Maldives vs Sri Lanka comparison
This article will be about 2 countries I truly love but for different reasons, Maldives vs Sri Lanka. I spent a month on 12 different islands in Maldives and a month in Southern Sri Lanka. So my comparison will be based on those 2 months of my own personal experience. Basically, it’s just my opinions so don’t get me wrong if you disagree with something. Below you can find some things that I noticed in both countries.
Maldives – Republic of Maldives consists of more than 1190 islands. Some say it’s 1192, others it’s 1194. The size of the land is just 298 square kilometres. Maldives, located SouthWest of Sri Lanka, are the smallest Asian country by both population and land area.
Sri Lanka – Democratic Socialist republic of Sri Lanka is just one island with total area of 65,610 square kilometres.
Maldives vs Sri Lanka comparison
Maldives vs Sri Lanka similarities:
- Both are located in the Indian Ocean.
- It’s possible to reach both countries only by air (no land transportation, no ferries).
- Both are island countries.
- Both countries were ruled by the British in the past.
- The head of both countries is a President nowadays.
- It’s easier to pay in $US dollars than in euro. However, local currency in Maldives is Maldivian Rufiyaa and in Sri Lanka it’s Sri Lankan Rupee.
- One of the biggest problems in both countries is rubbish. They are not used to plastic and unnatural materials so many of them still throw it on the ground which is the cause of a lot of rubbish along the roads and coast. It’s heart-breaking to swim in the Ocean with plastic bags around you, don’t you think? I really hope they will find out how to use less unnatural materials and what to do with all the rubbish that’s already there.
- It’s quite easy to get along with the locals in English, especially in touristy destinations and hotels, even though English is not the main local language.
Maldivian official language is Dhivehi.
Sri Lanka has 2 official languages: Sinhala and Tamil.
We could say that Maldives and Sri Lanka are the closest neighbouring countries with the Ocean as the frontier. However, they are not directly adjacent to each other by land as they are both surrounded by water. Although there’s some similarities, the 2 countries are very different in many aspects. I’ll try to pick some of them below.
Maldives vs Sri Lanka differences
- Maldives are more of a relaxing getaway for couples while Sri Lanka can be suitable for active solo travelers. I am a solo traveler who enjoys both chilling on the beach and activitely exploring various landscapes and sites, which is why I fell in love with both countries.
- Maldives are great when you’d like to get far away from hustle and bustle of city life (except the capital Malé) vs Sri Lanka’s towns are good for party animals and meeting other travelers.
- Many heritage and cultural sites are spread around Sri Lanka vs very few sites can be found in Malé but not on other Maldivian islands.
- Sri Lanka is more diverse than Maldives when it comes to nature, landscapes, fauna, flora and architecture.
- Transportation in Maldives – mostly by boats, ferries, speedboats and sea planes. To get around Sri Lanka you can pay for a tuk tuk, bus, train or rent a scooter.
- In my opinion, both countries are expensive. Sri Lanka was more expensive than I thought it would be, but it could still be a budget destination if you choose so. When comparing the two of them, Maldives are for sure a lot more expensive than Sri Lanka.
- There’s hundreds of different activities you can do in Sri Lanka. There’s only a handful of activities to do in Maldives as the resorts and hotels on local islands were built for you to relax.
This one is a no brainer. Maldivian beaches win for sure. Maldives have some of the nicest beaches I’ve ever seen. Everywhere around you you’ll find crystal clear turquiose water and white sand. If you are a beach person, Maldivian beaches will take your breath away.
Snorkeling and scuba diving are very popular around the Maldives as the underwater world is really unique. You can spot different kinds of sharks, rays, small colorful fish, dolphins, turtles, corals etc.
Sri Lankan beaches are mostly covered with golden or brownish sand and are not as beautiful as Maldivians but they are great for surfing.
If you like surfing or other water sports where wind is a must, or you simply enjoy jumping in the waves, then Sri Lanka will be better for you. But personally I’d opt for Maldivian beaches over Sri Lankan. Me and waves are not good friends at all.
Nature and animals
Maldives have no mountains, no hills and no rivers. We are talking of the flattest country in the world. Most islands can be crossed by foot from one side to another within a few minutes. Besides lizards, little iguanas, fruit bats, crabs and underwater animals you won’t find many wild animals on the Maldivian islands.
