Do not miss to explore Yangon, the country's largest city, which is now a home to bustling markets, stunning parks and lakes, and the towering, gilded Shwedagon Pagoda, which contains Buddhist relics and dates to the 6th century. Let the offerings of Myanmar be a great feast to your senses. Visit Myanmar and get lost in the incredible landscape and magnificent historical monuments that speak for its existence.
Myanmar has finally opened its doors to tourism which has led to every backpacker running to it. The word that can be used for this beautiful country is ‘untouched’. Myanmar is growing up too quickly but there are many things that may amaze you here. Myanmar has a ‘quiet’ culture and Burmese lead a very simple and hard-working life.
Arrange a Myanmar Tour Guide
In Myanmar, the tourism industry is relatively new. Because of this, communication and getting around can sometimes prove to be a struggle for travelers. Arranging a good luxury Myanmar tour agent will help translate and provide you with local insights and would be the best travel decisions that you can make during your Myanmar tour.
Carry Few Lightweight Pants or Long Skirts
Myanmar is situated in the tropics and so the weather can be hot and steamy. Long and lightweight clothing will help you to protect yourself from the sun as well as annoying mosquitoes. Moreover, over 85% of the Myanmar population is Buddhist and so covering up and ensuring that your shoulders and knees are fully covered will be in good taste. This is important when visiting monasteries and pagodas.
Internet Access is Not Good
In Myanmar, internet access is still in the development stages and so connections can be slow. So, be patient with this fact. Also, the internet is regulated in the country so access to some websites can be either filtered or entirely off-limits. Nevertheless, more and more cafes and hotels are providing wifi, especially in more progressed areas such as Nay Pyi Taw, Inle Lake, Yangon and Bagan.
One shouldn’t face any problems entering Myanmar by air or by land, provided they have a valid passport. Through the government website, citizens of 100 countries can apply for tourist visas online. An e-visa that is valid for 28 days roughly costs $50. It is advised that one should start applying for an e-visa at least a month well-in-advance as it can often take anything from a day to a week to receive the confirmation. In case you are already on the road, getting a tourist visa from the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok is also possible with same-day processing or for pick up the very next day.
Most of the Asian nations can get a visa exemption valid for 14 days, with Singapore being an exception and having valid for 30 days.
Carry Plenty of US Dollars
Myanmar works on a closed money economy, and so the official currency, Kyat cannot be purchased outside the country. When exchanging, the exchange rate will be better when the denomination of your US dollar will be higher. When bringing dollars, they need to be crisp, new and clean. Any mark, significant crease or stain on your dollar will make it not fit to be used as the business will not be able to exchange it with the government. Credit cards are accepted, but only in higher-end places and usually carry a 3% fee added to the total.
In general, you will be required to exchange only about half of your budget. You can pay for hotels, plane tickets, boats and trains with US Dollars. Taxis, souvenirs, buses, and food are all sold in Kyat.
Pick Gems Wisely
Myanmar is famous for its precious stones, especially jade and rubies. However, there are plenty of knock-offs around. While buying a gem of sorts, always make sure to ask for a certificate issued by government-licensed dealers or official receipt. You will be required to show the certificate while exiting the country since the export of stones and gems without government-issued documentation is entirely illegal.
Myanmar isn’t all about monasteries, temples and beautiful sunsets. Discover secluded southern beaches, slurp mouth-watering shan noodles on the streets of Yangon, wriggle through limestone caves in Hpa An, and hike to rural villages in Hsipaw.
Watch a Gorgeous Sunrise in Bagan
For most travelers, witnessing a sunrise over the temples of Bagan is a highlight in itself. Though there are two ways to do that - either explore the temples and get up close to them by e-bike or choose the luxury way of a hot air balloon ride. Know that ballooning is a little pricey - around US $300 and requires to be booked well in advance. They only occur between October - March. In case you can’t quite afford this, then there are plenty of temples offering splendid vantage points and can be suitably reached by e-bike.
Cruise Along the Beautiful Irrawaddy River
Replace the hustle and bustle of land sightseeing for a leisurely boat ride upriver from Bagan to Mandalay. Although, cruising this route for 12 hours may not seem the most obvious choice as buses make the trip in 6 hours, it’s the best way to uncover rural life along the river banks. Many boats in fact make stops at riverside villages, such as Yandabo, which is an historic town famous for pots and other river clay based goods. Observe kids playing and bathing in the river from the deck, fishermen reeling in their catch-of-the-day and farmers tending their fields.
Experience Adventure in Mandalay Hill
Climbing up Mandalay Hill will take you about 30-45 minutes. However, do keep an eye out for snakes. You can also reach the top via a car. This famous pilgrimage site has a number of monasteries and pagodas to explore. Sutaungpyei pagoda situated on the top is a highlight which possess a number of lookouts for sweeping views. You’ll also get to watch a beautiful sunset here.
Visit Sadan Cave in Hpa An
You’ll discover plenty of astonishing caves hidden in the mountains around Hpa An, which you can easily explore in two days. The colossal Sadan Cave is the most impressive of these. It expands the entire underside of the mountain, and lead you right through to the other side through a network of faintly-lit tunnels and huge chambers that are filled with Buddha depictions. You’ll find a secret lake on the far side, covered in water lilies, where a tiny canoe will escort you back under the mountain.
Try Out Burmese Street Food
Yangon is certainly the best place to sample Burmese cuisine on the streets. There is just so much of variety here that you can eat every day for a year and will still have more options to try. Try the delicious classic shan noodles and quail egg snack mont lin ma yar. While in Mandalay, make sure to not miss mont di (thick rice noodles with chickpea flour). Always make sure to check the stall before ordering food to see if the cooking surfaces are clean.
