This article – Male City tourist guide about the capital city of Maldives offers more than just tips on where to visit or catch a ferry or speedboat. You’ll find plenty of useful information, such as the best places to stay overnight, where to buy souvenirs, details on the Male beach, as well as insights into the city’s shops and other exciting things for tourists. All of these will help you create your perfect plan for exploring the city.
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Table of Contents
Male City: general information
As a tourist, it’s highly unlikely to avoid a visit to the capital city of Maldives – Male, which is home to the only international airport in the country. Approximately 99.5% of all tourists arrive in Male, and so will you. From here, you can take ferries, speedboats, or seaplanes to reach your hotels and other islands.
It’s up to you to decide whether to spend time exploring the city or not. Some people choose to stay for 2-3 days to get a thorough understanding of the city, while others only need a couple of hours. This article will provide you with the facts, and you can decide what works best for you.
- The population of Maldives is around 500,000 people, with Male having a population of 260,000. More than 50% of the population lives in the capital city.
- The total area of the city is only 6.8 sq. km. To give you a better idea, this is a piece of land that measures 2 by 3 km. My neighborhood in my hometown is larger than the entire city of Male. The capital city of Maldives consistently ranks among the world’s most densely populated cities.
Interestingly:there is officially only one city in the Maldives – Male. All other settlements are villages on local islands. The largest village after the capital has a population of no more than 3,000 people. Can you feel the difference?
For this reason, all the country’s infrastructure is concentrated in Male. The best hospitals, large stores, major banks, markets – all of these are only found in Male. Therefore, the capital of Maldives is primarily the center of life and attraction for the local population, where they can solve all their current issues. Male is not about tourism.
An interesting fact:By law, every employee in any field is entitled to one additional paid day off per month, in addition to the standard two days off per week, to visit Male for their personal affairs. This is because most domestic issues on local islands cannot be resolved.
Today, the city of Male comprises more than 10 islands, but the three main islands are:
- Male Island, which consists of 6 districts. This is the main part of the city and the economic, political, financial, and cultural center. This is where everything a tourist needs can be found.
- Hulhule Island – a completely artificial island 1 km from Male. This is where Velana International Airport is located, where you will arrive.
- And the new residential area with sleeping quarters – Hulhumale Island. It is located on the other side of the airport. You can visually see all of this on the map below.
Just a few years ago, these were three independent islands with only ferry connections between them. There were many ferries, but it was extremely inconvenient for both tourists and locals.
At the end of 2018, a mega project was completed, which instantly changed the transportation situation on the islands. A 1.5 km long bridge was opened, connecting all three islands. It can already be seen in the photo that was shown earlier in this article. Now, it’s easy to take a bus from the airport to the city, and traffic jams on the islands have decreased, but of course, they haven’t been completely eliminated.
- Read about the city’s history and interesting facts, including what the British left behind, in the article linked below.
Transportation in Male: taxis, buses, ferries
The topic of transportation in the capital is not the most important, so here’s a brief overview of the basics, with links where necessary.
Important note:The main island of Male is only 2 km by 3 km in size. I always walk around there. I only take a taxi when I have heavy bags. Transportation in the capital is not a critical issue for tourists. Distances here from edge to edge are ridiculous.
More information on transportation options in the city:
- Buses. There are about 10 routes. The fare is 10 rufiyaa ($0.7). You can even pay in dollars on the bus. Buses run slowly, but generally frequently.
- The most useful bus for tourists is the one from the airport to Male. It runs every 15 minutes. The terminal and stop at the airport are in the article: Velana – Maldives International Airport.
- Taxis – the most convenient option for tourists, especially if you need to quickly travel from Male to Hulhumale or get to the airport. You can hail one with just a wave of your hand, no need to use the app, although it’s available. The rates are affordable:
- Around Male island: $1-2
- From Male to the airport: $3
- From Male to Hulhumale island: also $3, but they often ask tourists for $5. You can negotiate easily and casually.
- There are many taxi cars on the roads. They only accept cash. You can pay in dollars.
- All taxi cars are different, with the distinctive feature being the checkered roof.
It is absolutely safe in the country, so there won’t be any problems or scams for tourists if they catch a taxi right on the street. You can confidently use them at any time of day.
And then there’s the ferry. With the opening of the bridge, the ferry has lost some of its significance, but it is still very popular. Especially the route from the airport to Male island. A 10-minute ride costs 10 Rufiyaa ($0.7), and the ferries depart every 10-15 minutes. The ferry terminal is located right outside the airport building, and the ferries arrive in the center of Male.
- You can find a detailed article about ferry transportation in the Maldives at the link provided. There, you can also find a map with all the ferry terminals in Male, learn where they go, how to buy tickets, what forms of payment are accepted, and much other useful information.
Where to stay in Male: prices
Tourists usually stay in Male for a night if they arrive in the country in the evening. During the nighttime, local transportation between islands does not operate, and seaplanes do not fly. Only the ferry from the airport to the city center operates at night.
Therefore, if your flight to the Maldives arrives after 5 pm, there is a risk that you will only be able to travel to your island the next day – keep this in mind and plan your transportation between the islands in advance.
But if you need to stay overnight in the capital, here are a few general tips:
- The most expensive accommodation is on the main island in Male.
- On Hulhumale Island, there is new and modern housing with a larger selection of accommodations, and prices are 30-50% lower.
