A car will be about as much use to you here as a baking tray made of butter; if you want to explore, ask your hotel about chartering a wooden dhoni, catamaran or speedboat for the day.
The main international airport is at Malé (+960 325511; www.airports.com.mv), central to both the North and South atolls: fly in from the US or the UK via Dubai with Emirates Airlines, or connect from an Etihad flight into Abu Dhabi. There are also numerous direct charter flights into Malé from the UK. Alternatively, you can fly in via Sri Lanka or India. You may then have to make a short hop by seaplane to your resort if it's not accessible by speedboat, take a domestic flight to one of the airports at the northern- or southern-most atolls of the Maldives.
Country code for Maldives: +960.
In Daniel Defoe's Robinsoe Crusoe, the paradise may have been Pacific but the tale is still a castaway classic. Contemporary travel writer Thurston Clarke goes island-hopping round the world in Islomania: A Journey Among the Last Real Islands. Get up close and personal with the Indian Ocean itself with A Photo Guide to Fishes of the Maldives by Rudie H Kuiter.
Do go / Don't Go
There's never really a 'bad' time to go to the Maldives, which has a wonderful year-round climate - even in the Monsoon season (mid-May-November), you'd be very unlucky to get more than a few days' rain on the trot. Christmas is very popular, as is anytime up to Easter, although you might be lucky and find deals for late January getaways.
Maldivian cuisine draws heavily on the aromatically spiced and coconut-softened curries of southern India and Sri Lanka - and of course makes use of the plentiful supply of fresh, fresh fish. Particular delights are the creamy fish curries, tuna steaks, marinaded Maldivian lobster and grilled fresh snapper, served with lentil-based dishes such as dhal or steamed rice and chargrilled vegetables. As the Maldives is a muslim republic, pork dishes are understandably a bit of a rarity - but we think you can cope without bangers for breakfast for a few weeks (and if you can't, there are beef sausages, instead). The Maldives is also a big producer of watermelons: try fat juicy slices of this most refreshing of fruits chilled, juiced or cubed in salads - it's also thankfully low on airmiles, unlike much of the food imported to these remote islands.
Every hotel has its own speedboats or fleet of ocean-going vessels - it's the only practical way to get around. They can arrange charter by the hour or by the day if you want to go anywhere further than you can swim.
Most resorts will include service on your bills for everything from transfers and room service to spa treatments, so you shouldn't worry too much; however, small extra tips for a great massage or for outstanding butler service are at your discretion.
The Maldivian Rufiya (MDR) - although US dollar are the more commonly used currency in resorts.
Leave snorkelling kit at home, as you'll be able to borrow some wherever you are; but don't forget your diving log book and certification (and check whether your resorts requires a medical certificate to let you dive). Underwater camera (although at Huvafen Fushi there'll be a disposable one in your minibar); flip-flops.
In the Maldivian capital, Malé, little evidence of the former kingdom's palatial or ancient Buddhist architecture exists. Day trips from resorts will generally give you a tour of the city, taking in some shopping in the lively Machangolhi quarter, the golden-domed Islamic Centre, the Presidential Palace, the fish market and the Grand Mosque. In the Alif Alif Atoll there are more Buddhist archaeological remains, particularly on Thoddoo, but most sites are in a poor state and not worth a trip.
Try to buy some virgin coconut oil produced on the Maldives: healing, anti-bacterial and supposedly anti-ageing, it also smells delicious.
There aren't many countries where you're guaranteed a 360º view of the sea from almost anywhere you stand/sit/lie down. However, one of our favourite views is from Lonu Veyo - a tiny saltwater flotation pool isolated in the languid shallows off Huvafen Fushi island. It's saltier than the Dead Sea, so it's also fabulous for your skin (as well as making limbs improbably bouyant). Alternatively, hop aboard a sea plane from Cocoa Island for a heron's eye view of the islands.
With so much underwater action to see off these islands, even a novice is guaranteed take to snorkelling like the proverbial duck to water here: both Cocoa Island and Huvafen Fushi provide masks, fins and snorkels to guests for free, and the ocean is literally alive with rainbow-coloured fish, soft corals and fascinating crustaceans. What are you waiting for?
December Christmas and New Year is peak time on the Maldives, so book well in advance if you plan to visit over the holiday season. March Parades mark the Maldives National Day on Malé. July More parades and celebrating in the streets of Malé for Independence Day on the 26th. September/October Ramadan - the holy month of fasting - starts two weeks earlier every year, according to the lunar cycle.