The Myanmar Travel Guide for 2020 & 2021 is your free resource before coming to these amazing country which is to be discovered!
The pandemic has changed the way we travel. Yet, despite newly implemented travel guidelines, the desire to connect with the rest of the world grows more powerful than ever, and many are itching to take that long haul to a new place.
A few glimpses of the beguiling sceneries of Myanmar could lure anyone longing for adventure to fly halfway around the globe to experience the country. Yes, it possesses an irresistible charm that enthralls even a wary tourist. There’s no harm in giving in to your wanderlust. After all, traveling to Myanmar is something that everyone should have in his or her bucket list.
Before you pack your bag and take the next flight to Yangon, read on to learn everything you need to know about this captivating yet complex country.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Before you go
Like most nations, Myanmar closed its door to tourists in March 2020. However, the country’s tourism sector is getting back on its feet with the government’s “survive, re-open, relaunch” program. The three-phase recovery plan includes providing financial assistance to tourism businesses, promoting domestic travel for local tourists, and creating a “travel bubble” with neighboring countries of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Why should Myanmar be your next travel destination? From pristine beaches to snow capped crests, golden temples to bustling markets, unexplored jungles to majestic lakes, the country is more than just a premier getaway. Traveling to Myanmar is a magical experience. Just watch hot air balloons glide past glittering stupas in the plain of Bagan, the mighty Irrawaddy River snaking through rustic riverside villages, and the splendid 2,500-year-old Shwedagon pagoda loom over the city of Yangon, and you will undoubtedly agree.
Covering 261,228 square miles of the western part of the Indochinese Peninsula, Myanmar is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia. Myanmar’s landscape is incredibly diverse. In Kachin State, the summit of Hkakabo Razi and its neighboring peaks glisten with snow from late October to January, while in the Andaman Sea, more than 800 white-sand islands in the Mergui Archipelago shimmer under the bright tropical sun.
In between these diverging regions are fertile valleys fed by the Irrawaddy River and fringed by dense jungles that shelter an abundance of exotic wildlife. However, Myanmar’s most precious treasure is not its natural beauty, nor its countless temples, but it’s warm and welcoming people. With over 135 distinct ethnic groups, the nation has an impressive cultural diversity.
Five decades of being shut down from the world has shrouded Myanmar in mystery. Now that it has opened its doors, it’s emerging as the place to go in Southeast Asia, attracting an increasing number of international visitors each year. Still, Myanmar retains its off-the-beaten-path vibe, making it one of the most exotic and intriguing destinations in the world.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Is it safe to travel to Myanmar?
Right off the bat – yes, to visit Myanmar is perfectly safe for travelers. Due to its controversial past, the country has an undeserved reputation for political turmoil and oppressive military control. While some foreigners are hesitant to visit Myanmar for these reasons, there have been no instances of tourist-related violence in and nearby the country’s top attractions. Myanmar is as safe to travel as its neighbors Thailand and Malaysia. More importantly, the locals are not only some of the friendliest but also among the most helpful and honest people you’ll meet anywhere in the world.
Some parts of the country do have civil unrest, particularly in the northern region of Rakhine State, where a series of violent clashes between the military and Bengali Muslims take place. This conflict leads many tourists to question whether it is ethical to visit Myanmar. However, going to Myanmar does not mean that you condone the action of the government. On the contrary, visiting Myanmar allows you to delve into its culture, and in a way, lets you share your perspective and knowledge about the outside world to people isolated for years.
Some parts of Shan and Kachin states, particularly border areas, are closed to foreign tourists because of existing government conflict with ethnic minority groups. A few of these places grant entry to tourists once they obtain a special access permit. If you choose to explore an area in Myanmar that is considered unsafe, be sure to take extra precautions. You can travel along with a guide who does not only speak the local language but also knows the ins-and-outs of the region. Avoid mass protests and demonstrations, keep political opinions to yourself, and abide by policies imposed by local authorities.
Before you leave your home country, ensure that you get the required vaccinations for diseases such as hepatitis A and B, typhoid, yellow fever, rabies, and polio. Check this website for more information: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/burma. Some vaccines take four to six weeks to take effect, while others need more than one dose. Consult with your doctor at least two months in advance.
Vaccinations for Myanmar
The CDC and WHO recommend the following vaccinations for Myanmar: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia and influenza. Shot lasts 2 years.
We would recommend at least the hepatitis A, hepatitis B (for water and street food safety is not the cleanest in Myanmar) and the Yellow Fever.
Scams in Myanmar
Being an off beaten travel destination, Myanmar did not developed too much in terms of scams and cheating tourists as similar cases can be encountered on daily basis in Vietnam of neighbourhood country of Thailand.
Like almost everywhere the taxi scamp is due present in Myanmar but at a low scale and mostly only in Yangon; but since Grab Myanmar (similar with Uber but very popular in South East Asia) is available no need to get worry any more.
The only current and notable scam is the one happening in Dala, Yangon. Dala is a poor neighbourhoods just across the river of downtown Yangon. Being very close to Yangon and in the same time very different – most rural with nice views of paddy fields makes it an ideal of a day trip outside Yangon both for tourists and expats alike.
