The Maldives are one of the most coveted honeymoon destinations in the world, and with good reason. In 2019, over 3 million people visited the island country in search of fun in the sun.
Most people visit the Maldives to explore the pristine beaches and luxury resorts where the needs and wants of travelers are met before they can even think of them.
The country has plenty of such beaches, including Kurumba Beach, Bikini Beach, and private islands such as Velaa Private Island where you can swim, snorkel, and try out other water sports.
The capital of Malé is a popular destination as well thanks to its multicultural atmosphere and lively sights, including the famous Malé fish market. From the pictures, the Maldives certainly looks like an island paradise.
However, pictures don’t always show the full reality of a location, and you might want to know about potential negatives of traveling to the Maldives, such as safety challenges.
But don’t worry — our travel experts put together this travel guide to help you decide whether or not traveling to the Maldives are safe or not. Keep reading for detailed safety information, including a guide to crime.
Are the Maldives Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. The Maldives are mostly a safe place to visit as the crime rate is low. However, there is some risk of terrorism.
Luckily, most tourists are insulated from the worst that can happen in Maldives as they primarily stay in isolated resorts that put the safety of their guests first. The primary problem most countries mention in their travel advisories to the Maldives is terrorism.
The United States State Department has Maldives under a Level Two travel advisory, advising travelers to exercise increased caution.
The primary risk is terrorism, which can occur at any moment. Other countries mention terrorism in their travel advisories. For example, New Zealand advises travelers to exercise increased caution due to the risk of terrorism.
Other common problems that countries mention in their travel advisories for the Maldives include:
- Theft from hotel rooms
- Bag snatching
- Knife crimes
Most travelers are protected from these incidents since they stay in resorts. Resorts, especially those on private islands, tend to have their own security.
However, incidents can still occur there, or while you are traveling to your resort. It is better to be aware of the risk of some situations and prepare accordingly. Another problem you might encounter while visiting the Maldives is civil unrest.
Protests and demonstrations break out in the country, primarily in the capital Malé. In 2018, the president even declared a state of emergency due to anti-government protests.
While demonstrations are not as frequent in the years since, they can still occur at any time. They can turn violent, especially when the government moves in to stop the demonstration.
If you see a crowd gathering, the best thing to do is to avoid the area until things calm down. Like many tropical destinations, the Maldives are at risk of extreme weather and natural disasters. Common disasters include flooding, cyclones, and tsunamis.
The Maldives are heavily affected by climate change due to its low elevation and many areas flood, especially during the summer monsoon season.
Cyclones can form as well, which has rendered some islands permanently uninhabitable. The danger is strongest between April and July. The Maldives also experience another hazard common to tropical beach destinations, which is dangerous swimming conditions.
The beaches are beautiful, but they have strong currents and riptides.
Every year, several tourists drown in the Maldives while swimming or diving. Make sure that you obey any posted warnings on the beach and are mindful of your own swimming ability.
Crime in the Maldives
When most people travel, they are primarily concerned about crime. Problems a country experiences such as economic turmoil and civil unrest don’t always directly affect travelers, but crime often does.
The crime rate in the Maldives is moderately low. Most incidents are property crimes or other petty infractions. Violent crime rates are overall low.
According to the World Bank, the intentional homicide rate in the Maldives as of 2019 is 1 incident per 100,000 people. There was a sharp spike in homicide rates in 2017, in part due to terrorist activity, but violent incidents have declined since then.
The rates of other crimes are not quite so low. According to Numbeo, the Maldives score a 58.54 out of 100 on the crime index, which means that the country has a moderate level of crime.
The crimes people worry about the most are petty crimes such as drug abuse, vandalism, and theft, and government-related crimes such as bribery.
According to official Maldives police statistics from the second quarter of 2021, the most common offense in the Maldives is theft, with 1045 incidents in that quarter alone.
This is followed by miscellaneous offenses, drug-related charges, and traffic accidents. Mobile phones are the most commonly stolen items. There has been a slight increase in violent crime lately.
Street gangs in Malé City and Hulhumalé are starting to attack people using knives. Some estimate that there are two dozen street gangs in urban areas and several other foreign criminal syndicates.
Some local gangs even have connections to terrorist groups. Larger organized crime groups are behind violent crimes such as human trafficking and heroin trafficking.
Since most violent crimes in the Maldives occur as a result of gang violence, the victims tend to be people in the immediate orbit of the gangs.
Social factors such as poverty, growing substance abuse issues among young people, and corruption, contribute to growing crime rates. However, these crime statistics primarily affect locals, not tourists.
Tourists are not as affected by crime simply because they rarely tend to be in places where crime occurs. 83% of crimes in the Maldives occur in cities, the vast majority in Malé.
Since most tourists head directly to their resorts, they rarely linger in areas where crime occurs. The reality of life in the Maldives is not always picture-perfect. However, for most tourists, their vacation in the country will be picture-perfect.
The most common crime countries mention in their travel advisories for the Maldives is terrorism. The Canadian government mentions the threat of terrorism in its travel advisory.
