Here's a heads up before moving to Maldives
The queue in Immigration counter for tourist arrivals was too long. If it was still bright outside during the plane's final descent to Male', I still wouldn't get a glimpse of how beautiful Maldives is -- and why there's so many tourists coming in -- as I was fast asleep after 2 long layovers.
Fortunately, the queue for those entering with work visa is short and the process was fast. They did an x-ray of my handbag, a first among all arrival processes I've gone through, then got my luggage.
The sliding doors opened to reveal a huge swarm of people with name boards and leis right in front of the exit. I found my name and allowed this bearded young man to lead me. What I didn't expect was he will lead me to a speed boat just 50 meters from the exit. It felt like a fancy kidnapping situation, but I sank myself back to reality. "This is Maldives, girl!"
Maldives had these 4 surprises in store for me. It's so frustrating to be caught off-guard in a foreign city, so I thought of sharing these with you.
1. IT'S A MUSLIM COUNTRY.This was not too much of a surprise because I did my research beforehand, but still!
When you see its tourism campaign videos of honeymooners in skimpy swimwear enjoying the water bungalows and the sea that is 50 shades of blue, you will not think that this country is predominantly Muslim.
Their clothing and customs are not different from my Muslim friends in the southern Philippines but, unlike in my country, pork and alcohol are not allowed here at all. Establishments and some roads close during Islam prayer times so you have to be mindful of the schedule.
Oh, as for that special bikini you reserved for Maldives, you can still wear it as long as you are in a private resort. Stripping down is not allowed in local, inhabited island or public beaches.
2. WHEN THEY SAID IT’S SMALL, BELIEVE THEM.A technique I used in high school to memorize the Asian Map is to associate an object with a country’s shape. I remember, the easiest was Maldives because it’s just a dot on the Indian Ocean, southwest of the country that looks like a droplet (Sri Lanka).
To give you an idea, I compared the size of Male City to some cities in my home country using mapfrappe.com.
|You can fit the whole capital city in Diliman!|
|Barangay Lahug in Cebu is even bigger.|
On my first week of exploration, I was able to cover the whole capital city and even crossed to the nearby urban island, Hulhumale. The roads in Male are so narrow that most of the streets are one-way to prevent collision and motorcycles are everywhere! Owning an apartment is also very expensive because of the tight demand. Some of my expat friends mentioned that the apartment rates are comparable to New York’s.
3. TIME TO REVISIT THAT LONG-FORGOTTEN HOBBYAs we have established that Male is a really small city, and the island resorts even smaller, you will get so much free time in your hands. After work, you would probably be walking home, which means no time wasted in traffic. There are no malls, no arcades, no karaoke bars, no bowling alleys, or any other recreational facilities in the capital city to keep you busy, except for a tiny cinema that badly needs a renovation! Weekend expat parties in nearby resorts can set you back by 45-65 USD which includes unlimited liquor and return speedboat transfers. However, these parties usually wrap up by 12 m.n. so you really can't morning the night. Anyway, most of us would be too overwhelmed by so much liquor that we'd probably be drunk by the first hour.
To be more productive, use this time to tap on your creative juices and finally start that thing you've always wanted to do. Start your book, make videos, practice yoga, get that 6-pack, build your business -- you'll have time for those!
4. GOING TO RESORTS COSTS A FORTUNE!Before coming to Maldives, I had the vision of resort-hopping and staying on the infamous water villas at least once a month. Boy, was I wrong!
While there are many packages you can choose from, like a day tour (~100USD), bed-and-breakfast (~150USD), half board (200-250USD), and full board (~300USD++), water bungalows are on a different spectrum since they cost north of 800USD a night! As most expats come here to work and save money, going to resorts is only aspirational because it means you would have to spend almost your whole month's salary just for that IG shotlist.
I got an expat discount from Palm Dives for a super awesome whole-day excursion which included a sand bank trip, snorkelling, and dolphin watching for only 85USD. You may try that for an introductory #MaldivesTourism101 course if you're in a tight budget.
|I realized many things in this trip, among them the importance of sunscreen! 😄|
PRO TIP: Don't forget to ask for special rates and discounts for work permit holders and locals. Most establishments would be happy to give you one!
Maldives is a great home away from home, especially if you're an avid fan of the sea. However, in order to easily settle, you need to adjust and be mindful of the way things go in your new home. With my heads up above, you can prepare yourself mentally and enjoy your stay sooner than you expect!
💗 Don't be shy to leave a comment. I'd love to hear your thoughts! 💗