As Myanmar is opening up to the masses and lifting sanctions at such rapid speed, things are constantly changing and it is hard to get the most accurate information anywhere. At Mingalapar, we are trying our best to keep up with the changes and provide the most accurate information to our readers. Here are some basic guides on traveling tips when traveling to Myanmar.
Planning your maiden trip to Myanmar
The year 2012, Myanmar experienced a major uptake in tourism really hard. Flights from Thailand are always fully booked and shortage of accommodation in popular destinations such as Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Bago and Inle Lake makes the price of hotels shot up to doubled or tripled. This lack of infrastructure means that you definitely need to make a precise planning on your trip to Myanmar, nor it be accommodation or transportation.
It is advisable to start planning your trip to Myanmar 2 months ahead of time. I would suggest flying into Myanmar from it’s neighboring country, like Thailand for example. You need a tourist visa to enter Myanmar and if you were to apply it in Bangkok, it is a fairly simple process. All accommodations should be booked during your planning process as hotels in Yangon fills up as far as a months or two in advance. Trying to get hotel rooms only when you arrived is not advisable as it can be very stressful and cost you a lot more.
Money and budget
In January of 2013, CB and KBZ banks opened international ATMs around Myanmar. These ATMs accepts both Visa and Mastercard and charge a fee of 5000 kyat. With these ATMs, tourist and travelers no longer need to carry thousands of dollars for their entire trip. Western Union also began to accept international funds transfer beginning of January 2013.
Despite with the presence of ATMs, I would suggest that you should still carry some USD with you, especially the smaller notes. Some venues and hotels still accepts only US Dollars and not their own money, kyat! And if they do accept it, they will give you a very bad exchange rate. Just like most Asian countries that accepts USD, make sure the money is in good condition and not made earlier than 2006. Credit cards are still not widely accepted and I think is safe to say only the 5 stars hotels accepts them.
Practicalities and common sense
Myanmar is a relatively safe country and it’s people are really friendly. Crime rate is low and solo women travelers should not experience any harassment. Still, it is advisable to always take extra precaution and avoid unwanted incidents. Use your safe provided by the hotel to store your valuable and cash.
Etiquette in Myanmar
Compared to it’s neighboring Asian countries, Myanmar has been in isolation and it is now slowly opening up to foreign cultures. Therefore, Myanmar is more conservative than other nearby Asian countries that you may have visited. You will see men and women wearing the longgyis, some sort of sarong type garments. You rarely see Myanmar people exposing their shoulders or knees. It is advisable ( especially the women ) to dress a little bit more conservative as this will make them feel more comfortable.
Political topics are discuss openly by some Myanmar people, however some guardedness and limitations remains. We suggest that you do not instigate political conversations.
When receiving or handing over objects or money, right hand is being used while the left hand loosely support the right arm.
Never use your feet to pick something up, point at things or someone.
A smile is always the best form of communication and knowing a few Burmese words goes a long way too.