After a long hiatus, when the Maldives decided to open its border on July 15, 2020, the island country became a favorite holiday destination for Bollywood celebrities, as well as for travel enthusiasts around the world.

Comprising a total of 1,196 islands, of which only 200 are inhabited, the country offers a unique geography, pristine white sand beaches, turquoise water, exotic resorts and a huge field of adventure activities. Thanks to the air transport bubble deal, the Maldives now presents the perfect destination for a private traveling soul.

Gaurav Chawla, director of Swan Tours, New Delhi, tells indianexpress.com: “Indians made up around 20-30% of tourists before the pandemic, but since the island nation opened its borders, their numbers have increased to around 60-65%. India has become the third largest market in the Maldives. The reason, says Chawla, is that there are restrictions on other travel destinations.

Impact of the pandemic on the Maldives tourism sector

Being a tourism dependent archipelago, the Maldives’ lucrative tourism sector has been hit hard during the lockdown.

Where about 1.7 million tourists visited the scenic destination in 2019, only 4.40,197 tourists visited the country between January 1 and November 16, 2020, according to the Ministry of Tourism. The number of tourists expected in 2020 was around 2 million.
In a statement, Ali Waheed, the country’s tourism minister, called the pandemic “more devastating than the 2004 tsunami and the 2008 global financial crisis”.

To revive the dying tourism sector, the country has promised facilities such as visas on arrival, easy access to the coasts and a no-quarantine policy for tourists.

“The Maldives need tourism,” said Abdulla Mausoom, an industry veteran who was appointed Maldives tourism minister in mid-August. Al jazeera. “When tourism stops, everything stops.”

What also attracts tourists from all over the world and makes them feel safe is strict adherence to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, with a few extra precautions.

“We are confident that we can ensure the safety of our guests – because our geography allows us to do so,” said Abdulla Mausoom. “There is no safer place.”

Guidelines and procedures currently in place

All tourists are required to hold a negative COVID-19 nucleic acid test (PCR) report prior to entry. The PCR test should be taken no more than 72 hours before the scheduled departure time, according to Thomas Cook. Infants are exempt.

Additionally, travelers traveling to and from the Maldives must submit a Self-Health Declaration 24 hours prior to their trip. This health declaration must be completed and submitted electronically through the Maldives Immigration online portal.

If someone tests positive when entering the Maldives, they should follow the measures of the Health Protection Agency (HPA). They will be limited to an inter-island transfer.

It is recommended that all tourists install the “TraceEkee” contact finder application.

The Maldives have been declared a “safe destination” by the World Travel and Tourism Council, with fewer than 14,000 cases and 48 total deaths since the start of the pandemic.

How to get there?

Due to their proximity to the equator, the Maldives has a tropical monsoon climate with warm weather all year round. Average temperatures are between 26 ° C and 29 ° C throughout the year, with the hottest temperatures occurring between March and April.

Being a winter destination, the best time to visit this breathtaking island country is between November and March.

The Maldives are well connected with the rest of the world. Airlines that fly frequently from India and back are IndiGo, GoAir and SpiceJet, according to Honey Singh, Head Sales and Operations, Flip Trip Holidays.

Average round-trip tickets for a couple are expected to cost around 27,000-37,000 INR ($ 366-502), which previously amounted to around INR 40,000 ($ 543).

Depending on the distance from your destination island to the capital Malé, you will either take the speedboat, seaplane or a domestic flight. It is advisable to reach Male before sunset, as the runway is not well lit at night and therefore seaplanes are not operational.

Where to stay

Maldives Offers exquisite villas and resorts with personal pools and butlers. A luxurious villa for two, with meals and alcoholic drinks included, will set you back around INR 20,000-30,000 ($ 271- $ 407) per day.

If you are traveling on a budget or want to experience local life, feel free to explore guesthouses on public islands, open to tourists since 2009. Being one of only two countries with which the India has reached a deal on air bubbles. – the other being Dubai – The Maldives has witnessed an increase in demand even during COVID-19.

According to Swan Travel Agency, rooms for January and February 2021, consisting mostly of honeymooners, are already 90% booked.

Although the prices haven’t dropped that much and you might not get discount you were looking for, if you’re lucky you might get plenty of freebies, free massages, spa treatments, free scuba diving sessions and even an upgrade to a premium villa!

Things to do

The beauty of the Maldives is found not only above the water, but also below, and this is exactly why the country has landed fourth in a list of places that will improve the global travel scene. in 2021, compiled by Planet alone.

The country offers water sports like parasailing, surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving and kitesurfing, to name a few.

Glowing beach on Vaadhoo island, romantic candle light dinner at Soneva Fushi, overwater bungalow like Cheval Blanc Randheli, white sand beach at Hulhumale Beach, helicopter tour over Maldives islands, scuba diving in Maafushi and Scuba Diving in Hanifaru Bay – The Maldives has a plethora of activities in store for you!

You can also go to the local markets to buy handicrafts, souvenirs, sarongs, clothes, etc.

If you are an architecture buff, you can visit sites like the Presidential Palace, the National Museum, and the Utheemu Ganduvaru.

The Maldives have also won the World’s Leading Destination Award, awarded by World Travel Awards 2020, a true testament to the continued efforts to ensure it remains one of the safest tourist destinations in the world.

Dos and Don’ts

* Since the Maldives is primarily a Muslim country, be sure to dress modestly if you plan to stay on a public island or visit local places.
* The Maldives prohibits the distribution of alcohol, pork and religious materials.
* Although you will find a store for your basic needs on a private island, it is advisable to bring your own essentials.
* Being closer to the equator, the Maldives are very sunny. There is a risk of sun damage to your skin. Pack sunscreen.
* Don’t forget to pack your swimsuits and tons of cotton t-shirts with an umbrella.

(The writer is an intern at indianexpress.com)

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