Maldives Public Ferry Guide

How to Use the Maldives Public Ferry [Maldives Transport]

One of the absolute delights of visiting the Maldives is using the public transit system here.  And in this nation of 1,192 islands, you can bet your bottom dollar that the vast majority of your transport is going to be by boat.  The Maldives has a fantastic public ferry system.  It connects many of the 187  inhabited islands, but it is, at first (and second) glance a little complicated.  You’ll just need a little time to work it out, and then a plan of where you want to go.  You might even want to use the Maldives public ferries in conjunction with some of the speedboats available, just to get a taste for the different types of transport and transfers available here.  Here’s our guide to the Maldives Public Ferries system, the timetables, costs, and how to use them.


I often say that trains are my favorite mode of transport.  But actually, I prefer sailing.  However, traveling the world on a sailboat is a very different proposition.  So, whenever I get the chance to use water transport I do.  And in the Maldives, there’s little other option, certainly for the route that we were taking on our Maldives itinerary.  The Maldives public ferry system can be a little daunting to start with, but actually, once you sit down, work out where you’d like to go, and then plan your travel (remember that Friday is the important day here in the Maldives) then it’s a great way to travel!

In order to plan our 2 weeks in the Maldives we studied the Maldives Public Ferry system extensively and worked our this itinerary around it.

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Maldives Public Ferry Guide

The public ferry system in the Maldives is run by the MTCC – the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company – they were set up in 1980 and is the longest-running public company in the Maldives.  They run marine and land transport and they also provide marine and civil construction in the Maldives.  They’re generally known as the MTCC and they also run the buses in Male city (yes, there are buses in the Maldives!   (You know I’d never even considered it!!)

The biggest question that we had when first looking at the public ferries in the Maldives was when they were running, and then where to catch them from.  There are two islands where you need to know the answer to where to catch them from. That’s Hulhulé – the island that the airport is on and Male, where the public ferries to the local islands go from.

Interior of a Maldives Public Ferry
Interior of a Maldives Public Ferry

In terms of when the public ferries run.  There’s only one public ferry that runs on a Friday and that’s the airport ferry that ONLY goes to the island of Male.  I wrote about that here.  No other public ferries run on a Friday in the Maldives.  The rest of the detail, I’ll cover shortly.  Keep reading.

This guide to traveling the Maldives on the public ferry is augmented by our tips on traveling the Maldives on a budget.

Maldives Public Ferry Schedules & Routes

The 1,192 islands of the Maldives cover a land area of 298 square kilometers (115 square miles).  It is the smallest country in Asia.  However, those islands cover a total length of 871 kilometers and a total area (including the Indian Ocean in which they are located) of 90,000 square kilometers (34,749 square miles).

The islands are divided into 20 administrative atolls, although there are 26 naturally occurring atolls.  Atolls are circular groups of islands with a lagoon in the center.  Some are sand islands, some are coral islands.

The public ferry system in the Maldives is organized around the atolls.  So normally if you want to travel using the public ferry system, from one atoll to another you need to return to Male, the capital city, to travel to another atoll. 

The Maldives ferry timetable is a 55 page monster.  You can download it here.

The schedule for the Maldives public ferries, is, at first complicated.  There’s more on how to read it and use it in a moment.

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Using the Public Ferries in the Maldives

Here’s some of the routes that we took and wrote up in the Maldives

How to go from Male to Maafushi

How to go from Male to Dhiffushi

Going from Male to Thulusdhoo

Take the airport ferry to Male

How to go from Maafushi to Fulidhoo

Maldives Ferry Map

The MTCC breaks the ferry system down into different zones.  There are 6 zones in the Maldives public ferry system.  They have a great map, which although it dates from 2021 is a really good resource.  You can download it here.