The tuk-tuk drivers are the one’s involved the scam and sometimes they are helped by kids or fake guides which are promising tourists a great tour outside Yangon at a very good price. And of course just a small donation as a small bag of rice or cooking oil. The problem is that when they take you to the market they charge you more than double for a bag of rice and the tourists do not know the exact price of a bag of rice in Myanmar. Just to careful while going to Dala; have an authorized travel guide and everything will be just fine!
Myanmar Travel Guide: Language
Myanmar’s official language is Burmese, a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family. It is the first language of over 32 million people who have historically lived in the plains, and the second language of another 10 million members of various ethnic minorities. The Burmese language is age-oriented and integrates the use of polite pronouns or honorifics to address elders, teachers, officials, and other people of high status.
In total, the country has more than one hundred languages, most of which are used only within small tribes. These indigenous languages include Shan, Kachin, Thamizh, and several Karen and Chin languages. The majority of these adapt the Burmese script, which consists of circular and semi-circular letters. Other languages spoken in Myanmar are Hindi and Chinese, mainly Hokkien.
Today, Burmese is the primary medium of instruction in most schools; however, English is taught from kindergarten as a second language and sometimes used in teaching math and science subjects. A few publications, such as newspapers, are in English. Some locals, especially educated urbanites and residents of major tourist areas, speak the language competently. However, most people, notably those from remote areas, do not speak English. Try to learn a few Burmese words and phrases to be able to communicate with the locals during your travels.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Religion
Between 88 to 90 percent of the country’s population are Buddhists, with Theravāda Buddhism, the oldest existing school, as the most widespread. According to a 2014 census, Myanmar has about 500,000 Buddhist monks and 75,000 nuns. A few locals practice Mahayana Buddhism, another branch of the religion.
The influence of Buddhism is evident in Myanmar’s culture. The country does not only have several notable pilgrimage sites; many of its festivals relate to Buddhism. The most famous among these festivals are Thingyan or Water Festival, usually held during the middle of April to observe the beginning of the Burmese New Year, and Thadingyut or Lighting Festival, which marks the end of the Buddhist lent and celebrated to welcome Buddha’s descent from heaven. Mostly in rural areas and among ethnic minorities, Theravāda Buddhism is practiced along with nat worship, the belief that spirits, deities, and ghosts of historical figures influence human affairs.
Four percent practice Islam; 0.5% follow Hinduism; 0.8% observe tribal beliefs such as animism; 0.2% adhere to other world religions, including Judaism; and 0.1% claim to be atheists.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Currency and Exchange Tips
Myanmar’s thriving tourist industry has made its currency available for foreign visitors. The country’s currency is called kyat (pronounced chat) and comes in denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5000 and 10,000. There are no coins in circulation at this moment in Myanmar.
In 2013, there were fewer than 100 ATMs in Myanmar. Now, the country has more than 1000 machines, including those in small villages regularly visited by tourists. But if you assume it’s easy to get kyat, think again. The most accepted foreign currency is the US dollar, and the bills must be in pristine condition. Money changers are very picky with the notes you bring to them. Ensure that your bills are not crumpled or even slightly worn. They should likewise be free from stamps, creases, tears, scratches, or ink marks. Additionally, most money exchangers will reject US bills made before 2006.
While big hotels, fancy restaurants, and airline counters accept US dollars, local markets, small stores, and most transportation only take kyat. It is best to stock up on kyats while you are in big cities, such as Yangon or Mandalay. Although changing currency at a bank seems a safe option, money changers scattered all over the city, particularly in markets and touristy areas, offer more competitive rates. Be sure to check different money changer booths for the best value exchange.
In most of the airports the exchange rate is one of the worse while you are traveling. But in Myanmar the situation is different; the exchange rate is the same compared with the exchange office in Yangon. The best rate it would be found not at the local banks but at the private exchange offices all around Yangon. If you do have a guide with you better ask him to help you to change the money; for safety reason.
Don’t try to change the money at Scott Market as they do tend to cheat you; mostly promising a very good exchange rate but they will give you less money when the are counting it.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Where to find more information?
Equip yourself with adequate knowledge about the country’s top destinations, etiquettes, customs, and practices. Read forums on travel websites, check blogs, and review guide books. Visit Myanmar’s official tourism page https://tourisminmyanmar.com.mm/.
For information on visa requirements visit https://evisa.moip.gov.mm/. To know which areas are restricted to foreign tourists go to http://www.mip.gov.mm/restricted-areas-for-foreigners-tourist-travelling-in-the-country/.
Find out which vaccines you need to take before traveling to the country, visit https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/burma.
Is it safe to drink tap water in Myanmar?
Tap water isn’t safe to drink in Myanmar; bottled water is available throughout the country for around K300 for 300ml.
Don’t try from the common water places (as pagodas and holly spirits trees as the cans are not washed and everyone is drinking from the same cup for days without being cleaned!
One important thing regarding the bottled water in Myanmar is that is double treated (UV and osmosis process which means all the minerals are taking out!). If you are staying more than 1 week in Myanmar we will notice that we are becoming weaker and that is due to the lack of minerals in the water. Solution is to drink mineralized water which can be found in major supermarkets or Pocari Sweat ( a popular Japanese drink).
