Is the Maldives a safe gay destination?

Is the Maldives a safe gay destination?

The Maldives is a Muslim country and unfortunately carries all the usual Sharia Law ‘decoration’ with it like:

  • it is illegal for Maldivian citizens to be non-Muslim
  • women must be covered up at all times – even when going for a jog or swimming in the sea
  • alcohol is illegal
  • gayness of any sort here runs the risk of the death penalty…
Our reaction to the Muslim Sharia Law rules in place in the Maldives

Our reaction to the very backward Muslim Sharia Law rules in place in the Maldives

 

Gay Maldives: the reality

We didn’t find the Maldives to be as scary as we thought it would be. Fortunately for gay tourists, the Maldivian economy relies heavily on tourism as its main source of income, so there will always be a different view towards foreigners.

Just don’t go expecting to find a gay community or even a gay scene – there just isn’t one!

We were also careful to avoid any public displays of affection. We are generally not very flamboyant in public on our travels, China of course, was a slight exception:

Flamboyant travelling in China

Flamboyant travelling in China with our beautiful hats

Gay-friendly accommodation in the Maldives

Generally speaking, well known private resorts are welcoming towards gay couples. We have selected fro you the most gay friendly resorts, so you do not have to worry about sleeping in the same bed with your other half. And alcohol is also allowed on these private islands.

W RETREAT AND SPA MALDIVES   Book online

  • Very trendy and gay friendly resort. It has its own night club.
  • Each private retreat has its own plunge pool and sundeck.
  • Great house reefs with plenty of white tip and black tip reef sharks.
  • Prices start from $1968 / £1346 a night.

CONRAD MALDIVES   Book online

  • A real oasis, with villas overlookign the reefs.
  • You can just jump in the water from your private villa.
  • Stunning sunsets.
  • Prices start from $3750 / £2531 a night.

SHANGRI LA’S VILLINGILI RESORT   Book online

  • A real heaven, mixing luxury, romance and relaxation.
  • House reef is pristine: turtles, lots of fish and small sharks.
  • Delicious fish (sea food lovers, you will be spoiled).
  • Prices start from $1349 / £922 a night.
Vilamendhoo Island Resort

Private island resorts welcome gays and also offer very often unlimited “all you can drink” packages

 

To go or avoid?

In practice we found the Maldives to be no different to any other developing country in Asia struggling to accept gayness. If you’re discreet, you won’t experience any problems at all.

We stayed at a guesthouse on a local island called Thoddoo and were cautious to book twin beds not double. With hindsight we found the locals to be more relaxed towards tourists then we thought and unlikely to ferry in the Maldivian police to have us arrested.

The most attention we attracted was being asked if we are brothers.

Enjoying the local 'bikini' tourist beach

Do we really look like ‘brothers’??!!!!

We also had the private bikini beach all to ourselves as the locals don’t use it.  We felt comfortable to be a bit more docile with each other there.

Nomadic Boys on the beach of Thoddoo island

Nomadic Boys on the bikini beach of Thoddoo island

The story of a very unfortunate gay Maldivian blogger

We read about an openly gay and secular Maldivian blogger called Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed who had his throat slashed outside his home in Male after years of campaigning for free speech, religious tolerance and secularism.

Fortunately he survived and fled to Sri Lanka. The offending blog (www.hilath.com) has been taken down, but he is still semi active on his new blog.

However, news like this really did put us on edge before arriving in the Maldives, hence our over cautious nature when visiting this beautiful country as a gay couple.

Gay blogger, Ismail 'Hilath' Rasheed

Gay blogger Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed who had his throat slashed in April 2013

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26 Comments

  1. Miles of Happiness - Marie

    That’s super interesting! It must be scary to know all that ‘rules’ there… But of course it has to be different for tourists. BTW still fan of you pictures (especially with the hats!)

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Ha ha ha – thanks Marie 🙂

      Reply
  2. Tony and Thomas

    Really interesting post. We knew the Maldives was Muslim, but because of the major tourist industry, we assumed it wasn’t an issue. As visitors to the U.A.E. keep finding out, you can never assume.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks boys! How did you find the situation in Syria when you were there?

