You must’ve heard the news that Indians can now visit over 100 countries using connecting flights. Some are heading to South America, while others pack bags for Europe.
But you know what’d be the most easy, direct and relaxing way to end 2020 with style? A trip to the Maldives!
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We don’t need to sell you on the ‘why’—everybody knows this island paradise as a hub for romance, adventure and natural beauty. The archipelago has emerged as a top choice for Indians craving international trips after the lockdown.
Indians get direct flights, visa-on-arrival, and don’t have to sit through quarantine. In fact, reaching Velana International Airport in the Maldives is quicker than taking some domestic flights within India!
The local government is being strict about tourist behaviour, though, as it still has COVID-free islands—and authorities want to keep it that way.
Wondering where to start planning? Then save this guide ASAP. It’s the most updated list of rules, fun and recommendations you’ll find right now!
Rules for Indian arrivals
Let’s address the elephant in the room with six easy points:
- Air India, GoAir, Indigo and Maldivian are the only airlines with flights to the Maldives. Book from Delhi, Trivandrum, Mumbai, Bengaluru or Kochi. Indian tourists get a 30-day free visa upon arrival.
- Get a confirmed booking for your stay from a government-approved hotel. You can split your stay across different properties after submitting a request to the Ministry of Tourism 2 days before your travel. Check the hotel list in the ‘Where to stay’ section below to make your pick!
- Submit a health declaration 24 hours prior to departure on the IMUGA portal.
- Carry a negative RT-PCR test report (printouts plus electronic copy) conducted 96 hours before your departure from the first port of embarkation en route to the Maldives. If you have transit lasting less than 24 hours during the journey, the result will remain valid. If it exceeds that limit, you have to repeat the test within 96 hours of embarkation at the port of transit.
- Quarantine is not required for travellers not in groups of 10, but thermal screening is mandatory at the arrival terminal. Downloading the TraceEkee contract tracing app is recommended.
- A ‘furabandhu’ quarantine has been created for those travelling in groups of 10 or more. Its testing policy is similar to what’s mentioned above, with a few key differences which you can read here.
For other basic entry requirements, see immigration.gov.mv.
Rules for departure
- Tourists must undergo an exit screening and temperature check before leaving their accommodation, so that a symptomatic person/quarantined patient doesn’t pose a risk to others.
- You have to fill an exit screening questionnaire, which should document any history of fever or respiratory symptoms within the past 14 days. Tourists under quarantine or isolation will not be allowed to exit their resort except for a medical emergency.
- Anyone found with symptoms suggesting COVID-19 must undergo RT-PCR testing, which can be arranged through the destination or resort representative.
Where to stay in the Maldives
The government has released an approved list of resorts, guesthouses and transit facilities where tourists can make bookings. The properties in this list are open as of December 14, 2020. View it here.
Top resorts bookable on ixigo: Soneva Fushi, Kurumba Maldives, Baros Maldives, Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, Bandos Island Resort & Spa
Other great stays: Paralian Hulhumale’, Sala Boutique Hotel, JEN Maldives Malé by Shangri-La
Most travellers prefer to stay in the capital, Malé, and then branch out elsewhere depending on their itinerary.
Pssst. Have you read our original extensive guide to this blissful country? It’s from 2019, the pre-COVID era, but its list of resorts and activity recommendations still holds up. Check it out here for ideas!
The Maldives will be bright and warm no matter when you visit. Rainfall drenches the island in the beginning of December, so plan a visit after the midway mark when the dry season begins. Temperatures rarely dip below 25 degrees, so you can definitely go swimming!
Something for everyone
Beginner and advanced divers alike should check out Banana Reef, a protected region in the North Malé Atoll. Featuring dramatic coral landscapes, you’ll be able to weave through underwater caves, swim over cliffs, and float through vibrant schools of fish for a picture-perfect moment. Do wave at the other divers drifting by!
We also can’t forget that the Maldives is a unique mix of Southeast Asian, African and Arab cultures, making its cultural attractions one-of-a-kind. Get a taste of the country’s past at the National Museum and National Art Gallery (both in Malé), and end your cultural joyride with a visit to the Hukuru Miskiy mosque, built in the 17th century.
- Snorkelling with manta rays, or spotting dolphins and whale sharks
- Underwater scooter diving (yep, that’s a thing!) at Maafushi
- Dhoni cruise on the sea or lagoons
- Stargazing and astrophotography on clear nights
- Going beachcombing to find unique shells and marine life
- Candlelit dinner on the beach, or a romantic meal at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant
- Catamaran sailing across atolls
- Couples massages overlooking the ocean, and a good snooze
For solo travellers
- Helicopter tour of the islands
- Surfing in the Central and South atolls, which have consistent swells
- Jet skiing or kayaking
- Serene sunrise yoga on the beach
Treat yourself to these top eats
Maldivian food is big on tuna, coconut and general fishiness. But vegetarians don’t have to worry, as there’s enough Indian restaurants, vegetarian snacks and western options to keep you busy. Most upscale resorts are also vegan-friendly!
Here’s our dream menu that’ll give you a culinary snapshot of the islands:
Breakfast: Mas huni (shredded tuna salad) with roshi bread. Or mas roshi, where the tuna is stuffed into the bread like a kulcha!
Lunch: Lobster/tofu laksa/kukulhu riha (chicken curry) with rice, plus yam fries
Dinner: Garudhiya (fragrant fish soup) or tharukaaree riha (mixed veggie curry) with rice, plus fruity cocktails 😉
On-the go munchies: Bis keemiya, a crunchy roll stuffed with fish and hard-boiled eggs; boshi mashuni (zingy banana flower salad); or reef fish cutlets
Desserts: Saagu bondibai (sago pudding) flavoured with cardamom and rose, and aluvi boakibaa (cassava-coconut cake)
Don’t leave without buying…
- Traditional Maldivian mats (thundu kunaa) and sarongs (feyli)
- Shiny lacquer handicrafts: a vase (can be pricey!) or small plates and pens
- Miniature dhonis. Nothing to do with cricket—these are the signature sailboats of the Maldives, and make for lovely gifts!
- Painted coconut masks (photo above) and lampshades to liven up your living room
- Modern Maldivian fashion from upscale boutiques
Best bazaars for souvenir shopping: Majeedhee Magu, Chaandhanee Magu, Malé Local Market.
Aaaand that’s a wrap!
The Maldives has 500+ active cases of the coronavirus right now. While this guide is meant to be exhaustive, you should still take a look at the Visit Maldives website to iron out the finer details for your trip.
Now go and grab those tickets!