Tips, Travels
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15 things you should know before travelling to Myanmar

After posting our blogs about the Myanmar surprises, the famous north of Myanmar and the off the beaten track south, people asked us for some tips on how to travel Myanmar. So while housesitting in Barcelona, we wrote this blog with things you should know while planning a trip to this wonderful country.

TIP 1: Expect a poor price/quality ratio for accommodation compared to other South-East Asian countries.

  • There are very few truly cheap places and if a place is mentioned in a guidebook such as Lonely Planet or featured as a top pick on Tripadvisor, prices are quickly inflated.
  • On the plus side, new places without the inflated prices are popping up everywhere. So if you have a look around and do not book ahead, you might find cheaper places.
  • Do not take everything for granted: ask if they have (working) wifi, hot water and a steady supply of electricity.
  • Other costs in Myanmar – such as transportation, entrance fees and food – are pretty cheap. We have spent about 50 – 55 € per day for the two of us together, everything included.

TIP 2: Internet is often (too) slow or unavailable for extended periods of time. Except for maybe Ethiopia (five years ago), Myanmar has the worst internet coverage we have encountered. Prepare for being offline!

  • Inform people that are used to hearing from you on a regular basis.
  • Make sure you have all information you need available offline before you leave.
  • Even if a place assures you they have internet, don’t expect much.
  • Consider downloading apps (e.g. flight booking apps of major airlines that service Myanmar, map apps), as they are often still able to function when internet is limited.

TIP 3: Generally (cheap) food is pretty bad in Myanmar, especially in remote areas.

  • Eat well before you leave.
  • Try to find Shan (ethnic Tai) restaurants for better luck.
  • Not very worldly Yangon has surprisingly good Japanese restaurants and Mandalay has pretty good Chinese food.
  • Read more about food in Myanmar in this blog post.

TIP 4: Commonly worldwide available Western goods are often not available or in short supply (except for at the border with Thailand). Don’t bet on being able to buy everything on the go as we usually do. Take things with you that you can’t do without.

TIP 5: Take the train! Myanmar train rides are cheap and unforgettable.

  • Busses are more expensive than trains and less fun. However, they are more comfortable. If you do decide to take the bus, compare different bus companies as new competitive companies seem to be popping up all the time.
  • Expect long rides for short distances due to road or rail conditions. Roads are luckily being improved at a fast pace.
  • Read more about trains in Myanmar in our blog here.

TIP 6: Explore the deep south of Myanmar (e.g. Dawei – Myeik) for perfect white sandy beaches without the crowds. Read about it in our blog here.

TIP 7: Bring crisp dollar bills of a recent date. Moneychangers are often very picky.

  • Similarly, don’t accept 5000 Kyat and especially 10000 Kyat notes that are not in a good state.
  • Dollars are definitely the most widely accepted foreign currency.
  • In most places, do not expect to be able to pay with a card.
  • There are more and more ATM’s in the bigger cities to take out cash, but they are often unreliable (especially for foreign cards). However, this means you do not have to bring your entire travel budget in cash.

TIP 8: Be prepared to dress modestly, this is not Thailand. Myanmar is a pretty conservative country, although in general no Myanmarese person will hassle you either way.

TIP 9: Read up on the current visa application process, which changes regularly.  Have all the necessary papers printed out with you when you apply for a visa and ask where you have to queu. Expect lines and visa processing times to be longer than expected.

TIP 10: Have copies of your passport (and visa) handy for the many passport checks (in some areas). The officials will usually do it for you when you don’t have any, but this means waiting for them to find a working copy machine in town and disappearing with your passport (always moderately worrying).

TIP 11: Be prepared, some places still have troubles with providing a steady electricity supply and sudden surges might damage your electrical gear.

TIP 12: If you do not like temples, consider picking another destination.

TIP 13: Look out for paan stains. Having sat in one in India, we can attest that you have to stay away from these sticky splodges of paan juice that are left everywhere in Myanmar.

TIP 14: Myanmarese people are very friendly and will greet you every where you go. Be prepared to put on your best smile and practice their word for Hello!: Mingalabar!

TIP 15: Take enough SD-cards with you for your camera, you will be amazed at every turn and take an overload of pictures. Have a look at ours here.

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We love exploring, writing stories, housesitting, but especially love having no plans, enjoying small things, travelling and eating. So that's how we now live.

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