POCARI SWEAT is a health drink that contains a balance of ions (electrolytes) that resembles the natural fluid balance in the human body. Quickly and easily replenishes the water and ions that your body needs, and quenches every part of you.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Tips
Most foreign nationals wanting to enter Myanmar need a visa, except for citizens of eligible visa-exempt countries. There are three ways to get one: upon arrival, at embassies, consulates, or travel agencies, and through the eVisa system. Tourists are required to stay in hotels, inns, guest houses, and resorts while in the country. Staying with friends is illegal unless your host obtains a special permit from local authorities.
Singaporean citizens do not need a visa for tourist visits of up to 30 days and can enter and depart from any international checkpoints. The same exemption is granted to citizens of Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Macau, but only until September 30, 2020. Citizens of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam can enter Myanmar without a visa for tourist visits up to 14 days, granting they arrive and depart from one of the international airports.
Visa on arrival, which grants up to 30 days for tourist visits, is available at the international airports of Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw and Mandalay for a fee of $50. Only citizens of the following countries are eligible for this option: Australia, Austria, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, and Switzerland.
In September 2014, Myanmar launched an eVisa system. It currently lists 100 countries eligible for an eVisa, permitting tourists to stay up to 28 days from the date of arrival. The eVisa typically costs $50 and is non-refundable. Processing takes up to three working days for a standard tourist visa, and 24 hours for express. The eVisa is valid only for single entry and re-entry to the country will require a new one.
Crossing overland is ideal for backpackers entering from one of Myanmar’s neighboring countries. But it does have some drawbacks. First, roads in these far-flung areas are not in the best condition; second, border crossing policies are subject to sudden and unpredictable changes. Still, the experience allows tourists to take in the quiet and natural beauty of Myanmar’s countryside.
Holders of an eVisa may enter and depart Myanmar through one of its land borders with Thailand and India. Presently, Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh and China are closed to foreigners, while the one with Laos is deemed unsuitable due to its remoteness and underdeveloped infrastructure.
Myanmar shares four land borders with Thailand, but only three of these are open for tourists entering with an eVisa. These are Mae Sai–Tachileik Land Crossing, Myawaddy-Mae Land Crossing, and Kawthaung-Ranong Land Crossing.
Myawaddy is located in central Myanmar and could be considerably hectic with heavy road traffic. However, it is arguably the most practical border to cross among the three because of its proximity to the town’s transport station. From Myawaddy, you can travel over Dawna mountains on a well-paved road that connects the countryside to the rest of Myanmar. Myawaddy is also close to tourist attractions such as Mount Kyaiktiyo or the Golden Rock, Hpa An, and Mawlamyine.
Kyan River separates the town of Kawthaung in Myanmar from Ranong in Thailand. Tourists entering through the Kawthaung border have the option to board a longtail vessel and enjoy the view while crossing to the other side. However, during the wet season, boats are unavailable. Buses, which are cheaper and operate all-year-round, become the main form of transport. From Kawthaung, you can travel to Myeik City, or go on a cruise to the stunning Mergui Archipelago in the Andaman Sea.
The MaeSai-Tachileik border allows you to travel as far as Kyaing Tong in Shan State in Myanmar. If you want to venture further into the country, you need authorization from the government and a guide to lead you through the restricted areas.
Tourists crossing to Myanmar from India can pass through More-Tamu and Zokhawthar-Rikhawdar checkpoints. The small town of Tamu is located in the western Sagaing Division of Myanmar and is the main entry for trade with India. Aside from having an ATM, Tamu has several hotels and restaurants that cater to foreigners. In comparison, the Rikhawdar border, located in Chin State, is more secluded and rural. However, the mountainous district boasts of stunning scenery, thrilling rough roads, and quick access to the idyllic mountainside town of Tedim and the unique heart-shaped Rhi Lake.
Whichever land border you choose to cross, always bring a printed copy of your approval letter and a photocopy of your passport. Many tourists got turned down at the checkpoints for failing to show the necessary documents. Also, make sure that you have your exit stamp before entering or leaving Myanmar.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Flying In
Myanmar has three international airports located in Yangon, Mandalay, and Nay Pyi Taw. Flights arriving at these airports come from destinations within Asia, no farther than the Middle East. Because there are no direct flights from the U.S. or Europe, visitors coming from these regions need to fly to one of Southeast Asia’s international hubs, such as Doha, Dubai, Bangkok, Singapore, or Hong Kong, before boarding a connecting flight to Myanmar.
Yangon International Airport is the oldest and has the most flight schedules and choices of airlines. Mandalay International Airport is the biggest and a preferred hub for budget airlines flying from other parts of Southeast Asia. It is also a strategic starting point for tourists going to Inle Lake and Bagan.
In 2011, Myanmar opened Nay Pyi Taw International Airport, designed to handle 3.5 million passengers annually. Few airlines use the airport at present, and most arrivals are of residents flying in. The construction of a fourth international airport in Bago region is underway. Scheduled to open in 2022, Hanthawaddy International Airport will be the largest in Myanmar, catering to over 12 million passengers yearly.
Try flying in at Mandalay and flying out from Yangon, or vice versa. Whether you’re traveling northward or southward, going in one direction ensures that you don’t backtrack places you have already seen, allowing you to maximize your time and budget.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Where to Go
Myanmar Travel Guide: Yangon
Yangon, the former capital and largest city of Myanmar, is a jumble of the old and new. Here, ancient pagodas stand side-by-side with modern high-rises while colorful local markets mix with trendy cafes. A stroll through the streets will lead you to unexpected Buddhist monuments, fascinating art galleries, scenic parks, and random tea shops selling the Burmese classic tea laphet yay.
