Last week, my husband and I traveled to the marvelous nation of Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Maldives is made up of over a 1000 coral islands, with Male (pronounced maa-lay) being its capital. The Velana International Airport, also known as the Male International Airport is situated on the island of Hulhule, just a stone’s throw from Male. Public ferries and speedboats run regularly between these two islands, ferrying passengers from the airport to the main capital city and back. I think there’s also a long bridge across the ocean connecting the two islands, but I’m not sure how to commute on it.
We arrived at the Male airport late in the afternoon on 23rd February, Saturday. Post immigration (visa on arrival is issued for Indian nationals; no documents are required), we found hordes of hotel kiosks lining the arrival area. Every private island resort had its own booth, ready to escort customers to their private boats/seaplanes, as the case may be.
We were, however, travelling to the local island of Maafushi. We proceeded to the information desk where a very friendly lady introduced us to a representative from Maafushi. We told him we were going to the Velana Blu hotel and he proceeded to escort us to the speedboat for Maafushi that was ready for departure.
We made it just in time. Turns out the speedboat was of a different hotel, Arena Beach, also on Maafushi, but they were happy to accommodate us. The speedboat charges were $20 per person, and since we had limited cash on us, we agreed to pay by card at the hotel on arrival.
Note: There’s a Bank of Maldives ATM at Arrivals which only dispenses the Maldivian Rufiyaa. I had preloaded USD on my forex card only to realize that my dollars couldn’t be retrieved at the ATM. I did manage to use my card to withdraw Rufiyaas, but transactions are chargeable at 100 Rufiyaas (~$6.5).
I had read several blogs that said carrying cash is of utmost importance. Quite the contrary, I could use my card nearly everywhere, barring just the water activities availed from the local stalls on the island. Both USD and Rufiyaa are widely accepted on the islands. Also, there’s now a Bank of Maldives ATM on Maafushi as well. Worst case scenario, you can always pay 100 Rufiyaas to withdraw an emergency fund from here.
The journey from Hulhule to Male was all of 5 minutes via speedboat. We waited a few more minutes at Male to pick up more passengers before proceeding to Maafushi. On the way, we stopped at one other private island resort and picked up a couple of more tourists going to Maafushi. The entire journey to Maafushi was covered in about 40 mins.
Note: Public ferries will set you back by just $2 (as opposed to $20) for the ride, but they have fixed timings, which may be inconvenient given your time of arrival. Plus it’s a 90-minute ride as opposed to the 40-min ride on the speedboat. The ferry from Male to Maafushi is available at 9 am, 12 pm, 2:30 pm and 6 pm. Notwithstanding, it is a good option if you’re on a budget and not overly eager to get to your destination at the earliest.
A representative from Hotel Arena was waiting for us at Maafushi. On arrival, he proceeded to assemble all his guests and escort them to their hotel. The entire island can be covered on foot in 20 mins; Arena was a mere 5 mins walk from the port.
My husband and I walked with the group for a couple of mins before taking the diversion to our own hotel, Velana Blu (also a 5 mins walk from the port). On arriving at Velana, the receptionist apologized profusely for their oversight. Apparently, they send their own representative to the airport to receive their guests, but had somehow overlooked our time of arrival.
We were promptly taken to a charming, shack and offered welcome drinks – a refreshing glass of cucumber juice with lemon and mint extracts – and wet wipes. We filled our registration forms and paid the Green tax of $3 per person per night. We also swiped our forex card to pay the $40 that was due for our speedboat transfer. Velana would settle the payments with Arena later.
Velana has two adjacent properties – Velana Beach, and the newer, more premier Velana Blu. We had booked a Premier Sea View Room for our 4-night stay at Velana Blu. During check-in we were upgraded for free to a suite room, albeit a city view one. The room was substantially larger than the one we had initially booked and had a gorgeous bathtub (score!). It had a balcony overlooking the street between the two Velana properties, and was angled strategically to show a glimpse of the sea from the corner.
After settling into the room, we proceeded for dinner at Kaalamaa, the in-house restaurant at Velana Beach. Besides the indoor dining hall, they had tables out front right on the brink of the ocean. We chose one of the outdoor tables for a candlelight dinner by the ocean.
Stay tuned to know more about our dining experience on day 1. Visited Maafushi Island recently? Tell us about your experience in the comments below! Or DM us for more information on Maafushi/Velana hotels.
Day 1 total spend: $96.98
- Green tax = $3*2(P)*4(N)=$24
- Speedboat transfer = $40
- Dinner = $26.49