10 Pros and Cons of Living in the Maldives

A small island in Maldives, filled with green trees. Small grey buildings dot the island. Blue water and white sand surround the island.

Anytime you move somewhere new, you’ll experience an adjustment period. If you’re moving to a foreign country, this change is pretty different.

So, can you live in the Maldives? The answer is yes, but it’s essential to learn about their culture, cuisine, and daily lives.

Understanding a new country can be challenging for an expat, but doing some research is always a great first step. If you know a bit about the culture and the people who live there, you’ll have an easier time fitting in. Plus, getting an overview of the cities also helps you adapt.

Read on to learn the ten pros and cons of living in the Maldives.

7 Advantages of Living in the Maldives

People who are considering moving to the Maldives likely have a lot of questions, such as “What is the quality of life in the Maldives?” and “is Maldives safe to live?” The answers to those questions depend on places to live in the Maldives for expats.

When you’re choosing where to live in the Maldives, you can choose from many different islands. There are more than 1,000 islands that make up the Maldives, though people inhabit less than 200 of them. Still, there’s a lot to consider when you’re moving to the Maldives.

You also have to choose between cities or beach life. There are pros and cons to all of these options, but it’s great to have choices. Read on to find out more about living in the Maldives.

1. There Are Many Islands to Choose From

As previously mentioned, the Maldives consists of over 1,000 islands, but you can choose from about 185 of them as your destination. These inhabited islands include towns and villages. Farming villages and fishing communities are also on these islands. The top 10 largest islands include:

  • Gan-Maandhoo
  • Hithadhoo
  • Fuvahmulah
  • Hulhumalé
  • Hulhumeedhoo
  • Isdhoo-Kalaidhoo
  • Gan
  • Hanimaadhoo
  • Hulhulé
  • Filladhoo-Dhapparu

Other islands are uninhabited, meaning no humans live there permanently. Some of these islands have resorts for tourism or allow people to visit to have picnics. They might also function as significant agriculture sources for the country at large.

Even if you choose one specific island for your Maldivian home, you can easily travel around to others. You might even like to challenge yourself to visit as many islands as possible while this country is your home base. There’s nothing like exploring the world around you, and you’ll really get to experience all the Maldives have to offer.

2. You Can Choose Cities or Beach Life

The Maldives make up the second least populated country in Asia, so you don’t have to worry about overcrowding in general. However, choosing between cities and beach life will significantly impact how many people you’re around.

If you choose to live near the beach, you’ll love a simple way of life. People living in the Maldives depend a lot on fishing and become one with nature as a result. You can still live a comfortable life, but it will be much more relaxed than if you chose the hustle and bustle of the city.

The city life is undoubtedly appealing, though. Malé is the capital of the Maldives. The Velana International Airport is there, so it’ll most likely be the first stop on your move.

The farther away from Malé you go, the higher your moving costs. To get from island to island, you have to travel by seaplane, ferry, or speedboat. If you want a relatively stress-free move, you might want to stay closer to Malé.

There are many populated cities in the Maldives, so you might choose to live in Malé, Fuvahmulah, Hulhumale, Maafushi Island, Naifaru, or Dhidhdhoo. These cities all have cultural attractions so you can learn about your new home country. They also provide plenty of opportunities to explore shopping, restaurants, and other fun excursions.

No matter where you make your home, you’ll love all that the Maldives has to offer. The waters around every island are beautiful places to scuba dive and snorkel. You can also charter boat trips or simply relax on the beach.

3. You Get to Eat Delicious Maldivian Cuisine

Maldivian cuisine is unlike anything you’ve tasted before. Just as the country itself is tropical, so is the overall taste of its food. The people mix spices with flavors like coconut and fish for the freshest seafood meal you’ve ever had.

Mas huni is a traditional breakfast you’ll soon crave every morning. The dish is a mix of tuna, onion, and chili mixed with coconut. People usually serve it with warm flatbread. It might not sound like a typical breakfast item, but you’ll love how the flavors play on your tongue.

