Suitcase to Paradise: What to pack when going to Maldives?
Remember that classroom challenge where you’re asked what are you going to take with you if you get stuck in an island? This time it’s for real. As much as we want, we can’t mema this anymore. Our life for the next months (or years) will depend on what's inside our bag.
When moving to Maldives, I can’t emphasize how important it is to RESEARCH. Bahala na won’t cut it. “I’ll know it when I get there,” is so stupid. “For sure there will be stores,” LOL rich kid?!
For starters, know the culture by joining FB groups of fellow expats or Filipinos in that country. Those who crossed the bridge before you would have asked the same questions in your mind now so it won’t hurt to backread. You may also read blogs and government websites but most information there are outdated. Google News could also be your friend.
Now, when packing, always consider 3 facets of your life: Work, Home, and Leisure.
1. WorkPriorities. If you will be working here, like me, never forget what you came for. So, be ready with your work gears:
👕 Clothes – The only practiced religion in Maldives is Islam so leave the power mini dresses and plunging necklines at home. Check with your workplace if they provide uniforms. If not, your safest bets are jeans and polo shirts. Skinny jeans are OK, but if you don’t want to be stared at, your top should be long enough to fully or partially cover your bottom buns.
Non-Muslim girls don’t need to wear a hijab. Heels, flats or open-toed sandals are all acceptable, but it’s better to wear something comfy because you will do a lot of walking.
If your skimpy dresses hold a sentimental value, you can still bring them as long as you wear black stockings or leggings underneath.
PRO TIP: When in doubt, wear a cardigan over it.
💄 Make up – Most establishments do not require their ladies to be on full make up; they just need to be presentable. Foundation, lipstick, brow filler, and eyeliner are enough. Good luck, though, if you forget your moisturizer. Seriously.
📱 Equipment – Depending on the job role, your office would most likely provide a PC if your work requires one. If you’ll be using a desktop, bring your personal laptop so you can still watch your favorite shows when at home.
Since my job entails me to call overseas suppliers from time to time, I was also provided with a company phone. Just beware of the fees! I used the company phone for regular Skype calls and I incurred more than $100 charges. It’s better to get your own prepaid SIM if you want to control your phone expenses. (This is how you can get a SIM in Maldives.)
2. Home👕 Clothes - Comfy is key! Feel free to wear your usual tank top + shorts at home, especially it gets so humid early in the day until evening. You might be sharing your accommodation with colleagues, but typically it's an all-girls or all-boys apartment. There will be washing machines in the apartments so if you're sharing it with a few others, most definitely you will have to follow a washing schedule.
🛌 Beddings - Beds and mattresses are usually provided, and if you're lucky, bed sheets, pillows, and blankets are, too. If you're a neat freak, you can bring your own of the last 3 items. Buying from Male' will cost you around 500-800 rufiyaa for all those.
🚿 Toiletries - Just like when you go elsewhere, pack your essentials like soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush... you know the list. Most brands that you're comfortable with might not be available here, or called in a different name (like Colgate = Clogard), or called in the same name but have different ingredients.
For girls, I've heard a lot of female expats complained about severe hair fall since they moved to Maldives. It might be the water, or the shampoos here that are customized for South Asian hair. Bring a product that addresses this issue to be on the safe side.
💊 Medicines - Again, this is basic stuff. The brands your body is accustomed to are not here so it's better to be ready. Medicines for the common cold, cough, flu, allergies, hyperacidity and constipation, and for insect bites have a special place in my bag.
🍜 FOOD! - Guys, I strongly recommend BYOB. 😄
Most of my homesickness attacks are not because of missing my loved ones (although I really miss them!) but due to the food. My tongue looks for familiar flavours everyday.
The foundation of local food in Maldives is on 3 ingredients: fish, coconut, and starches. Oh, I have to add a handful of various herbs and spices on that! It's a totally different world for my taste buds.
I'm lucky that my flatmates get to cook Filipino recipes at home, but taste will never be the same. You may cook a chicken adobo for dinner but it will not have that homey flavour because the ingredients used, like soy sauce and vinegar, are not as savoury as the ones in our kitchens back home.
Reserve a space in your luggage for your favorite brands of condiments, PANCIT CANTON!!!, canned goods, dried mangoes, chips, biscuits, juice, and all things that can remind your tummy of home. Steer clear from items with pork; it's not worth the hassle and you'll live without it, eventually.
Kabayans returning from their annual leave in the Philippines would usually bring these items and sell them at 5 to 10 times the Pinas price due to costly freight and customs duties.
3. Leisure📘 Books - Of course, it's on the top of my list. I love Male' because it affords me a lot of free time to read a book or online journals. Besides, you definitely need to take your mind off to a new place, away from this crowded city, once in a while. There are many bookworms in Male' who would be glad to switch books if you finish that lone book you brought with you.
🌊 Beach Essentials - One thing is for sure, you will have a day at the beach. It will pay off to protect your skin from harsh elements. A cap or a hat, a good quality sunblock, a pair of sunglasses, and a scarf are enough and will give others the impression that you came prepared for the Maldives. Oh, don't forget your camera!
💪 Workout - Rubber shoes, yoga pants for girls and jersey shorts for boys, and a t-shirt are the common apparels. Gyms here are unisex so there will be no judgment or malicious looks if girls want to wear gym shorts and tank tops.
Now, you have to note this next rule if you don't want to ruin your gym plans: NEVER WEAR YOUR SHOES OUTSIDE OF THE GYM. Put your shoes in a bag and wear slippers when you walk to and from the studio. Some fitness centers also provide lockers for the regulars where you can leave your shoes. I'm telling you, if your coach sees you come in wearing your gym shoes, then no gym sesh for you, babe.
Happy packing and see you soon in Maldives!
💗 Please let me know if I missed something! 💗