17 Myanmar Travel Tips – Your Survival Guide
Myanmar, or Burma, is a mystical and exotic destination in Southeast Asia. More and more people are visiting and almost all have an unforgettable experience. Because it’s relatively unexplored, finding essential Myanmar travel tips can be challenging. And it’s vital that as a foreigner you know about the laws, customs, and traditions. After all, you don’t want to have a bad experience with something you didn’t know about. Here are 17 essential travel tips for Myanmar for the first-time visitor.
1. How to Get a Visa for Myanmar
The first and most important thing you should know before visiting Myanmar is that most nationalities need to apply for a visa. You have two options: either you submit an application to the embassy directly or apply for an e-Visa. The second is the most convenient option, which costs $50 USD and takes a few business days to process. Click here for a more detailed article on how to apply for a Myanmar visa.
2. You Need to Book Accommodation in Advance
Foreigners need an address from a registered establishment prior to travel in Myanmar. This includes most, but not all, hotels, resorts, hostels, and guesthouses. Believe it not, it’s actually against the law for foreigners to stay at a residential address without official permission. You need to put down the address on the visa application and if it’s residential or unregistered, the visa will be rejected.
3. You Should Book Your Transport in Advance
Getting around Burma is surprisingly easy and relatively efficient. Domestic flights connect the major tourist destinations and regular buses operate between the towns and cities. The best practical advice for Myanmar when it comes to getting around is to book up the flights or bus in advance. Tickets are available online and it guarantees that you have a seat. The bus station may be quite far from central regions and going there in person isn’t exactly convenient.
4. Spend a Little Extra on Public Transport
You should also know that the quality and comfort of public transport, especially the bus, varies. Higher quality ones cost a couple of extra dollars where you’ll be afforded the luxury of a cleaner bus and most importantly, have air conditioning. One of the essential travel tips Myanmar is to spend a little more for a comfortable bus.
5. Travel Restrictions You Should Know About
Anyone who’s planning on travelling independently to Myanmar needs to know about the travel restrictions for foreigners. As a tourist, you’re not allowed to visit every part of the country and some are completely off limits. This is for a number of reasons such as the civil unrest along the borders. However, most people are happy to stick to the beaten track and tourists travel to Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, and Inle Lake as well as other places without difficulties. You can find more about the Myanmar Travel Restrictions in this article.
6. How Much to Budget in Myanmar
Burma is quite expensive compared to its neighbours in Southeast Asia. Expect to spend at least $50 to $60 each day, which includes accommodation, food, and daily travel costs. Of course, this will increase if you want to stay at some of the more expensive resorts. You should also factor in that the initial e-Visa costs $50. Click here for a more detailed breakdown of the expected Myanmar Travel Costs.
7. The Weather in Myanmar
Understanding the weather and climate is another one of the top tips for planning travel to Myanmar. The climate is hot and tropical all year round with distinctive wet and dry seasons. Average daily temperatures range from 28°C to 35°C, though it’s not uncommon for the mercury to reach 40°C or higher in Mandalay.
The dry season is characterised by clear skies and warm weather between late October and early May. When it’s the rainy season from June until October, expect high humidity and torrential downpours. Be prepared for flooding and travel disruptions, especially in more rural areas.
8. The Local Food
The local Burmese food is typically meat or fish served with white rice. This is very similar to other parts of South East Asia and the food isn’t as spicy as Thailand. In fact, food in Myanmar is influenced by the larger regional cuisines found across their borders. You can find Chinese, Thai, and Indian influence in the local restaurants. There are also more than 100 ethnic groups living in Burma, which have their own dishes and style of cooking. If you want more information on the local food, check out our article on Myanmar Culture and Tradition.
9. Try the Tea Leaf Salad
The tea leaf salad is a popular dish in Myanmar that’s even more popular with tourists. The salad uses a mixture of vegetables including cabbage and tomatoes with shredded tea leaves. You then eat this with a handful of peanuts sprinkled over the top as either a snack or with white rice.
10. Essentials About Money in Myanmar
There are a few things to know about Myanmar’s currency and having access to money when you’re in the country. The Myanmar Kyat is only available at a few select airports in South East Asia and within Myanmar itself. This means that you have to change your money when you arrive or just before departure if you’re lucky. But, you can only exchange the major currencies (and Thai Baht) and only those that are in good condition. Any banknotes that look old or has a fold in them are likely to be rejected. You need to have new notes to exchange for Myanmar Kyat. If you don’t have US Dollars, Euros, Pounds, or Australian Dollars, it may be a good idea to get some before coming to Myanmar.