Yangon’s religious edifices draw thousands of devout pilgrims and curious tourists annually. Most famous among these temples is the dazzling Shwedagon Pagoda, its domes encrusted with diamonds and rubies. In broad daylight, it sparkles golden under the sun, while at night, it blazes like a beacon against the blackened backdrop of the city’s skyline. Not far away, you will find the ancient Sule Pagoda, standing majestic in the middle of a bustling street. Other temples to visit are Swe Taw Myat Pagoda, Maha Wizaya Pagoda, Kaba Aye Pagoda, Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple, and Botataung Pagoda, which houses eight hair strands of Buddha.
To get a glimpse of Myanmar’s history, visit the National Museum and the Martyrs’ Mausoleum, or explore the colonial buildings built during the British occupation on a heritage walking tour. Shop at Bogyoke Aung San Market, get on board the Yangon Circular train, wander around Inya Lake at dusk, and sample a piece or two of sumptuous fried samosas from a street food stall. In the evening, relax at an open-air beer station while enjoying savory meat skewers washed down with a cold drink.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Bagan
With its magical sunrises, awe-inspiring sunsets, spectacular view of the Irrawaddy River, and an endless sea of gleaming pagodas dotting the vast plain, Bagan is one of the most mesmerizing places you’ll ever visit. Its landscape is breathtakingly beautiful, but even more so when seen from above, making hot air balloon rides the most popular activity in the region.
Fortunately, for those who get skittish flying on a hot air balloon or feel overwhelmed by too many stupas, Bagan offers so much more than its plethora of temples. Rent an e-bike and take a detour to the less frequented parts of the region. Bagan is a treasure chest of pleasant surprises, and an abrupt turn at a remote dirt road will lead you to abandoned watchtowers, forgotten monasteries, and secluded shrines. Wander along the river banks to discover a quaint village full of vivacious locals, or travel a little farther away to the town of Min Nan Thu to witness the process of making lacquerware. Don’t leave Bagan without experiencing its vibrant shopping culture. Explore the morning markets teeming with fresh produce, enjoy a snack at a makeshift food stall offering local delicacies, and buy a souvenir from a street-side shop selling textiles, woodcraft, and jewelry.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Mandalay
Mandalay is the cultural center of Myanmar; some may disagree, but the city is full of spectacular sights and unique experiences to prove its claim. Start your excursion at Mandalay Hill and admire the numerous pagodas that you pass on your way to the summit, where an astonishing 360-degree view of the city awaits you.
Visit Mandalay Royal Palace, residence to the last two kings of Burma before its annexation to the British Empire in 1885. Marvel at the 730 white stupas at the Kuthodaw shrine. Each stupa houses a five-foot-tall stone tablet inscribed with religious texts, which, when taken all together, comprise the entirety of Theravada Buddhism’s teachings and make up the world’s largest book. Go on a late afternoon bike tour on the banks of Taungthaman Lake, and take a photo of the sunset at the iconic U Bein Bridge, the oldest and the longest teakwood bridge in the world.
Other reasons that make Mandalay worthy of the title cultural hub are not as palpable as the pagodas. Yet, you can feel them through the traditions and customs of the locals. Roam the Goldpounder’s District to witness artisans beat sheets of gold leaves into Buddha images, and you will see a glimpse of how profoundly important faith is to these people.
Go to the Jade Market, if not for its custom made jewelry, then for the fascinating way vendors and customers deal with each other. Explore Zegyo tower for handwoven textiles and other curiosities. Watch traditional dances at the Mintha Theater and a puppet show at the Mandalay Marionettes. These are, of course, present in other parts of Myanmar, but no one does them better than Mandalay.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Inle Lake
Located in a valley nestled between mountain ranges, Inle Lake is one of the most scenic places in Myanmar. It covers 44.9 square miles of freshwater and is home to numerous endemic fish, snails, and over 250 bird species. Rising from the tranquil water are clusters of stilt-houses made of wood and bamboo, bordered by marsh and floating gardens, where the locals grow a variety of fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
Fisher folks navigate their narrow boats by wrapping one leg around their paddle, their cone-shaped fishing baskets ready at hand — an iconic scene that you will not see anywhere else in the world. On certain days, one part of the lake bustles with activity as tribes from the surrounding hills arrive from their villages to trade and shop on markets that move around the towns on a five-day cycle. Yes, the people of Inle Lake have perfected the art of rotating markets. Go on a boat tour and visit Ywama Village for its floating market and handicraft workshops. Then head to Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, which houses five centuries-old golden Buddha images and a large gilded barge.
In Nampan Village, explore factories making cheroot, the country’s traditional cigar, and the gem-encrusted Alodaw Pauk Pagoda, considered the oldest shrine on the lake. Drop by Maing Thauk for its lovely mountain monastery, Indein for its collection of crumbling pagodas, and Nga Hpe Kyaung for its jumping cats. In the afternoon, cycle to Red Mountain Estate vineyard for some wine tasting and mesmerizing sunset view over the lake.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Ngapali Beach
Situated on the Bay of Bengal, Ngapali’s coast is a long stretch of yellow-white sand, lapped by sparkling blue waters and fringed by luxuriously green palm trees. You have the option to laze around all day or go on adrenaline-pumping water adventures, such as kayaking, scuba diving, jet-skiing, and snorkeling.
