Money and Costs
Maldivian rufiyaa (Rf)
Bargaining is not part of Maldivian culture and should not be attempted in most situations. However, it's perfectly acceptable to haggle somewhat at a shop selling tourist souvenirs on an inhabited island.
Credit cards can be used in resorts and most guesthouses. ATMs can be found in Male and the bigger inhabited islands.
The currency of Maldives is the rufiyaa (Rf), which is divided into 100 larees. Notes come in denominations of 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, five and two rufiyaa, but the last two are uncommon. Coins are in denominations of two and one rufiyaa, and 50, 25 and 10 larees. Most resort and travel expenses will be billed in dollars, and most visitors never even see rufiyaa, as resort bills are settled by credit card and you'll never need to pay for things in cash. If you’re staying in a resort, all extras (including diving costs) will be billed to your room, and you pay the day before departure. For people staying in guesthouses it's another situation entirely, and while you'll be able to pay for most things by credit card, you'll need cash for meals outside the guesthouse, souvenirs and any other sundry expenses.
ATMs can be found easily in Male and at the airport, and nearly all allow you to withdraw funds from international accounts. They're also now commonly found on inhabited islands, particularly the bigger ones. That said, in many cases there is only one ATM on each island, so it's never ideal to be reliant on them.
It’s perfectly possible to have a holiday in Maldives without ever touching cash of any sort, as in resorts everything will be chalked up to your room number and paid by credit card on departure. You won’t need Maldivian rufiyaa unless you’re using local shops and services on inhabited islands. In Male, it's possible to pay for everything using US dollars, though you'll be given change in rufiyaa and you'll need to pay for things with small notes.
Be aware that there are restrictions on changing rufiyaa into foreign currency. If you take out cash in rufiyaa from an ATM, you won’t be able to change the remainder back into US dollars or any other foreign currency. Therefore if you need lots of local currency, exchange foreign cash for rufiyaa at a bank and keep the receipt to be allowed to change the remainder back at the airport.
Every resort takes major credit cards including Visa, Amex and MasterCard. A week of diving and drinking could easily run up a tab of over US$2000, so ensure your credit limit can stand it. Guesthouses also accept major credit cards, but do double-check this with yours before you travel.
Banks in Male will change travellers cheques and cash in US dollars, but other currencies are trickier. Most will change US-dollar travellers cheques into US dollars cash with a commission of US$5. Changing travellers cheques to Maldivian rufiyaa should not attract a commission. Some of the authorised moneychangers around town will exchange US-dollar or euro travellers cheques at times when the banks are closed.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
- General Tipping is something of a grey area in Maldives, where a 10% to 12.5% service tax is added to nearly everything.
- Hotels It's good form to leave a tip for your room staff and in smarter resorts your thakuru (butler). Give any tips to the staff personally, not to the hotel cashier – US dollars, euros and local currency are equally acceptable.
- Restaurants Tipping is not customary at independent restaurants or on local islands.
Budget: Less than US$400
- Budget resorts cost US$150–350 per night.
- Guesthouses are cheaper at around US$60–100 per night.
- Reach guesthouses cheaply by taking public ferries for US$5–10.
- Midrange resorts start from US$350 per night.
- Full board or all-inclusive options can save money.
- Speedboats to resorts cost around US$200–300.
Top end: More than US$850
- Top-end rooms start at US$750.
- Seaplane transfers generally cost anything from US$400 return.
- Expect a meal in a top-end resort to cost a minimum US$150 per person.