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U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

 
 

Maldives

August 10, 2004

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Republic of Maldives consists of 1,190 islands (fewer than 200 are inhabited) in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sri Lanka. The Maldives has a population of 270,000, of which about 70,000 reside in Male, the capital city. Beautiful atolls, inhabited by over 1,100 species of fish and other sea life, attract thousands of visitors each year. Tourism facilities are well developed on the resort islands.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport, along with an onward/return ticket and sufficient funds, is required for entry. A no-cost visit visa valid for thirty days is issued upon arrival. The Department of Immigration and Emigration routinely approves requests for extension of stays up to ninety days for travelers who present evidence of sufficient funds and who stay in a resort or hotel or present a letter from a local sponsor. Anyone staying over sixty days without proper authorization faces heavy fines and deportation. All visitors departing the Republic of the Maldives (except diplomats and certain exempted travelers) must pay an airport departure tax. Travelers need a yellow fever immunization if they are arriving from an infected area.

Arrival by private boat: Travelers arriving by private yacht or boat are granted no-cost visas, usually valid until the expected date of departure. Vessels anchoring in atolls other than Male must have prior clearance through agents in Male. Maldivian customs, police and/or representatives of Maldivian immigration will meet all vessels, regardless of where they anchor. Vessels arriving with a dog on board will be permitted anchorage, but the dog will not be allowed off the vessel. Any firearms or ammunition on board will be held for bond until the vessel's departure.

Specific inquiries should be addressed to the Maldives High Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka at No. 24, Melbourne Avenue, Colombo 4, telephone (94) (11) 2580076/2586762/2500943, or the Maldives Mission to the U.N. in New York, telephone (212) 599-6194.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence or relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

DUAL NATIONALITY: The Republic of Maldives recognizes dual nationality. Dual nationals are not required to use their Maldivian passports when entering the country, but they must use them when departing.

CRIME INFORMATION: The Maldives has a low crime rate, but thefts of valuables left unattended on beaches or in hotels do occur. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: The Maldives has limited medical facilities. There are two hospitals in Male: the government-owned Indira Ghandi Memorial Hospital (IGM) and the privately owned Abduarahman Don Kaleyfan Hospital (ADK). Both provide general and orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery. ADK accepts some insurance plans, but IGM does not. The hospitals perform general, orthopedic and neurosurgery, but the Maldives has no trauma units, and spinal surgery is not available. Persons needing treatments not offered in the Maldives require evacuation to the nearest adequate medical facility, such as in Singapore.

Two recompression chambers are available in the Maldives. One is on Bandos Island (fifteen minutes by speedboat from Male) and the other is in Kuramathi (one hour by speed boat and about twenty minutes by air taxi from Male.)

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Republic of Maldives is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Rural road conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Only a few of the islands are big enough to support automobiles. Most transportation in the Maldives is by boat or seaplane (air taxi). The Maldives has good safety standards for land, sea, and air travel. Roads in Male and on the airport island are brick and generally well maintained. Dirt roads on resort islands are well kept by the resorts. Transportation on the small island on which the capital, Male, is situated is either by foot or by readily-available taxis. Transportation between the airport and Male, as well as to nearby resort islands, is by motorized water taxi and speedboat. Several local companies provide seaplane and helicopter service to outlying islands. Air taxis stop flying one hour before sunset, and several resorts do not transport passengers by boat between the airport and the resort island later than one hour before sunset. Visitors to distant resorts arriving in the country at night can expect to stay overnight at a hotel in Male or at the airport hotel and should confirm transfer arrangements in advance.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_roadsafety.html. For specific information concerning Maldivian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Maldivian National Tourist Organization Office in Male via the Internet at http://www.visitmaldives.com.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service between the U.S. and the Republic of Maldives at present, nor economic authority to operate such service. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Maldives' civil aviation authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873 or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at 618-229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Maldivian customs authorities prohibit the importation of religious materials deemed offensive to Islam (including religious idols), live pigs and pornographic material. Restricted items include firearms, pork and pork by-products, alcohol, dogs and dangerous animals. It is advisable to visit the Maldives Customs Service website at http://www.customs.gov.mv for specific information regarding customs requirements.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found at http://www.ustr.gov/reports/2003/special301.htm.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Maldivian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strictly enforced in the Maldives. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences, deportation, and heavy fines. Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Religious Laws: Public observance of any religion other than Islam is prohibited. Religious gatherings such as Bible study groups are prohibited; however, a family unit may practice its religion, including Bible readings, within its residence. It is against the law to invite or encourage Maldivian citizens to attend these gatherings. Offenders may face jail sentences, expulsion and/or fines.

In the past, several non-Maldivian families resident in the Maldives, including some Americans, were expelled for allegedly engaging in religious proselytizing. Although Maldivian law prohibits importing “idols for religious worship,” tourists going to the resort islands are generally allowed to bring in items and texts used for personal religious observances. Refer to the Customs Regulations section above for other restrictions.

Currency: Credit cards are increasingly accepted outside large hotels and resorts; cash payment in dollars is accepted at most retail shops and restaurants and by taxi drivers.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/family/index.html or telephone Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or traveling in the Maldives are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the Maldives. Americans without internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, you'll make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact you in case of emergency. There is no U.S. Embassy in the Republic of Maldives, but the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka is also accredited to the Maldives. The U.S. Embassy is located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassy's telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94) (11) 244-8007. The Embassy's after-hours and emergency telephone number is (94)(11) 244-8601. The Consular Section fax number is (94)(11) 243-6943. The Embassy's Internet address is http://usembassy.state.gov/srilanka and email address is consularcolombo@state.gov.

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet for the Maldives dated August 8, 2003 to update information on Entry/Exit Requirements, Crime, Medical Facilities, Customs Regulations, Criminal Penalties and Registration/Embassy Location.