This post was last updated on February 20th, 2020 at 03:19 pm
Malé is the beating heart of the beautiful Maldives. It is the most densely populated island in the country. With the hustle and bustle of the island, it contrasts sharply with the other islands where life takes place at an extremely relaxed pace. The city of Malé is also the capital where around 100,000 people live. It is not a place where many travelers linger.
Malé, a Busy and Chaotic City
Of all the royal cities in Asia, Malé is the smallest with 100,000 residents. The island of Malé is also only one by two kilometers in size and is completely crammed. That in itself is not strange, since one third of the total population lives here.
It is not the tropical paradise that you expect in the Maldives. Malé is in stark contrast to the rest of the country. It is busy, chaotic, dirty, and not very interesting. In addition, you will not find any beaches here.
Most travelers leave immediately for one of the local islands, which is understandable. There is not much to do here except for shopping. The city and the island do give you a good chance to get a real feel for the Maldives and what drives people here.
What to do in Malé
On Malé you will find plenty of markets and shops. There are two large shopping centers on the island. The shops and markets are often located on the first floor. This layout is due to the use of space on the island.
Another popular place among the locals is the tea houses. You can order small dishes here (of course with a lot of fish). You cannot get alcohol on the island (and many of the other islands), this is only possible in resorts.
1. Visit the Fish Market in Malé
The fish market is one of the nicest things to visit in Malé. Around noon it is best when hundreds of tuna are dragged onto the land by local fishermen. They are immediately cleaned and sold here.
You will hardly find any fresher fish, sometimes they even bring swordfish. You do have to get used to the smell here.
2. Shopping at Malé
The Maldives is not exactly a shopper’s paradise such as Shanghai or Bangkok. You won’t find large markets here, but if you want to go shopping, the city of Malé is your best bet. You have two large shopping centers here, a number of markets and, of course, beaconing souvenir shops.
Malé vs Hulhumale
We get a lot of questions about the airport in the Maldives. Contrary to what many people think, you will NOT land on Malé, even if it is on your ticket. The airport is on the neighboring island of Hulhumale.
That is an island with a runway and a hotel. There is nothing more. From the airport (Hulhumale) you take a ferry to Malé. These go 24 hours a day, every 10 minutes, and it takes 3 minutes.
TIP – The ferry costs $ 2 per person.
Arrival Time in the Maldives
Your arrival time in the Maldives is very important! You can go from the airport to Malé at any time of the day, but not from Malé to the other islands. If you want to go to local islands like the backpacker’s paradise of Maafushi or Thulusdhoo (best surfing island) you have to take a ferry.
This ferry does NOT sail on Friday and NOT after 3 p.m. So if you land after 3 p.m. you are forced to spend the night on Malé or arrange a speedboat ($150).
Malé has one “beach” (with a view of the airport) and not many other things worth seeing. Therefore, make sure that you land well before 3 p.m. and not on a Friday. Then you can always take the ferry to one of the local islands.
We did not know this and were forced to arrange a speedboat for US$150.
From Malé to Other Islands
Ferries depart from Malé to other local islands. You can take a taxi to Villingili Ferry Terminal. This is on the other side of the island than where you arrive from the airport.
Walking is just too far and a taxi only costs $2. At the Villingili Ferry Terminal you buy a boat ticket to one of the other islands. This only costs $2 per person.
TIP – Check all the routes here.
If you stay at a resort you often have transport from your resort. This is a speedboat or plane. Prices for this are different per resort. Check this with your resort.