Although attacks can occur anywhere and at any time, it’s good to be aware of common targets. These include government buildings, religious sites, transportation hubs, and places frequented by foreigners.
The UK government includes a separate page in its travel advisory for the Maldives about terrorism.
Prominent recent attacks include the August 2022 attempted assassination of a government minister, the 2021 IED detonation in the middle of Malé that injured several bystanders, including the former president, and a March 2020 arson attack on a police speedboat.
Foreigners have been targeted by terrorists in the Maldives before. In the 2021 IED attack, at least one foreign citizen was injured as a bystander.
In February 2020 in Hulhumalé, a terrorist attacked three foreign citizens with a knife and injured them, including one Australian tourist. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, terrorist groups are intentionally targeting foreigners.
Most terrorist attacks in the country are linked to Islamist extremism. Unfortunately, Daesh (or ISIS) has a presence in the island country, especially around Hulhumalé and some remote islands.
Local fundamentalist actors such as the United Islamic Society are encouraging radicalization, as are street gangs. However, there is some good news regarding terrorism in the Maldives.
There hasn’t been a single terrorist-related fatality since 2017, although there have been attacks. Since then, the government has stepped up anti-terrorism efforts. Resorts have also invested in security to protect their guests.
You should engage in some precautions against terrorism when you are in the Maldives. Stay alert when you are in crowded places, especially in Malé and Hulhumalé, and leave at the first sign of trouble.
Closely monitor local news and follow government advice in case something does happen. However, don’t let the threat of terrorism ruin your vacation.
Although terrorism may grab all the headlines, petty theft is a far more pressing concern when visiting the Maldives. As with any other tourist destination, there will always be criminals looking to take advantage of tourists that let their guard down when they come to a new place.
The Australian government warns its citizens about the risk of crime, especially petty crime. Thefts often target tourists. Thieves operate around popular tourist destinations, on beaches, and even in hotels and resorts.
Common forms of petty crime include pickpocketing, bag snatching, theft from unattended items, and hotel break-ins.
Theft from hotel rooms can happen even in high-end resorts, according to the UK government travel advisory. Luckily, some basic precautions are usually enough to help you deter petty theft.
Never leave your valuables unattended, even when going swimming. Designate one person from your group to stay with your things. To protect against hotel room break-ins, make sure that you keep valuables in a safe deposit box.
Avoiding Bad Areas
The capital Malé has the highest rate of crime in the Maldives, which makes sense since it has the highest population density. If you decide to visit the capital, stick to well-trafficked areas and avoid going out at night.
Hulhumalé has a high rate of knife violence and also has a risk of terrorism. Avoid traveling there during your explorations of the Maldives islands.
Things to Consider
Here are some additional safety tips for traveling to the Maldives:
- The Maldives are a conservative Islamic nation. Outside of resorts, alcohol is illegal. Bringing in religious materials or encouraging Maldivian citizens to attend non-Islamic religious services is heavily persecuted. Outside of resort areas, male and female tourists are expected to dress modestly.
- Do not use or buy illegal drugs. The penalties for drug usage are very severe. Your home embassy won’t be able to help you.
- When going on sailing or yachting tours, avoid designated high risk areas. There is a risk of piracy in the Indian Ocean around the Maldives.
- Road accidents are common. Avoid renting a car on your trip (most islands are car-free anyway). Be careful when traveling between the islands as ferries and seaplanes are sometimes not up to international safety standards.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions previous travelers to the Maldives have asked:
Are tourists safe in the Maldives?
Most tourists are safe in the Maldives because they stick to resort areas. These resorts, often on private islands, invest heavily in good security. However, you should be aware of potential risks to your safety when you travel, such as terrorism, civil unrest, and crime.
Is Malé safe for tourists?
Malé experiences the most crime in the Maldives and is a common target for protests and terrorist attacks. Although lots of foreigners still visit Malé to get a taste of what life in the Maldives is really like, it is not the safest destination in the country.
Are the Maldives safe from tsunamis?
The shape of the Maldives atolls means that the island country is not as heavily hit by tsunamis as other places. However, they can still be dangerous, so if you hear reports of seismic activity, head to higher ground just in case. Most tsunamis happen when there is an earthquake elsewhere in the ocean.
Why is it safe to go to the Maldives?
Even though there is a risk to go to the Maldives, it is still safe to go. The government heavily invested in the safety of tourists because the economy depends on foreign visitors so much. Plus, most negative incidents happen in places where tourists don’t go.
Can you hold hands in the Maldives?
Holding hands and other public displays of affection are frowned upon in the Maldives due to the conservative local culture. This applies to heterosexual, married couples as well. LGBT travelers should avoid the Maldives or be stealthy about their sexuality when visiting as homosexuality is illegal.
So, Are the Maldives Safe to Visit?
The Maldives have their fair share of problems, including crime and terrorism. However, most visitors to don’t encounter these problems at all as resorts and hotels are fairly well protected.
Just take some precautions to secure your valuables against petty theft, and you should have a safe experience. So what are you waiting for — book your trip to the Maldives today and experience all they have to offer!