About Maldives
The Republic of Maldives is a string of pearls scattered over the deep blue Indian Ocean, southwest of India and 450 miles west of Sri Lanka. Only an hour's flight away from India or Sri Lanka, the Maldives today is best known for its white sandy beaches, crystalline lagoons and azure blue skies - a holiday maker's dream. The capital Malé, the seat of government and the centre of trade, commerce, business, health and education, is located in the middle of the atoll chain with about 75,000 inhabitant.
Historically the Maldives was under the british occupation until its independence in 1965 and is now the smallest Asian country in terms of population ~370,000 inhabitants and is the smallest predominantly Muslim nation in the world. The Maldivian archipelago consists of a string of 1,190 low-lying coral Islands of which roughly two hundred of are inhabited and the rest includes the 87 tourist resorts and uninhabited Islands. The atolls are formed from coral structures, separated by lagoons. The Islands are low lying with the highest point at approximately 8 feet above sea level. 'Faru' or ring-shaped reef structures form the atolls and these reefs provide natural defense against wind and wave action, on these delicate Islands. The Islands are also a major destination for scuba divers attacted by the fabulous reefs and the wealth of marine life; however, this is not a place for low budget backpackers or amateur anthropologists who want to travel independently and live as the locals do.
The predominant industries in the Maldives are fishing and tourism. Maldives exports canned tuna, dried and frozen fish, tropical aquarium fish and also fresh frozen Shashimi. The Tourist arrivals have maintained a growth of about 10% over the last many years. Maldives now receives over 300,000 tourists per year. Several scheduled air services as well as charter flights serve the capital Male'. It is about 10 hours flying from London via Dubai, 1 hour from Colombo and 4 hours from Singapore.
The best time to visit maldives is between December and April, which is also the brilliant height of the dry season. However, this is also the main season for tourism - resorts can be fully booked and prices are higher than the rest of the year. Between May and November it's still warm, but the skies can be cloudy with high humidity, rain and tropical storms blowing from southwest monsoon. This is the official low season - prices are lower and there are fewer tourists. The temperature varies little with an annual average daily maximum of 30.4º degrees Celsius and a minimum of 25.9º degrees Celsius.
Maldives Map
Background: The Maldives was long a sultanate, first under Dutch and then under British protection. It became a republic in 1968, three years after independence. Since 1978, President Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM - currently in his sixth term in office - has dominated the Islands' political scene. Following riots in the capital Male in August 2004, the president and his government pledged to embark upon democratic reforms, including a more representative political system and expanded political freedoms. Progress has been slow, however, and many promised reforms have been slow to come to fruition. Nonetheless, political parties were legalized in 2005. A constituent assembly - termed the "special majlis" - has pledged to complete the drafting of a new constitution by the end of 2007 and first-ever presidential elections under a multi-candidate, multi-party system are slated for November 2008. Tourism and fishing are being developed on the archipelago.
Location:

Southern Asia, group of atolls in the Indian Ocean, south-southwest of India
Coastline: 2,525 km
Area:

total: 300 sq km, land: 300 sq km, water: 0 sq km
Coastline: 644 kmy
Climate:

Tropical; hot, humid; dry, northeast monsoon (November to March); rainy, southwest monsoon (June to August)
Terrain: Flat, with white sandy beaches

Elevation extremes: Lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
Highest point: unnamed location on Wilingili Island in the Addu Atoll 2.4 m
Natural resources: Fish

Land use: arable land: 13.33%
permanent crops: 30%
other: 56.67% (2005)
Natural hazards: Low level of Islands makes them very sensitive to sea level rise
Population:

369,031 (July 2007 est.)

Ethnic groups: South Indians, Sinhalese, Arabs

Religions: Sunni Muslim

Languages:

Maldivian Dhivehi (dialect of Sinhala, script derived from Arabic), English spoken by most government officials
Literacy:

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 96.3%
male: 96.2%
female: 96.4% (2000 census)
Capital:

name: Male
geographic coordinates: 4 10 N, 73 30 E
time difference: UTC+5 (10 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:

19 atolls (atholhu, singular and plural) and the capital city*; Alifu, Baa, Dhaalu, Faafu, Gaafu Alifu, Gaafu Dhaalu, Gnaviyani, Haa Alifu, Haa Dhaalu, Kaafu, Laamu, Lhaviyani, Maale* (Male), Meemu, Noonu, Raa, Seenu, Shaviyani, Thaa, Vaavu
Legal system: Based on islamic law with admixtures of English common law primarily in commercial matters; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Judicial branch:

High Court
Economy - overview:

Tourism, Maldives' largest industry, accounts for 28% of GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts. Over 90% of government tax revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes. Fishing is the second leading sector. Agriculture and manufacturing continue to play a lesser role in the economy, constrained by the limited availability of cultivable land and the shortage of domestic labor. In late December 2004, a major tsunami left more than 100 dead, 12,000 displaced, and property damage exceeding $300 million. As a result of the tsunami, the GDP contracted by about 3.6% in 2005. A rebound in tourism, post-tsunami reconstruction, and development of new resorts helped the economy recover quickly. Over the longer term Maldivian authorities worry about the impact of erosion and possible global warming on their low-lying country; 80% of the area is one meter or less above sea level.

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 16%
industry: 7%
services: 77% (2006 est.)
Industries: tourism, fish processing, shipping, boat building, coconut processing, garments, woven mats, rope, handicrafts, coral and sand mining
Electricity: 220 volts

Currency (code):

Rufiyaa (MVR)
Credit Cards:

Credit cards are normally accepted by banks and most hotels, restaurants and tourist shops

VAT:

There is no income or sales tax in the Maldives. Government revenues are generated by import taxes, tourism taxes, lease rentals on resorts, and earnings on state owned enterprises

Telephone system:

general assessment: telephone services have improved; each Island now has at least 1 public telephone, and there are mobile cellular networks with rapidly expanding subscribership
domestic: interatoll communication through microwave links; all inhabited Islands and resorts are connected with telephone and fax service
international: country code - 960; linked to international submarine cable Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG); satellite earth station - 3 Intelsat (Indian Ocean)