Southwest of Sri Lanka, on the equator.
1,190 coral islands, forming an archipelago of 26 major atolls. Stretches 820 kilometres north to south and 120 kilometres east to west. 200 are inhabited, 87 are exclusive resort islands.
Generally warm and humid. Sun shines all year through. Average temperature around 29 - 32 degrees Celsius.
What to wear
Dress is generally casual. T-shirts and cotton clothing are most suitable. In Male’, the capital island and other inhabited islands it is recommended that women wear modest clothing without baring too much.
About 270,000 according to 1998 estimates. Origin of the Maldivians are lost in antiquity, but history reveals that the islands have been populated for over 3,000 years ago. Early settlers were travellers on the Silk Route and from the Indus Valley Civilisation. Inherently warm, friendly and hospitable by nature, it is easy to feel comfortable and relaxed with a Maldivian.
A proud history and rich culture evolved from the first settlers who were from various parts of the world travelling the seas in ancient times. The Maldives has been a melting pot of different cultures as people from different parts of the world came here and settled down. Some of the local music and dance for instance resemble African influences, with handbeating of drums and songs in a language that is not known to any but certainly represents that of East African countries. As one would expect there is a great South Asian influence in some of the music and dancing and especially in the traditional food of the Maldivians. However many of the South Asian customs especially with regard to women - for instance the Sub Continent’s tradition of secluding women from public view - are not tenets of life here. In fact women play a major role in society - not surprising considering the fact men spend the whole day out at sea fishing. Many of the traditions are strongly related to the seas and the fact that life is dependent on the seas around us.
Dhivehi is the language spoken in all parts of the Maldives. English is widely spoken by Maldivians and visitors can easily make themselves understood getting around the capital island. In the resorts, a variety of languages are spoken by the staff including English, German, French, Italian and Japanese.
The Maldives economy has been growing at an annual average of 10% for the past two decades. Tourism is the main industry, contributing close to 20% of the GDP. Fisheries and trade follow close behind. The Maldivian economy is regarded as exemplary in the region and welcomes foreign investment.
The Maldivian currency is the Rufiyaa and Laaree. The exchange rate for US Dollar at the time of writing is MRf.11.72 for the dollar. One Rufiyaa is equivalent to 100 laarees. Rufiyaa bank notes come in denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500. Coins are in the denominations of MRf.2.00, MRf.1.00, 50 laarees, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 laaree. The US Dollar is the most commonly used foreign currency. Payments in the resorts and hotels can be made in most hard currency in cash, travellers’ cheques or credit cards. Commonly used credit cards are American Express, Visa, Master Card, Diners Club, JCB and Euro Card.
The functional literacy rate is 98%. Educational standards are among the highest in the region and schools follow the British system of education.
Health care facilities are improving almost on a daily basis. The Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in Male’ is the biggest hospital in the country providing sophisticated medical care. ADK Hospital is the biggest private health care facility and follows high medical standards. Some resorts have in-house doctors. A decompression chamber is within easy reach of most resorts in case of a diving emergency.
GMT + 5 hours
From Sunday to Thursday 7.30 - 14.30 in the government sector and generally from 9.00 to 5.00 in the private sector, although most offices in the private sector open for a half day on Saturday. Weekend falls on Friday and Saturday.
Up-to-date technology and international satellite links allow Maldives to have a sophisticated communications system. IDD facilities are available on all resorts and card phones are available on all inhabited islands. Dhiraagu, the Maldives Telecommunications Company also provides mobile telephones for daily rental. It is also the Internet service provider.