A comprehensive article on all types of transportation in Maldives, both budget-friendly and not so much. Being an island nation, there are no buses, metros, trains, or even cars for getting around. The transportation between islands can even confuse experienced travelers and cause a lot of problems. In this small series of articles, I will explain how to move between islands, where to find schedules, and buy tickets.
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Table of Contents
General information about transportation in Maldives
The topic is quite complex. On my first trip to the Maldives, my mind was a mess, everything was very unclear and confusing. After all, we are used to being able to travel on a huge variety of modes of transportation at home, across the country, and within cities. The Maldives are not like other countries in this regard. There is no subway, trolleybuses, trams, intercity buses, or cars that can take you far.
And the transportation in Maldives that does exist has a very specific schedule. You won’t find 20 flights a day to popular resorts from the capital. If there is one flight in the schedule, that’s not bad :).
Good to know:For example, in Montenegro, more than 20 intercity buses and minibusses run daily between the capital and the resort town of Budva. You can go in the right direction literally every 30 minutes. This simply does not exist in the Maldives with any mode of transportation.
Next, I will try to create a complete picture in your head. And let’s start with general information:
- The Maldives is an island nation. A population of 500,000 people live on more than 1200 islands. Moreover, most of them are uninhabited.
- An important point is that the islands are grouped into atolls, of which there are 26 here. And if it is still possible to move cheaply and regularly within one atoll, the distances between neighboring atolls range from 100 to 800 km, and transportation turn into hell.
- All islands, the entire country, are of completely coral origin. In simple terms, they are located on fossilized corals. And the highest peak above sea level is only 2 meters 40 centimeters. It is not possible to dig a subway here. Even houses are built without basements. Any hole more than a meter deep is already filled with ocean water.
- An island measuring 2 by 3 km, such as Male, is among the ten largest islands in the country. And the standard size of most islands is 500 by 1000 meters, and there is no public transportation on them at all. Only rare scooters.
All these facts have influenced the development of transportation in Maldives. For more interesting facts about the country for tourists, read the link.
Transportation in Maldives: how to move between the islands
You have a general idea, but now here are some important facts about transportation in Maldives that everyone should know before planning their trip:
- All Maldives transportation between islands only operates during daylight hours. If you arrive in Male after 4 pm, be prepared to stay overnight. There is a high likelihood that you won’t be able to sail/fly anywhere from the island.
- All transportation in Maldives is highly weather-dependent. Routes can be canceled at any moment, whether it be by ferry or seaplane.
- The country is Islamic, and Friday is a day off!!! Nothing works, not even ferries between islands. If you don’t plan on buying a private transfer for $500-1000, you are unlikely to go anywhere from Male on Friday. If you arrive in the Maldives on Thursday evening, there is a chance you’ll be stuck in the capital until Saturday.
- Bring motion sickness medicine with you. No matter how you get to your hotel, everyone will experience strong motion sickness. Ferries and speedboats sail in open seas, and some routes take up to 6-8 hours. And seaplanes are simply very sensitive to wind and turbulence, making them shake like feathers – not like the Boeings and Airbuses we’re used to.
- Useful article about resort islands and local islands, how they differ, top island ratings, and many tips on how to choose an island for your vacation.
Important point:If you want to change atolls, for example, to move from Ukulhas Island to Dhigurah Island (both local islands are like a fairytale and a piece of paradise), there are no routes between them. The only transportation option is to go through Male with a transfer.
Considering that the frequency of ferries, speedboats, and seaplanes is only 1-2 times a day and not every day, there is a chance of spending more than a day on the road, even though the islands are only 100 km apart. Alternatively, you can order a private transfer, where prices range from around $500 – $1000.
Buses and taxi
In summary, there is simply no inter-island transportation of this type. Buses and taxis are only available in Male, the only city in the Maldives. They run frequently, there are many routes, and they are cheap, but there isn’t much use for them since you can walk the entire island in 30-40 minutes.
For example, a taxi costs $2-3 to any point in the capital, and this is the price for tourists. Locals pay $1.
- You can find detailed information about bus routes, how to call a taxi, and how to get around the capital in the article “Overview of Male.” You will also find out what to see in the city and how much time to plan for your visit to Male.
Planes are perhaps the most predictable and reliable means of transportation between atolls, and the only mode of transportation in Maldives that operates during the night and is not heavily dependent on the weather.
Here’s what you need to know:
- All tourists arrive in the Maldives at Velana International Airport, located in Male. This airport has a 3,000-meter runway, allowing it to accommodate planes of any size.
- In addition to this airport, there are 16 local airports in the Maldives, where local airlines regularly fly. However, the runway length there is smaller. Smaller planes, with a capacity of 30-60 passengers, usually fly on these routes. They are typically twin-engine ATR-72 or Dash8.
Good to know:The observant reader may have noticed that there are 16 local airports, but 26 atolls. Yes, not every atoll has an airport yet. Airports exist on all atolls that are far from Male, but on the nearest atolls, up to 100 km from the capital, there are no airports. These planes do not fly to nearby atolls, only seaplanes or sea transport do.
Prices for such flights for tourists start from $100 one way (rates are cheaper for local residents). It is important to understand that this mode of transportation in Maldives will only take you to the central island of a specific atoll, which is almost always non-touristic. To reach your resort island/local island, you will need to take a ferry or speedboat.
The link to all local airlines, where you can find schedules, prices, and buy tickets, will be provided in the next section.
This is not just a flight; it is a whole adventure. I’m sure you haven’t flown on a seaplane very often in your life. Here are some general things you need to know about this type of transportation in Maldives:
- They only fly in good weather and during daylight hours.
- There are two local companies with their own route network.
- They have their own separate hydro terminal at the main airport in Male.
