One thing that is a very important while (and for) travelling to another country is money. Figuring out how best to get foreign currency, or how much cash to carry while going abroad could be a confusing task. However, don't worry, this is the one-stop solution for all your problems and confusions regarding currency exchange in the Maldives. So, read on!
Local Currency of Maldives
Maldivian Rufiyaa is the currency of the Maldives which is divided into 100 laari. The ISO 4217 code for Maldivian rufiyaa is MVR, and the commonly used symbols include MRF and Rf. The banknotes issued by the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) consist of the denominations of Rf 5, Rf 10, Rf 20, Rf 50, Rf 100, Rf 500, and Rf 1000, while coins are issued in the denominations of 1 laari, 5 laari, 10 laari, 25 laari, 50 laari, Rf 1 and Rf 2.
Currency to be Carried to the Maldives
In the Maldives, most of the travel expenses are billed in the major currencies like USD, GBP and EUR, though USD remains the most widely accepted currency in the resort islands, and is even taken by the restaurants and guest houses in some of the Public Islands. Therefore, it's best to carry cash in USD.
Cash or Cards?
If you're staying in a resort, it's definitely possible to have a Maldivian vacation without the local currency, or even without any sort of cash at all as your food expenses and other extra costs (like watersports) will be included in the final bill that you'll be paying using your credit card. The restaurants, gift shops, etc. on the resort islands and the airport price everything in USD. Most of the tourists staying in resorts do not obtain any Maldivian Rufiyaa, almost eliminating the need for currency exchange in the Maldives.
For those staying at a guest house, even though you will be able to pay for most of the things using credit cards, you might need the local currency for eating in some of the local food joints and restaurants, local transport and local shops on the inhabited islands.
To simplify, you will need MVR only for the local shops and services in the inhabited islands. Since credit cards and/or USD are widely accepted in almost all the places including some inhabited islands like Male and Maafushi, there's no need to carry too much local currency. Also, note that a credit card payment fee, up to an additional 5% depending upon the payment processing company, may be applied to the total value of your bill.
Maldivian Rufiyaa Exchange Rate
Maldives Monetary Authority sets the exchange rate for the US Dollar. Some of the factors that are taken into consideration while determining the exchange rate are interest rates, economic growth, unemployment levels and public and private debt. To prevent fluctuation in the exchange rate of their currencies, small economies like the Maldives determine a reference rate that the exchange rate is allowed to fluctuate around. So, the midpoint of the exchange rate is set at MVR 12.85 per US dollar by the MMA, and the rate is permitted to fluctuate between 10.28 rufiyaa and 15.42 rufiyaa (within the ± 20% band). MVR exchange rate as of 25th July 2018, was as follows:
USD 1 = MVR 15.41
GBP 1 = MVR 20.50
EUR 1 = MVR 18.23
INR 1 = MVR 0.22
Where to Exchange and Obtain Currency?
You can exchange and obtain currency in the Maldives from the following places:
The Bank of Maldives Foreign Exchange counter, which is located in the Arrival Hall is the most convenient and dedicated foreign exchange counter. Only major currencies are exchanged for the local MVR, so confirm with a travel agent if your money will be traded.
There are some banks like the State Bank of India, Bank of Ceylon, and HSBC located in Male and large inhabited islands where you can exchange money, though keep in mind that bank queues are longer and wait time is quite lengthy. Most banks will change US-dollar traveller's cheques into US dollars cash with a commission of USD 5, but the same cannot be said for other currencies.
You shall find some ATMs in Male, which will help you replenish your travel cash in case you run out of it. Please be advised that the ATMs only dispense Maldivian Rufiyaa, and that money obtained through ATMs will not be exchanged or repurchased in the currency exchange booth when you leave the Maldives.
How Much Money to Carry to the Maldives?
The amount of money you should carry to the Maldives depends on many factors including the duration of your stay, how much street shopping you intend to do, where you are going to stay etc. As already mentioned, it's possible to do a Maldives trip without worrying about currency exchange in the Maldives at all. For those who are going to spend some money, here's a list of the prices of some common goods for your reference:
- A 1.5-litre water bottle available in the market will cost around MVR 8.
- A three-course meal in a mid-range restaurant (for two) will cost around MVR 400, while a meal in an inexpensive restaurant will cost approximately MVR 70.
- A one-way ticket in the local transport will cost MVR 15, while taxis in Male charge MVR 20 for any distance. Ferries charge around MVR 60 for a five-hour-long journey.
- A mid-range bottle of wine in the Maldives costs around MVR 1045.
- A pack of Marlboro cigarettes in Male costs MVR 60.
It is best to bring US Dollars from your home country. Exchange a small part of it to Maldivian Rufiyaa at the airport in the Maldives but only if you're going to avail services in the inhabited islands.
When you pay using your local currency, you will be given change in MVR in most of the places so make sure that you carry small denominations of the currency with you.
Make sure that the money you bring to the Maldives are crisp and clean since the banks there are very particular about their condition and thus, damaged, badly creased, worn out, or defaced notes will be refused.
You're very likely to pay for most of the things using your credit card. Remember that the Maldives is not a very budget-friendly destination, so ensure beforehand that your credit card can stand the amount you're going to spend. Don't rely on debit cards.
DO NOT lose the exchange receipt to be allowed to change the remaining currency back at the airport before leaving the Maldives.
Outside the Maldives, Rufiyaa can neither be purchased in advance nor can be exchanged for any other currency after you've left the Maldives. Also, Rufiyaa obtained from ATMs won't be changed back at the currency exchange counter so you wouldn't want to end up with a lot of remaining Rufiyaas.
Although you are free to enter or leave Maldives with cash amounting less than USD 30,000, it is better to carry as little as possible and use cards wherever possible. You might get robbed or pick-pocketed, so take precautions.
Hopefully, all your confusion related to currency is cleared by now. You can now make an informed decision based on your plans and needs and focus on having a great time in the Maldives!