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The Maldives

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Language: English widely spoken.

Climate: Storms are common especially between May and October when heavy downpours can be expected.

Tip: Choose accommodation with air-conditioning. Ceiling fans on their own are not always sufficient.

Currency: Rufiyaa. Pounds sterling, travellers cheques and credit cards are accepted. Small US coins are useful for tipping.

Flight Time From UK: Approx 10 hours

Time Difference: 5 hours ahead of GMT.

Note: The local water water is not suitable for drinking.

What's it really like?

The 1200 beautiful islands scattered 'like pearls' across the Indian Ocean are an overwhelming site in the blue and turquoise waters.

Only 200 are inhabited and of those, just 90 are geared up for tourists.

Some of the islands are so tiny it is possible to walk around their entire circumference in less than ten minutes.

At Real Holiday Guides we rarely receive a complaint about the Maldives and from our own experience it is hard to find fault.

However, we are aware that breathtaking deserted beaches lapped by crystal clear ocean and lush tropical islands will not suit everyone.

If we're nit-picking, the biggest drawback is transport. After a 10 hour-plus flight the last thing many people want to have to face is a 4-hour boat journey to their island resort or another flight onboard a seaplane. For others it's all part of the adventure.

Note: Transfer from Male Airport to the resorts is often at the mercy of the weather and luggage usually arrives later after it is transferred separately. This may incur an extra charge if the baggage is considered 'overweight'.

The Islands:

Most of the islands offer similar amenities but there are variations in standards from a luxury, more pampered lifestyle to basic facilities such huts with thatched roofs, ceiling fans, and open-air bathrooms.

The more rustic resort islands include; Villivaru, Fihalhohi, Kuredu Island, Emboodhu Finolhu, Vilu Reef, Hembadhu Island, Holiday Island, Meeru Island. These resorts offer excellent accommodation in a more traditional style with a more tranquil atmosphere.

The islands catering for those with preference for the more luxurious standards include; Royal Island, Sun Island, Meedhupparu Island, Paradise Island, Kurumba Island, Veligandu Island Resort.

Days Out:

The most popular excursion is deep sea fishing at night, or by day there's island hopping via boat or snorkelling out on the atolls and coral reefs.

Island tours by seaplane are also popular and there are canoes or kayaks for hire.

The capital, Male is the Mecca for shoppers starved of any great choice on their island resort and here is where enthusiastic market traders offer hand-made souvenirs, which helps to support the local economy.

Male at its busiest can be overwhelming in the heat, especially for those who are just beginning to unwind on their 'desert' island.

Nights Out:

Entertainment, dining and drinking is almost exclusively hotel-based which is why all-inclusive packages are so popular. There is usually a traditional folklore and dancing show on offer in most hotel bars.

Despite being a Muslim culture, the Maldives does allow alcohol but there is a strict law against importing it. Therefore duty-free is not sold on the flight into the country except for consumption onboard.

Fresh and rare seafood is always on the menu and the Indian influences can be tasted in the curry dishes.

Food lovers will enjoy a trip to the world's first aquarium-style undersea restaurant, at the Hilton Rangali which lies six metres below the Indian Ocean, offering diners panoramic underwater views.

Surrounded by a coral reef teeming with sea-life, Ithaca provides one of the most exclusive and extraordinary dining experiences in the world, and the setting is reflected in the novel menu - a fusion of Maldivian and Western food.

Bucket and Spade Brigade:

Strictly for undemanding beach babes so make sure your hotel has entertainment laid on.

The climate may not suit the very young. If travelling with children insist on accommodation with air-conditioning.

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