Myanmar is currently one of the go-to countries to see in Southeast Asia. Given that they only recently started letting tourists visit, there is a curiosity that surrounds the entire country. So if you want to go explore Myanmar, you are not alone. The country has drastically changed in the last couple of years. However, there are many challenges that could make your trip a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Not to worry though; once you know what it is to look out for and how to avoid it, you’re sure to have an outstanding trip. Here are some tips as to how to navigate through Myanmar:
You are going to need to have cash here. Most people fly into Myanmar from the city of Bangkok, so if you happen to find yourself coming in through Thailand, try and exchange your money at the exchange here. The local currency in Myanmar is Kyats. It might take some time to get all your money exchanged so if you cannot spare the time, try going to an ATM instead. You can find one at the airport that will convert your money for a small fee. Just make sure to exchange enough. You will get charged a fee of about 2.5% for the exchange but the money you may save in the end makes this worth it. And in any case, it’s cheaper than what you will get charged for using your card each time. The most important thing is to make sure that you do not get caught by money exchanges on the street because they may try to charge you a fee that is way higher than what you need to be paying.
Once You’re In Town
Most hotels are something like $40 a night, so you really should not be spending more on that a night. Unless you want to go somewhere super high end, it’s possible to have a perfectly affordable trip while you are there.
The best time to go is from November into February because this is the time when the weather is getting warmer but it’s not completely hot. And there are going to be a lot of visitors there around this time. This means that hotels may start to fill up so make sure to get your booking one early otherwise you may have to pay more for a room than you should.
Helping the Locals
If you want to help the local population, avoid the government owned hotels. There is a lot of corruption in Myanmar and staying in these hotels can get money in the hands of people that may not need it as much. Privately owned businesses and guest houses are worth supporting. Myanmar has been changing over the years and you can help support the change by putting your money towards a cause that is worth it: the local population. This also includes dining at local establishments and shopping at local markets (which is better for you because it will give you a much more authentic experience overall).
Exploring the Country
The mountainous Chin State in the west or and the Mon State are usually not open to tourists unless you have a visa from the government in advance of your trip. So either try and get the requisite paperwork or avoid these areas. There are still restrictions on where you can go and curfews put in place. Make sure to ask around at your hotel or guesthouse as to the areas you are allowed to explore.
Take a bus while you are there. It’s the main way around the entire country and can get you anywhere that tourists are allowed to go. There are plenty of decent companies running shuttles. The journeys can be anywhere from a couple of hours to even 12 hours at a time. Make sure you ask about the distance you are traveling before booking something. Don’t ask the driver about when you are getting there. There are superstitions about these kind of predictions so many people just won’t answer. Respect the culture and just sit back and enjoy the ride, no matter how long it takes.
Get a couple of Burmese words down, like please and thank you. Hello is Ming gu la bah and thank you is jay zu de bar dee. That will get you a little bit around. Other than that, make sure you have a guidebook of sorts because the internet is very limited if that is what you were thinking of relying on. People are pretty nice though so don’t hesitate to ask for help. Also, bartering prices may be common in many parts of Asia, but it’s not as common Myanmar. Everything is already pretty cheap so you don’t have to go to the effort of being too cheap. Just pay what it is and let it go.
Myanmar is changing drastically and is definitely worth visiting. That being said, you need to be ready for what it means to visit a country in such development. Not everything may be as easy as predicted, but if you open your mind to it, you’re sure to have an amazing experience.