So if you are looking for an animal safari where you can observe wild animals, then Sri Lanka wins this battle.
Sri Lanka also has a bit of everything: mountains, tea plantations, beaches, tropical jungle, waterfalls, lakes and rivers, and also cities. I guess this one is easy. If you’d like to see land animals and different types of nature, then go to Sri Lanka. If you are into underwater world, choose Maldives.
TIP 1: Do you love animals as much as I do? Then you should definitely visit Udawalawe national park in Sri Lanka to get closer to wild elephants there.
When it comes to skin color, locals of both countries have it quite similar. Personally I had no problems with Maldivians, nor Sri Lankans. All the locals I met treated me in a nice way, I have to admit. Maybe I’d add that I found the Maldivians more shy, more modest, and more introverted. It might be because of the religion, or because on local Maldivian islands they are still less used to tourists than they already are in Sri Lanka.
As a solo female traveler, I felt very safe in both countries. I was not harassed at all which is a plus point for both destinations. Locals in both countries were very welcoming and made my days with hundreds of smiles.
Religion and clothing
Maldives are 100% Sunni Muslim country. Islam is the official religion mandated by law. Thanks to the religion, the locals cover themselves up. Women mostly cover hands and legs entirely, while men tend to walk wearing shorts and T-shirts with short sleeves without any problems.
Tourists should follow Muslim clothing requirements on local Maldivian islands (but in resorts it’s not necessary). Wearing just swimwear on local islands is possible only on designated Bikini beach (unlikely to resorts where it’s fine anywhere). Alcohol is banned for Maldivians and it’s difficult to get on local islands.
Sri Lankans are 70% Buddhist. Buddhism is followed by Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. In Sri Lanka you can choose your own religion. You don’t have to be that strict when it comes to clothes and wearing bikini is possible on any Sri Lankan beach. Tourists can wear shorts and tank tops on the streets, too. Alcohol is also easy to get around the island.
In Maldivian resorts you might not get a taste of local cuisine at all. On local islands you might get luckier, especially in small restaurants called hotaus. Authentic Maldivian cuisine is a mixture of Sri Lankan, Indian and Arabic. The main ingredient of Maldivian cuisine would be sea food and fish, and also coconut milk.
Then some local fruit (papaya, bananas, passion fruit, watermelon) and different green salads, aubergine, cucumber, pumpkin etc. The biggest producer of fresh fruit and veggies out of all the Maldivian islands is Thoddoo island where I spent 11 days. Most of other ingredients and especially on other Maldivian islands (with the exception of Thoddoo) have been imported from abroad.
Sri Lankan cuisine is similar to Indian, but maybe even more spicy and with more flavor. Or let’s say it’s spicy in a different way. Rice and curry with more different curries are one of the traditional meals. Then also roti, string hoppers, kottu, sambal, dhal etc. can be ordered in most restaurants and resorts. Almost all the traditional Sri Lankan meals are fried, tempered or deviled, so not very healthy, but OMG so delicious! I could not get enough of Sri Lankan rice and curry. And yes, they had a lot of vegan options as most meals are made of coconut milk instead of dairy.
Unfortunately, you won’t find many raw meals, except exotic fruit and smoothies in these 2 countries. I’d say that the ingredients used in Sri Lankan cuisine are more fresh and local, compared to mostly imported ones in Maldives. The same goes when talking of items sold at grocery stores.
It’s easy to find healthy things, as well as natural cosmetics in Sri Lanka while in Maldives I found it more difficult. When speaking of food, Sri Lanka wins for me. However, you can get differnet kinds of cuisine in Maldivian resorts, so what I’ve just said might not be true for you.
TIP 2: Get a plate of food first and then head over to my article about vegan meals in Sri Lanka. I wish someone was making me those meals even outside of Sri Lanka. That’s how finger-licking Sri Lankan cuisine is 🙂
TIP 3: Sri Lanka is a very diverse country. I’d say it’s more similar to India than to Maldives, which is why it’s also called Little India. I also wrote an article where I discuss similarities and differences between Sri Lanka vs India.
TIP 4: Maldives are not a cheap destination to visit. But it also depends on where you stay at and what kind of activities you want to do. How much did I spend traveling around Maldives for a month? You’ll be shocked!
Which country would you choose for holidays and why? Maldives vs Sri Lanka? Tell me your opinions in the comments below.