol is illegal on the local islands. There are two options for navigating the locals islands of the Maldives, one is via a public speed boat and the other is via a public ferry.
If you are opting travel solo in The Maldives and navigate its islands on your own, then your first ferry may as well be the one which connects Hulhumale to Male. This local ferry cost around $1 USD and the most efficient way to get to your next point of call.
Local Speedboat in the Maldives
All of the local speedboats will generally depart from Malé from one of its many Jetty Docks. The Jettys are all located along the north short of Malé between Hulhumale Ferry Terminal and local Fish, Fruit and Veggie Markets and label from numbers 1-7 (easy to find on google maps). The speedboats can range from a 20 seater boat to a 40 seater boat and are usually always full of locals who have done their weekly or monthly shopping Malé. You will need to pay cash and generally these local speedboats cannot be pre-booked unless it is with a local guest-house on the island that you are going to. It does seem like organised chaos when you are down on the Jettys but the locals are all lovely and extremely helpful if you needed to be pointed in the right direction. Some islands have daily speedboat connections, the journey can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours and prices are usually between $25 - $60 USD.
Local Ferries in the Maldives
If time is not a problem, you are looking save a couple of dollars and do not get seasick, then a local ferry could be an option for you. For centuries, Maldivians have been sailing their water via a wooden fishing vessel called a Dhoni. Located in the South West of the Island of Malé, The Villingili Ferry Terminal is the axis for all connections between the atolls. Most ferries depart Malé on one day, then return to Malé on the following day except on Fridays, where all of these government run ferries cease departures, as this is a religious day for the Muslim population and ultimately the Maldivian weekend.
The next thing that you need to work out is how to navigate the local atolls once you get out of Malé.
Luckily, most atolls are circular with a lagoon in the centre, so a local ferry in the atolls would depart from an island (which is usually the capital of the Atoll and would be connected to Malé) and then continue in a circular direction, stopping at each island in the atoll over the journey before completing a loop back to its original destination again. There would also be another ferry that departs in the opposite direction, creating a loop that also circles back to its original designation as well. If it sounds complicated, it is because it probably is, not many tourist bother with the hassle and have enough time up there sleeve for a one month island hopping trip so that is why we created our Maldives Island Hopping Experience! There are no tourists on the local ferries and seldom on many of the local islands but if you are comfortable being alone, this could be an option. Ferries cannot be booked online and cash must be paid.
We recommend that you check out of our travel guides, which will tell you all you need to know both before you go to the Maldives, what the current covid restrictions are and also what to pack for the Maldives!