The Maldives is a nation in the Arabian Sea of the Indian Ocean. It is known for its beautiful waters and beaches.
Male, the capital of the Maldives, has an impressive downtown full of colorful buildings. You also have to visit the fish market there. Maafushi is great for snorkeling and has cool beaches too. You can find manta rays while scuba diving in Addu City (I like that name – should remove 1 “D”), and you can see whale sharks in Dhangethi. It is a beautiful country, I can tell.
What may not be beautiful is getting a high bill from your operator because you decided to roam with your provider in the Maldives. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy a local SIM card in the Maldives.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in the Maldives. Let's have a look, shall we?
Telecom Providers in the Maldives
The Maldives has 2 telecom providers: Dhiraagu and Ooredoo Maldives. Both providers have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks. Travelers visiting Male can use Dhiraagu’s 5G network at no extra charge, which is still in development, if you have a 5G capable phone.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting the Maldives? If you want to buy a SIM card in the Maldives, I would recommend going with Dhiraagu because they have the best coverage in the country.
Just like many countries in South Asia, you have to show your passport when buying a Maldivian SIM card.
As of 2014, 6% GST (VAT) has to be added to the prices mentioned throughout this article. Normally, I incorporate these taxes into the prices if not done so by the operators. However, if you buy your SIM card at a tourist establishment, you will have to pay a 12% tax. As I do not know where you will buy your SIM card or data packages, I will list the base prices in this article, but be aware that the prices will be higher upon purchase.
With that out of the way, let’s see what Dhiraagu and Ooredoo Maldives have to offer.
Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!
Dhiraagu is the largest telecom provider in the Maldives. It is mainly owned by the Batelco Group (Bahrain Telecom) and partially by the Maldivian government.
With Dhiraagu, you can find 2G and 3G on all islands. In fact, the operator claims that 100% of the Maldivian population can use 3G on all inhabited islands. The same is being done with their 4G/LTE network, but it is not clear what the progress is with that project. Either way, you will have a connection when visiting inhabited Maldivian islands.
You can buy a Dhiraagu SIM card for 30 MVR ($1.95) in Dhiraagu shops or from authorized resellers, which comes with 20 MVR in credit. You can also buy your Dhiraagu SIM card at Velana International Airport.
You can buy Dhiraagu recharge vouchers in plenty of stores. Do not attempt to top-up online because the site does not accept international cards, unfortunately. You can check your balance by dialing *142#.
The standard Dhiraagu plan, also referred to as the base plan, comes with unlimited Facebook and Twitter data. You could choose to upgrade to Dhiraagu RED, which lowers the default data rate from 100 MVR per MB to 30 MVR per MB for 24 hours, by texting PKG RED to 444, but you will be better off buying a data plan anyway.
The following Dhiraagu Power data plans are available, which are time-based data plans:
- 10 MVR: 25 MB for 1 hour. Activation code: text DATA25 to 343
- 25 MVR: 125 MB for 24 hours. Activation code: text DATA125 to 343
You can also choose one of Dhiraagu’s monthly Power Plans, which come with more data:
- 99 MVR: 500 MB. Activation code: text 500MB to 343
- 199 MRV: 2 GB. Activation code: text 2GB to 343
- 249 MVR: 3 GB. Activation code: text 3GB to 343
- 349 MVR: 5 GB. Activation code: text 5GB to 343
- 549 MVR: 8 GB. Activation code: text 8GB to 343
- 949 MVR: 15 GB. Activation code: text 15GB to 343
Finally, you have Dhiraagu’s monthly Power Plus Plans, which come with much more data:
- 299 MVR: 3 GB. Activation code: text Plus3 to 343
- 399 MVR: 5 GB. Activation code: text Plus5 to 343
- 1299 MVR: 25 GB. Activation code: text Plus25 to 343
- 1899 MVR: 50 GB. Activation code: text Plus50 to 343
- 2599 MVR: 75 GB. Activation code: text Plus75 to 343
- 2999 MVR: 100 GB. Activation code: text Plus100 to 343
Only for the Power Plus Plans, you will not be charged an overuse fee if you go over your data allowance. Instead, your speeds will be throttled. You can also buy more high-speed data, such as 3 GB for 169 MVR, by texting TBB Plus3 to 343 or 5 GB for 249 MVR by texting TBB Plus5 to 343. Do note that you will be charged 1 MVR per SMS to 343.
