The news has us all believing that there is no travel happening right now. Not quite, the world is not shut. Far from it, right now, you can have a safe, refreshing holiday in the Maldives.
Flying to the Maldives
As on date, the following airlines are actively flying to the Maldives: Air Astana, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Sri Lankan Airlines, Lufthansa, Indigo, British Airways, Nordwind Airlines, Go Air, Air India, Turkish Airlines, FlyDubai, Spice Jet, Maldivian, Aeroflot and Edelweiss Air. There are more than 25 different airlines flying to the Maldives right now.
As on date, the following cities have direct non-stop flights to Male’s Velana International Airport (VIA): Doha, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Colombo, Frankfurt, London, Zurich, Istanbul, Moscow, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kochi and Bangkok.
Read More: What’s Hot In The Maldives
India-Maldives air bubble agreement
After the latest ‘India-Maldives air bubble agreement’ for residents in India, SpiceJet has announced the introduction of two non-stop flights connecting Mumbai & Male. Effective 4th January 2021, flights will operate on every Monday, Thursday and Sunday. SG 91 will depart from Mumbai at 12.35 PM and reach Male at 3 PM (local time) while on return SG 92 will take off at 4 PM and reach Mumbai at 7.30 PM (local time). The airline will deploy its Boeing 737 aircraft to operate on this route.
SpiceJet is celebrating the launch of its new flights by announcing introductory all-inclusive starting fares of INR 9,012 (US$ 120) on Mumbai-Male and INR 9,501 (US$ 130) on Male-Mumbai route.
Residents in the Middle East
For residents in the Middle East, Emirates daily flight from Dubai to Male is the fastest way to reach your very own island escape. Qatar’s Safe Travel Bubble with the Maldives ensure the residents can travel between the two countries with ease, enjoy an exceptional holiday and return home with no need to quarantine.
Visas & Procedures
The Maldives has a sensible and tourist-friendly ‘Visa on arrival’ policy for all tourists visiting its sunny shores. The Maldives does not have the ‘pay $150 as non-refundable visa fees with your life’s paperwork submitted in application and hope for the best’ policy that other countries impose as status quo.
In this pre-vaccine era, travel rules may seem daunting but think of getting from Country A to Country B and returning in 4 blocks of activities.
Activities Before Departure: 1. Book a refundable flight and resort directly from the airline / hotel’s website. Try and avoid agencies or booking sites for now. 2. Get the negative PCR Test certificate within 72 hours before departure. 3. Complete the country’s online declaration forms.
Activities On Departure to the Maldives: 1. Take a rapid PCR test at the gate and get results within 15 mins to 45 mins. 2. Board the aircraft on receiving the negative result.
Activities On Arrival to the Maldives: 1. Head to the resort and enjoy your vacation.
Activities On Arrival to Home Country: 1. Take a PCR test if needed by home country & fill out their online travel declarations. 2. Take a PCR test at your home country airport.
As expected, one needs a negative PCR test before entering the Maldives. To enter the Maldives, the PCR test must be taken not more than 72 hours prior to the scheduled time of departure from the first port of embarkation en-route to the Maldives. The negative Covid-19 PCR test result must be attached while completing the ‘Traveler Health Declaration’ form, which has to be submitted online by all arriving passengers prior to arrival (but not exceeding 24 hours before arrival time), via IMUGA.
There is no need for another PCT test upon arrival at the airport in Male. Only those who have COVID-19 like symptoms, such as a temperature above 38 degrees celsius, coughing or sneezing, will be tested for COVID-19.
Tourists who do not have COVID-19 symptoms are not required to quarantine on arrival to the Maldives. It goes without saying that one needs to have a confirmed resort booking prior to arrival. Masks and social distancing are a norm everywhere, whether at the airport or in the hotel. Getting up close with the fishes while snorkelling in the Maldives and taking a selfie is highly encouraged!
It is worth noting for a moment that with so many Covid tests being done on ALL passengers at various stages of travel, and given that the Maldives has a ‘one resort on one island’ policy, heading to the Maldives for a vacation is SAFER than heading to your local supermarket for your weekly groceries.
Accumulate ‘Miles’ With National Loyalty Programme
The Maldives government has recently launched a first of its kind national loyalty programme called ‘Maldives Border Miles‘ that provides tourists with miles when they frequent the Indian Ocean nation. This programme is run independently of any airlines or hotel loyalty points programmes.
Tourists enrolled in the three-tiered loyalty program will earn miles for activities, including visiting the Maldives during special occasions, spending more nights in the country and obtaining services from the programme partners.
The Bronze, Silver and Gold levels of the programme are called ‘Aida’, ‘Antara’ and ‘Abaarana’ respectively. The miles redemption at this stage is unclear except for privileged immigration clearance on arrival and departure for Antara and Abaarana members.
Overwater villas and garden villas with access to private white sand beaches
As recently as 5th January 2021, there are more than 140 operating hotels and resorts, more than 130 dhonis liveaboard and yachts, 27 atolls and more than a 1,000 coral islands in the Maldives Archipelago just waiting to be explored.
The Maldives is an ideal location for snorkelling, scuba diving, a romantic getaway with luxurious villas, both on land with private beach access and over-water, for family get-together and reunion, or simply to soak in the sun and get the new year started. Being in the middle of the Indian Ocean does not mean doing away with creature comforts; the luxury hotels and resorts of Maldives boast excellent wine cellars, fine cuisine with top-notch restaurants and spas.
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A selection of luxury hotels that need to be on your radar includes the Gili Lankanfushi, Lux North Male’ Atoll, InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau and Raffles Maldives Meradhoo Resort.
Read More: Paradise Found At Raffles Maldives Meradhoo
Expect this destination to be ‘hot’ for all the right reasons during the coming months – we most certainly don’t need to wait for festivals or long weekends to head out for a break, especially after a horrible year that was 2020. ◼
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© This article was first published online in Jan 2021 – World Travel Magazine.