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Travelling to the Maldives? Spend a Day in Malé!

Walking the streets of Malé, I felt like I’d somehow slipped into another dimension: Everything was almost as it should be, but something felt off, like there was always a mystery waiting around the next corner. Just like an episode of Quantum Leap or Sliders, the atmosphere and feel of Malé is familiar but different, and is probably the most unique and interesting city I have ever visited.

Adding to the weirdness were the vast swathes of political propaganda posters and graffiti. There is an election coming up and they want everyone to know about it. It makes the streets explode with colour and it looks like a sci-fi style rebellion could break out at any moment.

The main street in Malé, The Maldives - make time for a Day in Malé if you can

Spending a Day in Malé, the Maldives

A lot of people travelling to the Maldives never set foot in Malé, the capital, because the exotic, private island resorts pick them up straight from the airport and whisk them away by speedboat or seaplane. I feel you’d be missing something pretty special if you didn’t spend at least a few hours in Malé, not because it is filled with attractions (it isn’t) but because it is such a unique place.

Measuring only 6km2, Malé is tiny. There is one road that circles the coast, and the centre is a maze of thin streets and alleyways just waiting to be explored. We probably saw about 20 other tourists in the 4 hours or so that we walked around city, and almost all of them were on the coast, close to the ferry terminal and fish market.  The fish market is the one true tourist attraction in the city and is definitely worth checking out.

A day in Malé wouldn't be complete without a visit to the fish market

The best thing to do is just start walking. You are never far from the coast, and while you may get lost in the rambling backstreets, a taxi to pretty much anywhere costs only $2, so it’s no big deal

There is a public beach in Malé, which locals refer to as the artificial beach. It’s kind of a weird site to see fully clothed people swimming, but it is a decent beach and looks like a good place to escape the heat. There are also some sizeable waves to be surfed and you can take a short ferry ride out to another island which apparently has a better beach.

A day in Malé - the public beach

A day in Malé - good waves for surfing

I was really interested in all of the political propaganda and advertisements. After living in Singapore for 2 years, where political dissidence is nonexistent and the streets are free from graffiti, it was great to see the voice of the people displayed in such an eye-catching way. The pink party probably had the most signs and flags around town, but the yellow one would get my vote, purely because they played some cool dance music and had the more interesting signs.

A Day in Malé - political posters

Political advertisement - a day in Malé

Election advertisement - a day in Malé

Between the political advertisements, the trees and the tall buildings, Malé’s streets sometimes seem to be cut off from the outside world. There are generally shops at street level selling anything you might need, with people living on floors above. There was a real scarcity of restaurants, I guess they don’t get many tourists and most citizens cook their food at home. There were quite a few cafes and coffee shops, and the occasional supermarket, but the streets were refreshingly free from most Western fast food and shopping chains.

There are a few hotels in Malé but they’ll cost you. The one I stayed at was $95 a night and that seemed to be one of the cheapest in town. It looked like something you’d pay $10 for in Vietnam or Thailand, but it did the job.

a day in Malé - the mosque

Make sure you spend a day in Malé!

The people in Malé are pretty friendly but a bit indifferent to tourists. This is good because it means you don’t get hassled by touts at all, and you’re free to roam the streets in peace. As with most cities in Asia, you’ll see a lot of men just hanging out on street corners, and if you’re a woman you’ll be stared at a lot, but contrary to what I’d heard previously, Malé seems like a very safe place.

You’d be missing out on something kinda special if you didn’t spend a day in Malé. The private island resorts are great, and by all means don’t go to the Maldives without spending some time in paradise, but getting to know the heart of this unique country is a great way to start, or end, your once in a lifetime trip to the Maldives.

A day in Malé - a football pitch

Have you been to Malé? Let me know if you enjoyed it!

(I know it shouldn’t be “spend a day in Male” –  the title should have the é  in Malé but my font wouldn’t let me do it, and I really like that font so I didn’t want to change it!)

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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14 Comments

  1. March 31, 2014 at 1:08 am — Reply

    You’re right. The political propaganda makes it so interesting & colorful.

    • March 31, 2014 at 10:56 am — Reply

      Yeah, I really enjoyed it!

  2. April 5, 2014 at 6:26 am — Reply

    Looks like a colorful and great place to visit. I had a similar experience when flying through Fiji. I didn’t go to the island and only had a quick layover. We hired a cab to take us tot he First Landing Beach, so we could officially say we have been to Fiji, but it was not the Fiji most people know since most usually b-line for the resorts.

    • April 5, 2014 at 11:24 pm — Reply

      Sounds good! It’s great to see the other side of these kinda places. Fiji is a pretty cool place for a layover!

  3. I didn´t expect such a small and quiet town to be the capital of the Maldives…Looks lovely though

    • April 5, 2014 at 11:26 pm — Reply

      Yeah, it’s a really nice little city! I’d love to go back and visit some of the other inhabited islands too.

  4. April 9, 2014 at 3:39 am — Reply

    It´s great I found your post. I was at the Maldives but as most of the tourists I was picked up from the airport and couldn´t walk around Malé. But after reading your article I definitely want to see Malé if we ever travel again to the Maldives (which I really hope).

    • April 9, 2014 at 1:59 pm — Reply

      Yeah, it’s almost like they don’t want you to go there. We asked to be dropped off in the city after our resort stay but they dropped us off at the airport, had to get another ferry there. I was amazed at how few people I saw there!

  5. Fie
    April 13, 2014 at 5:17 am — Reply

    Really love the colors of your Photos amazing 🙂

    • April 14, 2014 at 11:29 pm — Reply

      Thanks! It’s a really colourful city, not at all what I was expecting.

  6. July 11, 2014 at 5:14 pm — Reply

    I really enjoyed reading your journal. As a person residing in Male’, it really is an refreshing eye opener. Thank you!

    • July 13, 2014 at 4:33 pm — Reply

      Thanks Athif, can’t wait to explore the rest of the Maldives!

  7. March 26, 2018 at 4:17 pm — Reply

    Hey, It was very informative article thanks for sharing your article and giving helpful travel guidelines. It was very helpful for me as I’m planning a trip to the Maldives this summer.

    • March 28, 2018 at 11:08 am — Reply

      Thanks Monica, glad it helped!

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