Fulidhoo beach

Buying a SIM card in the Maldives

In Get Connected by Dave Dean9 Comments


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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, checking email on the go is remarkably uninteresting. 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 guesthouses and the larger restaurants offer it for free. The islands are tiny, so there’s no need for maps. Given how little online information there is about anywhere outside the capital, you won’t be looking up much else beyond the ferry timetable anyway.

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, though, it’s a simple and inexpensive process.

Here’s what you need to know.

Companies


  • We recommend Dhiraagu for most travelers

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 seemed good enough for me.

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.

How


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 micro SIM that worked immediately after rebooting the phone.



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Costs


The prices were reasonably low by Western standards. Buying the SIM cost $3 USD, and a 1.2GB data package was an extra $14 USD, valid for 30 days.

Other data allowances are available on hourly, daily and monthly plans — check the latest offers here.

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.

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#.

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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 had 3G/HSPA data on Male’, Maafushi and Guraidhoo, but only 2G/EDGE speeds on Fulidhoo.

I was able to make Skype voice calls without a problem when using 3G, although I suspect video might have been asking a bit much.

Dhiraagu HSPA+ speeds in the Maldives

Dhiraagu HSPA+ speeds in the Maldives

Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.

 

About the Author

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a traveler for 20 years, and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken-down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

Comments

  1. 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

  3. Author

    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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Author

    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!)

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

    Dee

  9. 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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