Here are screenshots of the different zones of the Maldives Public Ferry System

MTCC Maldives Public Ferries Map Zone 1
MTCC Maldives Public Ferries Map Zone 1 (Courtesy MTCC)
MTCC Maldives Public Ferries Map Zone 2
MTCC Maldives Public Ferries Map Zone 2 (Courtesy MTCC)
MTCC Maldives Public Ferries Map Zone 3
MTCC Maldives Public Ferries Map Zone 3 (Courtesy MTCC)
MTCC Maldives Public Ferries Map Zone 4
MTCC Maldives Public Ferries Map Zone 4 (Courtesy MTCC)
MTCC Maldives Public Ferries Map Zone 5
MTCC Maldives Public Ferries Map Zone 5 (Courtesy MTCC)
MTCC Maldives Public Ferries Map Zone 6
MTCC Maldives Public Ferries Map Zone 6 (Courtesy MTCC)

Maldives Public Ferry Booking

You can only book some of the public ferries in the Maldives ahead of time.    You can see which ones these are on Bookaway here – look for “Standard Ferry” – most of the tickets for the public ferry bought online will be US$12.

Note that there is a premium for booking online, but it does allow you to pay by card.

Simply turn up before the ferry departure time and buy a ticket if you’re in Male, or rock up at the jetty if you’re on one of the islands and buy the ticket on the ferry.

Maldives Public Ferry v Maldives Speedboats

As tourism on the local islands of the Maldives opens up further,  so too do alternative ways to get to the islands.  Privately owned speedboats now run between Male and many of the islands, so you can travel on a Friday or outside of the public ferry timetables.

We used a speedboat to go from Male to Maafushi when our Saudia Airlines flight from Jeddah landed on a Friday.  We knew that the ferries would not be running, and had prebooked a speedboat to get us to Maafushi.

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Speedboats in the Maldives differ in 4 ways to the public ferries.

Speedboats are much faster than Maldives Public ferries

The boats go a lot quicker than the ferries.  That’s not, always, by the way, a good thing.  In bad weather, you’ll bounce off a lot of waves, and it’s distinctly uncomfortable.  But then I guess you’ve been uncomfortable for a shorter period of time, so there is that.

Speedboats run on Friday

Speed boats in the Maldives are run by private companies and therefore are free to set what hours and days they run.  So they run on Fridays, which is both a day of prayer in this 100% Muslim country and also a public holiday.  It’s the weekend.

You can book many of the speedboats in the Maldives online with Bookaway or with 12goAsia

Speedboats set a timetable to coordinate with flights.

The vast majority of the users of speedboats are either international tourists or international business visitors.  They have the money to pay for the speed boats and so you’ll find the timetable of speedboats to the islands is set to accommodate these people.  Locals don’t use speedboats for their everyday travel, as they’re a lot more expensive than the local ferries

Speedboats are a LOT more expensive than the Maldives Public Ferries

If you’ve come from South East Asia and you’ve been island hopping then you’ll be used to paying the US$40 for the Koh Lipe to Langkawi Ferry. (yeah, I wrote about that here). And you shouldn’t be surprised that a speedboat from Male to Maafushi costs US$25.  That journey to Koh Lipe takes about the same time as the Male to Maafushi speed boat.  And that all sounds ok right?  Until you realize that the public ferry costs US$2.41.    Yes, you read that right – US$2.41.

However.  Speedboats are no more comfortable than the public ferry.  You won’t get any more room on the speed boat than you would on the public ferry.

Maldives Public Ferry from the Airport

Yes, that’s right there’s even a public ferry in the Maldives that picks up and drops off at the airport.  That’s because the airport is also on an island and it wasn’t until September 2018 that it was connected to the capital city of Male by a bridge.  The public ferry still runs to and from the airport and is a great, quick, efficient, and cost-effective way to go to and from the airport in the Maldives.  Here’s our guide to going to and from the airport in Male.

The Maldives Public Ferry Terminal in Male

The Maldives’ capital city of Male is on the island of Male.  And if you check out Google Maps, then you’ll find several ferry terminals.  The ONLY ferry terminal that you’re interested in on the island of Male, is marked on OUR map of the Male ferry terminals (you can see it below in this article).   Since the pandemic, the MTCC changed all the ferry departures to leaving from the main MTCC terminal, opposite the Maagiri Hotel.

At this ferry terminal, there are places to eat on the second floor (although there are lots of much better places nearby – I recommend the Ebb & Flow Café about 5 minutes walk away along the front road.  It has great coffee and super Maldivian breakfasts).  A little further away (along the same road) is City Garden, go upstairs for great views and a better breeze.  I’ve marked both of those on the map for you too.

There’s a waiting area here at the MTCC Public Ferry Terminal, with lots of seating and fans, but no A/C.

