Top 20 Myanmar Travel Advice You Need to Know Before a Tour
Rich heritage, friendly people, and entertaining events - that's the description of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. Ex-Burma opened itself to travelers a while ago for everyone's benefit. Today, holidaymakers go to this Southeast Asian nation to enjoy ancient religious sites, tropical beaches, and royal residences.
Before you start a Myanmar tour, familiarize yourself with the top 20 travel advice and tips to maximize benefits and minimize inconveniences.
1. Apply for a Myanmar visa and bring a valid passport
Ensure that the validity of your passport is at least six months beyond your stay in Myanmar. Also, make sure you have the entire page available for a visa stamp.
You can apply for the Myanmar tourist visa via the embassy or travel agency, online or on arrival. The validity period is 28 days, and processing times are a few days except for a Visa on Arrival.
The price is 50 USD, and the extension of this travel document is possible in certain circumstances.
2. High tourist season in Myanmar is from November to February
Weather conditions are most favorable from late autumn to late winter, which is the very best time to visit Myanmar. Precipitation is low, and temperatures are most pleasant. Thus, the bulk of travelers come to former Burma during this period.
As a result, overall costs are at their highest, and you are likely to encounter vacationers at Myanmar tourist points of interest. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that you will brush your shoulders with them all the time. The current Myanmar is still less visited than Thailand, Vietnam, and other countries in Southeast Asia.
3. Visiting Burma during the early Monsoon Season (March-May) is OK
Following the dry and relatively cool season (except in the south), air temperatures and rainfall are on the rise. During the early monsoon season, it gets hot here, while precipitation is still comparatively low.
Thus, you will find this time of year excellent for touring the republic of the union if you aren't sensitive to warmth. Fewer visitors and lower prices are advantages you can count on for a Myanmar trip from March to May.
4. Bagan is Burmese Angkor Wat absent crowds
Cambodian Angkor Wat is the hallmark of entire Southeast Asia. Bagan, the capital of the once-mighty Pagan Empire, is the Burmese equivalent of Angkor Archaeological Park. Ancient Bagan consists of a few thousands of temples, which range in size and style, spread throughout a broad area.
Bagan is believed to be the Burmese "Angkor Wat" absent crowds.
Dhammayangyi, Shwesandaw, Gawdawpalin, Htilominlo, and Dhammayazika are a few of the most notable temples. They are legacies of various emperors who commissioned them for different purposes. Atonement for misconduct wasn't the least of them.
5. Book hotels at least month in advance
Maybe you are a type of a traveler that secures lodging on site. If so, you shouldn't practice such a habit when traveling to Myanmar, especially during the wet season from May to October. During the off-season, many hotels and accommodation providers close altogether.
To have a decent chance of booking the desired hotel, start researching at least one month before the trip. If you travel to Myanmar during the high season, try to secure a room even earlier since the alternatives are scarce and pricey. There are many places you would wish to visit during your trip besides Bagan and Yangon, so act accordingly.
6. Use US dollars besides local Kyat
Various local businesses accept USD as the payment method. Sometimes, you will have to pay in $ (tickets for Bagan), while other times, only Kyat would be acceptable (small local businesses). In general, providers in tourist-related areas would be happy to accept dollars, albeit not always.
Since recently, the Dollar-Kyat exchange rates nearly correspond to the official exchange rates. When handing USD banknotes for payment, make sure these don't feature even the slightest damage, such as a minor crease. Otherwise, there is a strong possibility of rejection.
7. Buy a SIM card to have internet access in Myanmar
Internet addicts should have a SIM card while touring Myanmar. If you count on the local WiFi to get in touch with the outside world, you're in trouble. The internet here is slow and inconsistent, and even that is an overstatement from time to time.
8. Most travelers get around by bus
The bus is the most favorite transport option among holidaymakers in Myanmar. It offers access to most destinations countrywide and a chance to interact with likable Burmese. The efficiency of getting around by bus could be debatable, though, especially for long journeys.
So, if time is a limiting factor to you, consider covering longer distances by airplane. But, if you have time to spare, take the bus, the most cost-effective option. That way, you will get to know the country and its residents best, and you will be glad for it.
9. Travel countrywide by bike
Biking through the republic of the union is also a rewarding way of exploring. If you are a fan of nature, you will enjoy a trip through scenic landscapes. At the same time, you will be under the impression that you went back a century or two in time.
