Maldives to reopen on July 1 – but with expensive caveats

Lee Cobaj
Compulsory coronavirus tests will bump up the price of a trip to the Maldives even further - Getty

New coronavirus precautions will see the Maldives become an even pricier destination

One of the world's most expensive holiday destinations is set to become even more costly as the Maldives plans to introduce compulsory COVID-19 testing for all arrivals, among a raft of new health and safety measures. 

Sprinkled across 1,192 palm-painted islands, the honeymoon hot spot relies heavily on tourism – accounting for 28 per cent of its GDP and over 60 per cent of its foreign reserves – and received more than 1.7 million visitors last year, a figure it expected to surpass in 2020. But with its air and sea borders closed to tourists since March 27, due to the pandemic, that number is expected to plummet. 

In an attempt to woo back visitors, Minister of Tourism Ali Wahed has announced that the Maldives will set itself apart as a 'safe tourism' destination and a 'COVID-free country'. So far, the Maldives has recorded five deaths and 1,457 cases, the majority in the densely-packed capital of Malé. 

It was also suggested that well-heeled travellers arriving by yacht or private jet will be allowed to reenter the Maldives from June 1, with commercial flights restarting from July 1. Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways are all expected to be among the first airlines to return, bringing tourists from India, Sri Lanka, China, Korea and the Middle East. Tourists coming from Europe and the rest of the world would likely follow towards the end of the year. 

The country's 200 island resorts are also making plans to reopen: Como Hotels said their Cocoa Island resort will throw down the coconut welcome mat on June 30, with their second resort Como Maalifushi hoping to welcome back guests in September. As per new Safe Tourism Guidelines, Como, along with every Maldivian island resort, they will be required to hold a stock of PPE equipment, and have a certified medic on staff and available at all times.      

Cocoa Island will be reopening on June 30 - Como Cocoa Island

But visiting the Maldives' sugary shores isn't going to be as simple as just booking a package holiday following the suggestion that stringent new health and safety measures will be implemented. Before being allowed to enter the Maldives, travellers may have to apply in advance for a tourist visa (previously not required for British citizens) at a cost of US$100/£81.

Visas will only be granted to those who have a confirmed booking for a minimum of 14 nights and sufficient travel insurance for the duration of their stay. According to Kuoni, a two week package for this December could cost from £3,011 to £9,888 per person – and good luck finding a travel insurance policy which includes coronavirus cover.  

Next, holidaymakers will be expected to submit either a negative COVID-19 antigen test (meaning the virus is not currently present in the body) or a positive antibody test (showing you have had the virus and acquired immunity) conducted up to a week before arrival.

The types of private testing which are currently available in the UK can cost anywhere between £199 and £400. Travellers will then be expected to splash out another US$100/£81 for a PCR antigen test on when the land at Malé airport.

Plus, there's also the cost of losing the first day of your holiday, as once guests arrive at their accommodation they must be confined to quarters until their test results come back, a process which can take anywhere between three to twelve hours.

None of this sounds very relaxing.