Street Life in Malé. A day of Walking the Republic’s Maldivian Capital, Maldives


We had a bit of a hiccup with Air India canceling our outbound flights from the Maldives a mere 14 days before we were scheduled to fly on them. This meant a little arranging and re-scheduling with our hotel transfers having to be re-booked and re-timed. Thankfully we were able to keep the same travel dates intact. Faiz at the Park Hyatt Maldives reservations desk was fabulous to deal with by email and took excellent care of us. As a result of re-jigging flights, we were able to schedule ourselves into a self guided morning tour around Male. 

This post is one chapter on our third Round the World trip via South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Maldives and India. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport (World of Hyatt) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.

Read More from This Trip

Street life in Malé. A day walking the streets of the Republic’s Maldivian Capital, Maldives.

“A visit to geographically remote Malé is one of the only ways of getting an urban glimpse into Maldivian culture on the same level as the locals. If you’re interested in urban local life, a visit through the leafy city is worth a stop on your travels to the outer Maldivian atolls. “

About Malé:

The Capital of the Republic of the Maldives:

Malé is the capital of the Maldives and is the largest island city on the atolls. The city is only 8.3 square kilometers wide and has a population of approximately 230,000. This makes the island, in the Republic of Maldives and it’s one thousand atolls, among the most densely populated cities in the world.

We took in the morning to walk around Malé prior to our trip down to the Park Hyatt Maldives. I can’t endorse how nice and pleasant our morning visit to Male was. I’d describe it as the perfect visit for adventurous independent traveler. We were able to get around, on our own, for an ethnic experience without getting hassled by the usual touts. What’s even more unusual was that I’ve found this to be particularly unlike typical travels throughout the Middle East, India and Africa that as tourists, you were pretty much left alone to your own devices- sharing space with the Maldivian locals without much of a second thought. 

Setting out from The Hotel Jen by Shangri-La Malé, there was an unusual combination of new and old office buildings, and squares on cool tree lined streets. The streets are really quiet, as there are only a few cars on Male. Those that have their own vehicles are usually motorbike riders. We wandered around the Northern part of the island checking things out as we went…

Green Trees and Motorcycles
Trees and Streets of Malé
The Maldivian Flag raised high
Motorcycles are the main form of transport
A Laundromat signed with Maldavian Dhivehi language script

Local Produce Market Shopping:

We made our way over to the produce market and were able to get a little “window shopping” done. Again, we had unfettered access to the area and felt safe and secure as we went through on our visit. It was pretty unique to see a market selling bananas, peppers and other specialties. I recognized swiss chard in there, among other things. The market was a place where most locals came to shop. 

Street Market Shopping in Malé
Sidewalk Market Vendors
Counters of Fruit with Curious Customers
Counters and Limes

As we got more and more into the market, it was even more unique when you consider the fact that the Maldives have little to almost no arable land to produce all the products that were seen here. While some fruits would grow locally, many of the others would have likely have travelled distances from the atolls to get to Malé, just in order to be sold.

Bananas and Fruit
Where does one grow Watermelon in the Maldives?
Local Maldivian Peppers
Piles of Roma Tomatoes
A Shop Merchant Minds his Wares
Pre-Ripe Banana Trees being Carried to the Next Destination prior to sale

Visiting the Fish Market:

Immediately next to the produce market is the fishing harbor and the daily fish market. If you come in the morning like we did, you’ll get to see the fish market in action. I wandered around the fish market, looking at the yellow fin tuna for sale. Unlike the anonymous experience visiting the Tsujuki Fish Market, I had a nice chat with one of the local fishmongers.

The Malé fish market
Local Fish for Sale
A Variety of Fish Trading Counters
Yellow Fin Tuna For Sale

The ability to interact directly with the locals in a situation like this, is one of the view opportunities a Maldivian traveler can get to be on the same level as the locals. Most tourists to the Maldives are whisked away to super luxury resorts where there is a massive imbalance between luxury and residents that often work at these mega resorts. In fact, the Maldivan government has taken steps to keep Maldivians and tourists apart and segregated. Luxury resorts usually take over an entire smaller atoll, where as local residents occupy larger atolls. With few exceptions like the ex-British military base Gan to the south, permission is usually needed to get to an inhabited island atoll and you’re always on a guided tour arranged by your hotel or resort that is hosted by a local family. Male is probably the only place where, on your own, you can chat to anyone about anything. It’s also a place where there isn’t the unusual power imbalance between yourself and Maldivians, which happens as a result of visiting a seven star resort. 

The Malé Harbour:

Just past the fish market is the harbor where all the fishing boats come in from various corners of the Maldives. It is among one of the most colorful harbors I’ve had the opportunity to visit. The beautifully colored sea certainly helps with this. We had an opportunity to see the fishermen cleaning off their boats after bringing in their day’s “catch”.

A Working Harbour
Fish Containers
Male Harbour; clear water in the harbour
Fishing Boats at Dock
Fishing Life
Fishing Warehouses

We same across the odd vendor, who was selling aquatic sea life.

Crabs for Sale

Our Malé layover summarized:

All in all, our morning visit to Malé was a totally fantastic stopover experience. Our tour around was no longer than 2 hours, but we were able to take in some sights and see how life is in the capital city. Realistically, it’s sometimes a challenge to get the most out of a stopover. Nowhere I have been has offered the amount of proximity and contact with the locals where, unlike other areas of the Maldives, you’re on an even ground with them. Instead of seeing many landmarks and sights, the tour of Male is more experiential- it is more about the experience of city life in the Maldives and seeing how the local’s life in the capital. It’s highly recommended if your flight arrives in Male late at night, and you need a place to stay.

If you’ve spent some time visiting the streets of Malé before your visit to the atolls, did you enjoy your experience?

One Comment on “Street Life in Malé. A day of Walking the Republic’s Maldivian Capital, Maldives

  1. If you wish to share maldivien life, stay in local guesthouses on the inhabited islands. Dive or snorkel or fish with the local. We learn so much about their culture and cuisine.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: