What to Wear in the Maldives – Everything a Female Traveler Needs to Know

“But what am I going to wear?”

My biggest issue when planning a trip to the Maldives was not where to stay, or even when to go – my biggest issue was what to wear.

The Maldives is a small island country in the Indian Ocean. The country boasts a 100% islamic population, and with this, is pretty conservative about what women should wear.

If you are planning to arrive into the Maldives and then immediately connect to a speed boat or sea plane to take you to an island resort – then you probably won’t need to worry about this. Almost all of the resorts are located on uninhabited islands, so you can wear pretty much whatever you want.

But if you are like us, and plan to stay in a guest house on an island which also contains a village, or if you plan to spend any time in Male before heading to your resort, then dressing appropriately will be a concern. (Refer to our post about resorts vs. Guesthouses if you are not sure which option will suit you best.)

Most places will suggest being covered to the knee and to the elbow, but I found that in practice, as long as your shoulders are fully covered then you are fine. Plunging necklines should also be avoided, but I found that my scooped neck tank tops (with a light weight cardigan over top ) didn’t raise any eyebrows.

These comfy Thai style pants are always a good choice when traveling to hot destinations
These comfy Thai style pants are always a good choice when traveling to hot destinations

Of course, staying covered to the knees and elbows is easier said than done, especially when trying not to melt in a tropical climate. To be honest – I didn’t have a single item of clothing which met this description in my closet.

So out to the shops I went. I wanted to stay as practical as possible, and only tried to buy things that I knew I would use again. Of course, I was on the look out for light weight clothes that wouldn’t be too hot, and which would also dry quickly when hand washed. Lastly, I wanted to look good.

In the end, I packed three pairs of trousers and one longer skirt, with a collection of five different tops which would be mixed and matched with all of the bottoms to create many different unique options. I also packed a light weight cardigan which covered my arms fully for when I was wearing a tank top, or was in a social situation that required being fully covered. I ended up finding a cream coloured cardigan which matched all of the bottoms I had packed.

The skirt is the one thing I wore the least. Although the skirt does reach my knees, in the breeze it would blow up which make me really self conscious. Also, when lying on a beach chair, it would ride up above my knees, which is not acceptable in the Maldives. So that being said, this is one item I probably didn’t need to pack.

Out of the trousers I packed, I only went for one pair of the light, loose “genie” style pants that you can find everywhere in markets in Thailand and Indonesia and which are becoming ever popular in Australia. They are not normally my style as I find them a little too casual for my liking. However they were really handy to have when we went on boat excursions as they were easy to change in and out of, and they dried quickly when I wore them over a wet swim suit. They also make really comfy pyjama pants.

I also bought two other pairs of trousers, make out of light weight polyester in fun floral patterns. I brought along a selection of loose polyester tops in various colours which matched both pairs of trousers. I brought a white top, a beige top and a green top.

What I like about these outfits is that they are cool to wear in the height, are easy to wash, and are conservative enough for the Maldives. An added bonus is that they are dressy enough to wear if we go out to a nicer restaurant while on our holidays, and I can also easily dress them up enough to wear to work in my daily life.

what to wear in the Maldives

When it comes to swimwear, if you are swimming on the local beaches on inhabited islands, you are expected to swim fully clothed. Swim suits are a big no – no. However, on boat excursions and on resorts, European style swimwear is accepted. I didn’t want to swim fully clothed and get salt water on my clothes, so I only went swimming when on boat excursions. But at Jupiter Sunrise lodge, where we were staying, there were snorkeling and deserted island excursions every day so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything.

In regards to foot wear, I packed two pairs of shoes for my trip to the Maldives. I packed a pair of cream hard soled ballet slippers which looked great with my outfits. I wanted to have a pair of enclosed shoes for the flight as well as for times when we went to nicer restaurants. Ballet slippers are awesome for this as they pack down to almost nothing when you are not using them.

The shoes that I wore most often were my Scott Hawaii flip flops. Both Dan and I have a pair and they are our favourite sandals. The soft leather straps are incredibly comfortable and neither of our pairs required any time to be broken in. Also the designs are all fairly stylish which means you can wear them in more formal situations than you could your standard rubber flip flop. Also the price is right. The price point of these sandals is comparative to those from budget box stores – except those sandals always wreak havoc on my feet when I am trying to break them in, and the quality is not even close to comparable. Lastly, another reason why I love my Scot Hawaii’s is that they have more grip than standard flip flops. In wet, slippery conditions – like on a boat – I had no problem moving around. With my old rubber flip flops I would have definitely been on my butt a few times.

This little hermit crab also loved my Scott Hawaii's
This little hermit crab also loved my Scott Hawaii’s

The last thing I packed, to complete my Maldives outfits, were a couple of nice pieces of costume jewellery to bring a bit of life and punch to my travelling wardrobe.

In all, I packed:

  • 3 pairs of trousers
  • 1 long skirt
  • 2 cotton tank tops
  • 3 polyester loose tops
  • 1 pair of enclosed ballet flats
  • 1 pair of Scott Hawaii flip flops
  • 1 bathing suit
  • A loose long sleeves cardigan
  • 3 pieces of costume jewellery
  • 1 pair of cotton leggings to sleep in
  • Underwear
  • 1 shawl in case I needed to cover my hair. But I never needed to use this, so you can scrap it from your list.

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15 thoughts on “What to Wear in the Maldives – Everything a Female Traveler Needs to Know

  1. Thanks so much for this run down! I never would have thought about the different clothing standards in the Maldives. Also, those floral pants are ADORABLE. I would wear them even if I wasn’t on vacation. They seem so comfy, but also stylish. Great choice. 🙂

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  2. Thanks for your tips. They were very helpful. I’m off to the Maldives staying in Male for 9 nights next week and had heard you should dress accordingly. It will be hard to have to wear t-shirts and not tank tops as I feel the heat, but so be it. I have 1 pair of those lightweight harem pants, maybe I need to get another pair. Thanks again. Debbie

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  3. Great! Thank a lot, I am packing now to flight to Maafushi and your article is exactly was I asking me for. Thanks again!

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  4. Thank you, this is exactly what I was looking for! Those green pants and top are gorgeous. I will be looking for a similar outfit.

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  5. Thank you so much you gave such a detailed account of what to take, I am off on the 26th feb for a week and had no idea how to pack for such a special experience, you took your time and efforts to make this easier for us ladies, thank you very sweet and helpful.of you cx

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