Witness Hot Springs and Chase Waterfalls in Hsipaw
Situated at the foot of the snow-covered mountains in northern Myanmar and alongside the Duthawadi River, embark on a hike through rice paddies to discover natural hot springs, cascading waterfalls and ancient payas in Hsipaw. You can ask for a map at your hotel and embark on an easy 2-hour hike through the jungle to uncover Nam Tuk waterfall. There are some hot springs around Hsipaw where you can relax in the warm water.
There are many good luxury Myanmar tour agents who will include all these experiences in the tour itinerary to provide you with a magical experience like never before.
Quite often, travel guides advice to travel in peak season, however the best time to actually explore the gorgeous Myanmar is in shoulder season, i.e. October to November and April to May.
Most of the travelers visit Myanmar when the weather tends to be cooler, i.e. between November and February. But this implies the fact that you’ll be exploring the country with the maximum number of tourists and the travel is going to be more expensive and accommodation options would be limited.
The temperature begins to rise from March to May, although this tends to be the perfect time to travel before the monsoon season hits in the month of June.
If you can deal with the hot temperature (35-40°C), one would find far less tourists, and will have far more flexibility with your tour itinerary.
Just like many other Southeast Asian countries, there is predominantly dry season, a predominantly wet season, and also the shoulder seasons in between.
The best time to plan Myanmar tour are between November till February. After that, it gets absurdly hot around April.
Myanmar is a travel destination that should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list. It is a place that opened up to the world just recently and is still a place of uncertainty and mystery which adds to the charm of visiting this magical place.
Hostels and Guesthouses in Myanmar: Hostels and guesthouses are an amazing place to socialize and connect with like-minded people from all over the world. Though, Myanmar doesn’t boast a vast backpacker hostel scene, it is definitely growing, especially in hot spots such as Yangon, Bagan and Inle Lake.
Homestays in Myanmar: Homestays are an amazing way to immerse yourself in the culture, and experience living the life of a local. A majority of travelers do homestays in Myanmar while trekking, stopping at tribal minority villages and staying with a local family.
Hotels in Myanmar: There is a vast range of hotels in Myanmar to go with every budget, from luxury vacationers to backpackers, and everything in between.
Camping and Free Accommodation in Myanmar: Technically, camping is illegal in Myanmar. Although, there are some trekking tours that offer camping in their packages. In case you are willing to risk the penalties of getting caught while camping, it is comparatively easy to camp near beaches or waterfalls.
Your luxury Myanmar tour agent will arrange the best accommodation for you during the trip and so you do not really need to be worried about this aspect.
Burmese cuisine is characterised by extensive use of fish products such as fish sauce, ngapi (fermented seafood) and dried prawn.
Mohinga is the traditional breakfast dish and is Myanmar's national dish. Seafood is a common ingredient in coastal cities such as Sittwe, Kyaukpyu, Mawlamyaing (formerly Moulmein), Mergui (Myeik) and Dawei, while meat and poultry are more commonly used in landlocked cities like Mandalay. Freshwater fish and shrimp have been incorporated into inland cooking as a primary source of protein and are used in a variety of ways, fresh, salted whole or filleted, salted and dried, made into a salty paste, or fermented sour and pressed.
Burmese cuisine also includes a variety of salads (a thoke), centred on one major ingredient, ranging from starches like rice, wheat and rice noodles, glass noodles and vermicelli, to potato, ginger, tomato, kaffir lime, long bean, lahpet (pickled tea leaves), and ngapi (fish paste).
You’ll need a tourist visa to enter Myanmar, but the new E-Visa online system means it’s easier than ever.
It costs $50, is valid for 28 days in the country and best of all, you’ll likely find out if your application has been approved within a matter of hours.
Keep in mind that in order for your visa to be accepted, you must be arriving at Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw or Mandalay international airports.
Don’t forget to carry a printout of your acceptance letter when entering and leaving Myanmar.
An undiscovered gem of Southeast Asia, Myanmar is a country possessing a cultural wonderland, rich history, splendid nature and a huge mix of ethnic groups. Years of political isolation in the country has preserved a distinctive culture and welcoming locals, which makes Myanmar a vacation destination unlike any other you’ll ever experience.
This same isolation has also led to health and safety issues in the country for tourists.
Usually, tourists become sick mostly due to diseases spread through water and food. Fortunately, there are certain ways to make sure that you stay healthy during the tour and avoid contacting water and food related diseases such as typhoid, hepatitis A and E, and the common traveler’s diarrhea. Avoid consuming tap water and ice cubes. Purchase only sealed bottle of water, which is not expensive in Myanmar.
Usually, food in Myanmar would be cooked to order in front of you, so there is no need to avoid street food stalls completely. However, using caution when food has been sitting around is necessary, such as in a buffet. Only eat cooked vegetables and fruit that has a skin that can be peeled.
After years of respective insulation from the outside world, Myanmar has only recently opened its doors to foreign tourists. However, as far as the customs and traditions go the country isn’t completely opaque. As Myanmar, just like its neighbors Thailand Cambodia, is a culturally Mahayana Buddhist country, its citizens follow traditions and norms closely linked with the local religion. Just by following certain rules, one can make their way through Myanmar easily without offending the locals.
In Myanmar, tourist photographers can capture stupas and landscapes without any hesitation. However, before taking a shot of people, always ask permission first. Also, taking pictures of monks who are meditating is also considered quite disrespectful.
Make sure to not eat or pass on things using your left hand.
Offering things to people using your left hand is considered rude.
Most Burmese are devoted Buddhists, and though they will not impose their beliefs on tourists, it is expected of you to pay respect to their traditional practices. When visiting religious places, wear appropriate clothes and do not invade their space - don’t perturb meditating or praying people in temples and avoid touching the robes of a monk.
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