Maldives travel guide
The Maldives is a by-word for luxury, romance and tropical bliss. A beautiful string of low-lying coral islands in the Indian Ocean, they're also a paradise for diving enthusiasts and sun-seekers alike.
The country's 26 natural atolls and over 1,000 islands boast uniformly perfect coasts dropped like pearls in the warm waters of turquoise blue lagoons. With bright white powdery sand fringing most of the islands, it’s not surprising that over a million visitors come here each year.
The tourism industry began to blossom in the 1970s and now is the Maldives’ most lucrative industry. The luxury market is its unique selling point, and it is home to some of the world’s best hotels. Pretty much every resort has its own private island, complete with personal butlers and in-room massages. Such opulence has made it a firm favourite with honeymooners, who revel in the possibility of escaping to a romantic haven. The islands also offer slightly less pricey options, and some resorts are aimed at families and divers.
The Maldives are extremely low lying (80% of the territory is less than 1m/3.3ft above sea level). As such, the islands have worked hard to become one of the most environmentally friendly countries on earth and continue to so. Luxury and tourism have often been essential in providing economic benefits to local inhabitants who struggle to utilise local resources.
Recently, it has become more feasible on the Maldives for independent travellers and backpackers to avoid the luxury hotels and stay among the local people. The growing number of private guesthouses may well give the Maldives a new lease of life away from big-money tourism. What luxury means, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.
298 sq km (115 sq miles).
515, 596 (World Bank estimate, 2018).
1,102.5 per sq km (2,855.5 per sq miles).
President Mohamed Muizzu since 2023.
President Mohamed Muizzu since 2023.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Read all the advice in this guide and see support for British nationals abroad which includes:
- advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
- information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Maldives set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Maldivian High Commission in the UK.
All travellers to Maldives must complete a Traveller Declaration Form (IMUGA) within 96 hours of arrival and departure.
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Maldives.
Passport validity requirements
Your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least one month after the date you arrive in Maldives. Make sure your passport is not damaged or you may be stopped by immigration.
Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.
You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.
You will get a 30-day visa on arrival if you enter Maldives as a tourist.
If you intend to work in Maldives, you must get a work visa before you travel.
For further information on entry requirements and visas, contact the Maldives immigration department.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Maldives guide.
Depending on your circumstances, these may include a yellow fever certificate.
There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Maldives. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
It is illegal to bring in anything deemed contrary to Islam, including ‘idols for worship’, bibles, pork and pork products, and alcohol.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Maldives
Terrorists are likely to try and carry out attacks in Maldives.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Stay aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities.
The Maldivian authorities have disrupted a number of terrorist attack plans since 2017, and have made several arrests relating to attack planning, recruitment of terrorist fighters and spreading extremist ideology. There have been anti-Western protests by extremists on some islands, including expressions of support for Daesh.
Examples of recent significant attacks include:
- in 2021, a high-profile politician and a number of bystanders were injured by the detonation of an improvised explosive device (IED) in central Malé
- in 2020 there was an arson attack on a police speedboat in Laamu Gan
- in 2020, knife attacks that injured 3 foreigners in Hulhumalé were claimed by Daesh supporters
Political protests take place occasionally in Malé. Avoid any protests or rallies to ensure your safety and security.
Crime levels are low in the exclusive resort islands, but petty crime does happen. Do not leave items unattended on the beach or in unlocked hotel rooms.
Outside the resorts, there are incidents of gang-related violence including knife crime, mainly in Malé and in Hulhumalé. Avoid empty roads when on foot, particularly after dark.
Laws and cultural differences
Maldives is an Islamic country. It is illegal to publicly observe a religion other than Islam. Make sure that your actions do not offend, especially during Ramadan or when visiting religious areas around mosques. Violations of local laws may lead to a prison sentence.
Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims. The dates vary by year and country. In 2024 Ramadan is expected to take place between 11 March and 10 April in Maldives. During this time, do not eat, drink or smoke in public in the daytime, outside of holiday resorts. Get more advice when you arrive from your tour guide, hotel or business contacts.
Alcohol laws and bans
Alcoholic drinks are only available on resort islands. Do not take any alcohol out of your resort. You can be arrested and deported for possessing and drinking alcohol, or being intoxicated outside resorts and on inhabited islands.
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
Maldives has strong anti-drugs laws. Importing or possessing drugs carries severe penalties, up to and including life imprisonment.
Wildlife, animal products and souvenirs
It is illegal to take tortoiseshell jewellery or ornaments, or pieces of coral out of Maldives.
Same-sex relations are illegal and if you are convicted, you could get a fine or a lengthy prison sentence.
Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
Local dress standards
You should be sensitive to local dress standards when outside holiday resorts, including on beaches used by locals. Men and women should:
- have shoulders covered
- avoid short or tight-fitting shorts
- have arms and upper legs covered when bathing
Nudism and topless sunbathing are not allowed anywhere, including on resort islands.
Outdoor activities and adventure tourism
The sea around Maldives can have strong tidal currents and a number of tourists drown every year. Always take local advice before going into the sea.
Many resort islands are more than an hour away from the nearest decompression chamber. Make sure you understand how your dive operator would get you to one of the 3 hyperbaric chambers in the islands.
If you are planning to drive a car in Maldives, see information on driving abroad.
You’ll need to have both the correct version of the international driving permit (IDP) and your UK driving licence with you in the car.
Hire car companies often have stricter requirements for their customers, such as a year of driving experience and minimum age 20 or 21.
There is a high risk of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
There have been attacks on local fishing sailing vessels (dhows) in the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa. The international Naval Counter Piracy Forces advise all sailing yachts to stay out of the designated High Risk Area because of the risk of hijack or hostage-taking for ransom by criminal groups.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
Flash flooding can affect low-lying islands during periods of heavy rain. Follow the advice of the local authorities.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Dial 102 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on recommended vaccinations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s Maldives guide
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in Maldives
Medical facilities are limited – the only fully equipped hospitals are in Malé and Hulhumalé. Most resort islands are within reach of a doctor or have their own medical facilities, but many are several hours’ travel away from emergency treatment.
FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Maldives.
There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Maldives.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Maldives
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding lawyers
- dealing with a death in Maldives
- being arrested or imprisoned in Maldives
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
You can also contact FCDO online.
Help abroad in an emergency
If you’re in Maldives and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British High Commission Colombo who provide consular assistance for Maldives.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)