By the way, to explore the temple complex in Bagan, except for hot air balloons, biking is an ideal option as well.
10. Attend Myanmar Water Festival in April
Thingyan is the most celebrated public event in former Burma. It isn't only about witnessing performances, but getting wet in the process, too. Besides residents and tourists, elephants may also take part in the show by launching jets of water on participants.
11. Don’t miss the Fire Balloon Festival in November
In Myanmar, the Fire Balloon Festival marks the end of the wet season. Balloons filled with fireworks and explosives are the stars of the show, with charges going off while the balloon ascends. Make sure to watch the spectacle from a distance since incidents used to happen when balloons fell.
In Myanmar, the Fire Balloon Festival marks the end of the wet season.
12. Try tea leaf salad
Lahpet Thoke is a Burmese specialty with a long tradition. The dish comprises a variety of ingredients, including tea leaves, sesame, garlic, beans, and other vegetables. Shrimps are also on the menu.
The Burmese usually serve Tea Leaf Salad at the end of the meal, so leave room for this outstanding local specialty.
Try Tea Leaf Salad when you travel to Myanmar.
13. The Burmese speak English, in general
You should be comfortable speaking English in Myanmar. While various travelers have different experiences, a great deal of them didn't have issues communicating with the locals.
Some residents of Myanmar are trilingual, or at least bilingual. Thus, you may encounter some that speak Chinese and Japanese alongside English.
On the other hand, you may find that some Burmese don't speak any foreign language. However, this is very rare in areas visited by travelers.
14. Bargaining in Myanmar
There are places where you are welcome to bargain, but only to some extent. Markets are among those, but note that the locals selling wares there typically don't inflate rates when seeing foreigners. Also, keep in mind that most Burmese are poor, so don't bargain too hard.
Besides markets, you can bargain in antique and curio shops and taxis.
15. Drink bottled water and start slowly with street food
Drinking bottled water is essential to keep yourself healthy while traveling Myanmar. When purchasing water, check whether the plug of the bottle is firmly closed.
Furthermore, don't eat large quantities of street food from the beginning. International visitors usually use the "oily" term to describe local food. So, have Burmese food slowly before you get used to it.
16. Bring mosquito repellent, sunscreen, and hat
For a Myanmar tour, you need efficient protection from the sun and mosquitoes. Since convenience stores are few and far between, bring mosquito repellents, sunscreen, and wide-brimmed hats from home. Even hotels won’t be much of help in this regard.
You can resort to Thanakha, a local version of sunscreen that is in use for thousands of years. Acne treatment and skin cooling are other common uses of Thanakha.
The Burmese love to wear Thanakha for sun protection.
17. Dress with respect when visiting religious structures
When it comes to respecting the holiness of places of worship, Myanmar isn't different from most other countries. In addition to a conservative outfit, you will be expected to take off your shoes and socks at the entrance. Showing body parts with Buddha tattoos is strongly discouraged, so cover these works of art if you have any.
18. Taking photos in Myanmar
When photographing in Myanmar, pay attention to your environment before you shoot a photo. If people in uniforms, such as soldiers or policemen, are in the background of your intended photo, don't press the button before they pass.
Furthermore, avoid taking pictures of official buildings and other structures considered of military and political importance. Also, refrain from taking photographs of statues of Buddha.
As for the local Burmese, most of them will be happy and willing to appear in your photos. However, be considerate and ask them for permission first.
Most of the local Burmese will be willing to appear in your photos.
19. Be careful about what you do with hands and feet
Pointing the finger at someone isn't acceptable in this Southeast Asian nation. Also, touching one's head, even children's, with a hand isn't something you should do here.
Furthermore, the Burmese find pointing feet at someone or something offensive. So, don't use your feet when referring to people, Buddha images, and religious structures.
20. In Burma, electricity is scarce
Myanmar struggles to provide electricity to its residents. Even large cities, such as Mandalay and Yangon, have scheduled electricity intervals for evenings or nights. The electric supply in Myanmar is 230V, so bring converters if you use a different kind of electricity (120V, for example).
You may find travel-related expenses to be on a more expensive side in Myanmar than in Cambodia or Thailand, for example. As for the average budget, you will need around $50 per day to be comfortable. But, if you are a well-disciplined budget traveler, you should be able to fit in $30 per day.