Is The Maldives Safe?
Yes and no. This one really depends on where you’re going, but generally, yes, the Maldives is very safe. Each year, thousands of visitors head to the South Asian island nation for relaxing vacation in front of the picturesque blue seas. Many of the islands are uninhabited, while others are inhabited, yet tend to be less of a destination for the average tourist. The inhabited islands, including the island which houses the capital city, Male, tend to be rougher than the resort islands, giving you, as a tourist, less of the relaxing getaway you’d get on a resort island.
The island of the capital city, Male, is generally considered unsafe, due to political unrest.
In 2008, Maldivians went out to the polls to elect a new president, ending the 30-year rule of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Opposition leader Mohammed Nasheed won the election, bringing democracy to the island nation. When the president ordered the arrest of a chief justice who had ordered the release of a government critic in 2012, protesters took to the streets of Male, and the president faced a police mutiny which lead to his resignation that same year. Vice President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik was sworn in as president.
In 2013, Abdulla Yameen was elected president and by 2015, parliament was already voting to impeach the president. That same year, the country declared a state of emergency. In the past year, accusations have been made of voter intimidation and suppression of the opposition party. Each of these acts has been said to have been led by the president.
Protests and unrest can turn violent quickly. Travelers are highly encouraged not to visit Male or the island where Male is located due to the unrest and protests. While you’re encouraged not to go, there is no real reason to go to the island anyway. Most resorts are on their own islands, and the airport sits on its own separate island from the resorts and the capital city. If you decide to visit Male anyway, be aware that the situation in and around the capital can escalate and become dangerous.
Additionally, Male and other inhabited islands tend to be less oriented to tourism. As a foreigner, you may be subject to street harassment or petty crimes. Maldives is a Muslim nation and as such adheres to strict codes of behavior. Sharia law may apply in situations.
On the resort islands, there is generally so little crime that the crimes that do happen usually go unreported. Safety is part of the draw to the Maldives, a country which heavily relies on tourism, and resorts pride themselves on being virtually crime free. In the past year, there have been two reports of armed robberies at resorts across the country. Reports say that if a robbery happens at a resort, it tends to be an inside job, as access to the island may be limited. Islands usually have a security team posted at the island’s port to keep track of all those who enter or exit the island.
Women, especially women traveling alone, should take extra precautions in and around Male. Being in a Muslim country, women in and around Male should consider dressing modestly. This includes wearing shorts or pants that reach down to the knees and shirts that cover the shoulders and aren’t too low cut. If you’re a woman traveling to some of the other, more remote inhabited islands, you may want to dress more conservatively.
On the resort islands, you should have no problems as a female traveler. The resorts often draw in couples and families, meaning as a female traveler, especially for solo female travelers, you will probably not even experience harassment in the slightest bit.
Again this depends on where in the country you decide to visit. Maldives has strict anti-LGBT laws — homosexuality and gender identity/expression for trans people are punishable by death. LGBT couples while on inhabited islands should avoid public displays of affection.
On the resort islands, LGBT people will find welcoming resorts where they won’t have to worry about the laws governing the rest of the country. In the resorts, you can feel safe and comfortable as an LGBT traveler.
Threat of Terrorism
Acts of terrorism on the islands are extremely rare. That said, however, citizens of the Maldives have traveled to both Iraq and Syria to fight for the so-called Islamic State. Additionally, many islands, while not likely to be a target of crime, are poorly equipped to handle an attack or emergency, should something happen.
It should be noted that the assassination of blogger Yameen Rasheed in April 2017 has raised some concerns, however. Rasheed had spoken out strongly against Radical Islam and its growing influence in the area.
Watch out for strong currents in the oceans. Occasional tourist deaths have been reported due to adventurous travelers attempting to take on the strong waves and drowning in the process. Even if you are a strong swimmer, you could get swept away. When swimming in the ocean, use caution. If the waves look too intense, don’t go in. If they look calm, you’ll be just fine.
Read about a Maldives Summer Story
Read more on ATR