One of the most confusing things about a Maldives resort holiday is figuring out how to travel to the Maldives, and then how to get around the Maldives when you get there. Our Maldives Travel Guide offers some advice to make your trip to the Maldives smooth.
We were a little, well, lazy, when it came to figuring out how to travel to the Maldives. We obviously were able to figure out how to travel from Bangkok to the Maldives. But, we didn’t really look much beyond that. We trusted the Maldives hotels we booked would take care of things. And, for the most part, they did. In the end, though, we needed a little more than that to handle Maldives travel.
Wondering what are the best resorts in the Maldives? Check out our Travel Guide Maldives: Where to Stay in the Maldives.
Flying to Maldives – The Maldives Airport
One of the most important Maldives travel tips is how to get to the Maldives in the first place. It’s not easy, particularly if flying from the US to the Maldives. Our Maldives travel advice starts with an overview of what airlines fly to the Maldives airport. Maldives flight options are not as limited as you might think.
There are plenty of full service and budget airlines that fly to the Maldives and offer Maldives holidays. We bought our flights to the Maldives with Air Asia because we were flying from Bangkok. We flew Air Asia through Kuala Lumpur, which was the cheapest option with the fewest layovers. It did mean, however, an overnight flight back to Kuala Lumpur.
The best way, however, to fly to the Maldives is to fly on one of the Middle East airlines, like Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways, or Etihad. From Europe, this means it is possible to arrive in the Maldives after only one stop. That’s even possible when flying to the Maldives from the US from some of the Middle Eastern gateways, like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other major cities. This actually means that if you are in one of these main gateway cities, a Maldives beach vacation is a lot closer than you think. That’s a good thing.
Most international flights to the Maldives arrive and depart from Malé, Maldives, the capital. There are other domestic airports in the Maldives, but the one in Male is the largest. It is necessary to transfer to your resort in one of three ways. Some resorts, like the Four Seasons, are within a quick Maldives boat transfer from Malé.
Maldives Resort Guide – Maldives Hotels With Speedboat Transfer:
Flying to the Maldives is tough enough. If trying to squeeze in as much beach time as possible, these are some Maldives resorts accessible by speedboat. The Maldives speedboat transfer cost is determined by the property. We also provided approximate Maldives speedboat transfer times.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
Other resorts are close enough to Malé that their main form of transfer is via seaplane. Other resorts, that are further from Malé, involve short domestic flights, and then generally a quick boat transfer on the other end. Total travel time depends on where the Maldives accommodation is located. The Maldives airport transfer cost will depend on whether you are transferring by boat, seaplane, or domestic flight.
Maldives Travel Guide – Transferring Through Malé
Our flight to the Maldives landed around 8:00 pm, way too late to take a seaplane to the first of our Maldives luxury resorts, Hurawalhi Maldives, in one of the atolls north of Malé. Maldives seaplanes only fly to the Maldives island resorts during daylight hours.
We stayed the night in Malé in a hotel that is associated with Hurawalhi; it is part of the same brand. We were told what counter to check in on arrival, and staff quickly whisked us off to the public ferry. They acted almost like a personal Maldives tour guide. We paid $1 per person and arrived in just a few minutes into Malé. The Champa Central Hotel had a driver waiting for us on the other end of the ferry ride.
Malé is, well, interesting. It’s a tiny little island with a population of about 120,000 and about 50,000 motorbikes. It is congested and crowded, with narrow, one-way roads, and motorbikes and cars parked everywhere. There are shops and cafes, and the main shopping street. But, we were happy to be escorted along, what seemed like, dozens of one-way streets as we snaked our way through to our compound-like hotel.
The Champa Central Hotel Male was fine. It did its job. It was clean and comfortable, other than the fire alarm waking us at 5:21 am. Needless to say, we didn’t get a good night sleep. We woke early and made our way back to the Maldives airport, skipping breakfast because they didn’t start serving until 7:30 am.
On our departure home from Malé, we knew we would be spending about 24 hours in Malé to catch our flight. Instead of staying in the capital, we decided to book a hotel in Hulhumale, on the island north of the airport. Hulhumale is a new island, with most of it under construction. Hotels are simple, tall, square. Most have restaurants and are relatively close to the beach. We stayed at Fern Boquette Inn. We upgraded to an ocean view room. It was clean and simple. The breakfast and wifi had a lot to be desired. But, it served its purpose. We were about a 10-minute drive from the airport and they arranged transport.
Everything that happens in Malé and Hulhumale happens for functional purposes. When choosing where to stay in the Maldives, I would not recommend these areas. Understanding the Maldives prices for hotels and resorts are very high, these areas do offer the best options to keep a Maldives trip cost low. And, it’s possible to book excursions to explore more Maldives places to visit.
Wonder what are the best places to visit in the Maldives? Check out this 7 night Island Hopping Maldives Tour, and see it all!