      Reply
  3. Amy

    That is a shocking story about Ismail – I’m pleased he survived and continues to blog elsewhere. Your blog is such a great resource for other gay travellers, I love reading your insights.

    Reply
  4. noel

    What a bummer, I’ve always wanted to visit the Maldives but it makes sense for a tourist driven economy to be open about different travelers to have some personal freedoms when they explore a country. Discretion is definitely key.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      But don’t let this stop you going…it can be done on a budget and such a beautiful place 🙂

      Reply
  5. betty

    What a beautiful place shame about the laws but you both had your heads screwed on lol

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Betty 🙂

      Reply
  6. Kevin

    thank you for this! (spotted it over at Towleroad)

    my partner and I have always wanted to go to the Maldives and this “review” will prove helpful, I’m sure, if we ever take the plunge, cash in some bonds and make the trek (we’re from Canada).

    Looking forward to exploring more of your site!

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Hi Kevin and thanks for your message. You should definitely go, maybe as a side trip from India or Sri Lanka if you’re there to make it cheaper (and that way inclined of course). Glad you like the blog 🙂

      Reply
  7. Luka

    No kissing pics 😉 Wanna see you two hugs and kissings

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Awwww thanks Luka 🙂

      Reply
  8. john

    I am from the maldives, local girls walk around with shorts and tops, they don’t have to cover up it’s not a regulation, no one has been sentenced to death due to gayness, tourist can be gay as much as they want in the resorts.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Hi John, thanks for your comment. I guess when you travel to a country where the law says you are illegal and can be sentenced to death for being who you are (whether it is actually enforced or not) gives a VERY bad impression!!

      Reply
  9. Matt

    My partner and I have visited the Maldives twice (once in 2010 and then again in 2011 because we loved it so much the first time) and we never experienced any issues for being gay. Of course we were fairly discrete (no PDA, etc.) and some locals may have assumed that we were just “friends” or related – although I’m pretty sure that most of the other guests at the resort figured that we were a couple. We absolutely loved it there and we can’t wait to go back again! We’d highly recommend it to anyone. Here is a short video montage from our first visit in December 2010: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhDI6tx_TOg

    Reply
  10. jay

    The pic with this caption “Our reaction to the very backward Muslim Sharia Law rules in place in the Maldives” looks so adorable . .ahahhaha 🙂

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Jay!! Glad you like 🙂

      Reply
  11. Megan | Traveling Nine to Fiver

    Very interesting. Glad to hear that they are more welcoming than expected. Also that Hilath is doing fine and back at blogging.

    Reply
  12. Mar

    Great to know guys, usually best to be careful but Maldives is such a touristy place that locals must be useful to seeing it all and I am sure you were friendly as usual. That being said, I also spent a night on my way to the resort once and remember seeing no women in the street and being in a truly Muslim place with the men staring at me and such when we went out to find some food. It was a very different side of the country to the one you see on the resorts when, admittedly, you could be anywhere

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Mar – very true. We saw women doing their morning jog in their full veil – in the full heat…yikes!

      Reply
  13. jagjit

    my boyfriend and i are planning to go to maldives this september. he’s muslim and he’s not even scared for us to visit iran, where i believe socially open gays are hanged in public. i am scared! i can’t hide my gayness. :/ how discreet do we have to be in maldives though? i remember the last time we went to malaysia, another predominantly islamic country, we were given two solo beds on our first night. i don’t want that to happen again.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Yeah it’s a tough one. They are more relaxed then Malaysia, but you still have to be cautious. We had a double bed fine in our guesthouse on Thoddoo island – I guess for those that work in tourism they get more accustomed to gayness over the years?

      Reply
  14. Awang

    Hi guys,

    I’ll travel there in February, Any locals that gay friendly that i can connect with ?

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Sadly we struggled to meet any on Thoddoo Island but there were quite a few in Male. We’d recommend using Grindr or Hornet to connect up with locals when you’re there. Enjoy 🙂

      Reply

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