Myanmar
Myanmar

Myanmar travel tips

Fast fact about Myanmar

The Republic of the Union of Myanmar
+ Capital city: Naypyidaw
+ Official language: Burmese, minor languages
+ Religion: Buddhist, Christian, Muslim
+ Population: 53,26 million (2013)
+ Area: 676,578 km2
+ Currency: Kyat (MMK)
+ Time Zine: GMT+ 6:30 hours
+ International calling code: +95

Weather

Although Myanmar has three distinct seasons: the hot season, the rainy season and the cold season. The weather conditions are favorable for tourists all year round.

Like most of South-East Asia, Myanmar’s hot season starts from late February to end of May and the rainy season from June through to early October, when the south-west monsoon starts to blow and brings frequent rains. The colder months follow the end of the rains, from October to January, when it is cool in the foothills and highland areas, especially at night. The driest regions of the country, avoiding much of the annual rain, are the plains surrounding Bagan and Mandalay which remain relatively dry aside from the odd heavy downpour, all the way through to August.

The best time to visit Myanmar is between November and February.

Clothing

The weather is not too cold in Myanmar. You can bring a light jacket or sweatshirt if you travel to Myanmar from October to February as it becomes cooler at night and morning. Please note that early morning boat rides on Inle Lake is cold especially in December and January.

As the country seems to be warm for the whole year, a hat or an umbrella is helpful. If you travel in rainy season (from mid-May to September), you should bring a poncho or a raincoat.

Visa

It is required to obtain visa to enter Myanmar. There are three types of visa on arrival announced in June 2012 including all ASEAN member states, the EU, New Zealand, and the USA.

Type Fee Duration
Business Visa US $50 70 days
Entry Visa US $40 28 days (Meetings/Workshops/Events)
Transit Visa US $20 24 hours

The visa is valid for three months from the date of issue with 28 days stay. Requirements are:

  • 1. Passport + a copy
  • 2. Application form with passport-sized photos
  • 3. A recommended letters (depends on purposes)

From 1st September 2014, An e-Visa service is available for tourist visa only. You can access the official website of Ministry of Immigration and Population on: http://evisa.moip.gov.mm/

Religion

Myanmar (Myanmar) is a multi-religious country. There is no official state religion but Theravada Buddhism is predominant in this country. According to the statistics published by Burmese government, it is estimated that Buddhists claim 89% of population. The reason is that the Buddhism was spread and widely promoted by the first Myanmar Dynasty’s King – Anawrahta (1044 – 1077 AD) from the 11th century with Theravada stream.

You can find the Buddhism plays an important role in Myanmar’s life, it is reflected through Burmese arts, architectures and societies through temples and pagodas all over the country.

Christianity and Muslim share the same percent of population – 4% for each. Christianity was first introduced in 18th century and being a part of Myanmar. There are two arms divided: Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Together with Christians, Muslim is followed by ethnic minorities of Indians, Indo-Burmese and the Chinese Hui who almost believe in Sunni set.

Shopping

Myanmarr is a great country that may bring you an excellent experience. With diverse ethnic minorities, the goods are various.

You can spend a half of day to wander around Bogyoke San market (in Yangon) that can be also called by old British name “Scott Market”. There are over 2000 shops here with many options of Myanmars handicrafts and souvenirs. From famous Shan shoulder bags and lacquerware to puppets and jewellery. You certainly will find somethings worth to buy here. There are some suggested shops: U Maung Maung in main hall (for cotton or silk-mix longyi – Burmese traditional custume), Yo Ya May on 1st floor (tribe textiles from Chin State), and Heritage Gallery (authentic antiques). You can also get the same choices in Zeigyo market (in Mandalay).

Jewelries are also widely sold. However, there is no guarantee made on the quality. So you have knowledge in jewelries and check it carefully before you buy them.

Public Holidays

Most Burmese people follow Buddhism. Some of Buddhist festivals can not be exactly forecasted but follow the local observation. You may check the public holidays at the time you come to this country through the official website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mofa.gov.mm).

  • 4th January: Independence Day
  • 12nd February: Union Day
  • 2nd March: Peasants’ Day
  • 27th March: Armed Forces Day
  • 12nd April – 21st April: Maha Thingyan (Water Festival) long holidays
  • 1st May: May Day
  • 19th July: Martyrs’ Day
  • 8th December: National Day
  • 25th December: Christmas Day

Tax

The goods as listed below can be taken into Myanmar by persons over 17 years of age without incurring customs duty.