Bis keemiya, similar to a samosa, is another food you’ll have to try. It’s a light pastry stuffed with cabbage, eggs, and onions, making it a great thing to order as an appetizer or side. Another light menu item is garudhiya, a fish soup. It has a kick of spice and citrus, making it a filling, flavorful dish.

Curries are also popular menu items in the Maldives. Mas riha is the most common curry, made of diced tuna, unique spices, and rice. Most restaurants can also make vegetable curries using eggplant, pumpkin, or bananas instead of fish.

If you have any dietary restrictions, you should further research specific islands before you move. Some islands don’t offer many vegetarian or vegan options since the country depends on fish so much. You can always check the menus of local restaurants to see what cuisine they serve, giving you a general idea of what’s available on the island.

4. You Can Live on a Budget

A lady is meditating on the beach as the sun rises. We see her silhouette, with waves in the distance.

Here’s a prominent question on expats’ minds: How much money do you need to live in the Maldives? You’ll be glad to know you can live on a small budget. Traveling to the country can get expensive in terms of airfare and getting to your home island, but you can live an affordable life once you’ve settled in.

Tourists spend up to 60 USD per day on food, but you can spend much less as a resident. There are certain tricks to learn to stretch your dollars.

Breakfast is cheaper than lunch or dinner, and it’s the most important meal of the day, so enjoy it and see how long your food budget can last you each day. Restaurants are more expensive than street food, but buying groceries and cooking at home is the cheapest choice.

Taxis have a fixed rate of about 2 USD per ride, so you can get around the island easily. However, you might prefer to walk or ride a bicycle or motorbike depending on the area.

Rent varies depending on location. In a larger city, apartment rent is similar to average-sized cities in the United States. However, when you stay outside of the city, you’ll get a significant discount on living expenses.

Overall, the cost of living in the Maldives is about 17% lower than in the United States. While some things, like milk or beef, are more expensive, you can find alternatives or learn to do without. Eating local food is not only the freshest choice but also the most affordable.

5. The People Are Friendly

The people who live in the Maldives have adjusted to having tourists and expats around, so they welcome others. They have their own traditions, of course, but if you’re respectful and friendly, they’ll most likely invite you into their lives.

6. There’s a Lot to Do

Even if you’re moving to the Maldives on your own, you’ll quickly make friends. There are Facebook groups for expats living in the Maldives. Connect with some of these people to get insider information to help adjust to your new home and make friends you can explore the country with!

You can also find meetup groups depending on your hobbies. If you’re a photographer or musician, you can connect with the locals based on those interests. You can always meet people by taking classes, especially scuba diving or snorkeling classes.

The Maldives has many of the same commodities as the United States, like gyms. You can go there to work out or to take yoga classes. It’s a great way to meet people, and since the gyms are typically located in the city, you can go out to eat with the people you meet afterward.

Hanging out on the beach, taking a chartered boat ride, or exploring the country will give you a chance to meet many other people. There are plenty of ways to stay busy, and you’ll naturally meet others while you’re doing so.

7. They Have Strong Wi-Fi

Several of the ways to meet people require you to have the internet, which you might think is tough to find in an island nation. The Maldives actually have a strong internet connection, possibly because of all the resorts on the islands.

Before you move, you either need to unlock your phone and buy a Maldivian SIM card or get a new phone once you’re living in the Maldives. You can get a data plan to use your phone for the internet or visit internet cafes in the larger cities.

3 Disadvantages of Living in the Maldives

An aerial photo of a densely packed city on a Maldives island, surrounded by blue water

After learning the seven advantages of living in the Maldives, you might wonder what downsides this gorgeous country could possibly have. Most of these disadvantages are the result of adjusting to a new location. Once you’re settled in the Maldives, you’ll probably find yourself hard-pressed to say anything bad about the area.