In the case of the Power Extra plans, you will be charged 90 MVR per MB for overuse. For the Power Plans, a 15 MVR per MB overuse fee will be charged, except for the 949 MVR 15 GB plan, you will be charged 10 MVR per MB for going over your allowance.
You can check your data balance by dialing *123*6*3*1#
You can activate any plan by dialing *123*6*3# and select the preferred plan from the menu. You can also text the activation code to 343 for 1 MVR per text. To activate a plan by text, text ADD with the activation code to 343. For example, if you want to purchase the 399 MVR 5 GB plan, you would text ADD Plus5 to 343.
All plans auto-renew if there is enough credit. You can cancel the auto-renewal by texting REMOVE with the activation code to 343. Using my previous example, you would text REMOVE Plus5 to 343 if you wanted to cancel the 399 MVR plan.
Ooredoo Maldives, just Ooredoo, is the other operator in the Maldives. Their coverage is not as extensive as the one of Dhiraagu. If you are staying in populated areas, Ooredoo could be an option. If you plan on hopping around various islands, you may not want to go with Ooredoo.
Ooredoo SIM cards, called connection kits, are sold for 30 MVR and come with 20 MVR in credit to be used within 60 days. You can buy Ooredoo SIM cards at Ooredoo stores and at Velana International Airport, but you will pay a tourist premium for the packages offered there.
Ooredoo recharge cards are sold in many stores throughout the country. To top-up your SIM card, you dial *201*VoucherCode#. If your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *201*123456#. You can check your balance by dialing *200#.
Ooredoo has many data packages. The plans will be split between short term plans (up to 15 days) and monthly plans.
The following short term Ooredoo data plans can be purchased:
- 10 MVR: 30 MB for 60 minutes
- 30 MVR: 160 MB for 3 days
- 50 MVR: 300 MB for 7 days
- 51 MVR: 1 GB for 24 hours
- 101 MVR: 2.5 GB for 2 days
- 198 MVR: 3 GB for 7 days
- 201 MVR: 5 GB for 5 days
- 298 MVR: 5 GB for 10 days
- 499 MVR: 10 GB for 15 days
You can activate a plan by dialing *929# and select a plan from the menu. All plans auto-renew, which you can stop by texting STOP to 5555. You can check your balance by texting BALANCE to 555 or by dialing *200#.
The following monthly Ooredoo data plans are available:
- 99 MVR: 550 MB
- 149 MVR: 1 GB
- 199 MVR: 2 GB
- 249 MVR: 3 GB
- 299 MVR: 4 GB
- 399 MVR: 6 GB
- 599 MVR: 9 GB
- 899 MVR: 14 GB
- 999 MVR: 20 GB
- 1999 MVR: 60 GB
- 2999 MVR: 100 GB
- 5699 MVR: 200 GB
Remember, you activate a plan by dialing *929# and select your plan of choice from the menu.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in the Maldives
I have discussed the relevant providers in the Maldives in this article because using a Maldivian SIM card would be much cheaper than roaming with your provider… in most cases. However, buying a local SIM card is not the only way to stay connected in the Maldives. You can buy an international SIM card, use a mobile hotspot, or use free WIFI connections. Below, I will discuss the alternative options to use your phone in the Maldives.
Roaming in the Maldives with Your Provider
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is Dialog from Sri Lanka, then you would be roaming with Dialog in the Maldives.
The issue with roaming is that it can be expensive. There have been many horror stories where people had to pay thousands in roaming fees when coming back from their holidays, which is just a shame, in my opinion. However, roaming does not always have to be expensive, especially when visiting a neighboring country.
Many providers offer roaming plans. Some allow you to roam for free in Demmark, while others would offer you a roaming bundle with a set number of minutes, SMS, and data. Finally, several operators let you use your plan’s allowance for a daily fee.
As you can see, there are many options out there, so be sure to explore the roaming options your provider has. Conveniently for you, I have reviewed the roaming options of many providers (and many more to come) and discussed everything you need to know about roaming with your provider. If you are lucky, you may not even have to buy a SIM card in the Maldives and can roam for free there.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
One thing I would not recommend doing is to Roam As You Go. Just like prepaid cards where you can buy bundles or Pay As You Go (as in, charged per minute, SMS, or MB), Roaming As You Go can be insanely expensive (that is how people get expensive roaming bills). So far, there are a handful of providers I have reviewed that offer affordable Roam As You Go rates. But generally, avoid it. Get a roaming plan if you can or buy a SIM in the Maldives.
