Beautiful Myanmar has friendly people and offers a budget-friendly getaway as well as a culturally rich and unique experience. When planning your trip to Myanmar, there are many things you should be aware of, as they involve careful planning ahead of time.
Myanmar reopened travel in 2021, following the Covid-19 pandemic, but tourism has been slow due to the political unrest in much of the country. Generally speaking, Myanmar is safe for tourists in areas where there is no fighting, but you should consider waiting the moment before planning your trip there, as most travel authorities advise that travel is unsafe due to civil unrest.
The civil unrest and violence originate from the conflicts between the Burmese military and ethnic groups, especially in Chin, Kachin, Kayin, Rakhine, Shan states, Sagaing, and Magway. These areas are closed to tourists anyways, so it should not interfere with your travel.
As of January 2023, Yangon is the safest province to travel to. However, it is an area known for pickpocketing and petty theft. It is also a possible location of violence. Make sure you follow news reports and Avoid public gatherings and protests while in Myanmar. Some of the violence involves explosions and some foreigners have been detained at times. It is wisest to wait for any political unrest to settle before traveling near those areas.
Plan Your Transport
The safest and most expedient way to enter Myanmar is to fly into Yangon. Mandalay’s smaller international airport is more expensive and not as safe an area.
The best way to get from Yangon to your destination is by bus. Plan to book your bus at the bus station at the airport so that you can verify the amenities, such as air conditioning, and not be hit with unexpected fees. The bus costs about 500MMK (USD 0.30).
Climate and Weather
Myanmar has a tropical monsoon climate, meaning it will be very hot and humid much of the year. It has three seasons: from November to February it is cooler, though the temperatures can still get very hot. It is generally a dryer season and a popular time for tourism.
From March to May, the heat can be very intense. You’ll want to plan to be indoors during the heat of the day. From June to October, you’ll experience the monsoon season, bringing high rainfall for long periods from June to August, especially in Yangon.
What to Pack
When traveling to Myanmar, the key is to pack light. A heavy suitcase will become cumbersome and can be difficult to manage in some of the areas you’ll want to see, so only bring the essentials.
Because it’s a hot country, even in its cooler season, pack lightweight cotton and linen clothing. Bring a rain jacket, especially if you are traveling during the monsoon season and a light jacket for the cooler evenings. If you plan to travel at high altitudes, you’ll need some warmer items as well.
Women should be aware that it is uncommon for women to show their shoulders, and should plan to bring clothing that covers their shoulders so as not to attract attention.
Some other items you should consider bringing include:
- Rain gear
- Waterproof phone case
- Water bottle
- Sunscreen (expensive there)
- Dry bag
- Travel wallet/money belt
- A padlock
- Universal power adapter
- Toilet paper (some restrooms don’t have this)
- Antibacterial Wipes (sometimes your only option is to dip your hands in a communal bucket to wash them)
- Medical Kit, including Malaria tablets, Tampons (hard to find)
- Portable Charger (blackouts and times without power are common)
Places to Visit
While you’re in Myanmar, you should check out some of its most culturally and commercially interesting cities. Learn more about the cities and places to visit in Myanmar before you go there.
It is the city most open to tourists. According to locals on Crowdsourced Explorer, “safe for the foreigners and migrants compared to other cities of Myanmar.”
Yangon is the second capital and largest city in Myanmar. It is an economic hub that offers many tourist-friendly places to stay, including Boutique hotels, and to eat, including rooftop bars and great restaurants.
While in Yangon, you might want to see popular tourist spots such as the golden Shwedagon Pagoda, a religious place filled with prayer rooms and ornamentation. It sits on a spot where the lotus buds heralded Gautama Buddha’s coming and helped those seeking enlightenment to achieve Nirvana.
Bagan is an architectural gem, home to over 2,000 stupas, numerous temples, Hindu statues, and fantastic views of the Arakan Mountains. You should try to get an aerial view by taking an enchanting hot air balloon ride to appreciate the landscape and glimpse Bagan’s window into the past.
If you’re wanting to sample the local wares, Bagan also has many local markets where you can haggle for trinkets and find food from a variety of cultures.
As the former royal capital of Myanmar, Mandalay is known for sites such as the beautiful Royal Palace and the ancient Shwenandaw Monastery. It is home to Mandalay hill, which is full of pagodas and monasteries and is a religious pilgrimage site for Burmese Buddhists.
Like other Burmese cities, Mandalay is full of carved stupas and busy markets.
If you’re wanting to get out of the city, the area around Mandalay is great for exploring. Just a two-hour drive away, for example, you’ll find the famous Dat Taw Gyaint waterfall after a 45-minute hike downhill.
If a beach vacation is what you’re looking for, Ngapali is the place to go. It has great accommodations and restaurants and is known for its cozy bungalows and tasty seafood.
You can scuba, snorkel, swim, or just relax on the beach while enjoying Burmese cuisine and culture.
Currency and Prices
Before you go, you should take a look at the exchange rate and some standard prices for food, accommodation, and travel in Myanmar so that you know what to expect and don’t get overcharged.
Myanmar currency is the Kyat, which has an exchange rate of about 2,100 Kyat to USD 1 as of January 2023.
Hotels can be from USD 20 to over USD 100 a night, depending on the amenities and level of luxury.
Food can cost less than USD 10 per day if you eat food from the local street vendors, but there are also restaurants specifically for tourists that gouge the prices.
Before you book your tickets or make hotel reservations, apply for a visa online. A 28-day visa is $50, but if you’re in a rush you can pay $56 to get it in 24 hours. Be prepared to upload a color photo of yourself.
Once you have your visa, print the approval letter to have with you during your travels.
The language in Myanmar is Burmese. Though some people know English, depending on where you go, you might be surrounded by people who don’t. You should learn some essential Burmese phrases beforehand. Also bring a pocket translator or dictionary, as the electricity and Wi-Fi are not reliable.
Some phrases you might want to learn include:
- “Mingalaba” means, “Hello” or “Goodbye.” You add “shin” to the end of said by a woman and “Khin-bah” if said by a man.
- “Cezu tin ba deh” (pronounced: Chay-tzoo-bah) means “Thank you.”
- “Inglei saga go pyaw tat de la?” means “Do you speak English?”
- “Ho de” means “yes.”
- “Ma ho bu” means “no.”
- “Ein tha be ma shi tha le?” means “Where is the bathroom?”
Burmese culture is very distinct, from their clothing and makeup to their nonverbal communication and cultural norms. You should be aware of what to expect and be respectful of their traditions.
One norm you should be aware of is the general respect for religious people and places. Be respectful of the monks and religious sites and don’t interrupt religious rites by taking pictures or going into areas where tourists are not permitted.
Another norm is respect for the elderly. In Myanmar, with age comes seniority and respect.
Most importantly, everyone will greet you with a smile and expect you to do the same, as friendliness is a big part of Burmese culture, too. However, you should not try to shake someone’s hand. Instead, you can press your hands together and bow to show respect.
Laws/ Rules For Travelers
You should know the rules for traveling to and in Myanmar, which mostly have to do with where you are permitted to go and making sure you have your visa.
For example, if you are entering Myanmar on land, you can enter from Thailand, but you need a special permit if you are coming from India. You cannot enter Myanmar from Bangladesh, Laos, or China.
You should also check the latest updates on the Covid travel rules. As of writing this, you must be vaccinated to enter the country and may be required to quarantine, as medical care is in short supply in Myanmar.
To get a better idea of what Myanmar is like, check out what locals are sharing on Crowdsourced Explorer!