Visas | Insurance | Medical | What to Bring | Clothing | Miscellaneous | Money Matters | Tipping | Communication | Food | Shopping | Photography | Weather | Water | Airlines (International) | Airlines (Domestic) | On Arrival | Electricity | Business Hours | Language | Prohibited Items | Time
New Myanmar eVisa has arrived! Yes, Myanmar is getting up to 21st century speed and you can apply and pay for your eVisa online here. Make sure you have less than 90 days before your arrival date before you apply. The process takes 3 days or less.
Myanmar VOA new (Visa on Arrival) service is no longer an option for individuals. However, it is possible for groups of 10 or more arriving in Myanmar on the same flight, and Luminous Journeys can handle it for you. Other options, if your country is not on the approved list, are through a Myanmar embassy or visa service in your country. In the U.S. Visas may be obtained from www.zvs.com for around $110 in two to three weeks. You might save a little money by going through the Myanmar Embassy in Washington D.C., but may find it more difficult and time consuming.
Myanmar visas in Bangkok must be planned for. It normally takes two business days, and the embassy is closed both on Thai and Myanmar holidays, of which there are many! Be sure and check first. One day service is possible only if you bring your RT airline ticket departing for Myanmar the NEXT DAY. Your passport must be valid for at least (6) months after your entry date into Myanmar. Note that you must provide a copy of your e-ticket flight into and out of Myanmar with your application. For most people that will be your short flight from Bangkok to Yangon. If for some reason you cannot provide a copy of your ticket, a letter of explanation with planned entry and exit dates on company letter-head should do the trick. Several airlines service this route daily, including Thai Airways, Air Asia and Bangkok Airways. See more below under Airlines. For most citizens of most countries, including the United States and Canada, 30-day tourist visas for Thailand are granted upon arrival in Bangkok free of charge.
Travel Health Insurance including emergency evacuation is highly recommended. Not that it’s likely, but if something serious did occur you will want to be evacuated to Bangkok. Insurance of this type is also very inexpensive, so there is no reason for not having it. If you are not covered with your current insurance (make double sure) it is easily obtained online from excellent companies. We find HTH Worldwide to be the best and easiest to work with. HTH has contract arrangements with first rate hospitals in Bangkok, and there is no jumping through hoops.
Trip insurance that includes trip cancellation coverage is highly recommended. A good resource to compare prices may be found at squaremouth. This way in case something happens and you are not able to go at the last minute, the cost of your trip is covered. And you won’t be mad at us!
Vaccinations are currently not required for travel to Myanmar, unless you are traveling from an active yellow fever zone. However, it’s a good idea to at least have your tetanus inoculations up to date. You may also consider vaccinating for Hepatitis A and/or B, just know that the 3-shot inoculation schedules vary and can take 6 months to complete. There are a host of other inoculations against dreaded infections you are not required to have and are unlikely to contract, but these decisions are up to you and your doctor. Malaria medication is taken by some travelers to Myanmar, and if you will be adventuring into remote areas you should consult your doctor about efficacy and side effects.
Be sure and bring any prescription medications you may need. Include something for headaches and stomach ailments, just in case. A few band-aids and a tube of anti-biotic ointment might not be a bad idea either. Mosquito repellant may prove useful, and don’t forget your sun-block!
Start with as little as possible and work down from there. One of the key essentials to traveling well is traveling light. We cannot overstate this. You’ll need less than you think, and you can always launder clothes and buy things. The more space you leave in your bag the more room you’ll have for gifts to take home!
Visitors should not wear shorts, tank tops, mini-skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting Myanmar pagodas and monasteries. In fact, you should save them for the hotel pool or beach. This is a very conservative culture, and it’s best to respect it.
One way to pack light is to invest in super lightweight travel clothes sold by ExOfficio, REI and others. Two pair of pants weigh next to nothing and roll up nicely. They resist dirt and wrinkling and dry very quickly. Convertible pants with quick-release Velcro (custom) rather than a zip, allow you to go from shorts to long pants and back in a jiff. Get front zip pockets for your passport and money. Myanmar is quite safe generally, but you don’t want to risk a passport slipping out of a pocket or a bad luck run-in with a rare Yangon pickpocket.
