Myanmar is one of those rare countries that has not yet been affected by a massive influx of tourists and because of this it has stayed relatively close to its native roots. Not surprisingly, it’s a country full of history, from its British colonization to the country being run by the military, Myanmar is full of information that not many know making Myanmar an incredible experience.
With borders now open to tourists many are flocking to the country to see it before it becomes the next country in Southeast Asia to have mass amounts of tourists visiting and making it more westernized. Though you can already see this happening, the country is still worth a visit to see an entirely different culture as it is significantly different than other countries close by.
That being said, here are a few tips that will make your trip to Myanmar easier and some need to know facts that will make you seem like seasoned traveler.
But first, check out this video to get you inspired to see more of Myanmar!
Have Your Wallet Ready
Travel to Myanmar and you’ll quickly realize it is the most expensive country in SE Asia to travel to and in. Since tourism is still relatively new in the country it can’t keep up with the demand for hotels and hostels and so the few that there are can charge more since they have no competition. Flying into and out of the country can be cheap unless you need to check luggage. Luckily food can range in price from totally reasonable (2,000 kyats or under is common) to over 5,000 kyats and higher. The visa is also a little pricey at $50USD.
Book in Advance
Each city seems to have its own go-to hostel that all backpackers go to and it’s not rare to find each fully booked, even during low season. Because of this I highly recommend booking online beforehand and not just showing up or your Myanmar holidays will not be so smooth. HostelWorld will list all of the top and most social hostels. In my Myanmar travel itinerary, I list my recommended Myanmar hotels and hostels to stay at.
The Easiest Way to Get Around
By far the easiest and a decently priced way to travel in Myanmar is by bus. Night buses are quite popular because they can also save you accommodation for the night as well. They do arrive quite early though (between 2-6AM) depending on where you’re going. The country is set up well with buses as many locals take them too, and it is definitely worth the little extra splurge to take the VIP buses (JJ is the best bus company to go with). Be warned that they will be bumpy rides as the roads are some of the worst I’ve ever been on.
Communication is Not as Difficult as You’d Think
Compared to other countries in Asia, the amount of English spoken in Myanmar was surprising. The locals, taxi drivers especially, were exceptionally good speaking English. Some didn’t speak any and were quite nervous, but it was a pleasant surprise to not struggle with communication as much as expected. That being said, do try and make the effort to speak some Burmese. You can learn how to say hello and thank you here.
The Prices are Fair
One thing many people will tell you about Asia is to be prepared to haggle. This is not the case in Myanmar. Though it is practiced sometimes, it is not nearly as common as other countries in Asia. Taxis are fair and prices are negotiated before getting into the taxi as they’re not metered. Don’t think people are ripping you off, the locals are very honest with their prices. That being said, do try and get them down a bit as tourism will definitely affect prices soon.
Get Used to Local Dishes
Finding food that isn’t Burmese is not very common. The most you’ll see is Thai or Chinese, the typical deep-fried noodles and rice with vegetables. But otherwise it’s pretty much all Burmese. Western food is not widely popular, but if you are craving some your best bet to find it is in Bagan or Inle Lake, though it does come with a hefty price! You shouldn’t need to eat Western food though as local Burmese dishes are delicious. Try their curry, tea leaf salad, and tomato salad. Many of their dishes are quite oily though.
This came as an unexpected surprise, and I wasn’t alone in thinking this. For both Bagan and Inle Lake there are site fees that need to be paid before you enter either area. These spots are the best of Myanmar so don’t skimp out on them. What this money goes towards I’m not actually sure. You would hope it goes towards preserving both beautiful areas but you never really know. Bagan is 25,000 kyats for five days, and you may be asked to purchase from a small booth before entering. This is a legitimate government booth, though it doesn’t really look like it. Many accommodations will sell these if you’re not asked to purchase one on your way into the archaeological area, and many people are checked before entering major temples for their card for proof of payment. Inle Lake’s costs 12,500 kyats and lasts for a week. No one I know was ever checked for this card.
Balloons in Bagan
Bagan, easily one of the top Myanmar destinations is popular for the beautiful pictures of sunrises surrounded by temples with hot air balloons in the air. But these hot air balloons are not available all year round. If it’s a make of break for you then don’t go during rainy season (even though Bagan is the dryest part of the country). And if you do go, know that the prices are not cheap. You can find yourself paying $300USD. Though I’m sure it would be a top travel experience.
Certain areas of the country have specific curfews for tourists that can be as early as 7PM. But even touristy areas like Bagan suggest being back at your accommodation by 10PM, 11PM the latest. Myanmar is not a party country, so don’t expect to be stumbling in late at night or sleeping in. All the tourists typically get up early and go to bed early as the few bars and restaurants close early. Enjoying a liter of Myanmar or Mandalay beer before bed is not uncommon and will cost you about 2000-4000 kyats.
In Thailand especially and many countries in SE Asia you can get away with wearing clothing that is more revealing, other than in temples and around monks or religious sites. When you visit Myanmar you should definitely come prepared with more clothes to cover up. Wearing shorts or anything too revealing will definitely make you stand out. Locals typically wear longyis and long sleeved shirts or t-shirts. They all dress very similar so prepared to be stared at because of your clothing, your looks, and everything else. They’re not being rude, it’s just new for them to see you.
Myanmar travel is such a pleasure, though sometimes difficult in their cities, the people are more than helpful and so kind. Take the time soon to explore this country that is so untouched and to truly experience a unique culture first-hand.
As I was writing this piece I had two girls inform me of a scam going on in Yangon where a man will ask you to practice his English and show you his home. At his home you’ll find an unfinished house and he’ll ask you to give money (he charges more depending on how big the group is). Unfortunately, this is the negative side of tourism that no one likes to see and shows that Myanmar tourism is already changing quickly. I had plenty of locals help me out or show me around and all they asked for was for me to look at their goods. I never felt pressured to buy, but did to help them out.
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Have any questions about travel in Myanmar? Ask below!
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