Despite the sprouting of several posh resorts in recent years, a considerable section of Ngapali retains its rustic allure. Get around on a bicycle and visit the traditional fishing towns nearby. Here, you will witness fisher folk return from the ocean early in the morning, bringing with them baskets of fresh catch. With that said, no other place in Myanmar offers the best seafood feast than Ngapali.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Hpa-An
Unapologetically rural Hpa-An is an endless field of emerald-green rice fields surrounded by jagged limestone mountains on one side and flanked by a river on another. Because of its landscape, the quiet town is emerging as a popular hiking destination for local and foreign tourists alike.
Rising at 722 meters, Mount Zwegabin offers spectacular sunset and sunrise views from its summit, as well as a breathtaking 360-degree vista of the Hpa-An plains. You can reach the peak by climbing over 4,000 steps of a crude stairway cut through the mountain’s limestone surface. Along the way, you will see 1100 Buddha statues lined up in the Lumbini Garden.
It’s a sin to visit Hpa-An and not explore its caves. Most famous of these caves are Saddan Cave, for its golden pagodas and Buddha statues; Kawgun Cave, for over a thousand tiny terracotta Buddhas that date back to 601 AD; and Yathaypyan Cave, for the elegant clay wood carvings on its wall. If you travel a little farther, you will find Kyaiktiyo Pagoda or the Golden Rock, famed for being balanced on a mountaintop.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Loikaw
Loikaw is the capital of Kayah State in the southern region of Myanmar and the traditional home of the Karen people, famed around the world for their long-necked women. The town abounds with verdant hills, caves, waterfalls, lakes, and captivating temples. The most notable of these is Taung Kwe Pagoda, a compound of white and gold stupas balanced on top of jagged limestone boulders.
Loikaw has a distinct feel that makes it stand out from the other regions of the country. Be sure to explore the various tribal villages to see a different side of Myanmar. In Hta Nee La Le, for instance, you will find traditional totem poles used in shaman divination. Then sample the unique local cuisine, which includes Kayah pork sausage, rice paste rolls stuffed with meat, small frogs in vegetables, and the famed Khaung Ye, the region’s version of whiskey.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Hsipaw
Hsipaw is located in the heart of Shan State, along the banks of the Duthawadi River, and surrounded by mountainous terrain. The region is slowly becoming a favorite hiking destination for local and foreign tourists.
A trek into the mountains does not only provide incredible views of the sprawling countryside; it’s also full of pleasant surprises. If you follow a seemingly aimless dirt road, you could end up discovering a hidden waterfall in the middle of the jungle. The best thing about these treks, however, is that they allow you to interact with the friendly hill tribes and learn more about their culture.
If trekking is not for you, Hsipaw has noteworthy temples that you can explore. Myauk Myo, the oldest part of the region, is home to two impressive teak wood monasteries, Madahya and Bamboo Buddha. It also has a group of aged brick stupas, some of which are crumbling and half-covered with vegetation, giving them an almost otherworldly guise. While you’re in Hsipaw, don’t miss the chance to go on a thrilling train ride along the Gokteik viaduct.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Mergui Archipelago
The Mergui Archipelago is a group of 800 unspoiled islands of varying sizes in the Andaman Sea in the southernmost part of Myanmar. The region has some of the most diverse dive sites, including Western Rocky, Black Rock, North and South Twin, and Burma Banks.
You will find in the unspoiled waters the rare nurse shark, along with the famed whale shark, bow mouth guitarfish, frogfish, big reef squid, and chevron barracuda. Spend a day exploring the Lampi Island National Park, home to rich and varied wildlife, which includes the Pacific Reef Egret, the white-breasted sea eagle, green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, Asian palm civet, and the endangered dugong.
If you think Mergui is all about fogyish island life and nature, you’d be proven wrong by the variety of activities and accommodations available in the area. In addition to diving and other water sports, you can tour the archipelagos on an island safari or visit the fishing settlements of the seafaring Moken people on a boat cruise. The islands also have various lodgings that range from simple beachside huts to palatial five-star resorts, such as the Grand Andaman Hotel and the elegant Awei Pila or newly opened Amata Mergui Resort. For a real Robinson Crusoe vibe, check out the self-sufficient and off-the-grid Boulder Bay Eco Resort.
Myanmar Travel Guide: River Cruise Myanmar
Rivers are an integral part of the culture and daily lives of the people in Myanmar, functioning as a means of transport, providing food and livelihood, as well as replenishing fields. They are also bastions of spirituality for the people, a source of hope, and a testament of faith.
The country’s four main rivers are Irrawaddy, Chindwin, Sittaung, and Thanlwin. Of these, the longest and most important commercial waterway is the Irrawaddy River, which has inspired great writers like Kipling and Orwell. It covers about 156,100 square miles of Myanmar and shelters two endangered species, the Irrawaddy Dolphin and the Ganges Shark.