Do note that early mornings can be chilly, and early morning boat rides on Lake Inle pretty darn cold. But it will warm up quickly, so leave your parka at home. Just bring a sweater or sweatshirt and/or a windbreaker, something you can stuff in a backpack or leave with a boatman or driver.
Footwear is a strategic affair, as none are allowed inside monasteries, certain religious sites, or people’s homes. Even socks must be removed. So you want ease of use along with as much support as you require. If you wear sandals and don’t mind dusty feet, bring them. Okabashi’s are often recommended. If you are a hiking boot person, do not bring them. You’ll go nuts unlacing and lacing. Broken in walking shoes work best overall.
Watch with reliable alarm; A universal plug adapter; A good hat to keep the sun off; Sunblock; Insect repellent; Sunglasses with strap; Laundry line; Listerine spray used liberally helps avoid getting a cold on the long flight over; Small LED flashlight; Travel size toiletries; Antibiotic cream.
ATM’s have arrived! In late 2012, Myanmar’s first international ATM’s rolled out and are increasingly abundant. However, they are not as reliable as at home, local money is in small denominations, and local fees are high. It’s still wise to rely on USD cash for your main stash.
Credit cards in general and Travelers Checks still CANNOT BE USED for purchases or exchanged in Myanmar (with some rare exceptions in upscale restaurants, hotels, antiques shops & gems dealers).
Therefore it is NECESSARY to bring enough cash in US DOLLARS or EURO to fund your personal purchases. Other foreign currencies are more difficult to change. Dollars are much preferred and easier to exchange outside of banks than Euro. Get your dollars BEFORE entering Myanmar.
Make sure you bring newer series US Dollar bills (“big heads” instead of “small heads”) with series numbers not starting with CB. These are still not accepted in Myanmar due to rumors the series is counterfeit. Bank notes should be in very good condition and not torn, dirty or washed out. Trust us, anything more than very minor flaws in bills will be difficult to exchange or make purchases with.
The currency in Myanmar is the Kyat (pronounced ‘chet’). There is no need to change large amounts into Kyat as most of the places catering to tourists also accept payment in US Dollar bills. Furthermore, the biggest kyat bill is 5000, or about $5. Changing even a few hundred dollars leaves you with quite a stack. Kyat is for walking around money, small purchases, tips, taxis, rickshaws, monastery donations, that sort of thing. It’s got excellent velocity!
Banks are open Monday to Friday between 10:00 and 14:00 only. They need the rest of the day to lug around huge sacks of Kyat!
Though not compulsory, tips have become the norm in the Myanmar tourist industry. The choice to tip and the amount according to quality of service is up to you. As your kind and wonder Myanmar travel agency, we take care of airport porters, bu the rest is up to you!
General Tip Guide: Tour Drivers: $3 – $5 or Kyat equivalent per day per person at the end of day or end of service, if multiple days. Less for half days.
Station Guides – For group tours $3 to $5 per day per person at end of service. For individual tours, $10 – $20 per day depending on how generous their service made you feel.
Hotel Porters: $1 or 1,000 Kyat note (pronounced “chet”). Not per bag, all together.
Hotel Staff: Not necessarily expected and up to your discretion. A $1 or a 1,000 Kyat note for a small extra service in the moment is fine. $5 for someone who has taken extra care of you during your stay will be greatly appreciated. They work very long hours with salaries of about $70 a month!
Wait Staff: $1 or a 1,000 Kyat per diner is fine, there may be several servers.
Impromptu Photo Models: Not for a few quick shots, but if you have someone spend some time modeling for you, offer 1,000 Kyat minimum, depending on time. Monks and nuns are not supposed to accept money, except via donation box. In practice this is not always the case, especially away from the monastery. Be discreet if there is no donation box around. Some will accept and some won’t.
Photographer Guides: $10 to $15 per day per person per guide offered at the end of the tour. The day or night before departure is best, as departure day is not normally a guided shooting day. He or they may have already said their goodbye’s after the Farewell Dinner and Slideshow.
