Male’ capital of the Maldives

Malé from speedboat

Malé from Speedboat

When looking on the internet for reviews and advice on Male there appears to be a lot of confusion regarding what is actually a residential island, there are photos of tropical beaches, water bungalows and excellent snorkeling however this is not the case.

There are numerous hotels in Male however these can be expensive.

The first thing that strikes you as you fly to the airport on Hulhumale island, is the Maldivian capital and the amount of buildings, and the lack of green spaces and beaches.

As an Islamist country the Maldivians have strict rules as to how they organize their daily lives; for example men do no housework, the women will take over in all household chores, men socialize in cafes while the women look after the home and children; we have seen men sitting in a totally different area of a ferry to his wife and children.

With a population of almost 120,000 people living on an island with an area of only 2.239 miles it is the highest populated city in the world – equating to a population of over 147,000 people per square mile

This Capital is now three separate islands, the capital island Male has now far outgrown its size so 2 nearby islands have been reclaimed from the resorts these are Villingili and Hulhumale, and while writing this another resort (Club Faru) has closed with the view to reclamation

One of Male's Main streets

One of Male’s Main streets

As the main island is way over populated and the streets are manic, there are no driving rules as such – everyone pedestrians, scooters, taxis and vans alike take any opportunity to nip in so as to get where they are going as quickly as possible

There is speed limit of 20kmh which is rarely exceeded due to the sheer volume of traffic

If you decide to stay in the capital you will find the Maldivian people very shy or wary of you, they will not speak to you first.

You will also need a good sense of direction as the streets are narrow and packed with shops and homes, you must write down the name and address of where you are staying and if you get lost you can always find a policeman or get a taxi, take a photo of the street where you are staying and if possible a photo of the name of your accommodation in case you cannot pronounce it properly.

Another thing you will notice if you venture further into the capital is the stares from the locals and the men certainly do not hide the fact they are staring especially if there is the slightest hint of cleavage on show and you can hear the tuts of disapproval from the women when they see you dressed differently to them

Taxis are relatively cheap on Male and will cost you 20 Ruffiers (less than 1GBP, this is a standard fare whether it takes 1 minute or 10 minutes, however if you have cases they will charge extra, around 5 Ruffiers for each case.

Male Public Beach no bikinis

Male Public Beach no bikinis


If you find the public beach it is small but is like a natural infinity pool, there is no bikinis or swimming costumes allowed for women, men can go as they please. The sea in the Maldives is as warm as a bath all year round and with the natural coral surrounding most islands the sea never gets too rough.

There is an area on Male where you can go surfing this is between the lifeguard training facility and the artificial beach, please be aware there are NO lifeguards employed on the capital.

There is a souvenir area as you get off the ferry and go to the right and across the grassed area outside police headquarters, and licensed guides will encourage you into the shops.

The area around the ferry terminal from the airport has a lot of cafes and restaurants, beware here as we found out there is a cafe called “The Hive” and advertises crusty pizza (meaning if you go at 6pm it’s been there for hours), you get one slice for the price you could have had a meal elsewhere.

Opposite the terminal is The South Beach cafe which serves a continental breakfast consisting of 2 sausages, 3 slices of toast jam and butter plus 2 fried eggs on a separate plate, they also do a nice chicken biryani.

Shell Beans Cafe Menu Male

Shell Beans Cafe Menu Male

Shell Beans cafe looks great is air conditioned and resembles a UK / USA eatery however they do have the air conditioning at the coldest and after spending 20 minutes waiting for our food we were rather cold to the point of Sarah shivering I ordered the chicken ham and cheese sandwich toasted and Sarah ordered the chicken herb and cheese wrap, bottle of water and ice tea and a latte, after 20 minutes these were delivered well my latte a small jug of liquid and a drink for Sarah which was quickly removed,  and replaced with her ice tea, my sandwich arrived and 3minutes later so did Sarah’s and her ice tea not from the usual direction but from where the other customers were sitting; well even after pointing to the item I wanted on the menu the waiter still managed to get it wrong I received a cheese, tomato and onion toasty, Sarah’s ice tea was not very nice and the sugar she had to add didn’t dissolve it was then we discovered the jug of liquid was sugar syrup for her tea. The cost of 2 sandwiches, 1 latte, an ice tea and 1 small bottle of water 216 RVRs (£11 / $15)

If you are staying with friends be aware of the fact that their close and extended family will visit at all times of the day and night, we were repeatedly woken by the doorbell ringing up to 2:30am and I am sure most of them came to see the white people.

When you decide to go for a meal have 2 or 3 different items picked from the menu as most of the time they do not remove things when they stop selling them; even Mary Brown’s restaurant by the football fields have a picture of fish and chips above the serving counter but they are “NOT AVAILABLE”

Most of the prices in the shops will be rounded up or in some rare cases down as this only equates to less than 10p it’s not worth trying to argue the fact

The policy in Male is not to tip, as there is a tax and service charge on everything in the restaurants however do check your change as it is common for there to be a 10 Ruffier note missing (human error?)

Education in the Maldives is great most under 40s speak basic English, while the under 25s can hold a conversation in English; Maldivians do struggle with math so adding your bill up without a calculator can prove to be very challenging.

Police must be able to speak English, this is a requirement of the position.

There is also a huge amount of rubbish lying around as there are no bins in Male, people just throw their empty bottles, cigarette packets in fact everything just gets thrown on the ground. You leave a bin-bag on the street and the next morning it has gone; you will see lots of foreign workers riding push-bikes loaded with plastic bottles these are the cleaners of Male and get paid for taking the rubbish to the recycling depot.

Most of the manual labour is carried out by Bengalis who are allowed to work in Male and the other islands and Asian workers are allowed to work in the restaurants and cafes, the shops in Male have signs wanting “sales girls”, office jobs, government, police and forces jobs are all reserved for Maldivians.

The most vicious animals on Male are cats and mosquitoes there are no dogs that we have seen, people here don’t appear to have pets apart from the odd caged bird.

Streets of Malé

Streets of Malé

The whole of the population aspire to have a motorbike or scooter and this is evident in the fact that there are over 15,000 registered 2 wheel vehicles in on an island where it only takes around 20 minutes to walk anywhere on Male, yet everyone seems to be in a rush, if a van is making a delivery the street will be blocked and within 1 minute the horns will be sounding showing the disapproval of the scooter riders.

As a consequence of this the air in Male is polluted to the extent of making the streets seem hotter and it appears to make breathing more difficult.

As the government of the Maldives don’t want many tourists wandering around the capital island they tend to have the sign posts in the Maldivian language, again the local police will assist you and there are many of them about. You can of course hire a guide, there are a lot registered with the tourist board.

The highest elevation of the islands is around 2 meters so there are no waterfalls, cliffs or even hills on these islands; the groups of islands are known as atolls which are circular mounds of sand which form a lagoon, some of these mounds of sand are large enough to form an island, however these are very susceptible to rising tides.