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With the breathtaking ocean views, gorgeous beaches and countless island resorts to explore in the Republic of Maldives, who wouldn’t want to share their experiences with the world by phone or on social media? But with some sought-after resorts charging up to USD$20 a day for Internet access and Wi-Fi still spotty in this emerging Indian Ocean hotspot, you’ll likely get more for your money by picking up a local SIM card to use in your phone during your stay.
Depending on how much you plan to use your mobile phone and for what purposes, you’ve got some options to quickly and easily pick up an international SIM card on your way out of the airport. Recent travelers have been set up with a communication solution in just 5 or 10 minutes, and for less than USD$20 a month.
Your two choices for a SIM card, Dhiraagu and Ooredoo, are both affordable telco providers in the Maldives. Dhiraagu has led the way in establishing signal coverage across one of the world’s most dispersed countries, while Ooredoo has pushed the technological envelope by creating the nation’s first 3G and 4G networks. Both require GSM-compatible, unlocked phones.
Dhiraagu now boasts extensive 3G and 4G LTE coverage of every major Maldivian island you could stay, live or work on, and it’s backed by a submarine fiber optic network.
The difference is likely found in 4G LTE coverage. Some sources credit Dhiraagu LTE with 56% coverage of the entire Maldives, while claiming Ooredoo covers just 40 of the main islands. Dhiraagu specifically lists more than 150 locations where it offers mobile broadband speeds, while Ooredoo provides a coverage map for more details.
Most travelers can conveniently swing by the network retail shop of their choice on the way out of the Malé International Airport, officially known as the Velana International Airport. Retail outlets for both Dhiraagu and Ooredoo are located near the baggage claim area. You’ll need to show your passport and fill out a form to buy a SIM card.
All SIM card and data purchases are subject to the Maldives’ 6% standard tax rate, and some tourist areas charge a higher tax rate.
With either mobile network, your cost to get the SIM card is just US$2, and you can pick from a number of data plans that range from 25MB to 200GB.
For heavy Facebook and Twitter users, Dhiraagu offers unlimited posting to social media sites with its Prepaid RED SIM card package. Ooredoo provides free Facebook access on all plans and free Twitter access on select data plans.
If you find yourself running out of time or data, you can top up your SIM card and extend it by buying an additional package.
The commonly used Prepaid RED package costs about US$2 and comes with US$1.30 in credit toward calls or text messages. Standard call rates are about US$0.06 per minute to any Dhiraagu phones and about US$0.10 per minute to other local numbers. The Dhiraagu-to-Dhiraagu SMS rate is a mere US$0.0007, and data is charged at US$0.02 per MB.
For bulk data, you can pick up a 30-day Power Plan, which can be used at both 3G and 4G speeds. Approximate prices include:
If you just need brief access to a mobile data connection, there’s also a 1-hour 25MB plan for about US$0.65 and a 24-hour 125MB plan for US$1.62.
Keep in mind that on Prepaid RED, your Facebook and Twitter data are free.
Dhiraagu APN and Website
Your Ooredoo SIM card also costs US$2 and comes with US$1.30 in credit. Standard per-minute call charges to Ooredoo numbers are US$0.06 while other local calls are slightly cheaper than Dhiraagu at about US$0.08 per minute. SMS rates are deducted at US$0.01 each locally and US$0.07 each internationally.
Ooredoo’s SIM cards last 60 days, but its bulk 3G data packages expire after 30 days:
For even shorter timeframes, Ooredoo offers Mini Data packages, including 30MB over a day for US$0.65, 160MB over three days for US$2 and 300MB over seven days for US$3. Other data allotments and timeframes are also available.
Ooredoo APN and Website
The perspectives of travelers who’ve been to the Maldives and swapped out their SIM cards for local ones often provide valuable insights, and TripAdvisor is a great place to find that advice.
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