Malí (ÞÞލÞ), pronounced Maa-leh, is the capital of Maldives. The city occupies the entire islet of Malí and is located at the southern rim of North Malí Atoll.The island is 1.87 km long and 1.5 km wide, but with over 200,000 people crammed onto it, Malí is by some measures the world’s densest city. The new island of Hulhumalí, in the Hulhulí (Airport island) lagoon has been reclaimed from the sea to provide some much-needed extra space.Malí is occasionally dismissed by travellers as a mere transit destination with “nothing to do”, and it is indeed not a party place. However, it does have a distinctive character of its own, with narrow streets, colorful houses, and a strong communal feel, and it may be interesting to stop a little longer and soak in the atmosphere if you’ve got time on your hands. The neighboring islands Hulhumalí (artificial) and Vilimalí are served by frequent and very cheap public ferries, and provide much quieter get-aways from the capital city. To see the “real” Maldives (i.e. the ones familiar from postcards) you have to get further away, of course.Malí’s main street Boduthakurufaanu Magu, home to banks and most government buildings, runs along the north shore. Roughly in the middle is the square of Jumhooree Maidhaan (Republic Square), a handy reference point since it has a giant flagpole visible from far away. From the flagpole extends a series of ten jetties running eastward, with jetty #1 (the Presidential Jetty) right in front of the square and jetties #9 and #10, used by the airport ferry, at the northeastern tip of the island.Velana International Airport (VIA) (IATA: MLE) is located on the neighboring island of Hulhulí. The airport has a good set of facilities, including bank, ATM, food court with free WiFi (30 min) and luggage storage service located just outside the arrivals area. For more information visit the friendly information kiosk at arrivals.Most visitors to the Maldives are met by travel agent reps right outside Customs, who then whisk them away to their resorts by speedboat or seaplane. If your destination is the city itself, turn left and head for the public ferry dock. Ferries to the city take about 15-20 min for MVR.10 and leave every 10-15 min during daytime, every 30 min after midnight. Another option is to take a taxi or bus, beaware that many taxis ask for up to an MVR.100 fee to cross the bridge, even though the government forbids them from charging more than MVR.60.Note that you will not be allowed into the airport’s air-conditioned departures area until flight check-in opens, usually 2-3 hours before your flight. Facilities “outside” include nursing room, lounges, money exchange counters, ATMs and a help desk.Malí is small enough to walk around in an hour, and almost all sights are concentrated on the north shore, within a 15-min walk from the airport ferry.Public transportation in Malí is available in taxis, which charge a flat rate of MVR.25, MVR.60 Malí City to the Airport, MVR.70 between Malí and Hulhumalí. plus MVR.10 for trunk usage.There are several buses that transport passengers from the airport to the adjoining island, Hulhumalí, every thirty minutes.Greater Malí Transport Link (GMTL) is the public bus system operating on the Cinamalí Bridge, which charges MVR.10 to the interconnected islands (Malí, Hulhumalí, Hulhulí), GMTL Bus Service uses the Touchlink Card for cashless transactions which can be purchased for MVR.20. Not every bus may be able to hold luggage.Expect the buses to be crowded during rainy weather, and take the timings as a rough estimate, since traffic density weighs down heavily on them.There are also ferries from the Hulhumalí ferry terminal to Hulhumalí and the Airport every 20-30 minutes.During Ramadan, many cafes and restaurants are closed, or only open after sunset.No alcohol is available on Malí, even at the hotels, with the solitary exception of the Hulhulí Island Hotel.Many visitors to the Maldives end up spending a night on Malí City out of necessity, as transfers to more far-flung resorts are generally only available during daylight hours.Malí’s guesthouses are targeted primarily at travelling locals and may not provide air-conditioning. The price starts at USD$20. Guesthouses can be rented through Airbnb.The hotels in Malí City cost about USD$40 to USD$240 per night.You will find many hotels on the artificial island Hulhumalí which tend to be cheaper, and you may expect a beachfront room for USD$31 or a bit more.It’s good idea to book before arriving in the Maldives as immigration will want to know where you are staying. If you are a tourist, tourist tax is added on top of the price.Dress respectfully if visiting Malí City. Men should wear at least T-shirts and shorts below the knee, while women should keep their shoulders and legs covered.Anti-government protests broke out in 2003, 2004 and 2005, all turning into riots that were brutally suppressed by the government, but things have been quiet since the elections and peaceful political transition of 2008.Roads can become traffic-congested, narrow and during the two monsoon seasons, roads can often become flooded in Malí.Crime rates in Malí City are low, although some advise not walking around alone after dark.From Malí, resorts all around the Maldives pick people up and whisk them to their idyllic shores. If you are in the Maldives for longer than a few days, you should consider leaving Malí and checking out another island. The small island of Vilimalí is a short boat ride away, perhaps 20 minutes. Head to the southwest corner of Malí for the Vilimalí ferry terminal. On Vilimalí there is a real beach which is much less crowded than Malí’s. You can go diving or snorkeling as well via Diver’s Lodge Maldives.

Airport: MLE Male International Airport Cities in Malaysia

Country: Maldives