An eVisa for Myanmar costs around USD 50, whereas a direct visa application to the Myanmar Embassy will cost you around USD 17-25. Of course, we chose the latter! We applied from New Delhi and had to visit the embassy THREE times because of some confusion. At one point, I also printed a page from their website to show them one particular paragraph. It made me wonder if I would have saved myself many precious hours by applying for an eVisa?
BEST THINGS TO DO
The temples of Bagan
Bagan, the once capital of the ancient Pagan kingdom, is a top tourist attraction in Myanmar. This spectacular sight of man-made wonder covering over 2000 pagodas and temples creates such an incredible scene for a human eye. The best way to have a look here is take an air-balloon ride flying over the ancient temples and pagodas stretching as far as the horizon. The best time, as you can guess, is at dawn or sunset.
The golden Shwedagon Pagoda
Stunning Inle Lake
Inle Lake is one of the most stunning lakes in the world with stilt houses and Buddhist temples rising from the reeds. When in here, you might want to take a ride on the long tail wooden boat along with the locals to experience the tranquility of the fishing village. In the mist of the lake, you can see beautiful colors of the sunset reflecting on the glass water surface, while some fishermen “dancing” nearby.
The thousand stupas of Kakku
The complex of Kakku is perhaps one of Myanmar’s most spectacular scene. It is a collection of 2,478 stupas commissioned 2,000 years ago. Here you can take a walk among lines of unique looking stupas standing one by one next to each other, just like where treasured were hidden in movies. It can be wonderful places for dramatic Instagram photos.
Myanmar are now more opening to the outside world, accordingly their flavorful cuisine are now discovered. Influenced from South and Southeast Asia, Myanmar food emphasize the richness and savory flavors created with local fresh ingredients. In addition, restaurants and stalls here tend to specialize in a single dish or culinary style,
Many areas in Myanmar are restricted to tourism and you need a government permit to enter them. These permits can usually be arranged by a travel agent for an expensive fee.
Research well in advance and look for the most updated information because the situation is changing very fast. For information about where to go, check out this amazing itinerary to explore Myanmar in 3 weeks.
Myanmar has only a limited budget accommodation options that sell out months in advance. We booked the cheapest room we could find in Yangon a month in advance. It was a basic room with a shared toilet for which we paid USD 20. However, we arrived at Ngwe Saung without a booking. The cheapest we found was USD 55 per night for a tent
I have a friend who recently did a bike tour at Inle Lake and had to pay a bomb for his room because the accommodation was not prebooked.
Legally, it is not possible to buy Myanmar’s currency overseas. Carry USDs since it is the most preferred currency there and is easy to exchange almost everywhere. Make sure you carry clean bills because many people refuse to accept the ones that look slightly old. Higher denomination bills with fetch you a better exchange rate.
Although there are many ATMs in big cities, they are not very reliable due to power shortages. Carry cash while visiting smaller areas. Moreover, there’s a transaction fee of USD 3-5 per ATM withdrawal on international cards.
Make sure you alert your bank beforehand so that your card doesn’t get blocked when you try to withdraw cash in Myanmar. A few high end establishments accept credit cards but get ready to pay a 3-5% transaction fee.
Do yourself a favor and buy a Telenor SIM card with 3G at the airport. I bought one for MMK 12,000 kyats (Roughly USD 9) that lasted my entire trip without a single recharge. The 3G speed was pretty good and was faster than the WiFi that we experienced in an internet cafe in Yangon.
Unless you have specific needs, I’d advise you against carrying too many toiletries. Even our most simple hostels provided us with toothbrushes, toothpastes, super clean towels, shampoo, soap, etc. Moreover the supermarkets in Myanmar had most of the common brands such as Nivea and Vaseline at half the prices.
Myanmar is full of beautiful pagodas that are everywhere – even on beaches! Visit as many as you can because they are lovely. Even if you’re not into temples – you WILL want to visit them to admire their stunning architecture. Wear shoes that are “pagoda ready” and are easy to remove because you will need to enter barefoot.
Do not wear hot pants, crop tops and sleeveless vests while you’re here. Burmese people don’t show a lot of skin (even on the beach) and it’s a good idea to respect their culture. Moreover, if you wear shorts, you can’t enter the beautiful pagodas.
A typical Myanmar local male wears a checkered longyi (similar to lungi in India) with a knot in front paired with a collared shirt. A typical local woman wears a longyi with a side knot (kinda looks like a cute wrap around skirt) that shows a very tiny bit of leg along with a matching blouse. It’s a good idea to buy a longyi – it’s super comfortable to wear!
We traveled extensively by overnight buses between destinations because Burmese trains don’t have the best reputation. Each time, we were woken up a few times during the night by strong lights and loud music. In one case, our bus conductor had a microphone and LOVED announcing things after every one hour.
The first black out that I experienced in Myanmar was just a few minutes after landing at Yangon airport. We heard from people that black outs are common in Myanmar. Carry a torch so that you can move around easily in case there’s one in your hotel.
As with most of the Asian countries, drink bottled water to avoid getting seriously ill. If you love Indian and Thai street food, you’re gonna LOVE the street food in Myanmar. Take it slow and let your stomach prepare itself.
My stomach has toughened after years of eating Indian street food but Sandro suffered from an upset stomach after the first night. Oh and if you don’t eat meat, you should check out this survival guide for vegetarian food in Myanmar.
If you have traveled to Asia then you probably know the drill. Myanmar is no exception. If you decide to visit villages, you may not find WCs but will have to use traditional toilets where you need to squat to pee in a hole.
Burmese people are polite and helpful. Please respect their culture and familiarize yourself with the local etiquette. Burmese people hand over things, especially money with right hand with their left hand touching the elbow. I found it to be very respectful and started doing it while I was there.
If you have a Buddha head tee shirt, tattoo or jewelry – please hide them when you’re here. Don’t be shocked if you smile at a local and you see a “red smile” flashing back at you. That’s not blood but betel stains since many locals chew betel leaves. Oh, and if they make a loud kissing sound – they are probably calling out someone, not sending you flying kisses.