This mega-useful article is for budget travelers who want to learn all about the ferries in Maldives. You’ll find out where to check the schedule, how to read it correctly, what peculiarities and pitfalls to look out for. There will be lots of advice that may not be obvious at first, but which you’ll encounter face-to-face.
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Table of Contents
General information about ferries in Maldives
This article is about the cheap government public ferries in Maldives that run between the islands. If you’re looking for a speedboat or private transfer, then read the article on that topic through the link. You’ll find what you’re looking for there.
Good to know:In the Maldives, ferry transport is controlled by one government company, “MTCC Ferry.” There are no others.
This business is not particularly profitable and is entirely subsidized by the country’s budget, so there are few routes, they run infrequently, and there are frequent changes. The ferries are old, but we’ll talk more about that later.
The main advantage of ferries:There’s only one advantage, but it outweighs all the disadvantages for budget tourists – the price. A speedboat to the nearest island to Male that’s popular with tourists, Maafushi, costs $25-35 one way per person, while a ferry costs $1.5. And the further away the island, the more significant the price difference becomes. And if there are four of you traveling, the savings are significant.
One more thing to note: these ferries only run between local islands. They don’t go to resort islands at all.
Ports of Male: map
There are four ports in Male (the country’s capital) from which all ferries depart. Below is a map, and I recommend that you transfer the necessary points and names to your navigator, as it will help you a lot later.
- Hulhule Ferry – the ferry terminal at the main airport. Public ferries run to Male every 10-15 minutes. The price is $1. It takes 10 minutes to sail to Male. All ferries from here go either to Male itself or to the new island of Hulhumale, which is north of the airport (on the map, it’s ports 2 and 4).
- Hulhumale Ferry – the port on the island of Hulhumale, 1 km from the airport. It’s easy to sail to Male and the airport from here. Ferries run every 10-15 minutes and cost $1. Tourists usually arrive here to spend the night, especially those with evening flights, as accommodation on Hulhumale is cheaper than in Male.
- Vilingili Ferry – the new and main port of the country. Almost all (80%) of ferry routes depart from here. The remaining 20% of ferries depart from Henvairu Ferry. Important note: the ferry from the airport in Male arrives not at this port, but at Henvairu Ferry, which is about 1.5km away. You can take a taxi for 2-3$, or walk for about 25-30 minutes.
- Henvairu Ferry – the old port of Male, which today receives ferries from the airport and about a dozen ferry routes to neighboring atolls.
Only in the airport, the port is a regular pier. In all three other ports, there is a ferry terminal with a waiting hall, ticket booths, and a free toilet.
Features of ferry routes and timetable
And now we come to the most interesting part. You will pay for the cheap tickets with some features of this type of transportation. Here are the key points:
- Ferries in Maldives only operate during daylight hours. After 4 PM, nothing runs to the popular tourist destinations.
- Ferries run from Male only to the neighboring central atolls. To put it into perspective, there are 26 atolls in the country, and ferry services are available from only 5 of them, and only to the closest ones. Learn all about the atolls in the Maldives and which islands to choose for your vacation.
- Ferries in Maldives move very slowly, at about 15 km/h. It takes about 7-8 hours with a transfer to reach the popular island of Thoddoo. Private speedboats are 4-5 times faster, but this article is not about them.
- Within each atoll, there are ferries between the internal islands, and their schedules need to be checked on-site.
- Important note: If you want to move from one atoll to another, for example from Maafushi Island (Kaafu Atoll) to Ukulhas Island (Ari Atoll), there are no direct routes, only with a transfer in Male.
And most importantly:Ferries to the Maldives run extremely infrequently, but on schedule :). If there is at least one daily trips from Male to your island, that’s very good, as more often than not, there are only 2-3 trips per week. If you miss the ferry you need, you’ll have to wait at least a day in Male or take a speedboat, if they’re still available.
And don’t forget that Friday is a day off. Ferries in Maldives between the islands do not run, only to the airport. If you arrive in Male on Thursday evening, you’ll be stuck here until Saturday.
I want to note one small advantage :). Although ferries in Maldives sail in the open ocean and are quite rocky, the situation is no better for those tourists who travel by speedboats. The speed is higher and the rocking is also greater. If the ferry is big and heavy and moves like a tractor, the speedboat is small and light, and it is more easily thrown around. As a result, it makes everyone on the ferry and the speedboat seasick 🙂 Don’t forget motion sickness pills, there is a toilet on the ferry and they distribute plastic bags.
Where to check timetable, prices, payment
Another big problem is that schedules often change, and they may change the departure port of a specific route. Therefore, always check everything in advance and verify it on the website. And if you’re already on vacation on a Maldives island and are leaving on a ferry tomorrow, ask at the reception of your guesthouse as well – the locals know about all the changes first. After all, ferries are their main means of transportation and moving goods.
Important:Ferries may be cancelled due to bad weather. However, to be fair, they operate even when seaplanes and speedboats are cancelled.
- Official MTCC website: https://mtcc.mv/
- You can find the schedule for all ferries there. But I’ll give you the link, as it’s not quite easy to do.
- Ferry schedules in the Maldives. If the link doesn’t work, something has changed, write in the comments – I’ll fix it quickly.
A few rules on how to use this schedule:
- Work through the search in this file: ctrl+F (the file is large)
- The names of the islands are complex and unpronounceable, it’s better to copy than to type
- And most importantly: read the schedule from right to left, it’s a feature :). All about the language in the Maldives and what a tourist needs to know.
Unfortunately, high technology is not a strong point of the Maldives. You can’t check ticket prices online, and you can’t buy tickets on the website either. Only at the ticket office or from the conductor on the ferry, and yes, there are such conductors.
Cards are not accepted, only cash, but you can pay in dollars or local rufiyaa. If you pay in dollars, be prepared to be charged at a bad rate, and you’ll get change in rufiyaa. But tickets are cheap, for $3-4 you can get to Rasdhoo and Thoddoo, and for $8 to Dhigurah.
For those independent travelers who want to come to the Maldives and visit several islands during their vacation, I recommend first checking the schedule, finding out which days the ferries run in your direction, and only then booking hotels. All about accommodation and the rooms in the Maldives, where to book, taxes, and what to expect in the article at this link.
- If you want to save money on expensive transfers between islands, here is a list of local islands that are easy to reach by regular ferry, the main thing is to coordinate all the schedules: Ukulhas, Rasdhoo, Thoddoo, Maafushi, Guraidhoo, and Mathiveri.
- You can also take the ferry to the cool island of Dhigurah, but it takes all day and has a difficult intermediate transfer.
Tip:Ferries in Maldives are very convenient for tourists whose flight home is in the evening. Board the ferry in the morning, arrive in Male by lunchtime, walk around the city for about 4 hours, and take a flight home in the evening.
Check out this link for an overview of Male: what to see and where to go.
In conclusion, ferries in Maldives are a means of transportation for strong-willed people. There are plenty of downsides, but if the schedule fits your flight, it’s an excellent chance to save money since it’s tens of times cheaper than speedboats.
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