In 2017, Myanmar has recently opened its doors to tourism since over the past decade. Even though infrastructure is just the beginning of this country, don’t be scared or put off from travelling to this beautiful country.
Myanmar has a great balance of natural and historical sites; from the temple-strewn plains of Bagan to the glassy waters of Inle Lake.
TRAVELLING TO MYANMAR
Tourists can visit Yangon, Mandalay, Bago and Irrawaddy regions without restrictions. Other destinations are subject to limitations (e.g access by air or train but not by road)
Is this your first Myanmar trip, you will want to know where you can fly to from Myanmar. There are 3 designated international airports; Mandalay (located middle of Myanmar), Yangon (located south of Myanmar) and Nay Pyi Taw (situated in between Yangon and Mandalay).
Try avoid the Land Borders as FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) has advised against all but essential travel to Rakhine State, Kachin State, Shan State, and Chin State.
Don’t worry, we have share our itinerary for Myanmar budget tour in the next post for you first timer out there.
VISA TO MYANMAR
To obtain tourist visa to Myanmar is really easy and it will usually take 3 working days or less for your visa to get approved. You may apply via online on the link below.
COST: Tourist visa as of 2019, is USD50 for stay up to 28 days.
*For Singapore citizens, you don’t need a visa for visit up to 30 days; Bruneian and Indonesian do not require tourist visa for tourist visits up to 14 days.
*Please apply not more than 90 days before your date of entry to Myanmar as the tourist visa approval letter valid for only 90 days from date of approval.
#DT Tips: You also need to have confirmed return air ticket to be shown to the immigration officer at the point of entry. Sometimes, some officer will ask for your first night accommodation stay, to be on safe side, book accommodation for your first night in Myanmar.
CURRENCY EXCHANGE AND ATMS
The interesting thing about money changer in Myanmar is they are VERY STRICT when it comes to the condition of the money. You may bring your USD, or even Malaysian Ringgit. But make sure to have crisp, un-creased, unmarked (not even a dot) on your dollar bills.
Almost all money changer will not accept your bills to be exchange to Myanmar Kyat if its not in pristine condition.
The rates offer in the airport and outside money changer in the city have very little difference in their rates.
In city of Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, we found there’s plenty of ATM machine that you can withdraw your Kyat from with a small fee charged by the local bank.
#DT Tips: Be sure to keep your crisp USD aside for emergency especially when needed for travelling as some taxi driver only accept USD for intercity (long route) ride.
WHEN TO VISIT MYANMAR?
- October – March :Dry, Winter Season
- Mar – May : Hot, summer season
- May – October : Wet, Rainy season
The high season in Myanmar will be during Dry winter season which is in October – March. In other words, most accommodation are fully booked during this season. Be sure to book early
We choose to travel during hot season as to avoid the crowd during High Season.
- Try to avoid during Thingyan Festival (13 April-16 April) and Myanmar New Year (17 April-19 April) (unless your whole purpose is to experience the water festival itself), this is because limited number of transportation operates during this festival and this is where Burmese have their long holiday.
- Hot Air Balloon: Remember hot air balloon ride only operates during Winter Season up until 10 April yearly. So if you want to catch Hot Air Balloon ride in Bagan, be sure to book during these dates.
Hostels or Guesthouses
There are plenty guesthouses and hostels in Myanmar that fits your budget. If you are travelling more than 2 pax, we suggest to book for 2 stars/3 stars hotels as it is pretty much the same price as booking hostel and guesthouses.
From 5 stars luxury hotel to 2 stars accommodation, they have it all in major cities of Myanmar. You may book your hotel accommodation online or through your trusted travel agent.
Area to Stay
For Muslim traveller, we personally suggest to book accommodation near mosque area. Below are suggestions for major cities (Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay).
Area to Stay in Yangon
Downtown Yangon (Between Bogyoke Aung San Market) to Sule Pagoda area.
Area to Stay in Bagan
As it is a bit difficult to get Halal food in Bagan, the area we choose are Old Bagan Area (based on accessibility to restaurants (By foot) and visits).
Area to Stay in Mandalay
We choose area near the mosque as it is easy to get Halal food around these areas. Areas mentioned are between 27th-28th Street intersections of 80th -83rd Street.
We personally choose bus as it is easier, and faster than taking train. There a lot of buses that is running from Yangon to Mandalay or Bagan. We choose VIP overnight bus. For Asia country, the bus are considered very comfortable with plug where you can charge your device, free blanket and also light refreshment.
You may book your journey here at below link or head over to the bus station to purchase over the counter.
There are also train, you may purchase the train ticket a few days at the train station. They don’t have a first class seat or sleepers deck option to choose from. The journey will be much longer and not recommended. However, if budget is your main priority, then this will be your best option.
Flight is your best and most expensive option. There are a lot of website offering flight tickets for intercity transfer.
In Myanmar, the taxi does not use meter. Therefore a lot of haggling involved. Normally a trip one way for a taxi from Bagan-Mandalay (4 hour journey) will cost about USD60 per way. Try to bargain with the taxi driver on it. Be aware that most drivers will quote you in USD, so it’s best for you to have USD (crisp condition) standby to pay them.
AROUND THE CITY CENTER (Myanmar, Bagan, Mandalay)
There are few mode of transportation to get around Myanmar.
The taxi driver in Myanmar does not use meter. Thanks to GRAB App, you can easily estimate or use the app for hailing a cab.
#DT Tips: Download GRAB App on your mobile phone for you to easily book your taxi or estimate the price of a taxi to haggle with.
Via Tuk Tuk/ Motorbike
In city like Mandalay and Bagan, it is cheaper to use Tuk Tuk service. You may use these service via GRAB Application as well.
Keep in mind, there is no motorbike in the city of Yangon as the law does not permit any motorbikes in the city except the authority. So you will see no motorbikes around city of Yangon
As for Bagan, you may rent e-bike (electric scooter bike) for you to roam around the city at your own pace from your hotel or shops nearby. The rental usually cost around 5000 Kyat for half a day (4 hours) or 10,000 Kyat for full day (8 hours). The battery last for 4 hours, before your next charge. However, the rental provider will come and assist you shall you need a change in battery.
Via PUBLIC BUS/VAN
Here they use public bus and vans, where there’s no proper signage or bus stop, and unless you know how to speak Myanmar language, you may use it. You can also ask the local for help to identify which local bus/van to hop on to. Ticket cost at Kyat 200 for one ride. It is by far the cheapest mode of transportation for you to get around.
Via Horse Cart
When in Bagan, there is option to experience horse cart riding around the city.
HALAL EATERIES IN MYANMAR
Yangon and Mandalay
There are a lot of Muslim restaurants in Yangon and Mandalay. So worry not, we will help you list down among few restaurants that are Halal in these cities.
It is very difficult to find any. We opt for Vegetarian Restaurants instead.