Quick guide to the Maldives: Visa-free travel for South Africans

2019-05-14 21:56 - Saara Mowlana
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maldives map

Plan your visit to the Maldives with this Quick Guide. (Photo: iStock)

TRAVEL ADVISORY: Maldives' political climate is quite tense with the upcoming elections on 23 September.

The Maldives is the dream island holiday.

This slice of magic offers exquisite resorts and a much-needed, relaxing tropical escape from the city grind.  

Made up of more than 1 000 coral islands and well known for its beaches, blue lagoons and extensive reefs, this  South Asian region boasts a broad spectrum of both adrenaline-fuelled and soul-cleansing activities for all to enjoy. From snorkelling and jet skiing in the crystal-clear teal waters, to soaking up the sun on its shores - Indian Ocean fun is what you can expect.

You can even spend some time meditating in a submerged room as you embrace your inner Ariel under the sea.

SEE THE Maldives Top 5 activities: It is impossible to get bored

Here's what you need to know if you go:

  • Population: About 442 908 +/- presently
  • Capital City: Malé
  • Flight Route Access: The Maldives plan to offer direct flight route options between SA (Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport) and the Maldives through the Maldivian Airways carrier. For now, however, connecting flights are offered between SA and the Maldives. 
  • Flight time: About 8 hours for direct flights and 13 hours for a connecting flight between SA and Male.

READ: The Maldives = Beach therapy

  • Currency: Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR: /-) Current Exchange Rate: R1 = /-1.25 MVR
  • Medical and health: To avoid illness and dampening your trip experience, be sure to heed the warnings and get the appropriate vaccinations beforehand. All Travellers: Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Typhoid. Trekking: Hepatitis B. Rural: Tuberculosis.
  • Country code: +960
  • Time Zone: The Maldives operates on Maldives Time (MVT) which is UTC+5 - The Maldives is 3 hours ahead of SA.
  • Emergencies: Dial 119 - for more emergency numbers: click here.
  • Public Transport: The Maldives operates on four main modes of public transportation: Seaplanes, boats, taxis and dhonis. For more public transportation info and tips: click here or here.
  • Useful App to download: Kobaa Taxi for getting around.
  • Climate: The Maldives has a hot tropical climate. It is generally hot all year round and influenced by the monsoons:                             The south-west monsoon: runs from late April to September: stronger in the northern islands and is accompanied by the wind, which means rougher seas. It is also accompanied by higher humidity and more frequent cloudiness.                                                                    - The north-east monsoon: runs from October to December: is quieter and merely brings showers and thunderstorms in its trail during the the afternoon or evening, especially in the southern atoll regions.                                                                                                             - The driest period, outside of the monsoons, runs from January to April, and is felt more in the northern atolls. 
  • Best time to go: Taking into consideration the climate and monsoon seasons, the best time to go is between January through to mid-April, since it is the driest and sunniest of the year. However, there can still be showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon in this period, especially in the southern islands. If you want to travel in the summer, it is best to choose the southern-most islands - they are less exposed to the south-west monsoon and are, therefore, less windy and more sunny. They are also protected from tropical cyclones - which is always a bonus.
  • Language: Dhivehi is the primary language spoken in the Maldives. Its written form includes a wide range of symbols similar to the Arabic language. In fact, Dhivehi is a unique mixture of Arabic, English, Hindi, Sinhalese and Urdu.
  • Since tourism is a major industry in the country, almost all popular international languages are such as English, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese are widely spoken, especially at the hotels and resorts. Most travellers will be able to easily find someone who can communicate with them fluently.

CHECK OUT: Maldives: Discovering a culinary paradise

Useful phrases to know: 

Dhivehi is the primary language  that is widely spoken around the Maldives. However, you might encounter individuals who are already versed in English and a range of other languages that have woven its way into the area via its thriving tourism industry. Learn a few key phrases in Dhivehi to make your stay more enjoyable.

Useful app to download - Duolingo makes learning a new language easy and fun. 

