Myanmar Travel Guide
Are you planning to travel in Myanmar? Find the top tips from our destination experts in our Myanmar travel guide.
Myanmar is truly like a place frozen in time! Cruise along the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River, go hot air ballooning over the ancient plains of Bagan, go in search of the elusive tiger on elephant back, or enjoy mountain trekking and rafting, and when in the mood for some adrenaline rush, how about some world class diving in the Mergui Archipelago?
To make the most of your tour in this beautiful land, it is essential that you keep some basic details in mind. From visa to vaccinations, language and currency, find the top tips below.
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Visa and entry
All visitors require a valid Tourist Visa. You can apply online here, the cost is US $50 and can be paid by Visa and MasterCard.
In general, visit your local general practitioner for information and routine shots for foreign travel including vaccines for influenza, chickenpox (or varicella), typhoid, hepatitis-A, yellow fever, polio, malaria, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), and diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT). Immunization against hepatitis, cholera, tetanus, rabies, typhoid and dengue may be in order. Always carry mosquito repellent as malaria can be contracted easily in many parts of Southeast Asia.
Vaccinations against Japanese B encephalitis, tuberculosis and hepatitis B are sometimes recommended. Malaria prophylaxis is a good idea and carrying a repellant is also advisable. Not all Myanmar’s pharmacies are well stocked with the latest western drugs and medicines; it is a good idea to come prepared with essential medications. Also note that beverages with ice can be unsafe and should be avoided. It is also a good idea to carry some form of prescriptive drug or antibiotic for treating diarrhea.
There are public and private hospitals and clinics in the cities and larger towns in Myanmar. However the overall health care system in Myanmar is average. The best facility is International SOS in Yangon, which provides full out-patient and emergency services for members and visitors, and is backed by a professional team of expatriate and national medical specialists. Some limited services are also available at Pun Hlaing International Hospital, with over 200 highly dedicated physicians and specialists, a professional team of nurses and residential medical officers, and efficient management teams that provide the highest standards of care to the patients.
Currency and cards
Myanmar’s official currency is the Chat (K).
Direct payment of cash is most popular in southeast Asia. Small shops, restaurants and markets usually do not accept any other payment. For the convenience of travelers the Foreign Exchange Certificates (FECs) are issued by the Central Bank of Myanmar for use during their stay in Myanmar. FEC is used in Myanmar as currency next to the local currency Kyat and is equal to the US Dollar. It can easily be used for payment of purchases throughout the country.
Banks in Myanmar are closed on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. You can bring as much cash as you need as there is no restriction and limitation with regards to the amount one could bring in. You just have to declare by filling out in the Custom form upon arrival if the cash you carry is exceeding the amount of US $2000.
Credit / Debit cards are not accepted throughout Myanmar hence it is wise to bring sufficient cash in USD, which is widely and easily accepted in the country. There are also no ATMs in the country as well, so a debit card will not prove helpful at all. If you need a credit card bailout, then flying to Bangkok might be your only solution. This situation is not likely to change in the near future.
There are few high-end hotels in Yangon and Mandalay that accept credit cards and sometimes give cash back. This is done via a processing system linked outside the country (Singapore mainly). This again is at the mercy of the usually unreliable internet connectivity.
Tipping is not mandatory, but is of course appreciated. About 5-10% of the bill or from 100-500 Kyat is perfectly appropriate.
Myanmar’s country code is +95. The country operates on a GSM mobile phone network. The telecommunication system is poor here. GSM does not allow international roaming. If you have a GSM mobile phone you can buy a local prepaid SIM card (expensive, but are valid for one month). IDD phones and fax facilities are available in most hotels in Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake, but charges may be expensive.
Getting around Myanmar
Bad road conditions in make intercity travel by car inconvenient and hence flights are the most comfortable and preferred way of travelling within the country from one destination to the other. For travel within the city or town cars are preferred. One should take into consideration that the drives in Myanmar will take relatively longer than expected. Since there are only imported cars in Myanmar, which are not replaced before a good period of time, they are relatively old and average in condition.
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Yangon is the erstwhile capital of Myanmar that still proudly lives on as the country’s commercial hub.
Mandalay is Myanmar’s royal capital and lies in the northern heart of the country, on the eastern bank of Irawaddy River.
Hsipaw is a town in Shan State, located on the banks of Dokthawaddy River and northeast of Mandalay.
Enchanting Travels made planning this vacation a breeze. I didn’t stress at all during the trip, especially since there was also someone there to help with international transfers. All of our guides spoke English well and were quite accommodating.
Enchanting Travels employs people who really know how to listen to their clients and provide an exciting itinerary that is also safe and flexible. Everyone we worked with, from Brenda and Lavina to our guides Mr. Pongthep and Sangay, and our chauffeur Kengua, were professionals who seemed to really enjoy showing us their beautiful and exciting countries.
Go to Bhutan now! We don’t believe it is really going to stay this way for long. And it really is unique right now. Building laws require that dwellings be built in the traditional fashion and this makes for the most beautiful and original vistas. No one goes to Bhutan for the cuisine.