The Currency of the Maldives
Before you embark on a holiday of a lifetime to the Maldives, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the currency. The currency of the Maldives is as unique as the destination itself and is considered a non-convertible currency—one that cannot be purchased beforehand—called the Maldivian rufiyaa often represented by the currency code MVR or the symbol Rf. One rufiyaa is equal to 100 laari (the Maldivian coin denomination) and is available in the following notes: 500, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 (the latter being quite rare). Commonly used coins, or larees, are: 1, 2, 1, 5, 10, 25, 50.
While the Maldivian rufiyaa is the main currency of the Maldives, the US dollar is widely accepted as legal tender. However, if you arrive in the Maldives with any of the other major international currencies (the pound, euro, etc.), these can be exchanged in the arrival hall at the Bank of Maldives Foreign Exchange counter.
This is by far the best place for money exchanges in the Maldives, apart from one of the banks in Malé itself but there are generally long waiting times at these local banks. Keep in mind that only major foreign currencies will be exchanged for the local currency of the Maldives. It’s essential to keep your money exchange receipt safe as you will be asked to present this if you wish to exchange any Maldivian currency that you have left, back into one of the major foreign currencies on departure.
While it might be simple enough to take and use your dollars in the Maldives, it’s important to understand that while the exchange rate is 15.45* rufiyaa to a dollar, the exchange rate offered by some local business might not match that rate, specifically on the US$1 and US$5 notes due to the 3% handling fee incurred when notes of US$5 or less are deposited.
When you use dollars instead of the local currency of the Maldives in transactions, you need to be aware of the fact that people are very particular on the notes they accept. Any torn, crinkled, or otherwise damaged or marred notes won’t be accepted nor will any old-style dollars. If you do try and pay with notes in a bad condition, there is a good chance your payment will not be accepted as these notes are seen to have no value. Typically, if you purchase items using dollars you can expect your change to be given in the local currency of the Maldives (the MVR).
ATMs can be found in Malé, which is also where most of the major Maldivian banks, such as the Bank of Maldives, are. There are also bank branches in key places, such as on Hulhumale, Gan and at the Malé International Airport (also known as the Velana International Airport). Using an ATM is one of the easiest and fastest ways to access the currency of the Maldives, as that is the only currency you can withdraw from an ATM, however, this is only recommended if you need a small amount of the local currency, as you won’t be able to exchange it back into a foreign currency if you draw it (see above about needing the receipt for exchanges from banks).
It’s vital to note that there are no ATMs or banks on many of the local and resort islands. All major international credit and debit cards (such as Visa, Amex and MasterCard) can, however, be used at the hotels and at many of the restaurants and shops on the local islands and in Malé but credit card payment fees may apply (which can be up to 5% of your bill).
It’s also recommended to find out from your bank before you leave what charges will be incurred on their side by using your cards while on holiday in the Maldives. If you are not planning on spending too much time on the local islands and will focus on a resort island, you probably won’t need to use too much of the Maldives currency, if any, as dollars and credit cards should suffice and hotels bills are presented in dollars—make sure your credit card limit is adjusted, if needs be, to accommodate these costs.
How much money you require for a trip to the Maldives depends hugely on where you are staying, what you would like to do while there and what your budget can afford. It can be quite an expensive destination, but the exchange rate is generally quite favourable. You can keep track of the exchange rates for the currency of the Maldives with a currency converter.
*At the time of writing.