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#1 Complete Male Travel Guide With Tips And Costs

Male travel guide - Aerial view of colorful buildings and bustling port in Male, Maldives.

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Many people think of Male as just a jumping-off point to the idyllic resort islands of Maldives, but in fact, this city is a travel destination in its own right. This comprehensive Male travel guide will show you how the city offers a peek into Maldivians’ rich culture and daily life, from colorful markets to historic mosques to mouthwatering cuisine.

And of course, the pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters are never far away. So let me share with you everything you need to know for an unforgettable and hassle-free trip to Male, the capital city of Maldives.

Male Travel Guide Helpful Table

Before we get into the details, here’s a handy table summarizing the essential information for planning your visit to Male:

Best Time to VisitNovember to April (dry season)
CurrencyMaldivian Rufiyaa (MVR), 1 USD = 15.42 MVR (as of May 2024)
LanguageDhivehi (official), English (widely spoken)
Dress CodeConservative in public, casual at resorts
Getting ThereFly to Velana International Airport
Getting AroundFerries, buses, taxis, bicycles, walking
Main AttractionsGrand Friday Mosque, National Museum, Artificial Beach
Top ActivitiesSnorkeling, diving, food tours, shopping
AccommodationsBudget guesthouses to luxury resorts
Food & DrinkSeafood, coconut, curries, tropical fruits
Safety PrecautionsLow crime rate, but be cautious at night

Keep this overview in mind as we explore each aspect of visiting Male in greater depth throughout this Male travel guide.

How Do You Get to Male, Maldives?

Unless you’re arriving by private yacht, you’ll fly into Velana International Airport (MLE), located on Hulhule Island, just a short hop from Male.

International Carriers

Velana Airport is well-connected, with direct flights from major hubs in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. Some of the top airlines serving Male include:

  • Emirates (via Dubai)
  • Qatar Airways (via Doha)
  • Etihad Airways (via Abu Dhabi)
  • Singapore Airlines (via Singapore)
  • Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul)
  • SriLankan Airlines (via Colombo)

I recommend booking your flights well in advance, especially during peak season (December to March). If you can, take the window seat—the views of the atolls from above are breathtaking.

Arrival Process

Upon landing, you’ll go through immigration and customs in the main terminal. The process is usually quick and efficient but be prepared with your passport, visa (if required), and accommodation details.

A 30-day free visa will be given on arrival for citizens of all nationalities, as long as you have:

  • A valid passport with at least 6 months remaining
  • A confirmed return ticket within 30 days
  • Proof of sufficient funds (USD 100 per person + USD 50/day)
  • A confirmed hotel reservation OR invitation from a local resident

Once you’re through, head to the arrivals hall to find ATMs, currency exchange, SIM card vendors, and resort transfer desks.

How Do You Go from the Airport to Male?

From Velana Airport, you have several options to reach Male Island depending on your budget and preferred pace:

Public Ferry

The cheapest way to get to Male is by public ferry, operated by the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC). Ferries run every 10-15 minutes from 6:00 am to 2:30 am daily.

RouteDurationFare (MVR)Fare (USD)
Airport to Male20 min15$1
Airport to Hulhumale20 min15$1

The ferry terminal is just outside the airport arrivals area, a short 2-minute walk. Tickets can be bought at the counter in cash only.

While affordable, the public ferry can get crowded, especially with luggage. If you’re prone to seasickness or want more comfort, opt for the bus or taxi instead.

Airport Bus

For a bit more space and air conditioning, take the airport bus operated by MTCC. Buses run every 30 minutes from 7:30 am to 10:30 pm daily.

RouteDurationFare (MVR)Fare (USD)
Airport to Male15 min20$1.30
Airport to Hulhumale10 min20$1.30

You can buy tickets at the MTCC counter in the arrivals hall or pay the driver directly in cash. Buses make fewer stops than the ferry, so the ride is slightly quicker.

Speedboat Taxis

To reach Male in style, hop aboard a speedboat taxi for a scenic 10-minute ride across the turquoise waters. You’ll find taxi counters at the airport jetty.

RouteDurationFare per person (MVR)Fare per person (USD)
Airport to Male10 min50-75$3.25-4.90
Airport to Hulhumale5 min40-60$2.60-3.90

Most speedboats can hold up to 10 passengers. For a private transfer, you can charter the whole boat for around 500-800 MVR ($32-52) depending on your destination and haggling skills.

For resort transfers, check with your hotel for instructions and pickup location. Many resorts have their own dedicated lounge and jetty at the airport.

How to Get Around Male?