Your mobile phone will now work in Myanmar! Buy a Sim card on arrival at the airport, along with calling time. The card is $1.00 and international rates are reasonably reasonable. The cards are valid for 30 days once activated. Clients can also rent mobile phones CDMA 450 & 800 MHZ with prepaid cards. These prepaid mobile phone cards are aimed at tourists visiting Myanmar who wish to keep in touch with friends and family.
Internet access via WIFI is now quite common, but mostly slow. Consider purchasing Data for your phone and use it as your own hotspot for better service. (if you bring a laptop).
The staples of Burmese cuisine are rice, rice noodles, and curries. The main ingredient of the meal is usually rice and the curries tend to be not as spicy as those from India or Thailand. A clear soup called hingyo accompanies most meals and a fermented fish sauce or paste called ngapiye is usually served to add flavor. It tastes better than it sounds! Fermented tea leaves, lahpet, is a social favorite. Excellent Chinese, Thai, Indian and Western food is available in most tourist places.
There are many fantastic local products in Myanmar. Traditional crafts include lacquerware, especially in Bagan, woodcarvings, stone carvings, bronze work, rattan, silver jewellery, silk longyis and hand-woven textiles.
You can sample them all and more at the 2000 shops of Bogyoke Aung San Market in Yangon. If you arrive early on the first day, and shopping is your thing, we highly suggest a research trip to get an idea of what’s available and at what price. It’s also a great place to meet the locals and observe their haggling skills. What you don’t buy during your trip chance are you can find it back in Yangon before you depart.
Myanmar is also well known for its precious gems, especially rubies (pigeon-blood) and jade (imperial-jade). Should visitors chose to purchase gemstones, they do so at their own risk and should know what they are doing.
A relative quality guarantee of purchases is given by official receipt and certificate issued by government-licensed dealers. Prices in such shops are higher but are more credible and would theoretically allow you to return the purchase. The issued paper needs to be shown when exiting the country as legal export of gemstones.
Burma is one of the great photographic destinations anywhere, so bring plenty of memory. Kids, adults, monks and nuns usually enjoy being photographed, they love to help out. Believe it or not, it is still something of a novelty here, and they get a kick out of seeing themselves on your camera screen. If you ask anyone to go above and beyond the call of duty to model for you for any length of time, consider it a tipping opportunity.
Print films are still available in Myanmar but professional quality films (like slide films) are very difficult to find and it is better to bring your own. In towns like Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Nyaungshwe, digital photos can easily be uploaded and burned onto a CD, but it’s best just to bring plenty of memory cards. Memory cards are also available in major cities and towns, though not always the latest or fastest. It is not allowed to photograph facilities with strategic military interest, like bridges, army compounds, police stations, army personnel, etc. More information can be found under Photography Tours of Myanmar.
Myanmar has three seasons similar to many other parts of Southeast Asia. The Southwest monsoon starts at the end of May or beginning of June and lasts until October. This season is wet and green with typical tropical squalls and some impressive cats & dogs downpours. Contrary to common perception, it does not rain every every day nor is “monsoon” to be mistaken for “typhoon!”. Rainfall varies markedly. Yangon gets the most among the major destinations, Bagan the least. It is not uncommon to have no rain for weeks during the monsoon. The rains give way to dry weather in late October and temperatures are generally lower and quite pleasant through February. In Temperatures between mid-March and May can be very hot, in the high 90’s with high humidity. Great for the steam room aficionado! The water festival in April is fantastic, cooling fun, especially if you’re still a kid at heart.
NOTE: Myanmar is in the northern hemisphere, so ‘winter’ is November to February, with the coolest months being December and January. You need to bring some warm clothing for early mornings, especially for higher elevation areas in the north, or Lake Inle.
It is not advisable to drink tap water but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. All hotels provide a complimentary bottle of local mineral water per person in the room. Ice cubes in drinks is generally OK in good standard hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid it in street stalls or rural areas.
Yangon now has direct air-links with:
Beijing, Kunming, Calcutta, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Dhaka, Taipei, Guangzhou, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Doha, Hanoi, Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City.
