Gay Maldives: Is it safe to go in 2019? Travel advice, gay hotels & resorts

The Maldives is a stunning country, which we've always dreamed of visiting. Oh those gorgeous idyllic tropical islands with their white sandy beaches… Few places on our planet rival the natural beauty of the Maldives.

We spent 2 weeks holidaying in the Maldives, which included plenty of beach fun, enjoying the beautiful crystal clear water, snorkelling and scuba diving. However before visiting, we were concerned about our safety, as this is a Muslim country with Sharia Law.

Although the situation for LGBTQ locals is not great, fortunately for gay tourists, the economy of the Maldives relies so heavily on tourism. As such pink dollars are very welcome, especially at the large privately resort islands.

Whilst many gay tourists argue that boycotting such countries is more ethical, we strongly believe that going over there and being a visible symbol of the LGBTQ community is going to have far more positive consequences than boycotting. This has been our stance throughout our travels in Asia, which done in a safe, respectful and careful manner can have many productive changes. We explore this in more detail in our article about what it's like for gay couples travelling in Asia and why we think this is very important.

In this article we explore whether it is safe for gay travellers to visit the Maldives and also set out our safety tips and best places to stay in this truly beautiful country.

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Gay rights in the Maldives

On the face of it, homosexuality is illegal in the Maldives. The Penal Code works with the Islamic Sharia Law to punish any acts relating to homosexuality through prison sentences, fines, and even lashings.

In practice, homosexuality is very rarely prosecuted, but it goes without saying that this is not the sort of place you're going to come waving rainbow flags and express your love with your partner publicly.

Gay travel to the Maldives: the reality

Whilst very harsh anti-gay laws exist in the Maldives, gay travellers will largely be absolutely fine and have a fantastic beach holiday. From our perspective travelling in the Maldives as a gay couple, at no stage did we ever experience any problems. We do of course respect local customs and avoid public displays of affection, as we did travelling in Russia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Most of the tourism industry of the Maldives is dominated by large private resorts owned by international brands, who each have their own island. These are for the most part expensive, but as a result function as a mini private bubble with its own set of rules. For example, despite being a Muslim country, you can purchase alcohol in these resorts and women don't need to cover up at the beach. The staff in these resorts will usually be from all over the world, open minded and will have undergone thorough training expected from large brands, which includes welcoming same sex couples. It is in these private resorts where gay travellers will feel most welcome in the Maldives. So much so that gay honeymoons in the Maldives are becoming increasingly popular.

For gay travellers who prefer not to stay in a large resort, you can also stay at a guesthouse in the local islands, like Thoddoo. However, in doing so, you need to exercise caution about being overly gay in public and consider booking two single beds if you're a same sex couple.

Nomadic Boys on the beach of Thoddoo island
Hanging out at Thoddoo island's bikini tourist beach

Gay Resorts in The Maldives

Generally speaking, well known private resorts are welcoming towards all LGBTQ couples. In the Maldives, these resort will have their own private island, where they will allow alcohol to be purchased. They will also have plenty of “bikini” tourist beaches and overall be well catered towards the demands of the tourism industry. You can be sure gay travellers are welcome in these resort, though they're not cheap!

These are some of the most gay friendly resorts in the Maldives where you don't have to worry about sleeping in the same bed with your other half:

1. W Retreat and Spa Maldives ★★★★★

We love the W brand. It's well known for being very gay friendly. It's also super trendy with its own nightclub. Lodgings are set in “house reefs” each with their private plunge pool and sundeck.

  • Trendy, romantic and gay friendly
  • Perfect for snorkelling
  • Prices start from $1,968 a night
W Resort in the Maldives

2. Conrad Maldives ★★★★★

The Conrad is a gay friendly hotel located on Rangali Island. It's like being in an oasis paradise, with villas overlooking the reefs – you can literally just jump straight into the water from your private villa!

  • Luxurious and gay friendly
  • Stunning sunsets every evening
  • Prices start from $3,750 a night
Conrad Hotel on Rangali island

3. Shangri La Villingili Resort ★★★★★

The Shangri La's Villingili is a luxurious and romantic gay friendly resort in the Maldives located on Maradhoofeydhoo island. The house reef is pristine with lots of turtles, tropical fish and even sharks to spot.

  • Gay friendly romantic haven
  • Delicious fresh fish and sea food
  • Prices start from $1,349 a night
Shangri-La Villingili Resort in the Maldives

Gay friendly guesthouse

The Maldivian government recently allowed businesses to establish guesthouses on the local islands. We stayed at Serene Sky Guesthouse on Thoddoo island. This is a more affordable way to visit the Maldives, without having to spend thousands of dollars a night.

However, this is a more local experience, so alcohol is not available and public displays of affection should be avoided. In addition, as we were not sure about the locals' reaction to hosting a gay couple, we booked two twin beds (and just pushed them together) to avoid any problems.

Overall, we absolutely loved our experience on Thoddoo island. There was plenty of snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities in the reef surrounding the island. Our hotel staff were super friendly, offering snorkelling rentals and also took us out on various water sports for free as part of our hotel stay. This also included one fishing trip which led to a tasty BBQ tuna lunch. Thoddoo island also has a “bikini” beach just for tourists. 

Stefan showing off his tuna BBQ
After our fishing trip, we got to BBQ and eat our tuna

So…is the Maldives safe for gay travellers?

In practice we found the Maldives to be very safe as long as you're discreet and avoid public displays of affection. This is just a natural custom expected in local society – straight local couples aren't affectionate with one another in public either.

