Myanmar keeps popping up on several “Places to Travel” lists, for good reason.
Before I took off for 10 days in this exotic land, I did a ton of research. I had seen reports about unrest in the north of the country and had heard bizarre reports about how to exchange money, so I wanted to be prepared.
Most of the information I found, however, was pretty out of date.
So while I was away, I compiled this list of travel tips for Myanmar, for anyone planning a trip to Myanmar in the near future (and you certainly should)!
1. Apply for your visa online before you arrive
The Myanmar government is much more open to tourism now than ever before. One way to encourage tourists is to allow them to apply for their visas online.
Many countries qualify for this program and it is extremely easy!
It costs $50, you are approved via e-mail, and then instructed to print out a letter with a bar code. All you need to do from there is bring that letter to the airport and you don’t even need to wait in a special line.
An immigration agent will scan your code and stamp your passport right then and there.
I used this website and found it very fast and efficient.
If you’re traveling overland via Thailand, you can pay for your entry and your visa at the border. There are several companies that do “border runs” for travelers to extend their visas to Thailand or overland countries.
2. Bring US Dollars to Myanmar
Myanmar is great because they accept both Myanmar Kyat and USD. The only catch is your dollars must be in mint condition. Seriously.
No pen marks, no folded bills, no old $100s. If you are traveling with dollars, keep them in a wallet that does not fold because people in Myanmar will refuse your money if it isn’t up to their standards.
Kyat, on the other hand, they could care less.
So if you like to shove money in your pocket, exchange it at the airport so you don’t have to worry about it.
We knew someone who got stuck in Myanmar because no one would accept the 20s that were in her pocket. If you’re planning to travel to Myanmar, we recommend you bring either a wallet to keep your bills crisp and pristine, or a travel money belt like this one on Amazon.
3. Myanmar is still figuring the whole tourism thing out
Service can be painfully slow, buses run at weird times, and taking a flight is pretty chaotic. Be patient. The people are extremely helpful and friendly but they are new to serving Westerners so keep this in mind while you travel around.
4. There are ATM’s, even at the beach
I read a lot of reports that there were hardly any ATM’s around Myanmar, so I took out a ton of cash and carried it around with my the entire time I was there.
While you may feel more comfortable doing this, there are plenty of ATM’s around the country.
Yangon (the capital city) is littered with them and I saw several while traveling in Inle Lake, Bagan, and Ngwe Saung. The best advice would be to withdraw money before you are dangerously low, just incase you can’t find one right away.
5. Hotels are a little pricey, but everything else is dirt cheap
Looking for accommodations online was a little daunting. Hostels in Yangon kept popping up for $20 or more and hotels started around $50 all around the country.
Booking.com has a ton of great options for hotels.
That being said, food, drinks, and activities are basically on par with other SE Asian countries. You can easily have a meal and drink for under $3 and activities are a steal.
I took an 8-hour boat tour on Inle Lake with 3 other friends and it was $25 total. What a bargain!
I had budgeted $1800 for spending money on my 10-day trip and came home with $1100.
In total, including flights (from Shanghai), accommodation, food, and souvenirs I spend a total of $1700, and I did not hold back at all. This was a great surprise since I thought everything would be insanely expensive.
6. There are weird hidden fees, but they are pretty cheap
You have to pay to get in to the Inle Lake region ($10) and Bagan ($20).
We didn’t know about this until our taxi driver showed up and asked for money. Many tourist attractions also charge a camera fee (usually around 500 Kyat—about $0.50)
7. Yangon is great
I only allowed 2 days in Yangon and was so sad to leave. There is a ton to do there and there are so many great restaurants and shops to explore. When I go back, I’ll allow at least 4 days to enjoy the city.
Check this link for great recommendations on Hotels in Yangon.
8. It is safe
While there is some civil unrest in the north of the country, the majority of the country is very safe. Any fighting is strictly between the different ethnic groups in Myanmar and is not at all targeted towards foreign visitors. All of the places along the major tourist route have tourist police and the people are very helpful and welcoming. As always, you should be vigilant, especially if you are traveling alone, but rest assured that you are in good hands in Myanmar.
9. The people are amazing
I can’t emphasize this enough. I heard mixed reviews about how friendly Myanmar people are. I found them to be extremely helpful, polite, and friendly. Everyone smiled and said hello and several people asked if they could help us friend something to do during our stay. One man even helped me and my friends cross the street in Yangon because the traffic was crazy!
I had an amazing time in Myanmar and can’t recommend it enough!
So crazy about the dollar bills! I had a friend almost get stranded because no one would take her used $20 bills.