11. The ATM’s in Myanmar
A few years ago, it was almost impossible to find any ATM’s outside of the airports. Tourists had to exchange or withdraw large amounts of cash and carry it around with them during their trip. This isn’t a good idea and not many people are comfortable with such a large amount in their pocket. However, as more tourists visit, you can find more ATM’s and places to withdraw money. If you want to be safe, there will almost certainly be one at the major airports. When you’re in the cities, you can find some in the malls and banks.
12. What to Pack for Myanmar
The weather is usually warm and humid throughout the year. This means you should pack light clothes that keep you cool and to protect against the sun. You may want to buy khakis and a long sleeved cotton top. If you visit during the rainy season, make sure you remember to pack something waterproof as the downpours can be quite torrential.
We’d also suggest bringing medicine with you to Myanmar. Pharmacies don’t have the typical medications and they may not be of the same quality and standard. Essentials would include over the counter painkillers and Imodium (especially if you want to sample the more exotic dishes).
13. Getting the Best Insurance
Some people recommend getting Travel Insurance for Myanmar. You should consider getting a comprehensive package that covers you against accidents, injuries and a medical evacuation to either Bangkok or Singapore. It’s also important to make sure you’re protected in case of natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods. Click here for the essentials on choosing the right Myanmar Travel Insurance.
14. The Water Festival
If you’re planning to visit Burma in April, check out Thingyan, the Myanmar Water Festival. This is a nationwide celebration of their New Year and involves a four or five-day party. People hang out around the streets and have a huge water fight like during Songkran in Thailand. One of the essential must know Myanmar tips for this festival is that, as a foreigner tourist, you’re going to be the main target. This includes when you’re walking down the street, getting off the bus, or even sitting inside a taxi. Take measures to protect your electronics.
15. Duel Pricing in Myanmar
Another thing tourists need to be aware of is that foreigners usually pay more than the locals in Burma. This is evident when it comes to admission fees, eating in restaurants, or pretty much anything else you can imagine. You’re probably going to pay an extra few thousand Kyat. It’s not much and is generally insignificant, but it’s something that you should know about before you arrive.
When you visit a temple or pagoda, most charge an entrance fee for foreigners. You also need to remove your shoes and keep them on racks at the bottom, for a small fee. Even some of the local parks charge a few hundred Kyat for non-Burmese to enter. You may also see prices quoted in both USD and Myanmar Kyat. If you do, always ask for the price in the local currency to avoid paying twice as much.
16. Myanmar is a Strict Conservative Buddhist Country
Anyone who’s travelled around Asia will know all about Buddhism. Some countries are more religious than others in the region and Myanmar is probably the most conservative out of all its neighbours. Burmese people take religion very seriously and anyone who violates their laws and customs will face likely reprisals and even criminal proceedings. This is especially the case if you insult Buddhism in one way or another.
When you travel around the country, you’ll notice hundreds of golden pagodas, temples, and images of Buddha. Treat these with a lot of respect. It’s forbidden to enter a religious building when you’re inappropriately dressed, such as wearing shorts or having exposed shoulders. In some of the larger ones, you may be offered a Longyi (for a fee) to cover yourself in order to enter. However, the smaller ones, and in particular in Bagan, won’t always have someone to stop you. This doesn’t mean that you have the right to enter dressed in whatever you want.
17. How to Behave Around Monks
The final Myanmar travel tip is to be aware of how to behave around monks. You’ll see young monks of all ages walking around the streets collecting money and offerings. Some of the younger ones may even approach you out of curiosity to practice their English with a foreigner. This can be a rewarding experience and gives you the chance to learn a little bit about their lives and points of view. But, you should never touch them or talk about sensitive things. Monks are treated with a lot of respect in Myanmar and you should treat them the same.
So, now that you’ve read these 17 Myanmar travel tips, you should be confident about visiting and exploring the country. Remember to bring new banknotes in one of the major currencies and always treat their customs with the greatest respect. Follow this essential tips and you’re certain to have an awesome experience in Myanmar.