|Introduction||Trip report||Description of Kaashidhoo|
|INDOEX observatory and tower||Description of Hulule and Male||General information|
General information about the Maldives, Male and INDOEX operation
Vaccinations and Medication
No vaccinations are required to enter the country. There are no known cases of malaria in the Maldives and suggested vaccinations include hepatitis-b, typhoid, polio and tetanus. The water in the Maldives is derived from seawater desalination and rain water accumulation, hence is quite clean. Our site survey team has not indulged in too much tap-water, but small amounts had no effect. Bottled water is available everywhere at reasonable prices including the hotel room’s mini-bars. People sensitive to spicy food should include some mild diarrhea medication in their travel pouch, people sensitive to rapid and frequent changes in temperature between outside and restaurant/hotel should pack plenty of cold&cough medication.
Currency and Money
The local currency is the Rufiyah (Rf) with 100 Laari per Rf. The Rf is not on the open exchange market, the conversion factor was 11.72 Rf per US-dollar in July 1997. Every shop is allowed to change money or accept US dollars for payment at this rate and there were no incidences of people trying to deviate from this rate, although payments of Rf-priced items in dollars are usually rounded unless the exact exchange rate is requested. The Nasandhura Palace Hotel was able to cash travelers checks in US dollars (subject to availability), which probably also applies for other hotels and banks. Bartering for prices is highly recommended and usually results in significantly lower prices of goods or services.
There are four basic methods of transportation (not counting the taxis on Male, which you really don't need, and your muscle power to swim to the nearest islands):
In general, any transport between islands that exceeds the occasional leisure ride are awkward, lengthy and /or expensive. Not mentioning the frequent shower in seaspray and/or motion sickness for sensitive stomachs. Negotiating should be done in any case and a repeated use of the same vehicle gets cheaper rates and better service. INDOEX operations will most likely have their own, dedicated boats for the intensive field phases.
For Male or Hulule: I have seen non-locals using motor cycles or push bikes to get around. Bikes might be an interesting alternative for quick trips around the islands, so pack your bike! If you end up using one of the taxis, don’t pay more than the government enforced $1 for each ride and before you hop into a taxi, keep in mind that it takes only about 45 minutes to walk around the entire island of Male.
There is no ethernet or similar link to the Maldives, all Internet connections are currently done via fairly expensive phone lines (digital microwave system with US-style, analog, tone phones). Costs to maintain a phone line are about $30 per month (on Male, more on other islands) plus $170 installation plus variable and high per-minute rates of e.g. $4.50 to the USA or Germany. These rates seem to apply even for the local government, because concerns were expressed about excessive useage of their internet lines. The phone system apparently is of good quality even though link drops were mentioned, the bandwidth is sufficient and will be expanded based on demand. Cellular phones are also available, but work only in the vicinity of Male and Hulule
The phone system uses standard US-style RJ-11 phone jacks and wiring. US phones and faxes can be used without special permissions.
Communications within the airport island can be provided for free, but does not enable outside calls. Public phones and hotel phones can be used for national / international calls, public phones require one of two types of phone cards (chip or magnetic strip, the former being the new standard) and can be purchased everywhere (e.g. upon arrival at the airport in the souvenir shop).
For exact rates of phone services, including mobile phones, contact us.
The Nasandhura Palace Hotel cost $ 60 per night incl. breakfeast during the low season, a reasonable price for this hotel, which provides clean, air conditioned rooms (the remote is for the AC, not the TV!) with double bed and enough space to do some homework. An outdoor restaurant, undercooled lobby, fax and phone (very expensive!) are supplied along with friendly service and direct connection to the airport (meaning: the dhonis are docked right outside). All shops and services are close, because nothing is far in Male.
Two more hotels are available, two of them are being build (07/97) and there are several smaller guest houses, of which we don’t know if their use is encouraged by the local government.
INDOEX operation supplies
As mentioned before, basic workshops for wood and metal, as well as hardware stores with sometimes surprisingly specialised items are available on Male. All major appliances and technical support are available.
Gases for instrumentation such as He, N2, liquid-N2 etc are not available in the Maldives and need to be imported.
Power is always 220 Volts, 50 Hz. Standard power plugs are British style, three-prong plugs as shown in the image to the right (expect other standards on the resort islands), the observatory will probably be set up with those outlets to prevent confusion with 120 V lines. All instruments running on 110/120 V must have power converters / step-up transformers. If you are to set up instrumentation, please ensure that you have sufficient supply of such transformers and that frequency-sensitive equipment such as pumps will be exchanged or adequately altered for 50 Hz operation.
Restaurants / Food
Restaurants are generally good, providing clean, well-tasting food with quite some variety but don't expect any Maldivian cuisine, which you get only in the local "cafes". There are Italian, Chinese, Thai and other restaurants, all of which try to provide a variety of foods (the most common one is Indian). If you go out to eat, take along a sweater and long pants, as all restaurants seem to be proud of their air conditioners and maintain a chilling 20° C. That wouldn't be so bad if you weren't all hot and sweaty upon arrival from the 28° / 95% RH outside conditions. Cold & Cough medicine recommended, see above.
As mentioned above, the C4 team ecountered no problems with diarrhea (the Male Express). Fruit and other foods seems to be ok, bottled water is standard almost everywhere and can be had for $1/l. A typical dinner is around $ 15-20 with main course, appetizer and coffee (range 8 for basic to 30 for full-blown). Male, Kaashidhoo and Hulule (in general: any native island) do not offer any alcohol in any form, but the resort islands do.
People are somewhat reserved but very friendly. It seems that tourists are usually shuttled directly from the airport to their respective resort and not many of them were around in Male. Some resorts offer shopping sprees in Male as a one-day excursion, but usually, (light-skinned) foreigners are very obvious and confronted with some curiosity. Don’t be surprised to be asked on the street where you come from and what you’re doing here. Male is very safe and one can enjoye roaming the side streets even at night. It usually gets dark around 18-19:00 rather quickly and the city is very lively until late into the night. The local language is dhivehi, but English is taught, is the official language in schools and provides for adequate possibilities of conversation. Enough to get around, anyways. It is recommended to pick up a tourist guide before arrival and study the countries culture and history.
Male is, as expected, warm and humid, around 25-28° C with 90-95% RH. You could take a shower every hour or just get used to being sticky and shower twice (mornings and before dinner recommended, but do conserve water). Even in rain or on a speed boat it is always comfortably warm. Count on random rain in the rainy (SW monsoon) season (that's where the name comes from) and do take along some sun screen.
Shopping gives you everything you'll need from $6 T-shirts to exclusive $100 leather shoes or $2500 electronic keyboards and all sorts of Westerly goods. The main road has lots of shops and restaurants and is an entertaining start but it is also interesting and exciting to walk the side roads. There are several carpentries and other workshops as well as some hardware stores. Photo services are available including one-hour service for $15 for 24 4x6 prints incl. development and free replacement film (Kodak Gold III or Fuji brands [no endorsement!]).
Prices in general are below US standards but don't expect any give-aways. Mostly everything in Male needs to be imported and is accordingly pricy. Local goods are fish, fish, fish, bananas and coconuts, betel leaves and nuts.
If you're into scuba diving or snorkeling, this is the place. Bring your own, buy it locally or rent everything you need. If you can find some time, it is well worth spending it on one of the close islands, Male itself does not have a beach. All in all, the Maldives are beautiful and very relaxing (unless you're on a site survey).
Some useful links for further information
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