With regards to booking a double bed in a hotel, it is worth emailing or calling ahead in advance before booking to ensure they are ok to welcome gay travellers. Most are likely to reply quite promptly confirming they have no problem with this.

For gay couples, the most negative attention you're likely to encounter is being confused for brothers…we got that a lot!

Enjoying the local 'bikini' tourist beach
Do we really look like ‘brothers'??!!!!

Check out our Maldives travel video right here:

OUR FAVORITE TRAVEL RECOMMENDATIONS

⭐️ TRAVEL INSURANCE — We recommend you always take out travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft or a cancellation? With travel insurance, you can have peace of mind and not worry. We love World Nomads travel insurance and have been using it for years. Their comprehensive coverage is second to none and their online claims process is very user friendly.

⭐️ SAFETY & SECURITY — All travelers (gay or not) can sometimes encounter danger when traveling. CloseCircle is your “virtual body guard” mobile app which provides security alerts and support wherever you are in the world. They have a 24/7 emergency response team monitoring their users who will contact you immediately if the SOS swipe button is activated. Support can include anything from practical advice, to free evacuation from areas with extreme weather or security risks. You can read more about CloseCircle in our article about how to stay safe whilst traveling.

⭐️ ONLINE ANONYMITY — A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a must in many countries: it allows you to surf anonymously and maintain your privacy whilst traveling. You'll particularly need it in countries where gay dating apps are blocked by the government. We recommend ExpressVPN, a reliable and cost effective service which we used and loved during our travels.

⭐️ HOTELS or APARTMENTS — When we plan a trip, we always look for the best hotel deals. We love Booking.com because not only do they have a comprehensive listing of accommodation options, they also offer the best prices. Added bonus: they provide 24/7 support and free cancellation for most listings.

⭐️ SIGHTSEEING and ADVENTURES — When we travel somewhere, we like to seek out the best experiences, whether it is cooking with locals in Bangkok, hiking on a glacier in Patagonia, or going on a wildlife safari in Sri Lanka. Our favorite place to look is GetYourGuide because they have over 30,000 highly rated activities, a user-friendly booking process with free cancellation and a 24 hour customer support.

This article contains affiliate links. If you click on them, we may receive compensation which keeps our website alive and helps us bring you to more destinations.

37 Comments

  1. Planing my travel to Nepal lead me here 🙂
    As a Maldivian, I am pleased to see the way this article has been written. You have to really visit Maldives to understand that its not that scary to spend holiday here for people of LGBTQ comunity. especially in resorts, you will not face any problems or discrimination towards you for being gay. of cause, like every other country you visit you must respect their culture!

    Reply
    • Good to hear 🙂

      Reply
  2. My new favorite blog, by far. Thanks for sharing your stories, and of course, the pics, which are awesome 🙂 Taking some of your recommendations on Buenos Aires, as my husband and I head there later tonight!

    Reply
    • Awwww thx so much buddy! We LOVE BA 🙂 Have an awesome time there!

      Reply
  3. I am visiting Male in December with my significant other. Where do you recommend staying and what can we do as a couple there? I prefer gay friendly hotel and one that serves alcohol.

    Reply
    • Hey Jess – tbc honest, Male is nothing special and we strongly recommend investing in a bit of time going to one of the nearby islands. Otherwise reach out to the team of Thodoo Island/Serena Guesthouse as they have a partner in Male where their guests stay in city – this company knew about us and were fine with us.

      Reply
  4. Don’t understand why LGBT spend their dollars to support a country that is so anti LGBT.

    Reply
    • Because the money we spend doesn’t go to the government making those laws, but to the local businesses who are trying to support LGBT!! Surely that’s a far more productive way of thinking than boycotting those LGBT communities altogether?!

      Reply
      • Certainly a portion of the total money you spend in the country is going to the economy/ government. I personally would rather give 100pct of my gay dollars directly to a non profit supporting LGBT rights in Maldives. To each their own though. Looks like a beautiful place.

        Reply
  5. Hi guys,

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

    Reply
    • 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
  6. 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
    • 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
  7. 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
    • Thanks Mar – very true. We saw women doing their morning jog in their full veil – in the full heat…yikes!

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

    Reply
  9. 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
    • Thanks Jay!! Glad you like 🙂

      Reply
  10. 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
    • Hi guys,

      Do you reckon it is still safe to go to the Maldives for a gay couple? I can see that the comments on this post go back to 2015 so I presume that is when you guys went? I’m just wondering if situations have escalated since or if it is still the same.
      I’m in the middle of deciding if I want to change location because I have already booked the Maldives but the travel agency said I can change in the next few days.
      @Matt have you guys returned recently? Would love to know anyone’s thoughts who have been to the Maldives this year (2017).

      Reply
      • Gay travellers we know who’ve been recently raved about it and loved it. Obviously if you’re in an international resort, there’s no issue. If on a local island, then just be tactful and respectful to local traditions (ie don’t go waving rainbow flags in their faces, which I’m sure you wouldn’t do anyway). Totally safe in my opinion 🙂

        Reply
  11. 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
    • 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
  12. No kissing pics 😉 Wanna see you two hugs and kissings

    Reply
    • Awwww thanks Luka 🙂

      Reply
  13. 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
    • 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
  14. What a beautiful place shame about the laws but you both had your heads screwed on lol

    Reply
    • Thanks Betty 🙂

      Reply
  15. 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
    • But don’t let this stop you going…it can be done on a budget and such a beautiful place 🙂

      Reply
  16. 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
  17. 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
    • Thanks boys! How did you find the situation in Syria when you were there?

      Reply
  18. 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
    • Ha ha ha – thanks Marie 🙂

      Reply

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