The Maldives is a remote island nation surrounded by nothing but the Indian Ocean, so just making your way to the country is a small feat. After arriving at the airport, you still need to figure out how to get to your resort. All the resorts in the Maldives are located on their own islands, which makes figuring out the logistics essential. We have put together this comprehensive guide covering everything you need to know about how to get to the Maldives.
The Maldives – Orientation
The Maldives is an island nation located about 1,000 kilometres southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean. The archipelago is made up of some 1,190 coral islands which are grouped together into 26 atolls. There are around 200 inhabited islands in the Maldives in addition to the approximately 80 islands which house tourist resorts.
Despite these impressive numbers, the Maldives is also the smallest republic in Asia. The islands themselves are tiny: Gan in the Laamu Atoll is the largest island in the country and measures at around eight kilometres long. The capital city of Malé is located on the North Malé Atoll and has a population of some 150,000. All together, the Maldives has a population just shy of 400,000.
Which Airlines Fly to the Maldives?
So first things first: how do you get to the Maldives? If you’re travelling to the Maldives from Australia or Southeast Asia, you’ll most likely transit in Singapore. From here, Singapore Airlines and its subsidiary Silk Air offer direct flights to Velana International Airport in the Maldives. The flight time is around 4.5 hours. Other options in the region include Cathay Pacific which offers a direct 6.5-hour flight from Hong Kong to the Maldives.
If you’re travelling to the Maldives from Europe or the Middle East, the main transit hubs include Doha and Dubai, serviced by Qatar and Emirates respectively. The flight time to the Maldives is around five hours from Doha and about four hours from Dubai. Transiting in Doha or Dubai is often the best option for those travelling from the US as well.
For travellers departing from Europe, Air France flies two weekly flights from Paris to the Maldives, departing from Paris on Wednesdays and Saturdays and from Malé on Thursdays and Sundays. The flight time from Paris to the Maldives is approximately 10 hours. British Airways also offers seasonal direct flights from London Gatwick to Malé. In 2018-2019, this connection is available between October and March. The flight time from London to the Maldives is about 10.5 hours.
Direct flights to the Maldives are also offered from Istanbul by Turkish Airlines and from Colombo by SriLankan Airlines, China Southern, China Eastern and Korean Air.
Velana International Airport
Velana International Airport is the main international airport in the Maldives and this is where most travellers first land when they get to the Maldives. Though officially called Velana International Airport, the airport is commonly referred to as Malé International Airport and was previously known as Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.
The name “Malé Airport” is a little misleading, as Velana Airport is located on the island of Hulhulé just southeast of the capital island of Malé. The ferry ride between the two islands takes about 30 minutes. Velana International Airport has one runway and three terminals: international, domestic and the more exotic seaplane terminal. In fact, the airport is said to host the biggest sea plane operations in the world.
Visa On Arrival
Figuring out your visa for the Maldives is very simple as a free 30-day visa is issued for all nationalities, provided that they:
- Have a passport which is valid for a minimum of six months
- Have a valid outbound ticket from the Maldives
- Have enough funds to cover their stay (USD $100 + $50 per day) or a reservation in a resort/hotel
Note that this is strictly a tourist visa and does not allow for employment of any kind. A tourist visa can be extended to a duration not exceeding a total of 90 days, including the 30 days which are granted on arrival.
Overnight in Malé?
If you get to the Maldives on a late flight (or are departing on an early one), you might want to consider spending your first (or last) night on Hulhule (aka airport island) or cross over to the neighbouring island of Malé. There are ferries running from the airport to Malé throughout the night, except on Fridays when ferries only run until midnight.You can check the schedule on the airport website. Speedboat transfers from the airport to Malé are also available.
There are essentially two reasons you might consider spending your first night in Malé. First, you might be too exhausted from the flight to even consider reaching your resort on the same night. Second, it might seem less than appealing to spend hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars for a few hours of exhausted sleep. Spending your first night at an affordable hotel is one way to keep your expenses even somewhat down (newsflash: the Maldives aren’t cheap).
Hulhule Island Hotel is the only hotel that’s located directly on the same island as the airport. This is a very basic hotel which charges a relatively high price due to its convenient location. For more options, you can cross the link road from the airport over to Hulhule Island proper where there are more affordable guest houses garnering higher ratings than the airport hotel. Most hotels are located on the neighbouring island of Malé and the 25-minute ferry ride (or just 10 minutes by speedboat) shouldn’t scare you off. Again, the hotels in Malé tend to be pretty basic but will do for a single night’s stay.
