Gone Living

7 Things to Know Before Moving to the Maldives

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Athina Esteban
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The Maldives is often a dream destination, on top of many people’s bucket lists for memorable honeymoons and pure relaxation. But did you know that it could even become someone’s potential job location?

This island paradise is world-famous throughout the globe because of its effortless beauty, from white sand beaches to silky, shiny blue shades of water along with the wonderful marine animals.

Not sure living in the Maldives is your perfect fit? Browse more expat guides for other popular islands and cities around the world!

Every day, the Maldives welcomes thousands of tourists all around the globe. The island is stretched with thousands of smaller islets, however, not all are inhabited.

The airport view won’t disappoint. A gorgeous shade of the bluest water will wave its hand the moment you set foot outside the arrival hall. Numerous speedboats ranging from normal to super luxury will be there to greet you. You can either take another flight or a speedboat to head to your island destination. 

A view of Male, Maldives from an airplane window
Your first view of the city from the airplane

Now that you're excited to move here, here are 7 things you should know first!

1. Learn some basic knowledge of the country

I know, sometimes facts get boring but bear with me.

Rufia is the currency. For the last 2 years that I’ve been here, the bank rates have never changed. 

MVR 15.42 = USD 1

Yes, you can still visit other island(s), also known as local islands or sand banks, during your stay in a specific resort or island, and go on fun day trips!  

We are known as the “Sunny Side of the World”.

Yes, there is still rain, especially towards the end of the year. But I can say, even when it rains we will still go diving or snorkeling. Water becomes even more clear depending on the place! Just be mindful of the ocean current. An ocean current is a continuous, directed movement of seawater generated by a number of forces acting upon the water.

Malé is the capital city. It is the business capital, with many congested offices and very populated, far from how you picture Maldives. Nonetheless, this is the heart of Maldives. Arrivals and departures happen here, business trading, and all imports come from here before it reaches other islands. All shops and various restaurants reside here, and there are gorgeous parks.

The main religion here is Islam. They practice Ramadan every year. 

In terms of people, there are more males compared to females.

Transportation here is maybe different from others, we use speedboats more often than a car or other modes of transportation. For many men though, motorbikes are very popular.

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2. Know the 2 types of islands: Resort & Local

At a resort, what you see online will match what you have imagined. You will not be disappointed! However, they can be quite pricey per night, in addition to taxes.

At a local island, prices are more reasonable. Local islands or inhabited islands are now fast-growing too. Local islands have guest houses which include a normal and delicious breakfast. Don’t worry, there are also restaurants and shops around the island, and you can still do day trips to sandbanks, go diving or snorkeling, and even visit a resort to see what they look like! 

Here are the differences in a nutshell:

Chart comparing the 2 types of islands in the Maldives, local islands vs. resort islands
So which do you prefer, resort or local island?


PS: this is just based on my point of view and experiences.

3. Be prepared for the lifestyle change

As an expat, living here is pretty simple. I take a ferry boat every single day, going to and from home since I live on another island – Hulhumale. Ferry boats have a timed schedule and become full most of the time especially during rush hour.

Before I moved here I came from a very fast-paced city, so I had to take time to adjust to a different way of life. From waking up, travelling to work, doing the work itself and figuring out what to do during days off, there have been a lot of adjustments but I have overcome them, yay! 

As for food, generally, I like cooking my own food because even with just bread, I will survive. I’m not a fan of curry and the spices of their food here. In Maldives, you’ll find fried rice with chicken, tuna or beef and tons of curry varieties of. With these food choices, I prefer to have my food cooked at home. However, to each their own!

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4. Embrace a new kind of fun

Leaving behind my heels and glamorous looks back in the city, I tend to be more relaxed with my slippers and wear clothes with “island vibes” especially with my favorite shades that complete the look.

For days off, I work from Sunday to Thursday and get Friday and half of Saturday off. But if you work in a resort it varies, with only a day off every week.