Not surprisingly, one of the most engaging and unforgettable ways to learn about Burmese culture and discover the untouched part of the country is through a river cruise. The country has plenty of cruise companies that offer a wide range of river tours, from weeklong luxury trips on an elegant ship to adventurous overnight river excursions on a steamboat.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Kalaw
An idyllic hill station with ridiculously gorgeous sceneries, secret narrow trails, and craggy caves, Kalaw is every trekker’s dream destination. From the town, you can get on a two-day trek to Lake Inle, passing through mountain villages populated by Danu, Danaw, Palaung, Pa-O, and Taung Yo ethnic tribes. If you want a slightly off-the-path route, follow the less common but equally challenging Kalaw to Pindaya route. In Pindaya, you can explore the limestone caves that contain over 6000 Buddha statues made of bronze, white marble or plaster and covered with gold leaves.
Kalaw is undoubtedly Burmese, with its Buddhist temples, colorful central markets, and shy yet welcoming locals. But it is also a fusion of things that makes it unique from other regions in Myanmar. It proudly displays British colonial-era architecture, flaunts a stone-built Catholic church on top of a hill, and hosts a lime-green mosque in the middle of town. Moreover, Kalaw has a sizeable number of Muslims, descendants of Indians, Nepalis, and Turks who came to the country as railway builders. Add into the mix the distinct regional cuisine influenced by the immigrants, and you have an undeniably diverse town in the middle of the country.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Getting Around Myanmar
The transport system in Myanmar is not as advanced or affordable as those in other in Southeast Asian countries, but it is adequate to a certain degree, even exciting. The chief means of getting around the country are by air, boat, bus, or train.
Flying between tourist attractions is popular among foreign visitors as it is fast and convenient, especially for those pressed for time. Private airlines that run on domestic routes include Air KBZ, Air Mandalay Asian Wings, Yangon Airways, and Golden Myanmar Airlines, in addition to Myanmar Airways, the national flag-carrier.
Boats are not the fastest nor most practical means of traveling, but they provide the opportunity to discover off-the-radar sceneries most tourists would otherwise miss. The vessels range from longtail boats on Inle Lake, ferries in Yangon, steamboats in Mandalay, and cruise ships in Mergui.
Traveling by bus is the most popular mode of getting around. However, it could be uncomfortable as road condition in certain parts of the country is poor. If you’re traveling long-distance, consider paying extra for the fancier, more convenient, and spacious VIP express buses. Some drivers crank up the air-conditioning to unpleasantly cold temperatures, so be sure to bring warm clothes.
Myanmar’s railway system is old, susceptible to delays, and at times unreliable; however, traveling by train is a thrilling and adventurous way to glimpse the scenic countryside and delve into the culture. Some tourists get on a train for mere excitement. Among the most famous routes are the Gokteik viaduct connecting Pyin Oo Lwin and Hsipaw for the superb view and Yangon Circular Railway for a chance to interact with the locals.
Big cities of Yangon and Mandalay have ride-hailing services, such as Grab, Hello, Oway, Okay Taxi. You can also get around in a regular taxi; however, some may not have meters, so negotiation with the driver to get a better rate is necessary. Additionally, several travel companies offer private car rentals with a local driver. You can also try motor taxis and tuk-tuks, which are cheaper. In less urbanized areas, bicycles, electric bikes, and motorcycles are available for hire.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Calling and Internet
Myanmar has four cellular networks: Myanmar Post and Telecommunication (MPT), Telenor, Ooredoo, and Mytel. Prepaid SIM packs are readily available in places frequented by tourists, from airports to central markets to street corners. MPT offers near-nationwide coverage, which is useful for tourists who plan to visit regions where coverage is limited. As of 2017, MPT has 4G coverage in Yangon, Mandalay, and Naypyidaw. Also, check out the MPT Tourist Sim.
Qatar-based Ooredoo has the fastest internet connection in the cities, particularly in Bagan, Mandalay, and Yangon. However, you may encounter difficulty connecting to the internet or getting a signal once you leave the major cities. The Norway-based company, Telenor, has the biggest 4G network in the country, catering to 17 cities. In 2018, Vietnam-based MyTel entered the telecommunications scene, aiming to provide a 4G network to around 90% of the population.
To ensure that you stay connected, buy more than one SIM so you will have a backup in case one network is not working in your area. Take note that nighttime plans offer affordable rates and are free of network congestion.
As an insider tip you can wait to get into town and ask your local guide t o buy a SIM card for your ( less than 1$) and then top-up and activate the data package along with voice package. We must have an ID as every SIM card in Myanmar must to register as per Telecom Law.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Culture
What to wear?
Myanmar is a conservative country, and you must dress appropriately at all times. Be sure that your knees and shoulders are covered when you visit temples. Lightweight t-shirts or blouses with sleeves, maxi dresses, long skirts, and cotton pants are ideal for women. Bring along a shawl or scarf to cover your shoulders.
Men could wear shorts as long as it is the knee length. As much as possible, they should avoid wearing tank tops, or take a light sweater or jacket to cover up whenever necessary. Temples require visitors to take off their footwear, so wear flip flops or sandals that are easy to remove. If you intend to go on a trek, be sure to wear sturdy shoes or proper hiking boots.
