I’m Going to Maldives and I’m Staying in…Malé

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Maldives is lineb up to be my 150th UN country.

I booked it relatively last minute, learning the quirks of the American Airlines award chart ‘no 3rd region transit rule’. There are specific exceptions for such transits, though getting to Maldives in Middle East/Indian Subcontinent via the convenient Cathay Pacific route is not one of them. Going on Etihad or Qatar force long layovers in places I do not want to return, and did not have award availability. So I am unusually splurging on a business class award of Japan Airlines and Sri Lankan to get me to Colombo, and a cash ticket on to Maldives. Japan Airlines is one of the few business classes in the world I am curious enough to try to pay the award price.

(Side note: I had two different dates on American Airlines courtesy 5-day hold and on both the Sri Lankan segment disappeared somewhere along the way. Fortunately I could add it back. Beware leaving their flights on long hold.)

Much has been written in the miles and points world on the merits of Maldives resorts and their exorbitant transfers. My issue is I am going for 2 days and going alone. Even the near-to-airport Sheraton does not make sense once I read Lonely Planet mention “not suitable for snorkeling.”

My wife likes the theoretical idea of Maldives if she could visit on no more than a 3-hour flight without connections. Until such time, Florida is her spot.

The capital, Malé, does not have a great reputation, yet I will base myself there. This comes from a conflict of two of my travel principles:

  1. Visit what makes a place stand out. Not yet another cathedral or yet another beach. What is unique.
  2. Connect with local life.

In Maldives, what stands out is what disconnections from local life. Still, in places such as Las Vegas I am fascinated by the back of stage. The lives of the employees in fairyland. Malé will be a gritty perch to observe the Maldives.

Also, I was surprised to read that only recently has the Maldivian government opened to more direct interaction with locals through accommodation such as homestays. I haven’t picked where I will stay, and many homestays are on islands not easily reachable in a short time, so I may not get this experience. Maybe if I locate one on Hulhumale, which houses the airport and I understand a burgeoning backpacker scene, I may hop over there.

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John
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John

Not that you will change your ticket — you’re probably more short on time than miles — but here’s something to ponder. Fly MLE to Europe/Madrid for 30k AA in biz 40k in first (Etihad Apartment anyone?) and then connect between MAD and CMN for 4.5k Avios in economy.

MFK
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MFK

Too bad about Sri Lanka, but Morocco and West Africa definitely will be interesting. I’ve been researching a trip to Morocco off and on again over the years (most recently after seeing Bourdain’s episode on Tangiers), but haven’t been able to fit it in. Part of the problem is that I want to do Gibraltar and Western Sahara along with it, which requires some time and effort to work out the logistics and a good chunk of time for the trip. The other part is that I haven’t found a lot of award availability, other than BA and its exorbitant… Read more »

John
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John

That’s a nice award to squeeze in before the AA devaluation, since Sri Lanka will be changing zones after 22 March. Hear good things about JL’s biz class.

How do you get from Colombo to West Africa?

Will you have to get a transit visa for Colombo?

MFK
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MFK

I ran around Malé for about an hour between transfers on my way out of the country, after some insistence – I got the feeling they didn’t want tourists wandering around town. Why, I don’t really know, so I won’t speculate. Anyway, I found it to be more interesting from the air than on the ground (I’m not being sarcastic; the views of the city on approach and departure were fascinating to me – it looks like a floating city), but hopefully with more time to explore you’ll find its charm. Sri Lanka was amazing, though. I hope you have… Read more »

John
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John

Love to hear more about the Male homestay if you choose to book it? What biz award did you book? Narita to Hong Kong/Bangkok/Singapore to Colombo? 30k miles is a steal…not exactly a splurge. China Eastern to Male from Colombo? Any plans in Sri lanka?