Male Ferry Terminal Waiting Area
Male Ferry Terminal Waiting Area

How to use the Public Ferries in the Maldives

Public ferries are EASY to use in the Maldives, you simply buy a ticket on-board, after boarding the ferry (apart from when you’re catching the ferries in Male or at the airport).  In Male and at the airport you buy a ticket from the booth in the MTCC building or on the ferry jetty at the airport.  The ferries are cheap, relatively comfortable and it’s a great slow travel way to see this island nation.

Understand the timetable for the Maldives Public Ferries

Now this is the hardest bit about using the Maldives Public Ferry.  The timetable. The airport ferry is the only Maldives ferry to run 7 days a week.  None of the other Maldives ferries run on a Friday, which is the day of prayer, rest, and the weekend here.

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How to read the Maldives Public Ferry Timetable

  1. The departure times are on the RIGHT, so you need to read it RIGHT TO LEFT.
  2. The easiest way to figure out the timetable for the islands you want to go to is to search in the document for the island you want to go to.
  3. Most ferries do NOT run every day, so make a note of the specific days that the ferry runs.
  4. Each of the ferries is numbered (but the only thing you’ll really need this for figuring is out which ferry timetables to look at).  The number of the ferry will also tell you what zone the ferry is in (for instance the 306 is in zone 3)

Here are the timetables for the main islands that independent travelers visit in the Maldives.  Please check here with the MTCC for any timetable changes

  1. Male to Maafushi (ferries 306 and 309) – the 306 also goes to Fulidhoo (read about going from Maafushi to Fulidhoo here)
Maldives 306 Ferry Schedule - Male to Maafushi
Maldives 306 Ferry Schedule – Male to Maafushi
Maldives 309 Ferry Schedule - Male to Maafushi
Maldives 309 Ferry Schedule – Male to Maafushi

Our guide to why you should visit Maafushi is here.

Maldives 308 Ferry Schedule - Male to Dhuffushi
Maldives 308 Ferry Schedule – Male to Dhuffushi
  • Male to Rasdhoo (ferry 303) – also goes to Ukulhas and Thodoo
Maldives 303 Ferry Schedule - Male to Rasdhoo
Maldives 303 Ferry Schedule – Male to Rasdhoo

How to buy tickets for the Maldives Public Ferries

Buying tickets for the public ferries in the Maldives is simple.  You’ll need cash – i.e. Maldivian Rufiyaa.  And the process differs slightly depending on where you’re buying your tickets.

Buying a ticket for the Male Airport Ferry

To buy tickets for the Maldives airport ferry you’ll need to go to the ticket booth at the airport and buy your ticket before you board the ferry.  I’ve covered this and its location in our guide to getting to and from the airport. If you’re on the island of Male, and heading towards the airport, then you also need to buy a ticket before boarding.  The ticket booth is in the MTCC building, in the waiting area, round the corner from the main ticket booth buying area.

Buying tickets for the Maldives ferries in Male

If you’re on the island of Male, then you buy your tickets from the ticket booth in the MTCC building.  It’s easy to spot.  The ticket sellers sit behind a glassed-in area and speak English, just say where you’re going, and hand over the money.

Buying tickets for Maldives public ferries on the islands

Getting a ticket for the public ferries while you’re on the island is even easier.  Your host will most likely take you (or your luggage) to the ferry jetty on the island in time to catch the ferry.  Line up, allow the people to get off first, and then hop on board.  Stow your larger bags where you are instructed, and then take a seat.  Luggage storage on some ferries is right at the front and on other ferries, it’s at the back. Sometimes bags are separated by which island you’re going to – just follow the advice of the crew.

One of the MTCC crew will come round and sell you a ticket.  It’s cash only.  And the ticket will have the cost of the fare printed on it.

How to board the Maldives Public Ferries

Boarding the Maldives public ferries is easy.  The ferries drive straight in and moor bow (front) onto the jetty.  If there’s no one getting off, then the crew will just wave you on.  There are usually some steps if the jetty is lower than the bow of the ferry.  You’ll walk over the bow of the boat, and step down into the interior area.  Simple.

