I will tell you everything a tourist needs to know about the official Maldivian language. You’ll learn a minimum vocabulary that will help you connect with the locals. While this knowledge might not bring you any money, you will earn small pleasant bonuses.

It will be difficult for you to plan your dream trip to Maldives without these websites

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Flight tickets

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eSIM internet

maldives top hotels

What language do they speak in the Maldives?

The official language of the country is Dhivehi, also known as Maldivian language. More information about Dhivehi language will be provided later in the article. For now, let’s talk about the other languages spoken in the Maldives and what tourists should be prepared for.

  • Almost all the locals, especially those who work in the tourism industry, speak English to some extent. Although their proficiency levels vary, basic questions can be answered. Therefore, if you speak English, there will be no language barrier here.

Interesting to know:

Many migrants from Sri Lanka, India, and other Asian countries work in the tourism sector in the Maldives. While the locals speak English with a pronunciation that we can easily understand, Indian English is a different story. Those who have been to these countries know what I’m talking about. Their pronunciation can be hard to decipher at first, but you’ll get used to it.
What language do they speak in the Maldives
Who will understand what is written here? The Dhivehi language is complex and difficult to comprehend for European tourists. Even intuitively, it is impossible to guess what is being discussed here.

The Dhivehi language or the official language of the Maldives: interesting facts and features

Now let’s delve into the Dhivehi, the Maldivian language.

  • Only around 400,000 people in the world speak Dhivehi. With a population of 400,000 people, it’s safe to say that Dhivehi is the language of only one country – the Maldives.
  • Dhivehi belongs to the Indo-European language family, while its script is borrowed from Arabic-Persian script. To put it in simple terms:
    • The pronunciation rules are somewhat similar to Indian languages, while the writing system is borrowed from Arabic.
    • Dhivehi is an independent language and neither Indians nor Arabs can understand it.
    • For an interesting account of the history of the country‘s language, follow the link, where you will learn about when Arabs first arrived on the islands and when the Maldivian language began to emerge.

The main feature of the language in the Maldives is that:

written text is read from right to left, while all numbers are read from left to right.
Maldivian language
For example, when reading a ferry schedule in Dhivehi, you read the text from right to left until you come across numbers, which you then read from left to right before continuing to read the text from right to left. Sounds tricky, doesn’t it?

Those who are unaware of this particular feature often find themselves in a great quandary in many places. Even information for tourists is written by locals in English but according to their Arabic writing rules. Here’s an example of a ferry schedule between islands for tourists.

Why for tourists? Because for locals, this schedule is completely written in Dhivehi (an example was shown in the photo above), and you won’t understand a word of it.

language of the maldives
Here’s the ferry schedule for tourists in English, but it’s written according to Dhivehi rules (read right to left): Departure from Thoddo island at 6:30, arrival at Rasdhoo island at 8:10. The ferry returns from Rasdhoo at 15:10 and arrives at Thoddo at 16:20. If you don’t know these nuances, you’ll give it an empty stare.

Vocabulary for tourists in the Maldives

Below are literally 5-7 words that will greatly help you in conversation with locals. Don’t hesitate to use them, people will genuinely be pleased to hear that tourists are trying to remember at least a word. They know that Dhivehi is a very difficult language for a European and that most tourists don’t know a single word. So you have a chance to really stand out.

Bonuses of knowing the language in the Maldives:

The biggest bonus is that you will endear yourself to the locals. Sometimes in the market in Malé, we are given a discount because we speak a few words in Dhivehi. Bargaining is not common here, and discounts are rare. Sometimes in a restaurant, the chef will send out a complimentary dish. Hotel staff are overjoyed when you greet them in Dhivehi.
maldivian words
Language on the Maldives can be found even on fences. Here is an example of graffiti (although it’s hard to see now), but it helps tourists learn the pronunciation of a few words in Dhivehi.
  • Hello – “Halo” or “As-salamu alaykum” (remember, the country is Muslim)
  • Thank you – “Shukuriya”
  • Goodbye – “Bay”
  • Welcome – “Maruhaba”
  • Yes – “A”
  • No – “No”
  • Good – “Varu bah”
  • How much does it cost? – “Mi kihavaraka”
  • How are you? – “Halhu kihine”

Simply greeting someone in Dhivehi and asking how much something costs at any market is already 50% success in getting a small discount.

You can find many general facts about the country, currency, religion, safety for tourists and much more in the article linked here.

Interesting fact:

The distance between Maldivian islands is quite large, and for many centuries, the Dhivehi language developed independently on different atolls. As a result, the dialect of the northern Maldives differs greatly from that of the south. To the point that people may not even understand each other.
  • Read an interesting article about the wildlife in the Maldives to learn about the dangers that await tourists on land, whether predators, snakes, or venomous spiders exist.

In conclusion, on one hand, the language in the Maldives can be very difficult and incomprehensible for European tourists. But on the other hand, almost everyone knows basic English here, and communication difficulties are practically nonexistent. And if you know a few nuances and learn a few words in Dhivehi, then there will be no language barrier for you.

If you enjoyed the article and the content in this guide, you can buy me a coffee ^_^

Resources to help you plan your dream trip to the Maldives

  • Flight tickets and the best deals
  • Tour packages (from budget to luxury): Expedia
  • Hotels and guesthouses on any island:
    • Hotellook compares prices among a dozen other services and platforms and offers to choose the best one.
    • Booking – the most popular service for booking accommodation.
    • Agoda – the main competitor of Booking.
  • 12go is the largest Asian transfer service. It gathers all Maldivian carriers, even the small ones that operate between local islands.
  • Tours and excursions: Viator – a limited selection of excursions, but convenient and reliable.
  • Comprehensive insurance: EKTA
  • eSIM at the same price as in telecom office in Male.