Fulidhoo beach
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Buying a SIM Card or eSIM in the Maldives

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For many visitors to the Maldives, buying a local SIM card will be the last thing they’re worried about.

In a world of resort islands, over-water bungalows, and perfect beaches, it’s very hard to care about checking email. Lounging beside the pool and sipping a fruity cocktail seems a far better choice, and with good reason.

Since the government finally allowed hotels and guesthouses on locally-inhabited islands in 2010, though, independent travel to this island nation has slowly been making an appearance.

With that has come a small but steady stream of backpackers and other travelers, who want a taste of paradise without the five-figure price tag.

While there’s no Wi-Fi at the airport, most local guesthouses and the larger restaurants offer it for free. The islands are tiny, so there’s no need for maps. On that basis, cell data is a luxury rather than a necessity most of the time.

If you do want to make sure you can stay connected everywhere, though (or just don’t want to pay for overpriced resort Wi-Fi), buying a local SIM card is a simple and fairly inexpensive process.

There’s a limited range of travel eSIM options as well, but unless you need a lot of data (and I’m really not sure why you would), they’re a more expensive way to go. However you decide to do it, though, here’s what you need to know.


  • I recommend Dhiraagu for most travelers who want a physical SIM
  • An eSIM from Airalo is a convenient but pricier option if you only need data

The Maldives has two cell companies, Dhiraagu and Ooredoo. The former has 80% market share and boasts 100% coverage across every inhabited island in the country, which was good enough for me.

4G/LTE is widely available, with 5G in Male and a few other places. It doesn’t cost any more to use.

Ooredoo has a slightly different range of plans, though, which may suit some people a little better. It’s worth checking out the latest packages before making a final decision.

Travel eSIM for the Maldives

Very few travel eSIM companies service the Maldives: of the ones I’d actually consider using, Airalo has the best pricing. For some reason it only offers large data packs, though, which means most people will be better off with a local SIM.

The only real reason to consider it is if you’re short on time at the airport and don’t get a chance to buy a SIM card there, especially if you’re staying at a resort and there’s nowhere to buy SIMs. In that case, it’s probably still cheaper than resort Wi-Fi.

Like most travel eSIMs, it’s data-only: you don’t get a local number. I use apps for everything from communication to transport these days, so the lack of a local number very rarely matters to me, but you might have different needs.

If you’re new to eSIMs, they offer big benefits to travelers in terms of how quickly, easily, and (often) cheaply you can get connected when you arrive in a new country. Most recent phones support them, and you can read all about them here.

How to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in the Maldives

Buying a SIM card was very simple. The cell companies have little stores beside each other in the arrivals area of Male’ International Airport. This is the best place to pick up a card for anyone arriving by plane.

The terminal is quite small. Just turn right as you exit the luggage reclaim area, and you’ll spot the two shops on your way to the ferry pier for Male’ itself. After waiting in line for 15 minutes, I handed over my passport and phone to the efficient woman manning the desk.

Having provided my name and intended address in the Maldives, I signed a form, chose a data package, and was provided with a SIM that worked immediately after rebooting the phone.

Prepaid SIM and eSIM Costs


Prepaid SIM and package prices aren’t too bad by Western standards. The SIM costs 30 MVR ($2 USD), and a package with 14GB of data (2GB per day) and unlimited calls to other Dhiraagu numbers, valid for a week, will set you back 145 MVR (~$10 USD).

If you’re there for longer or need something a bit different, there are other bundles available on hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly plans. You can find the current prices here.

Tourist SIMs are also available, but like many such packages around the world, they provide a lot of data (that you may not use) at a relatively high price.

While prices are quoted to foreigners in USD, it’s fine to pay using Maldivian rufiyaa instead. There are a couple of ATMs nearby in the terminal if you need them.


Compared to buying a local SIM card, travel eSIMs end up being quite expensive, mostly because only large data packs are available. Given how little data most people are likely to need, having a lot of it available isn’t all that useful.

Still, prices and bundles do change over time: you can find the latest details below.

Validity Period

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

Data Amount

  • 20 GB

  • 30 GB

Price (USD)

  • $40

  • $50

Topping Up


On local islands, you’ll be able to find top-up cards at most convenience stores. Just ask your guesthouse owner or someone in the street if you’re having trouble tracking one down.

If you’re on a resort, you may need to ask a staff member to pick one up from the staff store for you instead. To check your remaining balance and expiry date, dial *123*6*3*1#.

The tax rate is higher on resort islands in the Maldives, so even if the top-up cards don’t have a markup added, you’ll still pay more for them there.


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Coverage and Data Speeds

Coverage was surprisingly consistent everywhere I went. Even on ferry rides where I couldn’t see the nearest island, I still had strong service. I was able to make voice and video calls without a problem anywhere I bothered to try.

I had download speeds of up to 50Mbps in Male, with uploads hovering around 10-15Mbps. Things weren’t quite as fast on some of the other islands I went to, but there usually wasn’t a lot in it.

Check out our guides to SIM cards and eSIMs in 70+ other countries here.

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  1. Avatar Chris Schwarz says:

    Thanks Dave. Appreciate this overview – will be landing in 18 days!

  2. Hi,

    My question relates to the hours of both telco shops at Male airport. I’ve read different times of closing from different people. We arrive at 2210 on a Friday night and I’m concerned we won’t be able to buy a sim card. Do you know the hours or the solution to this problem?

    Thanks for any help you can give Dave

    1. Dave Dean Dave Dean says:

      Hi Sue,

      I’m afraid I don’t know the hours for those stores — I arrived around 9am, and they were both open. If you’re traveling independently and arriving at that time, you’ll presumably be spending the night in Male anyway, so I’d look to pick up a SIM the following day either in Male itself, or back at the airport (it’s only a 5 minute ferry away). If you’re being picked up by a resort, I’d ask them if they know the opening hours, and if the stores will be closed, whether they can arrange a SIM for you in advance.

      1. Avatar OoredooTourist says:

        Unfortunately, Ooredoo tricks tourists at the airport. Only tourist packages are sold for MVR 694 that include 2.2GB data. But the ideal option for tourists that only need data would be to buy a normal prepaid for MVR 30 and add a 4GB data plan for 299 MVR. That gives you double the data for half the price. The only product they advertise in the store is the highly overpriced tourist package.

    2. Avatar OoredooTourist says:

      We arrived on a Friday as well and only Ooredoo shop was open (unfortunately). Their SIM and Mobile Broadband products work fine, but they do not sell you the correct plan if you ask for data only. See comment below.

      1. Dave Dean Dave Dean says:

        Useful info — thanks! Be sure to ask about all the available options, even if you only want to use data (this applies everywhere, not just Maldives — data-only SIM card pricing can be quite odd!)

  3. BTW, the ferry costs a dollar each way, first time I took it I gave over a ten buck note and wasn’t given any change, lesson learnt! Have a great trip!

  4. Brilliant, thank you so much, I land in 9 days.


  5. If you wants to use data and wide range of coverage ooredoo is the best in maldives ooredoo offer 3G speed 15mbps 4G speed of 80mbps

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