Dos and Don’ts for Tourists in Myanmar
Much of Myanmar’s culture centers on beliefs and traditions based on Buddhism. With that said, here are the basic do’s and don’ts when you visit the country.
Wherever you go, always show respect to the culture, religion, environment, and elders. Ask permission if you’re retrieving an item above a person’s head. The head is the most sacred part of the body, so always keep your hands from people’s heads. Keep your feet on the ground or tuck them away when you sit; pointing with your feet is unacceptable.
Remove your shoes before entering a house. Turn your head sideward when you cough or yawn. Receive or give gifts with both hands and call someone with your fingers facing downwards to show politeness. When eating, wait until the eldest diners have food before helping yourself to the dish you want. Join festivals whenever you can, and support the economy by patronizing locally made products, food, and services. Hire a local tour guide & travel agency in Myanmar , interact with locals respectfully, and smile often.
Interact with people in a respectful manner. Look for cultural exchange and respect the diversity you encounter.
When in Myanmar, do as the Myanmar do Treat your hosts as you would like to be treated in your own home. For example, in Myanmar it is customary to remove shoes before entering a house.
Learn the names of guides and hosts, and perhaps some words of the local language People will be delighted to meet visitors who are trying to immerse themselves in the language. Although Myanmar is the official language, there are hundreds of other spoken languages.
Body language speaks. The head The head is considered the most esteemed part of the body. If you touch someone on the head – even children – it will be seen as a sign of aggression. Only use pillows to rest your head – don’t sit on them!
Your Feet. Please don’t point with your foot. In Myanmar pointing with your feet shows great disrespect. When you sit, your legs should not be stretched out in front of you, so please tuck away your feet. Your feet should never face towards a family shrine or the Buddha.
Your Hands. When you are giving or accepting items, use your right hand to receive whilst holding your forearm with your left hand. This shows respect and courtesy to your hosts.
Bargaining is okay, but keep it reasonable Bargaining is part of Myanmar culture. It is about respect so that no one loses face during the transaction.
Tipping is not expected in Myanmar but tips are warmly welcome for a job well done.
Don’t go climbing over the fragile ruins of the temples to find the perfect sunset viewing position especially in Bagan.
Never disrespect the Buddha. Make sure not to disturb people when they’re praying and meditating; this means you should keep your voice down when visiting holy places. Never touch the robe of a monk or offer to shake hands. Refrain from openly kissing or hugging, especially with the opposite sex.
Help preserve the environment by not buying dubious items made of ivory or animal skin and other wildlife products. Never buy antiques without proper documentation and never take relics or artifacts from heritage sites. Do not give money or sweets to children because this may create dependency on tourists. Do not gamble or use prohibited drugs. Stay away from restricted areas, such as fragile temples and regions in conflict.
Religious sites are subject to strict dress codes. Keep shoulders and knees covered, and remove shoes and socks before entering any shrine, pagoda or monastery.
Be a child-safe visitor. Children are not tourist attractions, so please don’t treat them like they are. Think twice before visiting an orphanage. A better way for tourists to support vulnerable children and their families is through vocational training and community based initiatives.
Using drugs is illegal in Myanmar Set a good example. Don’t drink excessively and don’t use drugs.
Buy locally produced food, products and services. The money you spend makes an important contribution to the community. Spend on fresh produce at daily wet markets, purchase locally produced handicrafts, get a haircut, or buy a newspaper from the corner store.
Try alternative modes of transport, such as side cars, horse-carts, ox-carts or bicycles These are sustainable and benefit the locals.
In Yangon, hail a sidecar to whiz through the traffic jams. In Pyin Oo Lwin, hop aboard the train to cross the highest bridge in Myanmar, the Gokteik bridge.
In Mandalay, pedal a bike to explore local villages on the way to U Bein bridge (teak). At Inle Lake, look for a canoe boat ride as an alternative option. Hop aboard the local bus to Hpa-An.
Join in the onboard karaoke or latest Myanmar soap opera as you pass daily countryside life. In Bagan, float above the temples in a hot air balloon at sunrise.
At Indawgyi Lake paddle up close to wildlife in a kayak. Cross the river to Dala from Yangon in the local ferry. In Kalaw lace up your hiking boots and enjoy a hike through the rural countryside of Shan state.
For more information see the official website of Tourism in Myanmar.
Just because the country is full of fascinating sights and unique practices, doesn’t mean you can point your camera anywhere. Ask permission before taking a snap of the locals, especially children, and members of ethnic tribes in remote areas as they usually have different customs. Keep in mind that it is very disrespectful to take pictures of meditating monks, as well as certain ceremonies and sacred sites. If you are doubtful whether you can take a snapshot or video, ask your guide or the locals.
Practice responsible photography Always ask before taking photos or videos of people, especially of children, homes, ceremonies or sacred sites. Respect locals and remember not to simply treat them as subjects for your holiday pictures.
Women travel in Myanmar
Myanmar is one of the safest destinations for solo female travelers. Predominantly Buddhist, people do not tolerate violence, and crimes against female foreign travelers are practically non-existent. To stay on the safe side, dress modestly, leave behind flashy jewelry, and bring just enough money. Do not go to restricted areas. Be sure to respect the religious beliefs of the locals, including not touching any of the monks and novices.
