Airports & Airlines
Almost every visitor to Maldives arrives at Velana International Airport, on the island of Hulhule, 2km across the water from the capital island, Male. It’s an aged terminal awaiting an upgrade to a world-class airport terminal that has been on the cards for years, but progress has been agonisingly slow, though it is now finally being built.
Two further airports in the country receive international flights: Hanimaadhoo International Airport, which has a weekly flight to Trivandrum in India and Gan International Airport, which has two flights a week to Colombo in Sri Lanka.
The national airline is Maldivian, which connects Maldives internationally to various cities in China, India and Bangladesh, as well as throughout the country domestically. A second domestic airline, FlyMe, operates flights that are often cheaper than those on Maldivian, though at present it only flies to two routes within the country. A third airline, Mega Maldives Airlines, connects Male to Beijing and Shanghai only.
The international carriers serving Male are a mixture of scheduled and charter airlines. Some airlines only fly in certain seasons and many change services frequently in line with traveller demand. These include:
Air Asia (www.airasia.com)
Air France (www.airfrance.com)
Air India (www.airindia.com)
Austrian Airlines (www.aua.com)
Bangkok Airways (www.bangkokair.com)
British Airways (www.ba.com)
Cathay Pacific (www.cathaypacific.com)
China Eastern (www.ceair.com)
China Southern (www.csair.com)
Edelweiss Air (www.flyedelweiss.com)
Fly Dubai (www.flydubai.com)
Hong Kong Airlines (www.hongkongairlines.com)
Korean Air (www.koreanair.com)
Japan Airlines (www.jal.com)
Malaysia Airlines (www.malaysiaairlines.com)
Oman Air (www.omanair.com)
Qatar Airways (www.qatar-airways.com)
Singapore Airlines (www.singaporeairlines.com)
SriLankan Airlines (www.srilankan.aero)
S7 Airlines (www.s7.ru)
Thai Airways (www.thaiairways.com)
Turkish Airlines (www.turkishairlines.com)
If you’re on a package, you’ll usually have little or no choice about the airline you fly, as it will be part of the package. However, packages without flights are available, so in those cases it pays to shop around for both scheduled and charter deals. More and more chartered airlines are selling flight-only seats and these can be good deals, so check their websites as well as those of scheduled carriers. The other advantage of charter flights is that you can fly direct from Western Europe to Male, without the change in the Middle East that is common for scheduled airlines.
Flights can be booked online at lonelyplanet.com/bookings.
Departure tax is included in air ticket prices.
While it may look like an obvious transport route, there are no scheduled boat connections between either India or Sri Lanka and Maldives; nor do cargo ships generally take paying passengers. You might be lucky if you ask around in Colombo or Trivandrum, but it’s unlikely.
Yachts and super-yachts cruise Maldivian waters throughout the year – this is, after all, a playground for the rich and super rich. However, with Maldives being somewhat out of the way, this is not a standard port of call, and most people fly here to meet their craft. The negatives for yacht captains include the maze of reefs that can make Maldives a hazardous place to cruise, the high fees for cruising permits, the bureaucracy that attends any journey, the restrictions on where yachts can go and the absence of lively little ports with great eating options and waterfront bars: the Caribbean this is not.
A large marina has been built at Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa in the far north of the country, and this is the only place currently set up for servicing yachts in a professional way. Addu Atoll, in the far south, also has a sheltered anchorage, a luxury resort and refuelling and resupply facilities.
The three points where a yacht can get an initial ‘clear in’ are Uligamu (Haa Alifu) in the north, Hithadhoo/Gan (Addu Atoll) in the south, and Male. Call in on VHF channel 16 to the National Security Service (NSS) Coastguard and follow instructions. If you’re just passing through and want to stop only briefly, a 72-hour permit is usually easy to arrange. If you want to stay longer in Maldivian waters, or stop for provisions, you’ll have to do immigration, customs, port authority and quarantine checks, and get a cruising permit. This can be done at any of the three clear-in facilities.
If you want to stop at Male, ensure you arrive well before dark, go to the east side of Villingili island, between Villingili and Male, and call the coastguard on channel 16. Officially, all boats require a pilot, but this isn’t usually insisted upon for boats under 30m. Carefully follow the coastguard’s instructions on where to anchor, or you may find yourself in water that’s very deep or too shallow. Then contact one of the port agents, such as Island Sailors or Real Sea Hawks Maldives.
Port agents can arrange for port authority, immigration, customs and quarantine checks, and can arrange repairs, refuelling and restocking. After the initial checks you’ll be able to cross to the lagoon beside Hulhumale, the reclaimed land north of the airport. This is a good anchorage. The bigger supermarkets, have quite a good range of provisions at relatively reasonable prices.
Before you leave Maldivian waters, don’t forget to ‘clear out’ at Uligamu, Hithadhoo or Male.
There are no land routes to Maldives.