8 Myanmar (Burma) travel tips
Travelling to Myanmar (previously Burma) is like stepping into a different world, filled with spirituality and adventure. Long isolated from the world, Myanmar is finally opening up. With heartwarming people, breath-taking landscapes, and some of the most impressive ancient temples in Asia, Myanmar is the perfect destination for those after an authentic escapade, off the beaten path. Follow our top Myanmar travel tips to make the most of your travels…
When to go
Luckily you can travel to Myanmar all year round, although November to February are fairly busy months (especially with Chinese New Year) and accommodation availability can be tricky.
Visa & passport advice
When planning your trip to Myanmar, it’s important to ensure your passport is up to date. You’ll need at least 6 months validity beyond your intended return date to get a Burmese visa. You’ll also need to have a visa before you arrive. Single-entry tourist visas last 28 days and cost US$25.
Myanmar is a very safe country to visit—in fact, I would say it’s probably the safest. The Buddhist culture discourages crime and so thefts or robberies are very rare. Since the 2015 elections, the country is gradually democratising, and the influence of the military has diminished.
If you’re consulting the FCO’s foreign travel advice you will see most of the country marked green, though with several specific areas marked yellow (‘advise against all but essential travel’).
We work with local partners who have operated in Myanmar for years, and our network of local guides know their areas like the back of their hands. Myanmar is considered a safe destination for tourists, including solo female travellers.
The national currency of Myanmar is the Burmese Kyat (pronounced chat). It often appears as ‘K’ or ‘MMK’ and it only comes in notes.
ATMs are now plentiful in airports, cities, and major tourist destinations, though occasionally travellers find that their debit cards don’t work in Myanmar. Bringing cash is a good idea: do make sure to take clean unfolded notes (folded or tattered notes may not be accepted) and US dollars are more easily exchanged than Pound sterling.
Note that travellers cheques are not generally accepted anywhere.
Myanmar is brimming with culinary delights, offering its own distinct cuisine though also influenced by Chinese, Indian and Thai cuisine.
Your first thing to try is a Burmese curry, which is not just a meal but an experience. After your main dish a seemingly never-ending succession of little side dishes will follow, making this a true foodie adventure.
Myanmar is also known from some specific dishes, such as the tea leaf salad known as lephet, Shan-style rice, and the Mohinga breakfast — fine, round rice noodles served in a hearty broth.
What to see
Myanmar is a very cultural destination and there’s plenty of interesting places to see. Of course, we highly recommend including key sights such as the cities of Yangon and Mandalay, Inle Lake, and the temples of Bagan.
Our tour of Inle Lake takes you off the usual tourist trail and lets you experience village life on the lake, while our cycling tour in Bagan gives you a local guide as well as ample free time to explore some of the hidden temples around the area. If you want to do something a bit different, you can also visit the fringed shores of Ngapali Beach (yup, Myanmar has also a beach!) located on the Bay of Bengal coast, in Rakhine State. Cocktail in hand simply kick back and relax.
Oh – and don’t miss the less famous (but no less interesting!) locations such as the hidden temples of Mrauk U, the emerald hills of Kalaw, or the charming colonial city of Pyin Oo Lwin. It’s especially the smaller places that give you a true taste of Burma.
The typical Myanmar character is friendly, helpful and polite, so please do smile, it’ll lighten up everyone’s day.
Don’t touch anyone on the head as it’s considered an aggressive action, even for children.
Cover your shoulders and knees when visiting pagodas and temples also take off your shoes and socks. If you need to sit, please ensure your feet are tucked away so they never face the Buddhas.
Don’t disturb people praying or meditating and try to be as quiet as possible when in sacred areas.
Learn a few words in Burmese, the locals love it!
mingala ba – ‘hello’
thwa:bi – ‘good night’ or ‘good bye’
kyei:zu:tin ba de – ‘thank you’
You might experience electricity outages. Please remember Myanmar is very much unspoilt by mass tourism and it can have its limitations.
Myanmar is a truly cultural, unspoiled destination and it offers plenty of opportunities for meaningful experiences. If you like a bit of moderate trekking Myanmar is the perfect destination for paths-less-travelled.
If you’ve got enough time you can also combine a trip to Myanmar with neighbouring Thailand. With easy flight connections between Bangkok and Yangon, you’ll be able to experience Myanmar’s tranquility with buzzing Thailand.
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