CNN Travel Staff
If you’re planning to travel to the Maldives here’s what you’ll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Maldives reopened borders to all travelers from all countries on July 15, 2020. The primary exception to this is the tightly packed capital city of Malé, which is off-limits to visitors as it has been the source of the majority of the country’s coronavirus cases.
What’s on offer
This is the couples’ destination to end all others — luxury hotels set on private islands, with rooms cantilevered over the water, just in case a walk to the beach is too much effort.
Who can go
From May 13, travelers from South Asia are temporarily banned from entering the Maldives.
The rules apply to all visa holders from India, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well as those who have transited those countries in the past two weeks.
However, the nation has announced that its reopening its borders to visitors from South Asia from July 15.
At present, the Maldives is open to visitors from all other destinations, as long as they have proof of a negative Covid test.
Travelers from the UK are currently subject to a 10-day quarantine.
The Maldives was one of the rare travel successes of 2020, and it looks like that trend is continuing for 2021, despite some setbacks.
There were over 140 resorts and over 330 guesthouses open and serving international visitors as of late February.
The destination has launched a loyalty program that rewards regular visitors with points based on the frequency and duration of their trips. Those who rack up lots of points will be bumped up to various elite status levels that offer advantages including hotel discounts.
What are the restrictions?
All arrivals other than Maldives citizens and those who are fully vaccinated must present a certificate of a negative PCR test carried out within the 96 hours prior to departure, clearly showing the name and address of the laboratory, as well as the date of the sample taken.
The result must be attached to the Traveler Health Declaration form which must be submitted online within the 24 hours prior to arrival. Visitors are asked to download the national contact tracing app, TraceEkee, and use it during their journey.
Tourists are allowed to split stays between hotels. However, if you spend more than 48 hours in the Greater Malé area, you must take another PCR test before moving elsewhere.
Since the discovery of the new UK variant in late December, all travelers arriving from the UK, including transiting passengers, must undergo a 10-day quarantine.
From April 20, fully vaccinated tourists are not required to submit a negative PCR test on arrival or adhere to any quarantine restrictions provided they present proof that their second dose of a vaccine recognized by the World Health Organization was administered at least two weeks prior to travel.
Those who are arriving to work in health facilities, day care centers, schools and residential care services are required to present a negative PCR test on arrival regardless of their vaccination status.
Travelers visiting an island where 60% of the population (including tourist resort/guesthouse and hotel islands) are fully vaccinated will be exempt from quarantine measures.
What’s the Covid situation?
The Maldives has reported a total of 73,931 coronavirus cases and 213 deaths as of July 2.
While the figures remain relatively low for the most part, Covid-19 cases jumped from around 100 to over 1,500 in the space of a month, prompting a short-term ban on visitors from South Asia on May 13.
Although a record 2,194 cases were reported on May 20, the numbers have since decreased significantly, with 133 cases recorded on July 1.
The country began its roll-out of the India-made AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine on February 1. Hospitality workers were included in the first round of citizens to get vaccinated. Nearly 470,00 people in the Maldives had received their first dose of the vaccine as of May 28.
Dr. Abdulla Mausoom, the Maldivian Minister of Tourism, has confirmed that the Maldives is developing a “Visit, Vaccinate and Vacation” scheme named “3V” that would allow visitors to receive a Covid-19 vaccine on arrival.
The program won’t go ahead until the country’s entire population, estimated at just under 550,000, has been fully vaccinated.
As of July 2, just over 190,000 people in the Maldives had been administered with two doses of a Covid-19 vaccination.
What can visitors expect?
The Maldives are selling themselves as a destination offering a “normal” vacation, thanks to the isolation of most hotels and the fact that the vast majority of visitors stay in-resort rather than venture out.
This means that while locals are subject to restrictions, those going to and from the airport are exempt. Split stays between different hotels are allowed, if the hotels meet government requirements. Requests for split stays must be made to the Ministry of Tourism at least 48 hours before travel.
Expect also for your resort to have some rules — especially a temperature check on arrival, and masks to be worn indoors. As most items in shops must be shipped to the Maldives, some things can get pricey — you should bring things like masks and hand sanitizer with you to avoid spending while on the island chain.
Our recent coverage
Wondering what it’s like to visit right now? Read this piece, which details the pandemic vacation experience.
If you’re planning your trip, check out our list of the best dining experiences. And meet the Maldives’ “barefoot pilots.” And if a travel bubble is what you want, you’re in luck — the Waldorf Astoria Maldives has just revealed its latest property, a Maldivian private island called Ithaafushi, available for a cool $80,000 a night.
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CNN’s Julia Buckley, Tamara Hardingham-Gill and Lilit Marcus contributed to this report