1. You Must Follow the Dress Code

As you’re planning your move, you might have wondered, “Can foreigners live in the Maldives?” The answer is yes, but it’s always best to read up on the culture and religion of a country. You don’t want to offend the residents of your new home just because you didn’t learn about their beliefs.

For example, going to the beach in the Maldives requires a bit of research. There are specific beaches designated as “bikini beaches.” This means you can wear swimsuits there and fit in. Other beaches, however, ask for the standard dress.

If you’re underdressed on a regular beach, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. The locals will think you’re a tourist who doesn’t know better. Some might even say something to you or spit at you. It’s always better to try and fit in the best you can, not to mention respect the culture.

The dress code doesn’t state that you need to stay covered from head to toe, but you shouldn’t wear short shorts or skirts, nor strappy shirts. Comfortable, casual clothes are fine as long as you’re not showing too much skin. It’s always better to err on the side of caution.

Along with the dress code, you should also remember that the Maldives follows Muslim culture. That means you won’t have easy access to alcohol if you like to kick back with a drink every so often. It’s not impossible to find alcoholic beverages, but most areas are swarming with tourists.

2. There’s a Lot of Litter

Islands with tourism and resorts look pretty polished, so if that’s your first experience with the Maldives, you might get spoiled. The local islands don’t look nearly this clean. In fact, you’ll find a lot of litter around the areas, both in cities and more remote locations.

There’s actually an island in the country devoted specifically to trash. Thilafushi is the trash island of the Maldives. Resorts in the country used to take all of their garbage to Thilafushi, to the point where the island basically became a dump. When contrasted with the Maldives’ typical beaches, this is a startling sight to see.

But not all garbage is on Thilafushi. Many islands don’t know how to dispose of trash because, in the past, all the waste was organic. As the economy changed and tourists swarmed the country, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and glass jars got left behind on the beach.

Since the country has so many small islands, it’s been tough for the Maldives to orchestrate a waste collection solution. Many households have to pay for garbage bins since the government can’t afford to distribute them to every home and collect them promptly.

If you move to the Maldives, be conscious of what you buy. Consider packaging options before purchasing items that have extra product waste on them or that you can’t recycle. The goal of travelers is always to leave a place better than you found it, and that’s even more important when you’re making such a beautiful location your home.

3. It Can Be Hard to Spend Money

It sounds strange to say that it’s hard to spend money in the Maldives, but this statement requires some explanation. Yes, you can absolutely live on a budget and not spend much money. But the idea of it being hard to spend money refers more to the type of money you bring with you.

Many places in the Maldives take USD, so you can bring cash with you or exchange your money at the airport when you arrive. You can also exchange any money, including USD, for MVR, which is the Maldivian Rufiyaa.

Keep in mind that if you’re spending MVR, you might get better deals from some shopkeepers and restaurant owners. Sometimes paying in USD means you’ll spend more. The exchange rate for business owners can be higher than the airport or a bank.

Some islands, especially those big on tourism, will have ATMs around. They might also take credit cards. But you can also find yourself trying to pay for dinner with plastic when they only take cash. Instead of getting stuck in this situation, make sure you have plenty of cash with you.

One thing to note is that you can’t exchange MVR back to USD or EUR when you leave. So while you might want some local currency on hand while you’re living in the Maldives, you don’t want to get stuck with it if you decide to move on to the United States or Europe.

Final Notes

A couple is snorkeling in a blue lagoon. Two huts and mountains can be seen in the distance.

When you’re moving to a foreign country, you want to learn as much about the culture and population as you can. This overview of living in the Maldives gives you seven advantages and three disadvantages about your move.

There’s a lot to love about living in the Maldives, but you should also consider the cons. The disadvantages are pretty minor when you consider the beauty of this island country. Choosing between a beach life or the hustle and bustle of the city is one of the hardest choices when it comes to moving to the Maldives.

If you’re eager to become an expat, don’t miss our article about Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean. You’re sure to find a country on that list that best suits your lifestyle.

Is there anything we missed about living in the Maldives? Sound off in the comments so we can give you the most comprehensive information on the web!

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