What makes Maldives a unique country to travel to?
The Republic of Maldives consists of 1,190 islands (approximately 200 are inhabited) in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sri Lanka. It is a presidential-parliamentary democracy and has a population of fewer than 325,000, with approximately 100,000 people residing in the capital city of Malé, and an estimated 100,000 foreign workers. Beautiful atolls, inhabited by over 1,100 species of fish and other sea life, attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Tourism facilities are well developed on the resort islands.
Maldives has a low crime rate, but theft of valuables left unattended on beaches or in hotels does occur. Drug use is on the rise among young Maldivians and the penalty for drug use is severe.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Maldives, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. In some places, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. Driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States; for example, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Maldives, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what is legal and what is not legal wherever you go.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify U.S. embassy in Colombo as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
There is no 911 equivalent for medical emergencies in Maldives; 119 is for the police only, and the Coast Guard responds to 191 calls for maritime emergencies. A patient would have to call an individual hospital for ambulance services. The quality of medical care in such instances may be uncertain, as most ambulances are ill-equipped.
Maldives has limited medical facilities. There are two hospitals in Malé: the government-owned Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) and the privately-owned Abduarahman Don Kaleyfan Hospital (ADK). IGMH does not accept insurance plans, though ADK accepts some. The hospitals perform limited general and orthopedic surgery, but Maldives has no trauma units and a small number of ICU beds. Persons needing treatments not offered in Maldives require evacuation to the nearest adequate medical facility, such as in Singapore.
Five recompression chambers are available in Maldives. The largest and longest operating recompression chamber is on Bandos Island (15 minutes by speedboat from Malé). The others are located on Cinnamon Alidhoo Resort, Villingili Resort in Addu, Kuramathi Resort, and Kandholhudhoo Islands.
Safety and Security
Maldives held its first-ever multi-party democratic election in late 2008. On November 16, 2013 Abdulla Yameen was elected President in a run-off election. In recent months during the Presidential election, the capital city of Malé had recurrent protests. Political demonstrations and social unrest resulted in the police forcibly dispersing crowds. Protests were generally confined to the capital city and primarily occurred during the evenings. There were no reports of unrest or demonstrations on the resort islands or at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.
You should not engage in political activity in Maldives. You should exercise caution and avoid demonstrations and spontaneous gatherings. If you encounter demonstrations or large crowds, you should remain calm and depart the area quickly and avoid confrontation. While traveling in Maldives, you should refer to news sources, check the U.S. Embassy Colombo website for possible security updates and remain aware of your surroundings at all times.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Maldives, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Maldives is provided for general reference only, and may vary by location or circumstance.
Only a few of the islands are large enough to support automobiles. Most transportation in Maldives is by boat or seaplane (air taxi). Maldives has good safety standards for land, sea, and air travel. Roads in Malé and on the airport island are brick and generally well maintained. Dirt roads on resort islands are well-kept by the resorts. Transportation in Malé is either by foot, by bus, or by readily available taxis that charge a fixed fee for any single journey. Transportation between the airport and Malé, as well as to nearby resort islands, is by motorized water taxi and speedboat. Several local companies provide seaplane service to outlying islands. Air taxis stop flying one hour before sunset, and several resorts do not transport passengers by boat between the airport and the resort island later than one hour before sunset. Visitors to distant resorts arriving in the country at night can expect to stay overnight at a hotel in Malé or at the airport hotel and should confirm transfer arrangements in advance.