Getting to Your Resort
After landing in the Maldives, securing your 30-day visa and maybe catching a little shut-eye in Malé, it’s time to make your way to your fabulous resort. The resort you’ve booked with will assist and advice on the transfers. If you’ve booked your accommodation in the Maldives through Ministry of Villas, our team will also you help organise your arrival transfers before you even get to the Maldives.
There are basically three options for getting from Velana International Airport to your resort: either you go by seaplane or you hop on a speedboat. The third option is a hybrid of sorts: take a domestic flight followed by a quick stint on a speedboat.
From Malé to Resort by Seaplane
Taking a seaplane is without a doubt the most fabulous way to arrive at your resort. Flying over the atolls at a low altitude offers spectacular views of the Maldivian coral islands. Taking off and landing on water is also a unique first-time experience for many travellers. Seaplanes are small, unpressurised aircrafts, which is something to consider if you suffer from ear problems or are pregnant.
Besides being the most glamorous way to travel to your resort, a seaplane is as a rule the most expensive form of transport in the Maldives. A seaplane ride from Malé to the famous Soneva Jani resort will cost you USD $650 before tax and services. To get to the Amilla Villa Residences, shared seaplane return transfers are priced at USD $715 per adult. For the larger Amilla villas (The Amilla Villa Estate and Amilla Great Beach Villa Residence), return seaplane transfers are included for stays of seven nights or more. The ride from Velana Airport to Soneva Jani takes about 40 minutes, while you can reach Amilla in a 30-minute seaplane ride from the airport.
Both Soneva and Amilla offer a five-star experience from start to finish, starting from the resort’s representatives who will meet you upon arrival at the airport and escort you their private seaplane lounge. It’s good to note that seaplanes only fly during the day – yet another reason to consider spending your first night close to the airport in Malé.
From Malé to Resort by Speedboat
Speedboat transfers are a more affordable option to seaplane flights (though “affordable” is a very relative term in the Maldives.) A speedboat ride to your resort is a great, wind-in-your-hair kind of experience and allows you to take a closer look at the neighbouring islands while zooming though the turquoise waters.
The speedboats launch from a jetty at the airport and they are operated by individual resorts. Some packages include boat rides in your booking, while for others you might need to pay extra. Even if the quoted price for a 20-minute boat ride might shock you, it’s not possible to charter a cheaper option, as the resorts are located on private islands and only accessible by the resort’s own boats.
It’s worth noting that speedboat transfers take longer than a seaplane ride would and the option is only offered by resorts which are located closer to Malé. If you’re not keen on hopping in a seaplane, you might want to look into resorts which are located in the South and North Malé Atolls. To reach these resorts, a speedboat ride usually takes between 20-90 minutes. One option is Jumeirah Vittaveli which is located within a 20-minute motorised catamaran ride from the airport.
From Malé to Resort by Domestic Flight and Speedboat
If your resort is located further off from Malé, a more feasible alternative to a loong speedboat ride is a domestic flight followed by a short speedboat transfer. In the domestic-flight-and-speedboat-scenario, you would board a domestic flight at Velana Airport and land at a domestic airport, such as the Dharavandhoo Airport located at the Baa Atoll. From here, you board a resort speedboat which will bring you to your final destination in a matter of minutes. As an example, the Amilla Villa Residences can be reached in a 20-minute flight followed by 10 minutes on a speedboat. The domestic flight is less glamorous than taking the seaplane, but many travellers appreciate the fact that the domestic flights are scheduled whereas the seaplanes are not.
When deciding between different modes of transport, one thing to consider are the baggage restrictions. This is usually not a concern for the international portion of your travel, but once you get to the Maldives, it can affect the mode of transport you use to reach your resort. Seaplanes generally allow 20 kilograms of luggage plus a five-kilo carry on per passenger. Any excess baggage will be charged as extra. For domestic flights, the weight allowance is 25 + 5 kilos per passenger. The most permissive option is taking a speedboat, which tend not to exercise any limits on baggage.
Travelling to the Maldives is a real bucket list experience and one that you should relish from take-off all the way to that final glimpse you can steal of those iconic turquoise waters. Though planning your trip might seem overwhelming at times, remember to enjoy the experience! Don’t forget your resort or hotel (or the concierge team at Ministry of Villas) will be there to help you every step of the way.