  • 400 cigaretters, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco
  • 2L of alcohol
  • 150ml of perfume
  • Other goods with a total value not exceed US $500

Prohibited items include counterfeit currency and goods with counterfeit trademarks, archaeologically valuable items, any items bearing the flag of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, all pornography, any items or good showing the image of Buddha, all drugs and narcotics – and finally playing cards.

Money

The national currency of Myanmar is the Kyat (abbreviated K). It is devided into following banknotes: K50, K100, K200, K500, K1000, K5000 and K10000. Besides, US dollars are widely accepted throughout the country. ATMS are now appearing in larger cities in Myanmar, although it is difficult to find them, only in Yagon and major tourist hubs. Therefore, please bring with you US dollars cash. When obtaining USD in cash for your vacation, you must be sure to ask for ‘pristine’ bills (i.e. new, clean, undamaged notes) issued after 2006.

US $1 is approximately K1000.

Language

The official language of Myanmar is Burmese, spoken by the majority of the population in Myanmar as well as in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand and the USA.
The earliest stages, Burmese spoke languages of some groups that occupy them later: Pali and Mon. From 16th to 19th century, Burmese language was strongly influenced by Portugese, Dutch, English and France. As a result, the modern colloquial Burmese, which is widely used today, is quite different in comparison with the written form of the language that retains many Pali words and syntactic structures.

There are also many ethnic minorities who still speak their own languages as the Mon, Shan, Pa-O. In some Chinese community in Mandalay, you can find many people speaking Mandarin. In some other areas, Indian languages are widely spoken in various ethnic Indian communities.

As a former colony of British, English is still compulsory subject in kingdegartens and primary schools. Burmese people, therefore, have the basic communication skills in English.

Health

Myanmar’s healthcare system is poorly funded. Most of the hospitals are government owned. The only seems to be most modern following developed standard is Pun Hlaing Hospital in a remote township of Yangon. However, this is a private-owned hospital, the expenses are quite costly.

Due to lack of effective medical facilities and sanitation, your risk might be at risk if you travel to rural areas. Prevention is definitely the best medicine and do not expect to receive adequate treatment in this country. If you get normal sick as coughs and colds, you can visit a clinic in big cities. But clinics are often crowded and you will have to wait for a very long time. And it is better to look for doctor with a degree from developed countries if you want a specialist doctor. For serious medical treatment, making a trip to Thailand or Singapore is your best choice. Just make sure that you have travel insurance for reducing the cost of airlifting.

Please make sure to see your doctor or travel clinic at least 6 weeks before your departure or general advice on travel risks, malaria and vaccinations. If you are in a treatment, certain that your prescription or prescribed medicines are brought with you. And if possible, carry a doctor’s letter that describe the nature of illness and necessary treatments. Most importantly, ensure that you have travel insurance, get a dental check-up, know your own blood group. There are plentiful stocks with all sorts of Western medicines, but there is no concept of prescription. Simply go to there and ask for the medicine you want (with the chemical names as Paracetamol or Lomotil).

Last but not least, tell us about your health conditions before every trip. Please check out the media kit below.
Medical Kit Check List

Check Items
Aspirin or paracetamol (acetaminophen in USA)
Antihistamine – for allergies
Cold and flu tablets, throat lozenges and nasal decongestant
Multivitamins
Antibiotics
Loperamide or diphenoxylate – for diarrhoea
Prochlorperazine or metaclopramide – for nausea and vomiting
Rehydration mixture – prevent dehydration
Insect repellent, sunscreen, lip balm and eye drops
Calamine lotion, sting relief spray or aloe vera – ease irritation from sunburn and insect bites
Antifungal cream or powder – for fungal skin infections and thrush
Antiseptic – foot cuts and grazes
Bandages, band-aids (plasters) and other wound dressings
Water purification tablets or iodine
Scissors, tweezers and a thermometer
Sterile kit

Note: For average Western traveller, hygiene in Myanmar seems to be terrible experience. Diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis are slightly endemic. The cities on the classical tours are free of malaria. Basic precautions, therefore, are required to stay healthy during your trip. Please carefully choosing your foods and waters. Neverdrink tap water, drink bottled water instead and always check the cap is still sealed on (not simply screwed on). Burmese people use a spoon and a fork or even their fingers when this is more comfortable. Frequently wash your hand with soap to have hand sanitizer ready.