Tourists waiting for the ferry to Male at the terminal, a transportation tip in a best Male island travel guide.

Don’t be fooled by Male’s small size—this densely packed capital has transport options to suit every traveler’s needs and budget. In this section of the Male travel guide, we’ll explore how to get around the city with ease.

Walking

One of the best ways to experience Male is on foot, wandering through the bustling streets and soaking up the local atmosphere. Most of the main sights are clustered in the compact city center, within a 10-15 minute walk of each other.

Some of my favorite walking routes:

  • Along the colorful waterfront promenade from Republic Square to the fish market.
  • Through the narrow lanes of Maafannu ward, lined with traditional Maldivian houses and small mosques.
  • In Hulhumale, a leisurely stroll down the breezy beach road at sunset.

Just be sure to dress modestly (cover your shoulders and knees), stay hydrated, and watch out for speeding motorbikes on the crowded roads.

Bicycles

For a bit more speed and flexibility, rent a bicycle and explore Male on two wheels. Many guesthouses offer free bikes to guests, or you can find rental shops along Majeedhee Magu, the main commercial street.

DurationRental Price (MVR)Rental Price (USD)
1 hour15-25$1-1.60
4 hours50-80$3.25-5.20
8 hours100-150$6.50-9.75

Keep in mind that Male’s narrow roads and heavy traffic can be challenging for inexperienced cyclists. Always wear a helmet, lock your bike when not in use, and stick to quieter backstreets when possible.

Public Buses

If you need to cover longer distances, Male has a cheap and efficient bus network operated by MTCC. Buses run frequently along the main roads from 6:00 am to midnight, with limited service on Fridays.

RouteMajor StopsFare (MVR)Fare (USD)
101Airport, Hulhumale, Male ferry terminal7$0.45
202Male ferry terminal, Villimale ferry terminal5$0.30
205Hulhumale hospital, Hulhumale ferry terminal3$0.20

Bus fares are paid in cash to the driver upon boarding. Note that buses can get very crowded during peak hours, so they may not be ideal if you’re carrying lots of luggage.

Taxis

Taxis are plentiful in Male and offer a convenient, comfortable way to get around. You can easily hail one from the street or ask your hotel to call one for you.

DistanceFare (MVR)Fare (USD)
First 2 km25$1.60
Each additional 1 km5$0.30
Waiting fee per 10 min15$1

To give you an idea, a ride from the airport to Male city center will cost around 60-80 MVR ($4-5) depending on traffic. Trips within Male itself rarely exceed 50 MVR ($3.25).

Taxi tips:

  • Make sure the driver uses the meter or agrees on the fare before setting off.
  • Tipping is appreciated but not mandatory; rounding up the fare is common.
  • Look for newer taxis with AC if you want a more comfortable ride.

Ride-Hailing Apps

For an even easier taxi experience, use ride-hailing apps like Avas Ride or Ola taxi services. Both apps are available in Male and allow you to request a ride with just a few taps on your smartphone.

Fares are similar to regular taxis but may be subject to surge pricing during peak times. The apps do offer convenient cashless payment and upfront pricing.

One quick note: due to local regulations, app drivers cannot pick up passengers directly at the airport or ferry terminal. You’ll need to walk a short distance to a designated pickup spot.

Ferries

To explore the nearby islands, hop on a local ferry from Male’s main terminal at the southwest corner of the island. Ferries are operated by MTCC and run frequently throughout the day.

DestinationDurationFare (MVR)Fare (USD)Schedule
Hulhumale20 min10$0.65Every 15 min from 5:30am to 1:30am
Villimale30 min15$1Every 30 min from 5:30am to midnight
Gulhi50 min25$1.605 times daily
Maafushi90 min30$1.952 times daily

As I’ve said, ferries can get quite crowded and aren’t always punctual, so plan accordingly and be patient. For more comfort and flexibility, you can also charter a private speedboat at the terminal.

What are the Must-Visit Attractions & Activities in Male?

The striking facade of the Grand Friday Mosque, an iconic landmark in nearly every travel guide to Male.

Now that you’re oriented with Male’s layout and transport, let’s explore the wealth of sights and experiences this island city has to offer in the next part of our Male travel guide.

Historical & Religious Sites

Male is full of beautiful mosques and historical spots that tell the story of Maldives. You can learn a lot about the local culture and Islamic heritage by visiting these places. Many of them are in the city center, so they’re easy to see on a walking tour.