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Where to sit on the Maldives Public Ferries

We always like to try and get seats on the side of the boat away from the sun.  It tends to be cooler. On some of the boats the seats may have windows next to them that open.  Other ferries have open sides, with roll-down rain/sun covers.

If you’re on one of the ferries with roll-down covers and want to sit on the edge seats, then just be aware that the sun is super, super strong here and you should wear sunblock.

Other than that, it’s free seating, so help yourself.

There’s very little in the way of interference with mobile signals, so you’re likely to get a data signal for pretty all the journeys you’ll do on the Maldives public ferries, so get yourself an eSIM and catch up on what you need to while you’re traveling.

Where to store bags on the Maldives Public Ferries

Most of the Maldives public ferries have bag storage at the rear of the boat, or right in the center as you get on – it’s just an area where all the larger bags are stored.  You’ll be directed by the crew as to where to put your bags.

Map of the Ferry Jetties for Malé

You can also see full map for the ferry jetties here

Map of How to Use the Maldives Public Ferry

FAQs about the Maldives Public Ferries

Oh, we had so many questions about these ferries and how to build them into our Maldives itinerary.  We also tried several speedboats, to see what the difference was and we also took a transfer (included with our hotel in Male – the UMET Seaview, which we recommend). Anyways, here are the questions and answers about ferries in the Maldives.

How much do public ferries cost in the Maldives?

The Maldives Public Ferries don’t cost very much at all.  Here’s some sample prices

Do Maldives Public Ferries run on Fridays?

The airport ferry to and from Male runs on a Friday.  No other public ferries run in the Maldives on a Friday.

Who runs the Maldives Public Ferries?

The public ferries in the Maldives are run by the MTCC – the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company.  The MTCC has been running since 1980 – and also manages the buses in Male city, as well as marine and civil construction in the Maldives.

How to pay for tickets on Maldives Public Ferries?

You’ll pay for your Maldives ferry tickets in cash, in local (Rufiyaa) currency.  Read my guide to currency, ATMs, and payment in the Maldives to understand about cash here.

Can I book tickets on Maldives Public Ferries?

No, you can’t book tickets on the public ferries in the Maldives.  If you’re on one of the islands and it’s holiday season and you’re concerned that you won’t get a seat on the ferry, just speak to your hotel or guest house owner and they’ll make sure you get on it.

Can you use Maldives Public Ferries to go to resort islands?

No.  It’s not possible to use Maldives public ferries to travel to the resort islands.  Most of the resort islands have specific rules about which boats can use their jetties – and this tends to mean only the ones that they own or have a commercial relationship with.  So if you’re going to a resort island, then you’ll have to pay the speed boat transfer fee that they quote to you.  Our speedboat transfer fee to get to the Malahini Kuda Bandos Resort was US$85 per person round trip. 

You can read our review of the Malahini resort here.

How do you go between islands in the Maldives?

There are options for how to go between various islands in the Maldives.  There are public ferries, speed boats, private speedboats, and seaplanes to go between Maldives islands.

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How much is a boat transfer in the Maldives?

The cost of a Maldives boat transfer depends on the boat that you’re taking, and the distance that you’re going.  A public ferry can cost as little as 20 MVR, a speedboat is usually upwards of US$25.

Are there toilets on public ferries in the Maldives?

Yes.  There are basic toilets on the Maldives public ferries.

How big are the Maldives Public Ferries?

Most of the ferries in the Maldives will seat from 50-100 people. 

Is there power on the Maldvies Public Ferries?

If there is power, then its going to be for the staff only. Make sure you’re charged before you leave your hotel – our guide to what you need for power in the Maldives is here.

How fast do the Maldives Public Ferries go?

It depends on where they are.  As the ferries come into the jetties, they’re pretty slow and they also have to navigate some rather shallow areas, so they go slow.  You can see how long it takes to go between islands in the timetable.  But don’t worry, you’re not going to bounce off the waves on the local ferries.  They chug along quite nicely.

Tips for Traveling the Maldives

Final Words on Using the Maldives Public Ferries

The public ferries in the Maldives are a glorious way to travel around this island nation.  The ferries are run for the locals to travel on, they’re cheap and a great way to get between the islands.  If you’re lucky enough to visit the Maldives and travel on the ferry system, then I hope you’ll have as much fun traveling on the ferries as we did.

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