How to Travel to the Maldives – Maldives Seaplane
Once in Malé, many of the top hotels in the Maldives are accessible by seaplane. The resort websites will explain whether they are accessible by boat, seaplane, or domestic flight. We wondered how to get to Hurawalhi Island Resort, but the hotel took care of everything. Our transfer to Hurawalhi was on a seaplane, which was perfect for Eric, the #AvGeek. In fact, for Eric, one of the best things about the Maldives was the excitement of flying on a seaplane.
We transferred from Champa Central Hotel Male. A Hurawalhi representative met us at the ferry. He brought us to the Trans Maldivian Airways counter. Our bags were weighed (even our hand luggage), and then he put us on a shuttle to the seaplane terminal. There is a pretty strict limit on baggage weight. Because we were traveling from the Maldives to Hong Kong, where we needed slightly warmer and slightly more professional clothing, we struggled with this. It is a 20kg total per passenger, not per bag.
Hurawalhi, and its sister properties have a comfortable lounge at the seaplane terminal to wait for the flight. They offered water and coffee, but no food. Unfortunate as we skipped breakfast. Some of the Maldives resort packages include access to one of the seaplane lounges, or there is a public waiting area.
There really doesn’t seem to be a set Maldives seaplane schedule, so don’t expect a confirmation number in advance. This was a little difficult for us. In the days and weeks before our trip, we emailed both of the resorts we were visiting to ask for details on our transfers and our Maldives itinerary. We were not provided much information. It made OCD travelers like us a little nervous. But, in this case, it is important to trust the resorts. They are tourism in the Maldives experts and know what they are doing.
As a result, we were not told ahead of time what time our seaplane flight departed. It wasn’t that the hotel withheld information. The airline just doesn’t set the schedule until the day before. When we checked into Champa Central Hotel, they told us we needed to check in for our flight at 8:25 am. We arrived at the airport closer to 7:50 am. Our flight was not departing until 9:45 am; information we did not receive until we arrived at the lounge at the Male Airport Seaplane Terminal. If we knew we had this much time, we would have definitely grabbed food at the hotel, or at the airport. Rookie mistake.
There is sort of a fly by the seat of our pants approach to the seaplane system and Maldives travel. I‘m sure it makes sense to some, but I felt a little out of the loop. Because I like to be in control of my transport arrangements, this put me very out of my comfort zone. Sometimes trust is necessary. And, it is part of the process to get to some of the best beaches in the Maldives.
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Flying on a Seaplane From Malé
All was forgotten when we climbed aboard the seaplane. Our flight was heading to Hurawalhi and its sister resorts. There were 15 seats on the seaplane, five rows of three across. Eric and I ducked our heads and carefully climbed in. We managed to secure two of the single seats, meaning we both had a view. Score!
The safety briefing was, well, brief. Buckle your seatbelts. No smoking flight. That’s about it. The captain wore flip-flops, which he took off before we took off. Apparently, that’s what you wear in the Maldives. The flight attendant handed out earplugs, and we were off.
This was our first seaplane trip. And, it was very cool. The seaplane glided on the water out to the channel, picked up speed, and we were off. The flight to Hurawalhi took about 45 minutes. I enjoyed every minute, flying over small islands, white sands, and water in a dozen shades of blue. It really answered two of my questions about the Maldives: 1) Where are the Maldives islands? In the middle of nowhere! 2) What are the top Maldives things to do? Nothing! The islands are in the middle of nowhere, and surrounded by nothing! But, isn’t that way so many people want to visit the Maldives.
We landed at Komandoo Resort, pulling up to a dock with a little waiting room. Most of the passengers made their way to Komandoo. We traveled with a handful of other passengers on a quick five-minute speedboat ride to Hurawalhi.
Our return trip was much the same just in reverse to return to Malé at the end of our stay. We received our departure time after dinner on our last night. Unfortunately, it was an early flight. We were up at 6:15 am, checking out at 6:30, and off to the seaplane by 7:00. Hurawalhi was nice enough to prepare a bit of breakfast for us before our journey, which was perfect.
The seaplane experience was, to us, a bonus Maldives attraction. But, it does add to the overall Maldives vacation costs. Prices are generally about $350-$400 per person, roundtrip. It’s possible to book a Maldives travel package will include the transport cost, but at some hotels in the Maldives islands, the cost is a mandatory one. There is no other way to get there!
Order a Lonely Planet Maldives – Maldives Travel Guide Book to plan your Maldives sightseeing
Maldives Travel on a Domestic Flight
Getting around the Maldives is not easy to understand. But it’s all part of the adventure. Just like we didn’t really feel knowledgeable about our seaplane to Hurawalhi, we had even less information about traveling to Outrigger Resorts. We assumed we would be connecting to another seaplane in Malé. Instead, we connected to a domestic flight. The airlines spoke to one another, apparently, to understand what time we had to be in Malé in order to make the transfer. It’s all a matter of trust.