- For example, the average price for a room per night in Male is around $70-100. However, on Hulhumale Island, there are many options for around $50.
- So it is better to look for accommodation on Hulhumale Island and easily travel to the city center in 8 minutes by taxi over the bridge, which will cost you $3-5.
When it comes to searching and booking accommodation, there are plenty of options available nowadays, from Booking to Agoda. However, I highly recommend Booking, which is the world’s largest service for renting accommodations for tourists.
Male Tourist Map
Below, you will find a dynamic map of Male that displays all the locations that might be of interest to tourists. You can click on the map to zoom in and study it in more detail. On the left-hand side of the map, you will find a pop-out menu with all the marked points of interest.
Shopping in Male: markets, fish market and Souvenir Shops
In short, since you can find a more detailed article about shopping in the Maldives by following the link provided, it covers everything from how the shops operate, their range of products, whether you can pay with dollars (spoiler alert: you can), and much other essential information.
- There are no massive shopping centers or hypermarkets like we have back home, nor are there any significant global chains such as IKEA, ZARA, and so on.
- However, in the center of Male, there is one large Mango store and one H&M store.
- For those who are expecting to shop at brand-name stores, don’t get your hopes up; shopping in any European city is much better.
Here are the main points of interest (all of which are marked on the map above) that might be of interest to tourists:
- Fruit Market: Here, you can buy some tasty treats to take home, such as national sweets called “bondi” and dried tuna.
- Fish Market: You can simply walk in and marvel at the abundance of fish.
- Orchid Magu – This is a street with souvenir shops where you can buy any Maldivian souvenir much cheaper than at the airport. It’s an excellent place to find a gift from the Maldives. Additionally, there are currency exchange booths where you can exchange dollars for rufiyaa at a reasonable rate.
- Mango store
- H&M store.
- There are also a couple of decent boutiques in the duty-free zone at the airport.
Male City tourist guide: Top 5 attractions
In short, Male is far from Rome or Paris. There are practically no attractions here. You can visit all the interesting places in the capital in just a couple of hours, and the list of them is not particularly long.
Below are the main attractions of the capital that may be of some interest to tourists (they are all marked on the map). I will also indicate the time to allocate for each location so that you can plan your itinerary and understand the timing.
- Islamic Center and the main mosque of the country (5 minutes)
- Republic Square and the national flag (5 minutes)
- Sultan Park (30 minutes). The park is very beautiful, but not very large. There is even a pond with dwarf sharks and a magnificent children’s playground. Everything is free.
- National Museum (30 minutes). The museum is not very big.
- Monument to the victims of the 2004 tsunami. About 300,000 people died from this tsunami in Southeast Asia. The Maldives suffered the least, with 80 people killed.
- The main beach of the capital with a relaxation zone. You can simply relax by the ocean, swim, or watch fishermen catch tuna weighing 10-15 kg.
- If desired, you can come up with a dozen more attractions, such as the oldest mosque, the presidential palace, the national art gallery, and so on. But believe me, there is nothing special there, and if you don’t know, most locations can be missed.
Admission is free everywhere except museums. Many tourists walk around the city on their own. If you enjoy tours and speak English, you can book a walking tour of Male with a local guide in advance. There are programs for both 2 hours and the whole day. The huge plus of having a guide is that they know all the best places and can show you hidden corners that you would not find on your own.
For me personally, the most valuable aspect of these tours is the gastronomic direction. Local guides can show you some amazing dining spots where you can try local delicacies and cuisine. Even if you have booked a classic walking tour of the city, you can always ask your guide where to eat to experience the best of the local cuisine.
Now, here are some tips that will help you plan your visit to the capital even better. Here are some general points that you need to know, and you can decide how to apply them to your trip:
- 4-6 hours is enough time to explore the Male city.
- The most convenient option is if you have an evening flight back home. Then you can arrive at the airport in the morning from your island, store your luggage, and head out to explore the city. You can buy all your souvenirs here.
- Also, if you arrive in Male and have 2-4 hours before your ferry or speedboat departs, it’s convenient to exchange money at a good rate in the city and buy a sim card, as you won’t find many opportunities to do so later.
- All about communication and the internet in the Maldives: operators and tariffs.
Another great way to get to know the Maldives’ capital is for tourists whose hotels are very close by. Within a radius of 20-30km from the capital, there are several local islands and a dozen resort islands. If you’re staying on one of these islands, you can sail to Male in the morning, explore the city, and return to your hotel after lunch.
- If you’re staying at a resort, the transfer issue is usually taken care of at your hotel, and there may be many options available.
- And if you’re on a local island, public ferries go to the capital every day. For example, for those staying on the popular local island of Maafushi, the ferry to Male arrives daily at 9 am from Maafushi and departs back at 3 pm. This is a great plan for just $3 for the ticket, and you have six hours to explore the city.
- A comprehensive review of the local island of Maafushi.
In conclusion, although Male is not a tourist center, I recommend that everyone allocate 3-4-5 hours of their trip to this city whenever possible. On the other hand, it is not necessary to plan a whole day for this city since it is not very large, and there are not that many attractions to see in one day.
Wishing you a memorable visit to the only city in the Maldives!
Resources to help you plan your dream trip to the Maldives
- Flight tickets and the best deals
- Hotels and guesthouses on any island: Booking
- Tour packages (from budget to luxury): Expedia
- Comprehensive insurance: EKTA
- eSIM virtual SIM card with internet package at the same price as in telecom store in Male