Grand Friday Mosque

The Grand Friday Mosque is the biggest and most famous mosque in Maldives. It’s also known as Masjid-al-Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu Al Auzam. The mosque was built way back in 1656, so it’s super old! It has a really pretty gold dome and white walls made of coral stones.

LocationMedhuziyaarai Magu
HoursOpen Sat-Thu 9am-5pm (closed Fri)
TicketsFree entry except prayer times
AmenitiesAblution and prayer areas

When you visit, make sure to dress modestly by covering your arms and legs. You’ll also need to take off your shoes before going inside.

Old Friday Mosque

Another cool mosque to see is the Old Friday Mosque. It’s actually the oldest mosque in the country, built in 1656 too. What makes it special is that it’s made completely out of coral stones. It’s not as big as the Grand Friday Mosque, but it has a lot of history.

LocationKarankaa Magu
HoursOpen Sat-Thu 9am-5pm (closed Fri)
Tickets$3 entry for tourists
AmenitiesAblution and prayer areas

Islamic Centre

The Islamic Centre is hard to miss – it’s the huge mosque with a shiny gold dome near the Grand Friday Mosque. It opened in 1984 and can fit a lot of people. The tall minaret tower is easy to spot from anywhere on the island.

LocationMedhuziyaarai Magu
HoursOpen 24/7
TicketsFree entry except prayer times
AmenitiesAblution and prayer areas, Islamic library

Medhu Ziyaarai

This small shrine is the tomb of a famous Moroccan scholar named Abu al-Barakat Yusuf al-Barbari. He’s the one who brought Islam to Maldives way back in the 12th century. The locals really respect this place.

LocationKarankaa Magu
HoursOpen Sun-Thu 9am-6pm, Fri 2pm-6pm
TicketsFree entry
AmenitiesMosque and tomb areas

Museums & Cultural Centers

If you want to learn more about Maldivian history and culture, there are some interesting museums and art galleries to check out. They’re a nice break from the heat outside too.

National Museum

The National Museum is in a building that used to be a sultan’s palace. Inside, you’ll find all kinds of cool stuff from Maldives’ past, like old weapons, clothing, and household items. One of the most famous pieces is an 11th-century coral stone head of Buddha from the pre-Islamic era.

LocationChaandhanee Magu
HoursOpen Sun-Thu 10am-4pm (closed Fri-Sat)
Tickets$7 for tourists, $3 for locals
AmenitiesExhibit halls, gift shop

National Art Gallery

This small art gallery shows paintings, sculptures, and photographs by local Maldivian artists. The exhibits change from time to time, so you might see different things depending on when you visit.

LocationMajeedhee Magu
HoursOpen Sun-Thu 10am-5pm (closed Fri-Sat)
Tickets$2 for tourists, free for locals
AmenitiesExhibition rooms

Esjehi Art Gallery

The Esjehi Art Gallery is owned by a private collector, so it has a really unique mix of artwork. You’ll see traditional Maldivian crafts next to modern art from other countries.

LocationOrchid Magu
HoursOpen Sun-Thu 9am-5pm, Fri 2pm-5pm
Tickets$5 for tourists, $2 for locals
AmenitiesExhibition rooms, small shop

What are the Best Beaches & Water Activities in Male?

The picturesque Artificial Beach in Male is a popular spot among locals and visitors.

I know, I know – when you think Maldives, you imagine perfect white sand beaches and crystal clear water. Well, Male has some nice beaches too! Maybe it’s not as incredible as the resort islands, but it’s still really pretty.

Artificial Beach

Okay, I’ll admit the name isn’t very exciting. But Artificial Beach is actually a great spot to hang out, especially with the locals. It’s on the east side of Male Island, and it’s usually busy with people swimming, sunbathing, and playing beach volleyball.

LocationEast coast of Male
HoursOpen 24/7
TicketsFree entry
AmenitiesFood stalls, showers, changing rooms, toilets

The best part? It’s totally free to visit, and there are some handy amenities like food stalls and showers. Just don’t expect a tranquil, tourist-free beach. It can get pretty crowded, especially on weekends. But it’s a fun place to mix with the locals and enjoy the warm Indian Ocean water.

Hulhumale Beach

If you want a bit more space to spread out, head to Hulhumale Beach on the nearby island of Hulhumale. It’s a wide, quiet stretch of sand with a nice park along the shore. You can rent kayaks and jet skis here too.

LocationEast coast of Hulhumale Island
HoursOpen 24/7
TicketsFree entry
AmenitiesRentals, cafes, restrooms, showers, changing rooms

Again, no entry fee, and you can use the restrooms and cafes in the park. The watersports rentals are a fun way to get out on the turquoise water. Just be careful if you’re not an experienced swimmer or paddler – the currents can be strong. Always listen to the safety instructions from the rental staff.