- There are two types of seaplanes:
- Private transfer, when the plane is reserved only for you according to your individual route. This is expensive, from $700 and up to several thousand dollars.
- A shuttle, where 10-15 tourists are seated in such a plane, which then flies around resorts and drops off tourists. If you are “lucky” and your resort is the farthest away, you can expect 3-4 stops on the way :). This is cheaper, and often this type of transfer is already included in a package tour when purchased. And your hotel will arrange everything for you. You only need to find the right counter at the airport upon arrival in Male, and then you can relax.
This was general information about air transportation in Maldives between the islands. Here are detailed guides to help you navigate this topic:
- All airports in the Maldives or where you can arrive by plane
- Air transportation in Maldives: planes and seaplanes. Carriers, prices, official websites.
- Package tours to the Maldives, where to look, what to pay attention to.
Speedboats are perhaps the most popular means of transportation in Maldives between the islands for tourists. It combines two important advantages: relatively high speed compared to ferries, and not high cost compared to seaplanes.
Here’s what you need to know about speedboats in the Maldives:
- Speed Boat is really fast. Typically, it has 4 engines of 250-350 horsepower each.
- All speedboats belong to private carriers. Some resorts have their own speedboats that pick up their tourists directly from the airport.
- There is a route network to local islands that runs on a schedule.
- If you are traveling with a group of 6-8-10 people, it makes sense to rent a speedboat specifically for your group. Then you will sail as soon as you arrive in Male.
- Speedboats do not run on Fridays, although it has been running for the last year, but there are fewer trips! This does not apply to individual transfers and speedboats from resorts.
Important:Speedboats only operate within 100-150km from Male. Speedboats do not sail to distant atolls from the capital, 400-600km away. Only by plane or seaplane.
In fact, if you buy an “all-inclusive” package tour, your resort hotel will organize everything for you, you just need to find the right counter at the airport upon arrival. If you fly independently to a local island, you also need to find the right route, and book a place in advance.
- In the article: speedboats and private transfer are the best means of transportation in Maldives, you will find prices, schedules, carrier websites, where and how to book, and what to pay attention to.
If you buy a ticket for a speedboat to a local island, here’s what else you need to know:
- The average speed is about 60km/h. It takes almost 2 hours to sail to the islands 100km from Male.
- 15 to 40 people can be accommodated depending on the size of the speedboats. There are no standing places, only sitting ones, so it is better to book tickets in advance, as there may not be enough seats for everyone during peak season.
- Travel time ultimately depends heavily on wind, waves, and weather. Sometimes it can even be twice as long as advertised.
- It can be canceled at any time due to weather conditions. But this is the case with any form of transportation in Maldives.
- The most popular routes have only 2-3 flights per day, sometimes just one.
- Prices range from $25 one way to the nearby islands of Maafushi, Gulhi, and Guraidhoo, to $100 for remote islands like Dhigurah that are far from Male.
Due to their high speed, speedboats often experience stronger waves that can lift them up several meters. Ferries usually have less motion, but the travel time is much longer. As a result, tourists may experience motion sickness on both ferries and speedboats.
Ferries are the cheapest and most popular mode of transportation in Maldives for locals and budget travelers. Ferries operate at best once a day, and sometimes not even daily. If you miss your ferry, you may have to wait a day. If you want to change atolls, you will have to go through Male.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about ferries in the Maldives:
- They are very cheap, ranging from $1 to $7.
- They are very slow. For example, a popular local island called Thoddoo can be reached in 1.5 hours for about $40 on a speedboat, but on a ferry, it takes about 6 hours and costs $3.50.
- The ferry network is extremely limited, serving only the atolls closest to Male, which is only 3-4 atolls out of the 26 in the Maldives. For the rest of the atolls, there are no passenger ferries, only air travel.
- The ferries run strictly on schedule and even depart when speedboats and seaplanes are grounded due to bad weather.
- No ferries run on Fridays!
- For more information about ferries in the Maldives, including where to find the ports (there are more than one), how to check the schedules, how to determine whether a ferry goes to your island, how to read the schedules correctly, and other tips and tricks, check out this comprehensive article.
The topic of public transportation in Maldives is very complex and confusing. If you have purchased a package tour, everything will be arranged for you. The only thing to fear is cancellations due to bad weather. However, if you are traveling to the islands independently, there are many things to consider and figure out on your own.
Here are the main points that will greatly help you save time, money, and nerves:
- Choose islands for your vacation within 100 km of Male. There are many private resorts where package tourists go, as well as cool local islands for independent travelers.
- The most convenient option is a speedboat. If you have booked a specific trip, you can arrive at your island in an hour and a half and start your vacation. It is more expensive than a ferry, but it is worth it.
- Do not buy tickets to the Maldives for evening flights. It is also better not to arrive here on a Friday. Ideally, you should arrive in the Maldives before 10 am on any day of the week except Friday. Then it is quite easy to find the necessary transportation to your island. If you arrive in the evening, you cannot leave Male for any amount of money.
Good to know:This applies to those who want to save money. If your name includes words like “Elon” or “Musk”, or you have found your surname in Forbes magazine, it is better to book an individual transfer by seaplane. It is fast, expensive, and comfortable. Message to your hotel manager, they will arrange everything for you in no time.
There is also a so-called “night fruit ferry” only to Thoddoo island, but this is a very narrow topic and transportation for the strong-willed. It has its advantages. Read all about this ferry in the review of the local Thoddoo island.
In conclusion: transportation in Maldives, and between islands, is very different from what we are used to at home in our countries. For those who want to save money, this question needs to be studied in advance. If you are willing to spend an extra $200-500-1000 on transfers, there will be no special difficulties. All hotels and guesthouses can help with the organization of private transfers from Male, you just need to message to them.
Resources to help you plan your dream trip to the Maldives