The Maldives may be the smallest country in Asia, but it is also the most dispersed in the world, with its 115 m² (298 km²) of land spread over 1,200 islands scattered over 90,000 m² (233,100 km²) of Indian lands. Ocean. It is therefore not surprising that sea and air transport are the main modes of transport.

Many travelers come to “fly and flop”, but if you’re too itchy to spend two weeks in one place, it’s easier than you might think to travel across the country. From public buses to luxury yachts, here’s how to get around the Maldives.

Book your domestic flights well in advance

There are 17 regional airports scattered throughout the Maldives, with regular domestic flights operated by FlyMe and Maldivian. If you are traveling to the local islands, ask your guesthouse to book flights for you, as they will be able to access discounted tickets. Flights are full, so try to book well in advance if you want to avoid spending the night in Male (although there is plenty to see there if you get stuck).


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The seaplanes only operate during the day © Neal Wilson / Getty Images

Seaplanes offer stunning views of the islands

No track? No problem. The seaplanes operated by Trans Maldivian Airways and Maldivian allow locals and tourists to reach almost any island in the country and provide passengers with breathtaking views of the country’s main selling point: countless sandy islands surrounded by water. aquamarine. The endless blue is so alluring that sightseeing flights are a popular pastime for visitors with deep pockets.

Resorts often charter seaplanes – or in some cases own their own – to transport guests from point A to point B as quickly and smoothly as possible. However, flights only take place during the day, so you’ll want to book an international flight that lands in the morning to take advantage.

Public ferry is best for budget travelers

If you are planning to visit the Maldives independently and are on a budget, traveling by public ferry is your best option. They connect all of the inhabited – or “local” – islands (not the private resorts, which require a speedboat or seaplane) and prices range from $ 5 to $ 30. But beware: schedules can be complicated and services unreliable. If you plan on going island hopping, be prepared to spend a lot of time waiting – you might even have to stay overnight on intermediate islands to get to your destination. Check the timetables online to see what’s possible, but it’s worth contacting your guesthouse directly for the most reliable information.

There are several different speedboat services

There are different types of speedboat trips in the Maldives. Many visitors take speedboats to resorts of their choice from Velana or Malé International Airport, which are arranged well in advance. They typically cost anywhere from $ 100 to $ 400, but the fare is often absorbed into the price of the vacation package. Do you prefer to choose from among the seats? Private transfers can cost between $ 65 and $ 1,200, depending on the distance traveled. The local islands are also served by regular speedboats ($ 30 to $ 110 one way) and are faster and more convenient than ferries. See Atoll Transfer for more details.

A traditional wooden boat moored next to a long pier with a tropical island in the background
Resorts and B & Bs can help you rent a dhoni © Buena Vista Images / Getty Images

Rent a dhoni for a day

If you want to hop between uninhabited islands, stop at deserted beaches and off-radar sandbanks, consider hiring a dhoni – a Maldivian coconutwood boat traditionally used for fishing and transporting goods around the island. archipelago. The guesthouse or resort of your choice can help you organize a charter; local boats start at $ 70-150 per day, while resort prices range from around $ 400-800 per day – the exact costs depend on how far you want to travel and how long. You can arrange a group dhoni cruise in advance – check out G Adventures or Responsible Travel tours for inspiration.

Luxury yacht cruises are widely available

Do you dream of sailing around the Maldives in a luxury yacht usually reserved for Hollywood stars? Planning a fancy family reunion? Private charters of crewed yachts and catamarans are widely available, but come at an exorbitant price: from $ 20,000 to $ 300,000 per week. Depending on your offering, you can follow set routes or decide your own route on the fly. Some luxury resorts offer day trips or overnight trips to give guests a taste of the billionaire lifestyle.

Two adults ride bikes with children in the back on a path through a green area bordered by palm trees
The Maldives are full of palm-fringed trails for a leisurely bike ride © AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

The bike is perfect for getting around the larger resort islands

Road cyclists looking for long journeys and hill climbs won’t find what they’re looking for on these low-lying islands. But if pedaling along the palm-fringed paths to the breakfast buffet sounds like your type of bike ride, you’ll want to choose a larger resort island such as Soneva Fushi, Anantara Kihavah, and Six Senses Laamu, where each villa or bungalow comes with your own private bikes. Many guesthouses also offer free bike rentals or bike tours – check out Beach Villa Ukulhas and Barefoot Eco Hotel to get started.

Bus services are limited to Male and Addu City

Buses in the Maldives are cheap and comfortable, but services are limited to Male and Addu City. The most convenient for travelers is the shuttle between Velana International Airport and Hulhumalé.

Most of the Maldives are car-free

Besides the congested capital of traffic and a few inhabited islands, the Maldives is perfectly car-free. The pint-sized Maleé is perfectly accessible on foot, and other large local islands are easy to cycle through, although taxis are available if you need them.

Accessibility needs are not easily met in the Maldives

The Maldives is not the easiest place to travel if you have accessibility needs – for example, there are no jet bridges at the airport, which means you will have to embark and disembark via the stairs of the plane; guide dogs (all dogs in fact) are banned nationwide; and getting on and off public speedboats and ferries can be a problem if you use a wheelchair. But the staff aren’t fazed by such challenges and are more than willing to offer manual assistance – it also helps to let your resort or transfer operator know your needs in advance.