Villingili Beach

I’ve saved the best for last – Villingili Beach is definitely the prettiest beach close to Male. It’s on the resort island of Villingili, which is just a short boat ride away. The soft white sand and clear lagoon are exactly what you imagine when you think of Maldives.

LocationVillingili Island, 20 min by ferry
HoursOpen 24/7
Tickets$1 island entry fee
AmenitiesWatersports, restaurants, loungers, umbrellas, toilets, showers

There’s a $1 fee to enter the island, but I think it’s totally worth it. You can rent watersports equipment, relax on beach loungers, and even have a nice meal at one of the island restaurants. It’s the perfect day trip from Male if you want a taste of that famous Maldivian beach paradise.

Just keep in mind that the ferry to Villingili Island only runs a few times a day from the Villingili Ferry Terminal in Male. Check the schedule in advance and plan your trip accordingly. And don’t forget to bring sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water – that tropical sun can be intense.

Snorkeling & Diving Trips

Now, if you really want to see the underwater wonders of Maldives, you should definitely go snorkeling or diving. Male’s house reef is okay but not the best. Luckily, there are tons of incredible reefs and dive sites in the nearby atolls.

Some of my favorite spots are:

  • HP Reef: This colorful reef is packed with all kinds of tropical fish. It’s about a 30-minute speedboat ride from Male.
  • Banana Reef: Named after its curved shape, this reef has awesome caves and cliffs to explore. Keep an eye out for big schools of bannerfish and barracuda. It takes around 50 minutes to reach by speedboat.
  • Kuda Haa: This site has these dramatic underwater rock formations that are really cool. Plus, you’ll often see sea turtles and reef sharks swimming around. It’s about an hour away from Male.

Most snorkeling and diving day trips include all your equipment and a guide, and the prices start from around $50 per person. Trust me, it’s so worth it to experience the vibrant marine life of Maldives. Just make sure to book with a reputable dive shop and listen carefully to the safety briefings.

You can find a bunch of good dive centers along the main road in Male (Majeedhee Magu) and near the harbor. Some of the best ones are:

  • Scuba Divine
  • Dive Club Maldives
  • Maldives Passions
  • Ocean Dive Maldives

They all offer a variety of snorkeling and diving trips for different skill levels. Some even have PADI certification courses if you want to get scuba-certified while you’re here.

Remember, ocean conditions can change quickly in the Maldives, especially during monsoon season (May to November). Always check the weather forecast and listen to your guide’s advice. And never touch or step on the coral—it’s super fragile and can take decades to grow back.

Where are the Markets & Shopping Spots in Male?

A variety of fresh fish for sale at the Male fish market, a must-visit spot according to any Male travel guide.

Male might be small, but it’s got a bustling city life and some really interesting markets to explore. In this part of the Male travel guide, we’ll dive into the vibrant markets and shopping spots where you can experience the local culture and find unique souvenirs.

Even if you’re not planning to buy anything, just walking through the markets is an experience in itself.

Male Local Market

The Male Local Market is this big outdoor bazaar where the locals go to buy all kinds of fresh produce, spices, and other goods. It’s a great place to get a feel for daily life in Maldives. Plus, you can find some nice handmade souvenirs here, like woven mats and pretty lacquer boxes.

LocationNorthern waterfront near Republic Square
HoursOpen daily 7am-11pm (Fri 2pm-11pm)
TicketsFree entry
AmenitiesStalls selling produce, spices, souvenirs, etc.
What to BuyFresh tuna, coconuts, lacquerware, woven handicrafts

The market is open all day, every day, except for Friday mornings. The earlier you go, the livelier it is. And don’t be afraid to haggle a bit on prices, especially for souvenirs – it’s expected.

Some tips for shopping at the Male Local Market:

  • Bring small bills (USD or MVR) for easy transactions
  • Don’t be shy to ask for samples of fruits or nuts before buying
  • Check the quality of goods carefully, especially fresh produce
  • Be prepared for crowds and a bit of chaos, especially on weekends
  • Have fun and enjoy the colorful sights and smells!

Male Fish Market

If you want to see something really unique to Maldives, head to the Male Fish Market in the early morning. This is where all the fishermen bring in their catch of the day to sell. It’s a super busy, hectic scene with all kinds of fish being tossed around and bargained over.