When our seaplane from Hurawalhi landed in Malé, we took a shuttle bus to the main airport terminal. A representative from Hurawalhi met us there to ensure we received our luggage and that we were heading where we needed to be. A representative from Outrigger Resorts also met us to arrange for our domestic flight. We felt very looked after.
The Outrigger Resorts representative took us, and our luggage, from the international terminal to the domestic terminal. They took us to a private waiting lounge, arranged for our boarding passes, and even bought Eric gum. We had about two hours to kill in the lounge, but at least there was wifi. The Outrigger rep returned to get us before it was time to board and escorted us to the security line, as we eagerly anticipated our next Maldives beach resort experience.
A few minutes later, we boarded the domestic flight to, well, we didn’t really know. We were so well taken care of by Outrigger, we just boarded a plane having no idea what island we were heading to. Another Outrigger rep met us when we landed, found our bags, and transported us by a little golf cart to a speedboat for our 45-minute transfer to Outrigger and our beachfront Maldives bungalow.
On our return, everything happened the same, but in reverse, with one main exception. Maldivian Airways operates like an air bus. Our flight actually made a stop on the way to Malé. What was a 55-minute journey heading to Outrigger was over two hours on the return. This was not something we expected or knew about. Also, surprisingly, an Outrigger rep met us once again in Malé to help us transfer to our hotel in Hulhumale.
One thing is certain. Both Hurawalhi and Outrigger took very good care of us at the airports on all journeys. I’ve never had so many representatives ensure everything was taken care of. It was surprising but made the transfers a heck of a lot easier. And, this service comes with many Maldives packages.
Maldives Guide: Check out our recommendations on the Best Place to Stay in the Maldives.
Tips on Malé Travel
We have a few key tips on how to travel to the Maldives, and to Malé, to make things a bit easier and more enjoyable.
Our recommendation is to arrange your international flights and to travel to the Maldives, in order to transfer directly to your resort on arrival. That means for seaplane destinations, landing by 2:00 or 3:00 pm. On the return, it’s possible to arrange a seaplane transfer as early as 8:00 am, meaning it is possible to arrange your international flight anytime around noon, or after, and still make it.
Nothing against the Maldivian people, but in our experience, our time in Malé and Hulhumale was not great. They are not one of the top Maldives tourist spots if you want a true Maldives island experience. Malé is very crowded and Hulhumale, although convenient, is an island under construction. By properly arranging international flights and transfers it’s possible to maximize resort and Maldives beach time. For us, it was not a big inconvenience as we had more flexibility with our time. But, if you’re counting your vacation days, try not to spend a night in Malé or Hulhumale. When planning what to do in the Maldives, you probably don’t want to spend any more time than needed transferring and traveling.
Our second recommendation is to ensure you have US dollars, and preferably some small bills. We made it through our almost two weeks without visiting an ATM for local currency. There really isn’t a need to. But, some smaller bills are helpful to tip drivers and transfer staff. We used USD to tip staff at Hurawalhi. I was worried that we would run out of dollars, though. At Outrigger, we were able to tip individual staff members and charge the gratuity to our room, and therefore our credit card. I am not sure if this is typical at other Maldives hotels and resorts.
It’s not recommended to arrange these transfers independently. They should be arranged, and booked, through one of the Maldives hotel packages. In fact, Trans Maldivian Airlines makes it almost impossible to book your own seaplane transfer. In this case, both resorts handled our transfers. Our round trip seaplane transfer to Hurawalhi costs $360 per person. Our round trip domestic transfer to Outrigger Resorts costs $490 per person. The only way to avoid these costs is to stay at a hotel that is close to Male, and book a ferry or speedboat transfer. There is usually an expense for that as well.
FAQs – Planning a Maldives Vacation
- Where is the Maldives? The Maldives is a series of islands in the Indian Ocean. The Maldives is it’s own independent South Asian country. It is south of India and Sri Lanka and close to the equator. The prime Maldives location makes it a perfect place for Maldives tourism year round.
- Is Maldives Tourism developed? Yes, the tourism industry is pretty developed. Most of the best places to stay in the Maldives are owned by some of the top hotel operators in the world, and the service is top notch.
- Is it necessary to book a Maldives All Inclusive Resort? A luxury Maldives holiday can be expensive, with resorts ranging from $300-1000 a night. It’s not necessary to book an all-inclusive resort or all inclusive package. But, it could make the average costs of a Maldives vacation be more predictable.
- When is the best time to visit the Maldives? Maldives weather is hot and tropical all year around. Peak season, when prices are highest, include December through March. There is a rainy season, which runs from June through October. The best time to go to the Maldives is during the shoulder season when there is less rain, but prices are not at their peak.
- What are the best hotels in the Maldives? Check out our guide to the best places to stay in the Maldives.
- What is the cost of seaplane transfer in Maldives? The price is not cheap. The Maldives seaplane transfer cost should be considered when looking at your total Maldives trip cost. The seaplane Maldives price can add at least another $200-300 per person.
For more Maldives luxury travel tips, check out our