As for night life, you would be pretty much going to the only airport hotel that serves alcohol. Sometimes, nearby resorts will arrange a Thursday night party for good amount of $$ which includes unlimited drinks for a limited time. You can also hop on a safari boat that’s docked nearby to grab some drinks. 

Rule of thumb: No alcohol & no pork on any local islands. But the good news is that alcohol and pork are allowed in the resorts!

Thus, my friends and I make it to a point to visit at least one resort per month, just to loosen up and enjoy life!

An aerial view of one of the many luxurious over water bungalow resorts in the Maldives
An aerial view of one of the many incredible resorts in the Maldives

I mentioned that I (we) do visit resort(s) sometimes; only the nearby ones though because most resorts are quite far and are only available on the weekends. Mind you the farthest I travelled with a speedboat is 2hrs, and it’s a local island.

When we visit resorts we try to do as much as we can, such as paddle boarding, snorkeling of course, drinking, jamming, eating and partying if they have it! We go to any budget-friendly ones.

There was also a time where we had rented a safari boat for a day, to cruise, snorkel and stay in a sandbank. We saw dolphins cruising, jumping, and playing. We had a blast!

5. Have an idea of job opportunities

I came here because of a friend, and I owe her this credit forever, because she showed me such a beautiful place and new way of life. 

Anyone out there who would like to take on the venture of working here, you can visit this website for current job openings in the Maldives.

Maldives is a country which mainly runs on tourism; but don’t feel limited by this as they also commonly hire engineers, doctors, accountants, admins, executive secretaries, gardeners, teachers or doctors. They all come here! One resort needs all kinds of talents to run a small community of roughly a thousand staff. Diving and surfing instructors are also vast here. 

Hundreds of thousands of expats from all over the globe call this country their home away from home. And maybe one day you can call this island paradise your home too, just like me. 

A group of locals from the Maldives enjoying the beach at sunset
Some locals enjoying the beach at sunset

6. Know the best islands/areas to live as an expat

Greater Malé consists of three neighboring islands: Vilimale, Hulhumale and Malé. Even though they are just a bridge or boat away, expats can rent and live in these places. 

The majority of expats in the Maldives who work and live at the resort can likely live in the neighboring local islands. For example, many resort workers live on Bodu Huraa Island because the resorts are too small and can’t accommodate all of its staff. There are many other examples of islands like this. The resort will then have a shuttle boat taking staff in and out of the island. 

Some expats even rent their own place outside the resort by themselves. 

In some cases, a resort may have built their own separate island for the staff, so they can feel more at ease in moving around, and it is like a normal local island. However, this island is for their own staff only, no locals live here. 

One of the biggest islands, Addu City, is down south. There are expats who live there as they have their own partake of businesses; guesthouses, diving centers or travel agencies. 

There aren’t a huge variety of places to offer in terms of living in the Maldives, but on the bright side it won’t be a problem because the moment you step on this island, you already have a home. You just have to embrace it.

7. Get ready to enjoy the simple things

If you are the kind of person that can picture yourself living on a small island and doing work and going home, and doing mostly simple things within the range of fishing, badminton, yoga, snorkeling and more beach-related activities, then definitely come! 

a peaceful sunset on the ocean with a tree and a man sitting on a bench in the Maldives
A peaceful sunset by the sea

One of the biggest takeaways that I learned here is to enjoy the simple things. I have only a quarter of my clothes now that I have used for the past two years. I only bring back a couple items here and there every time I leave the country. Since I can use the same thing over and over, and not a person will care, I have fully embraced it. I use less makeup too and keep it very minimal. I eat the same food every weekend with my favorite people and focus my time on doing more water activities. 

Lastly, I have to point out that I got my scuba diving license here! Yay! I got it so that I can watch and be next to my favorite and current obsessions – Manta Rays! They are sooooo curious and I simply love them! 

My love for the ocean has deepened, as I know how beautiful it is above and under. 

Here, simplicity is really beautiful.

Much love, 
Athina 

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