LocationInner Harbour southwest of Republic Square
HoursOpen daily 4am-12pm (Fri 9am-12pm)
TicketsFree entry
AmenitiesStalls selling fresh and processed fish products
What to BuyFreshly grilled fish (mas riha)
Smoked tuna chips (valhoamas)
Dried fish paste (rihaakuru)

Fair warning: the fish market can be a bit overwhelming for the senses. The smells are strong, the floors are wet, and the energy is high. But that’s all part of the authentic experience. Just wear closed-toe shoes with good traction and be ready for a wild ride.

If you want to buy some fresh fish to cook yourself, here are a few tips:

  • Go early for the best selection
  • Look for bright eyes, shiny scales, and firm flesh as signs of freshness
  • Ask the seller for cooking recommendations if you’re not familiar with the fish
  • Bargain respectfully for a good price
  • Bring a cooler or insulated bag if you’re not going straight home

Majeedhee Magu

Majeedhee Magu is the primary shopping street that runs through the middle of Male. Along this road, you’ll find all sorts of shops selling clothes, electronics, souvenirs, and pretty much everything else.

LocationRuns east-west across Male
HoursOpen Sat-Thu 9am-11pm, Fri 2pm-11pm
TicketsFree entry
AmenitiesShops, restaurants, cafes, banks, ATMs
What to BuyClothing, electronics, cosmetics, souvenirs

The shops here stay open late, until 11pm most nights. It’s a good place to come for any basics you might need, like sunscreen or an extra swimsuit. You can also find some nice gifts to bring back home, like local teas, handmade crafts, and t-shirts.

Some of the best shops in Majeedhee Magu include:

  • Island Bazaar: This well-stocked souvenir shop has a great selection of local handicrafts, postcards, t-shirts, and other gifts at reasonable prices.
  • Nala Boutique: If you’re looking for unique, locally designed clothing and accessories, check out this cute boutique. They have beautiful printed dresses, shirts, and scarves that are perfect for the tropical weather.
  • Sonee Sports: This is the go-to shop for any sporting goods or outdoor gear you might need, from snorkels to sunglasses to swimsuits. They carry top international brands like Speedo, Arena, and Oakley.
  • Le Cute: For a sweet treat, stop by this popular bakery and cafe. They have delicious pastries, cakes, and sandwiches, plus a range of hot and cold drinks. It’s a nice spot to take a break from shopping and people-watching.

Just remember, haggling is a part of shopping culture here. Don’t be shy to negotiate prices, especially on more expensive items. And always be respectful and polite about it.

Here are a few more shopping tips for Majeedhee Magu:

  • Wear comfortable shoes – you’ll be doing a lot of walking
  • Bring cash (USD or MVR) as not all shops accept credit cards
  • Be prepared for crowds, especially in the evenings and weekends
  • Check the shop’s return/exchange policy before buying, especially for electronics
  • Take breaks in the cafes or restaurants when you need to cool off or refuel

Well, those are some of the top markets and shops to check out in Male, in my humble opinion. I hope this gives you a sense of the lively local commerce scene and some good ideas for souvenirs or necessities.

Final Thoughts

Hey, thanks for sticking with me through this whole Male travel guide. I know it was a lot, but I wanted to make sure you had all the best info and tips to really enjoy your time in this cool city. Male is so much more than just a quick stop on the way to the island resorts – it has a rich history, a vibrant culture, and many fun things to see and do.

So, even if you only have a day or two, definitely try to check out some of the highlights I mentioned. I promise they’ll add a whole new layer to your Maldives experience. Have an amazing trip!

Are there ATMs in Male, Maldives?

Yes, ATMs are widely available in Male and other popular tourist areas in the Maldives. You can withdraw Maldivian Rufiyaa using your credit or debit card. However, some ATMs may charge a withdrawal fee, so it’s a good idea to check with your bank beforehand. Many resorts and businesses also accept major credit and debit cards for payments​

Is Male, Maldives Safe?

Yes, Male is generally safe for tourists. The Maldives has a moderate safety index, and most visits are trouble-free. However, it’s important to stay cautious and aware of your surroundings. Petty crime, like pickpocketing, can occur, especially in crowded areas. It’s advisable to avoid political demonstrations and to respect local customs. Wearing modest clothing and not carrying large amounts of cash can help you stay safe.

Is Male Safe to Walk at Night?

Walking around Male at night is generally safe, but it’s wise to take some precautions. Stick to well-lit and busy areas, avoid carrying valuables, and be aware of your surroundings. Taxis are a safer option if you need to travel longer distances after dark. The local police are usually helpful, and the crime rate is relatively low, but being cautious will ensure a trouble-free experience​.

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