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The Maldives may reopen to tourists soon, with a very big catch

May 30, 2020
6 min read
The Maldives may reopen to tourists soon, with a very big catch
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Update 6/10/20: As detailed here, The Maldives has reversed course entirely, announcing plans to welcome tourists from all countries beginning in July, without any testing, quarantine or visa requirements or fees, though a date has not yet been confirmed.

Update 6/2/20: A representative of The Maldives' tourism ministry has reached out to clarify that the country won't be moving forward with the plan outlined below. Instead, The Maldives plans to welcome tourists from all countries, without a visa requirement or 14-night minimum, beginning July 1. We're awaiting final confirmation of new entry procedures and will update this article accordingly.

I've had an opportunity to visit the Maldives three times over the years, including fantastic stays at The Conrad Rangali Island, The St. Regis Vommuli and Baros. It's easily one of my favorite places on the planet, and I've loved every visit, each time staying for about five days.

Sadly, as One Mile at a Time points out, five-day visits might not be feasible again for quite some time because, according to a report in The Telegraph, a taste of Maldivian luxury could soon come at an even higher price.

According to a current proposal, outlined by Minister of Tourism Ali Waheed and reported by The Telegraph, the country plans to open beginning July 1, with commercial service operated by Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, and tourists visiting from China, India, South Korea and Sri Lanka, along with countries in the Middle East.

Before visiting, all tourists would need to confirm a stay, for a minimum of 14 nights, then apply for a $100 visa, which previously wasn't required for many visitors. Additionally, they'd have to provide evidence of either a negative COVID-19 antigen test, for the active virus, or a positive antibody test, with a test date of up to one week before arrival. Upon arrival, tourists would be required to take another antigen test, with a $100 fee. Finally, after reaching their resort, guests will be required to quarantine in their rooms until receiving their test results, which could take between three and 12 hours.

By closing its borders to all visitors quickly, at the end of March, the country was able to endure the coronavirus outbreak, relatively unscathed. To date, there have been just over 1,500 cases, according to the World Health Organization, unfortunately including five deaths. Understandably, the government's first goal is protecting its citizens, with a total population of roughly half a million, most in the densely populated city of Male.

If you do manage to successfully jump through all of those hoops, you'll have a two-week vacation in paradise as your reward — likely with few other guests, given the strict requirements. While the plan appears to remain a proposal, for now, some hotels are indeed selling rooms beginning July 1, so operators clearly see the potential for the country to open its borders in just over a month.

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Rates, while still quite high, are lower than I'm used to seeing for top resorts. At my personal favorite, The St. Regis Vommuli, you can find nightly rates around $1,000, including a beach villa upgrade, full breakfast and a $100 food credit each day.

Even with the discounts, a two-week stay is hardly affordable for most travelers — you'll spend just over $20,000, including a round-trip seaplane transfer for two. Meals, minus the $100 daily credit, drinks, activities and other incidentals could add thousands to your total, too.

Fortunately, you'll do far better with an award booking, and availability is fantastic right now. A base villa will run you 1,020,000 points for a 15-night stay (since every fifth night is free), but you can upgrade to an overwater villa for just 5,000 more points per night, for a grand total of 1,095,000.

That's a princely sum, for sure, but a drop in the bucket for some road warriors. TPG values Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.8 cents apiece — you'd be using $8,760 worth of points for your 15-night overwater villa stay, and you'd only be on the hook for $180 in taxes, plus the $745 (per person) seaplane, and any expenses you incur on your trip. It's hardly a bargain, but worth considering — if you're desperate for a Maldives adventure, and have the points to spare.

If you're willing to roll the dice on a non-chain hotel, there are plenty of far more affordable options there. Digging through a seemingly endless list of deals, I landed on Furaveri Island Resort and Spa, which is currently offering nearly 1,200-square-foot garden villas for $84 per night via Agoda.

In total, you'll pay just over $1,600 for a 14-night stay, plus between $400 and $500 per person for a round-trip transfer from Male.

Meanwhile, overwater villas at the same resort start at an entirely reasonable $194:

I wasn't able to pull up the same deal through the hotel's website, but if you're hoping to avoid booking through an OTA, it could be worth calling up resorts directly, to see if they'll match the rate.

I would certainly avoid booking any nonrefundable stays, however, and pay very close attention to the cancellation policies, capturing screenshots along the way. You don't want to end up on the hook if country decides to delay welcoming international visitors, or travelers from specific countries, such as the United States. I also recommend reviewing restaurant menus and confirming transfer costs — Maldives resorts tend to be especially expensive, and once you tack on other charges, your finally tally could total thousands of dollars more.

Ultimately, the country's proposed entry requirements could end up being short-lived if tourists don't bite. While almost certain to protect the Maldives from a new coronavirus flare-up, these measures far exceed anything we've seen from other destinations. I could see them being worthwhile for international resort staffers returning to work, but few tourists will have the means — or desire — to pull off a two-week, heavily conditioned trip.

Featured image by Gold elites get Marriott and SPG Gold status through RewardsPlus, earning you extra points and perks at hotels like the St. Regis Maldives.