LGBTQ travel Myanmar
Despite Myanmar’s generally conservative attitude towards homosexuality, the country is tolerant of LGBTQ tourists. However, always remember to refrain from showing public displays of affection wherever you go in the country. Although some locals, especially those from the older generation, see homosexuality as a cultural taboo, you wouldn’t have to worry about harassment or verbal abuse. Touristy places like Bagan, Inle Lake, Mandalay, and Yangon are mostly gay friendly. In Yangon, there are LGBTQ-exclusive establishments and monthly gay events, including a fashion show and parade. Also, check out travel companies offering gay-friendly tours to Myanmar.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Financial Tips
Is travel to Myanmar expensive? The answer is yes, and no. Compared to other Southeast Asian destinations, such as Thailand and Vietnam, Myanmar is slightly pricier, but still, it is cheap based on U.S. or European standards. Check here our list of suggested hotels in Bagan.
A large chunk of your budget would most likely cover transport and accommodation expenditures. Traveling by bus is the cheapest, most convenient way means of getting around the country, with fares ranging between 6000 kyats ($4) to 30,000 kyats ($22), depending on the distance and kind of vehicle.
For those on a tight schedule, flying is the fastest, albeit most expensive option to travel. The cheapest ticket costs around $50 to 60 one-way. Meanwhile, accommodation range from budget hostels ($12 – $16 a night) to mid-range guesthouses ($25 – $60 a night) to luxury hotels ($150 – $600 or more a night).
Food in Myanmar is tasty and affordable. You can have a filling and complete meal with drinks for as little as $1 in many local restaurants. Carts and stalls selling street food for as cheap as $0.30 are a common sight in the cities and touristy towns. Except if you’re going to very fancy restaurants, your expenses shouldn’t go over $10 per meal.
One of the aspects that you need to consider when you create your budget is the cost of entrance fees. Depending on the location kids under 7 years old do not need to pay for the entrance fee. Here is a quick look at the latest tourist attraction fees in Myanmar:
Shwedagon Pagoda Ks 10,000/-
Sule Pagoda Ks 3000/-
Botahtaung Pagoda Ks 6000/-
Kaba Aye Pagoda (World Peace Pagoda) Ks 5000/-
National Museum Ks 5000/-
People’s Park Ks 3000/-
Kan Daw Gyi Garden Ks 2000/-
Gems Museum Equivalent Ks to US$ 5
National Races Village Ks 3000/-
Bogyoke Museum Ks 5000/-
Drug Museum Ks 3000/-
Tooth Relic Pagoda US$ 1
Nga-htat-gyi Pagoda US$ 2
Hlawga Wildlife Park Ks 5000/-
Thanlyin Kyaik-khauk Pagoda US$ 1 (or) Ks 1000/-
Ye-lei(Kyauk Tan)Pagoda US$ 2
Bago Zone Fee Ks 10000/-
Kyaikhto Kyaik-hti-yo Pagoda Ks 6000/-
Hpa-an Kawgun Cave Ks 3000/-
Saddan Cave Ks 3000/-
Bagan Zone Fee Ks 25000/-
Archeological Museum Ks 5000/-
Nan Myint Tower US$ 5
Salay Archeological Museum (Yoke Sone Monastery) Ks 5000/-
Mandalay Zone Fee Ks 10000/-
Maha Myat Muni Pagoda Ks 5000/-
Sagaing Zone fee Ks 5000/-
Pyin-oo-lwin National Kandawgyi Garden Ks 6000/-
Nan Myint Tower Ks 1000/-
Pwe Kauk Waterfall Ks 500/-
Monywa Pho-win-taung US$ 3
Shwe Ba Hill US$ 2
Thanboddhay Pagoda US$ 3
Inle Lake Area
Inlay (Nyaung Shwe) Zone fee Ks 12000/-
Pindaya Shwe-oo-min Pagoda Ks 3000/-
Danu (Self-administered Zone Fee) US$ 5
Taunggyi Museum US$ 2
Htam-sam Cave US$ 20
Kakku Pagoda US$ 3
Pyay Sriksetra Ancient City Ks 5000/-
Archeological Museum US$ 5 (or) Ks 5000/-
Mrauk-U Zone fee US$ 5
Mrauk-U Museum US$ 5
(Mt Victoria) – Chin State
Zone fee US$ 10 (or) Ks 10000/-
Loikaw Museum Ks 5000/-
Weaving School Ks 3000/-
Also, take into consideration professional guide fees, if you’re hiring any, as well as souvenirs. Take note that you are not expected to give a tip, however, it is highly appreciated. All in all, with careful budgeting, your daily expenditure would be around $40 to $50 a person per day.
Myanmar Travel Guide: Money Saving
So how do you reduce your expenses without giving up comfort? There are tips to help you get the best value for your money.
Travel light to avoid paying extra for checked luggage. Take night buses to save one night’s lodgings. Instead of the heftier taxi fares, try riding tuk-tuks or motorcycle taxis. Choose accommodations that offer free breakfast.
Stay away from touristy restaurants that serve Western food; try local eateries to explore the country’s cuisine. Have a reusable water bottle and refill it at your hotel. Buy fresh fruits at local markets instead of grocery stores. The same goes for souvenirs, buy locally made products. And finally, travel with friends, so you can split fees, fares, and other expenses!