The following airlines currently fly into Myanmar: Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Air Asia, Myanmar Airways International, Malaysia Airlines, Silk Air, Air China, China Eastern, Mandarin Airlines, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Indian Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Qatar Airways. More and more are being added these days, so check around.
Since many international flights across multiple time zones still arrive in Bangkok late at night, you may have to wait until the following morning to connect into Yangon. If you are coming from a far off time zone, you might want to arrive a day or two early to get acclimated. If not, either book an airport hotel or plan to spend several long hours in the airport before your flight to Yangon.
We use the following 5 domestic airlines: Mann Yadanarpon Airlines, Air Bagan, Air Mandalay, Asian Wings and KBZ. All these airlines fly French-Italian ATR turboprop planes (Avions de Transports Régionaux), a type of plane well suited for the local conditions, airports and distances. The configuration is either 40 seats (ATR-42) or 70-seats (ATR 72) in rows of 4 seats with a middle aisle. Entry-exit is at the back of the plane. Standard One-class configuration.
Air Bagan also operates 1 Fokker-100 Dutch-made jet aircraft with 95 seats, 12 of which are business class seats (Lotus Class 3 rows of 4 with middle aisle). Economy class configuration is: 2 seats –aisle- 3 seats. Entry/exit is at the front of the plane.
For Visa on Arrival (VOA) arranged by Luminous Journeys, your group of 10 or more (note this service is no longer available for groups of less than 10) will need to present your passports and documents we will have sent you to print, along with $30 in pristine U.S. currency at the VOA desk. You’ll see Visa on Arrival on your right before reaching Immigration.
After, or for anyone else, line up at the immigration counters with your filled out arrival card, and your passport with visa. After passing immigration, collect your luggage from the luggage belt and proceed to –amazingly– another x-ray machine. Don’t worry about taking out your laptop, as nobody seems to care. Collect your bags and hand over your filled-out customs form. Note that items of value and currency in excess of $2000 USD are supposed to be declared and taken again on departure, but in practice things are made quite easy for tourists. Also note that mobile phones and laptops are no longer kept in storage on arrival as is still claimed in some guidebooks.
Note: It is now advisable to change money at the airport, as the rates are the same as in town. Three banks currently have booths near the exits.
Should there be no-one at the airport to pick you up (highly unlikely) we suggest waiting for at least 15-minutes before taking a taxi. They will ask 8 or 9,000 Kyats, but the true 2016 price is 7,000, 6,000 on the return. Sometimes it’s worth paying more for a newer model car where the air con works! Ask to see the vehicle first, as it will not be at the curb, but just across the way. More and more new taxis are pouring in, so cars held together by hope and bailing wire are becoming less common.
Myanmar uses 220V, and a mixture of flat 2-pin, round 2-pin or 3 pin plugs. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adapter. Some electrical tape for loose outlets isn’t a bad idea. Power outages are quite common but most hotels have their own generators.
Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 09:30 until 16:00. Most shops are open every day. An exception is Bogyoke Market (Scott Market), which is closed on Monday, on public holidays and full moon days (like all markets in Myanmar). Banks keep very short hours, 1000 to 1400.
The national language of Myanmar is Burmese, of which there are over 80 different dialects spoken. The written language uses an amazing looking script based on ancient Sanskrit characters. In the cities many of the older generation still speak very good English and it is also becoming popular again with the younger generation.
Mobile telephones and laptop computers with modems are officially not allowed into the country but the rule is not enforced. So bring them if you want to, no worries. However, YOUR mobile phones will not work in Myanmar, as the country does not have any roaming agreements. If needed, you may purchase pre-paid phones once in Myanmar. It’s not expensive. Items of jewelry, cameras and foreign currency (above USD $2000) are supposed to be declared at customs upon entry.
Export of Buddha images and antiques or articles of archaeological importance is prohibited. This is not usually enforced for Buddha souvenirs and you can find Buddha images for sale in the airport departure area! Antiques dealers are experienced and reliable when it comes to shipping anything home. Gemstones can be safely bought only from government-controlled outlets and the buyer should ask for an export certificate.