Safety

Crime punishment, particularly against tourists, is quite severe. Moreover, many locals are Buddhists and they commit any crimes against others. Myanmar, therefore, is extremely safe for tourists even you walk alone on the street at night. But petty thief are the most common crime, so please keep your belongings secured.

Begging is another problem in Myanmar when most of Burmese can only earn US $60 a month (or average incomes are less than $100). Despite traditional taboos against it, beggars are part of larger begging groups and concentrate in major tourist areas. If there is no way to refuse, giving US $1 is very generous.

Although the traffic in Myanmar is not serious as it in Vietnam, drivers here are poorly disciplined. Myanmar has a mixture of old-fashioned model vehicles with poor road infrastructure. In addition, drivers use both righ-hand and left-hand drive vehicles. So avoiding driving in Myanmar if you never experience driving in a messy traffic order and rule.

Food

Most of Burmese food is based on rice, rice noodles, and curries. Burmese food is a blend of Indian, Chinese and Mon. You won’t get much troubles if your are comfortable while many restaurants serve dishes with Indian or Chinese tastes. And food is not expensive in Myanmar as it costs around K500 – 3000 per item. Mohinga is considered by many as the national dish of Myanmar. It is a dish of rice vermicelli in fish gravy with onion, garlic and lime. You can find Mohinga throughout the country and locals eat it during breakfast.

Drink

It is not safe to drink tap water in Myanmar. Instead, bottled water is available everywhere. The price is around K300 for each 1L bottle. Similar to Chinese tea, Ye-nwe-jan is freely provided at restaurant tables. Normally, they are safe to drink (boiled water) but the increasing of restaurants lead to the insanitation. The cups are not washed properly. Laphet thote’s tea leaves will be added in boiled water to add flavors. So ensure that you order Ye-nwe-jan with Laphet thote.

Milk tea is another that you should try because of its rich and creamy. However, they are often served with samosas that you will be charged for if you eat. If you don’t want to pay for it, just pass on to others.

Despite alcoholic drink is frowned upon by Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus, they are widely consumed by Burmese men (even Buddhist one). “Myanmar Beer” is the most popular beer in this country that can be sold by K1700 for a 650 ml bottle. Other popular brands are well-known as Mandalay Beer, Tiger Beer, and ABC Stout. A draught Myanmar beer is for around K600, and the best way to enjoy fresh beer is going down to sit at a restaurant that displays Myanmar beer sign. Buy saying “See beer one”, you’ve already informed the seller that “One glass of fresh beer for me, please”. You can find Beer Chang imported from Thailand if you like a very strong one.

The popular drink in central territory , that is fermented from palm sugar call, is called “Toddy juice”. Shwe le maw is reportedly very strong that is popular in Shan State.

Tipping

Tipping is not normally practiced in Myanmar. However, many of better hotels may suggest on your driver by a note that tips may be left in an envelope in Gratuities Box at reception with the option of mentioning staff who have given exceptional service. A tip can be expected by your bus driver and tour guide if their service satisfied you.

  • Restaurants and bars – small change from the bull up to K1000
  • Room cleaning – $1 per room/night
  • Porter – K1000 on luggage delivery
  • Driver per day – $5 or if exceptional $10
  • Private Guide – $10 or $20 if exceptional, per day.
  • It is not expected for taxi drivers to be tipped.

Please note that in some rural areas, tipping is not the norm and it could be considered as embarrassment to the recipient.

Price Guide

Traveling in Myanmar becomes very expensive, especially for transportations, airplanes and hotels. In Yangon and Mandalay, prices seem to jump quickly.

Meals and drinks:

Items Price (US $)
A meal in restaurants (tourist area) $8 – $15
A beer $1 – $3
Water in bottle $0.4
A Coke $1
A diner or lunch in 4 star hotels or above $20/pax
A diner in the best French restaurant $40 – $100/person + wine

A Guideline

For group of 4 to 6 people – $5 to $10/day/person.

