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A Maldives Warning

By Mark - SV Merkava — last modified Aug 24, 2015 12:52 PM

Published: 2015-08-13 23:00:00
Countries: Maldives

March 2015
By Mark of SV Merkava

This is an account of one aspect of cruising in the Maldives that I haven't seen addressed, but will be of value to others cruising these most beautiful waters.

We were greeted in Uligan by the nicest officials of any country so far. Our agent was exceptional, answering all our questions about this new country we found ourselves in, finding us SIM cards, and making sure all our paperwork was in order. We were taken into people's homes and fed the most delicious meals, and the agents even threw us a beach barbecue. It was an incredible introduction to a gorgeous country.

We then spent a month sailing through reef protected waters, swimming with Mantas, playing with dolphins and watching some of the prettiest islands in the world slip by. This is truly a magical place to cruise.

Unscrupulous Agents

We had ordered a transmission cooler from Canada, to replace one that had failed while we sailed from Thailand, and had it sent to our agent in Male. When we arrived in Male we notified our agent that we had arrived and asked if the package had arrived. He said he was working on it. Then, to our surprise, it just appeared by boat to us at anchor! How cool we thought. These Maldivian's really go out of their way!

The next day we got fuel delivered (you have to get your agent to arrange this as you are not allowed to go get fuel yourself) and had the tanks topped up.

I had the guy fill a jerry can of mine that had a mark on it for 20 liters. Then I checked his gauge. It read 23 liters!. So even though it was a bit more hassle, I got him to fill my jerry cans over and over again, and counted those to come up with the final tally.

All went well until we got the agent's bill. There we found that we had been charged $200 USD for the delivery of the part to our boat! PLUS an "extra" $150 USD that was listed as an "agent fee" that wasn't in our original quote, plus extra liters of fuel had been added on. On top of this, was a $65 charge for clearing the package at customs. Over $400USD in extra charges had been added on top of the $1200USD we had agreed to....

Luckily, I had asked our agent specifically when we first got the quote if there would be any charges other than those quoted to me. He told me that if there was, he would let me know, and get my approval, before he went ahead with anything.

The next morning we went in to see him and I pointed out the extra $150 charge which he begrudgingly withdrew. Then there was the extra fuel he had tried to charge me for. No problem with that one and he corrected it. Then I mentioned the $200 "delivery fee" for the package, and he started to get upset. HE had to pay a company to deliver MY part! How could I refuse to pay! Over the next half hour or so, I showed him the email he sent me and kept repeating that he had made the deal of telling me beforehand, and then he didn't do what he said he would, and that I would never have agreed to paying $200 as I was coming to his office the next day anyways and could pick it up just as easy. Phone calls to superiors were made, conferences with other employees done. Then, he came back, smiled and said, OK, it was my mistake, so now we must enter into a negotiation. He said "You can't pay $200, but you must pay something. Even $100 or $50." I disagreed thinking "you just tried to rip me off for $200, and now you want me to let you do it for a lesser amount?" So I held out and in the end, he withdrew the charge. But now he was well and truly annoyed....

He then went on to talk about our cruising permit that he was arranging for the next month of our stay. In the end he asked for our passports as he needed them "to bring to Immigration to get our exit visas from Male." That didn't sound right to us at all as we had been given a three month visa when we entered the country four weeks ago. So we didn't give them to him as it just didn't feel right. As it turns out, he didn't need our passports at all. Which begged the question of what would he have done with them if we did give them to him?

Conclusion

Since being here, we've heard many accounts from other cruisers of Maldives agents overcharging cruisers on what seems to be a regular basis. Not only is it the most expensive country in the world to visit by yacht, with no infrastructure for us, but on top of that, the agents that we are required to hire, try to take even more from us.

This is nothing new to us cruisers. We are targeted quite often by corrupt officials and thieves of all descriptions. But here in the Maldives, they want more. It's not just a petty $10 or $20 dollars, they are out for bigger bucks.

So get everything in writing (i.e. do all comms by email so you have a written copy), keep your pencils sharp, and a wary eye to the changing paperwork. Then you will be more able to relax into this incredible paradise.

Mark
SV Merkava

Positive Notes: In Gan we went around our agent in Male and hired Matti. He did all of our exit papers, got us filled up with propane and had our alternator fixed. He was excellent in every way and a very nice guy to sit and chat with.

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