  • Greeting – Maruhabaa (Welcome), Assalaamu Alaikum (hello), Ba'ajjeveri hendhuneh (Good morning), Ba'ajjeveri mendhureh (Good afternoon), Ba'ajjeveri haveereh (Good evening), Ba'ajjeveri reygade / Ufaaveri nidhume (Good night), Dhanee (Goodbye)
  • How are you? - Kihineh?
  • Good, thanks - Ran'galhu, shukuriyaa 
  • Not good - Ran'galhu noon
  • Yes - Aan
  • No - Noon
  • How much is this? - Kihaavarakah? / Meethi kihaavarakah?
  • Please - Adhes kohfa
  • Thank you - Shukuriyyaa 
  • Sorry - Ma'aaf kurey
  • You are welcome - Maruhabaa
  • My name is... -  Aharenge namakee...
  • What is your name? - Kon nameh kiyanee?
  • I come from... - Alhugan'dakee ... rayyitheh
  • Where do you come from? - Kon rasheh?
  • Do you speak English? - Ingireysin vaahaka dhakkan ingeytha?
  • What? - Kon-echcheh?
  • Why? - Keevve?
  • Where? - Kon-thaaku?
  • Who? - Kon-iraku?
  • When? - Kaaku?
  • Where is the toilet? - Koba faahana?
  • Beautiful - Rheeti / Chala / Nala
  • Delicious - Meeru
  • Oh my goodness - Maaiy kalaakoa / Subuhaan-Allah
  • Excuse me, where's… - Ahannah maafu kurey, kon-thaaku...
  • Ice cream - Ais kureemu

Practical Tips

When travelling to Maldives, make sure you have the following on your packing list: 

  • A valid passport, arrival ticket, return ticket, adequate funds;
  • a camera;
  • basic essentials;
  • All year round: lightweight, tropics-friendly clothing, light sweatshirt for the evening, scarf for the breeze, light raincoat or umbrella. For the reef, equipment for snorkeling, water shoes or rubber soled shoes.
  • a brimmed hat;
  • sunscreen;
  • a swimsuit and modest cover up;
  • insect repellent;
  • formal / occasional wear (depending on your reason for travel);
  • basic toiletries;
  • prescription medication;
  • sunglasses (and a spare pair);
  • a medical kit;
  • Swiss Army Knife (for exploration);
  • a flashlight (for night time exploration);
  • video camera and accessories;
  • vaccination certificates;
  • insurance documents;
  • your credit / debit cards;
  • sandals or flipflops;
  • Maldives maps - city / town maps and travel guides;
  • a notebook, tablet or smartphone.


  • As much as the urge to take as many pictures of the beautiful island oasis as possible is strong, be sure to ask permission before you begin to snap pictures of houses or people. In some cases, you may be required to offer a tip for those pictures.
  • Watch your money - Make sure that, when changing currency you do so in a reputable hotel, foreign exchange bureau or bank.
  • Drinking water - Tap water in Maldives is all treated rain water and it's not advisable to drink it, not least as it has generally got an unpleasant taste. Nearly all resorts supply purified drinking water to their guests for free – some cheaper resorts make you pay for it, though. Either way, it's better to be safe rather than sorry - check out more health info here.
  • Tipping - a  10% service charge as well as an 8% Goods and Services Tax is added to your charges at resorts.

Top attractions in the Maldives

The Maldives is known and loved for its shorelines. Each island offers horizons that run far with clear, teal waters and soft white sand. The coral reef is favoured by divers and swimmers admiring its colourful splendour.

This pint-size town is the capital of the Maldives. Unlike its resort-focused island brethren, Malé has less sights, but more locals and lively markets. Home to the well-known Grand Friday Mosque, Malé links closely to the country's dominant faith. 

Baros Island resort is well-known for its mermaid-worthy villas. Unleash your inner Little Mermaid as you sleep with the fishes at this dream resort. Dive right into action from your villa deck into tantalising, crystal clear Maldivian water. 

Located on the North Malé atoll, it is named after its shape. Banana Reef is a popular diving spot with its soft shores, teal waters and its rich coral and sea life. Dive into the vividness of Maldivian waters at this island lover's dream spot.

This undersea restaurant is Ariel-worthy. Take your surf and turf to a deeper level with this experience and, no, you don't eat your fishy spectators. Ithaa, or 'mother of pearl' in Dhivehi, sits 5m underwater. The views are quite aptly the pearl of the sea.