Using an International SIM Card in the Maldives
International SIM cards are cards that have been made for travelers so that they do not have to deal with roaming costs.
The number of international SIM card providers is too many to count, but international SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. A few providers I know are OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner.
They allow people to call you at one number instead of five in case you are exploring multiple countries in one trip. Moreover, you do not have to deal with multiple SIM cards you will never use again. In short, international SIM cards have been made for the international traveler in mind.
Although this sounds fabulous, international SIM cards are much more expensive than local SIM cards in the Maldives. Some international SIM card providers charge ridiculous fees (sometimes, even more than roaming with your provider), while others offer awful service. It is, therefore, important to go with a reputable company so that you do not have to deal with surprised when traveling around the world.
On the other hand, international SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. Most countries in South Asia require you to register before you can use a SIM card, which can be a hassle for some. Additionally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some travelers, which is why an international SIM card can be handy. You order it before you depart and can use it in various destinations.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple ones, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.
Using Portable Hotspots (Pocket WIFI) in the Maldives
Portable hotspots, also referred to mobile hotspots or pocket WIFI, are routers small enough to bring with you everywhere you go. They are portable, battery-powered wireless routers that allow you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.
Just like with the number of international SIM card providers, there are so many mobile hotspots out there that it is challenging to keep track of them all. Skyroam and Vision Global Wireless are reputable pocket WIFI providers. You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
The first time I used a portable hotspot was when I was in Bangkok, Thailand, with my dad. He uses the Dutch telecom provider called KPN, which does not let you roam for free in Thailand. I was with 3 Denmark (3 Danmark), which also did not allow me to roam for free. The router was offered for free by our Airbnb host. Let me tell you how convenient that thing was!
I do not remember the exact brand router we used, but we could connect our phones to it, explore Bangkok, and upload highlights of our trip on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp without the need of connecting to unsecure and slow connections in Thailand.
That is why I often recommend those who are traveling in groups or with families to consider getting a pocket WIFI device so that each individual does not need to buy a local SIM card and data packages. In some countries, the cost of getting a local SIM card or packages is so low that it is not even worth getting a mobile hotspot. In others, it could save you money.
I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.
Connecting to Free WIFI Networks in the Maldives
Finally, we have the most cost-effective way to stay connected in the Maldives which is using free WIFI networks.
Using WIFI networks should not cost you any money (unless you are connecting to premium hotspots), which is why it is a popular option for travelers. Go to a local café, buy a coffee, connect to their WIFI, and post your pictures to Facebook or Instagram. Straightforward, right? Well, let’s see if that is indeed the case.
First, you need to find hotspots. In some regions, they are readily available. In others, you cannot find any, require you to give your personal details (for commercial purposes), are restricted for those who are a subscriber of an operator’s, or are so slow that you wished you never connected to them.
In the case of the Maldives, you will most likely find expensive paid hotspots in hotels and resorts. Dhiraagu has more than 30 Wifi hotspots in Male and a few more on other islands.
To use these hotspots, you need to have a Dhiraagu SIM card. First, send a blank SMS to 414 to receive your keyword. Then text the keyword to 414 to receive your WIFI hotspot login details.
Afterward, you can select one of the following WIFI packages:
- 10 MVR: 30 minutes within 1 day
- 30 MVR: 2 hours within 5 days
- 95 MVR: unlimited hours within 1 day
- 140 MVR: 10 hours within 10 days
- 350 MVR: 30 hours within 30 days
- 590 MVR: 60 hours within 30 days
Public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. They are a prime target for hackers to steal your data and use it for illicit purposes. That is I use, and would recommend you to start using, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to a public hotspot. What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your subscription now!
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in the Maldives
Getting a SIM card from Dhiraagu would do you well when considering a Danish SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card like OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner, or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in South Asia? Check out my South Asian SIM card buying guide, covering other South Asian countries, such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for the Maldives
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to the Maldives. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to the Maldives drop.
Book Your Accommodation for the Maldives
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in the Maldives. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Maldivian hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for the Maldives
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in the Maldives, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to Euros for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!