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Traveling to the Maldives during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

<i>CNN</i><br/>If you're planning to travel to the Maldives during the Covid-19 pandemic
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If you're planning to travel to the Maldives during the Covid-19 pandemic

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 basics

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

At present, the Maldives is open to visitors from all destinations, as long as they have proof of a negative Covid test taken no more than four days prior to their arrival.

A temporary ban on travelers from South Asia was lifted on July 15.

The Maldives was one of the rare travel successes of 2020, and it looks like that trend is continuing for 2021, despite some setbacks.

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 travelers 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, regardless of their vaccination status.

The result needs to 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.

These restrictions were temporarily dropped for fully vaccinated travelers earlier in the year, but have since been reintroduced.

All non-tourist arrivals from the UK, including transiting passengers, must undergo a quarantine of either seven days for those who are vaccinated, or 14 days for non-vaccinated travelers.

While these requirements do not apply to tourists, leisure trips from the UK to the Maldives, which is currently on the UK’s “red” list, are not permitted and direct flights from the Maldives to the UK have been banned.

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.

Visitors who are not fully vaccinated are permitted to stay in guest accommodation in local islands provided that 60% of the population, including 90% of over-65s and 95% of tourism staff, are fully vaccinated.

What’s the Covid situation?

The Maldives has reported a total of over 82,000 coronavirus cases and 227 deaths as of September 14.

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 128 cases recorded on September 13.

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.

Dr. Abdulla Mausoom, the Maldivian Minister of Tourism, previously 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 September 14, over 700,000 people in the Maldives had been administered with at least one dose 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.

Useful links:

imuga.immigration.gov.mv

Tourist board Covid-19 updates

Ministry of Health latest figures

Our recent coverage

Learn how wealthy Indians have been shut out of the Maldives due to the temporary ban on South Asian travelers, and why the destination is hoping to lure travelers with vaccines on arrival.

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

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