Driver – $1 ro $1.5/day

Hotels

Description Price ($US)
Small guest house or domirtory $5 – $10
Bigger guest house or small hotel (with bathroom, no air con but fan instead) $15 – $25
Motel or hotel $15 – $35
Good 2 stars hotel $25 – $60
3 stars hotel $100 – $120
4 stars hotel Above $250 – $700/night

Pre – departure Checklist

Check List of items
O Passport with 6-month validity from entry date
O Photocopy of passport
O Visa
O Travel Insurance
O Money (US$ or credit cards)
O Vaccinations
O All relevant tickets (airplane, destination…)
O Clothing – light-weighted clothing for summer and warm clothing for highlands and winter
O Shoes, sandals or flip-flop
O First Aid Kit
O Adaptor – 220V/50Hz – 2-pin sockets
O Water bottle (optional)

Proper Etiquette

Emotion displays, whether prompted by anger or by love, in public are frowned on. Elderly people or others of higher status should be treated courtesily. Burmese young people always show the respect to grandparents, parents, and teachers on formal occasions. They normally kneel down and their foreheads touch the ground. Put palms together is a gesture of reverence when passing pagodas or meeting monks.

Burmese culture reminds its people to avoid embarrassing others (so-called “ar-nar-de”). For example, if you ask a Burmese guest which drink you can serve him or her, they probably say, “Anything is fine”.

Family tie

It is usual for a Burmese family that has three generations living in. Even when they don’t live together, they often visit their families. Children are taught to share and participate in family life from very early. They take part in all social occasions, apart from funerals.

As can be seen in other Asian countries, Burmese children are expected to respect elders and take care of their parents.

Clothing

Burmese clothing is usually modest. Men and women wear a skirt-like garment called longyi. Despite that the Western-style clothes are now penetrating into Myanmar, many people in big cities still wear it. And a longyi is very useful for travellers as well when it aid them well in cover the boday to visit pagodas. Most women and girl use thănăk’à (a paste made from ground bark) on their faces. It is a thought that thănăk’à will help them to protect from ultraviolet.

Phones & Internet services

SIM card costs and mobile phones have drastically reduced today as many Burmese people owns one. The situation now is far more different than when the country is under the control of military regime. Upon your arrival at Yangon International Airport, seek for help and advice in information desk.

The prepaid GSM SIM cards, that are available only for foreigners, that are sold by state-own telecom company MTP. The cost varies from K25,000 – K35,000. It normally comes with K18,000 credit for international & local calls, SMS, and Internet service. The SIM cards can be bought at small phone shops in Yangon. You should ask a few shops before taking one to get better price. And to buy one, you will need your passport. The SIM cards will expire after one month if you don’t top up.

Please remember that Myanmar telecommunication infrastructure is very poor. SMS text message can sometimes take a few seconds to be delivered, and it is not possible to send or receive messages internationally. Besides, the mobile internet will be charged per minute (not per unit of data that you use). However, the connections only become better at night and early in the morning. Now two overseas companies, Telenor and Ooreedoo start operating in major cities – Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyitaw for Internet services, mobile phones and the other technology advances that most of the world has enjoyed for years.

In cafeteria, the Internet are widely and cheaply available in tourist areas such as Mandalay, Yangon and Bagan. But the accessibilty is usually slow and some websites are inaccessible. In hotels, there are free Wi-fi access now as the increase in demand. You can get internet access through mobile data but it is quite expensive (charge every minute using). Therefore, the alternative method is considering a satellite phone services, and have them connected before visiting Myanmar.

Do’s and Don’ts

Burmese people are very friendly, helpful and polite. We would like to give you some what you should do and don’t in Myanmar.

Do’s Don’ts
Do wear decent clothes to the pagodas or monasteries.

Do respect Burmese people and their unique traditions.

Do smile.

Do tuck away your feet.

Do learn the basic words of Burmese.

Do learn the local customes before visiting ethnic minority villages.

Do try Burmese traditional transport facilities.

Visitors should be understanding when experiencing electricity outages.

Spread your wealth, use your money wisely.

Myanmar currency should be exchanged at the official exchange counters and banks.

Help the locals to protect wildlife

Remember that Myanmar is a cultural destination.

Burmese people are delighted when tourists participate in their festivals.

Practice safe sex.

Relax and enjoy your holiday!

Do bargain for a better price

Don’t take any photos that may make people feel embarrassed.

Don’t point others with your foot.

Don’t touch anyone on the head.

Don’t kiss in public.

Don’t disturb people praying or meditating.

Calling wit your finger up means calling for a challenge.

Don’t touch the robe of a monk.

Giving money or sweets to children is not advisable.

Using durgs is illegal in Myanmar.

Do not buy any antique. Buy arts and crafts instead.

Do not go where you are advised not to go.

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