Authentic and extraordinary land, unspoiled by tourism. That’s Myanmar. One of the most Buddhistic countries in the world. If you are looking for an adventure and a higher level of traveling on your own, we promise that you will be excited by visiting Myanmar!
As soon as you enter Burma, you will feel like 100 years back in time. Locals aren’t used to tourists so far, so they are still very helpful, kind-hearted and curious!
Although not that many tourists visit Myanmar every year, tourism is slowly but surely developing there. So, don’t wait for anything and visit Myanmar as soon as you can – before Myanmar meets similar fate like Thailand, which is overcrowded by tourists.
Why should you visit Myanmar?
- Thousands of ancient temples, pagodas, and monuments. Nowhere else is such a big concentration of temples, monasteries and Buddha monuments. In Myanmar, there is the largest reclining Buddha in the world.
- Myanmar will enchant you with its kindness – Burmese are truly kindhearted and welcoming people. You will feel the contrast especially if you have spent some time in Thailand, Laos or Cambodia, before visiting Myanmar. (People in Thailand usually see you as a walking wallet…).
- Minimum tourists (so far) – Burma is one of the last countries in Southeast Asia that is not crowded by tourists yet. If you prefer places, where you don’t meet a bunch of tourists, Myanmar is the ideal destination for you.
- Photography paradise – historical sights and golden pagodas will not let you sleep – literally! Sunsets and sunrises are perfect in Myanmar landscape! I bet you will be waking up again and again to see these absolutely amazing sunrises.
- Beautiful, white sand palm beaches with turquoise water. Best of all, these beaches are literally empty! Their only visitors are sometimes children from nearby villages.
- Great for your budget – Myanmar is ideal for low-cost travels. Our entire month’s expenses, including visas, transport, food, accommodation and flight tickets from Bangkok did not exceed 600 USD! (2018)
- Back in time journey – Not literally, but you will feel like 100 years back in Myanmar. At least somewhere and in some situations. Despite the interesting mix of western impact (e.g. mobile operator advertisements, which are everywhere or KFC in the city), you’ll be able to see traditional crafts, cows in the middle of the city, sheep throughout the villages. Myanmar countryside looks like 150 years behind in time compared to the western world. Local people still live from fishing and live in bamboo chalets on the beach.
When to visit Myanmar?
The season in Myanmar is relatively long – from November to March. During this period is dry “winter”. Don’t misunderstand the expression “winter”. It’s still pretty warm (around 25-30° C) and truly dry. We didn’t experience a single drop during the whole month.
Summer season is in Myanmar from March to June – and it goes with unbearable heat.
Since June, the monsoon season starts and it ends by the October (it’s not the best idea to visit Myanmar during the rainy period, because it’s raining constantly).
Visa to Myanmar – EVISA
Classical electronic visa is the perfect choice if you plan to visit Myanmar for 28 days or less. EVISA cost $50 and is valid for 28 days. Within 3 days after the registration, you should receive a confirmation of your visa by e-mail. EVISA is valid only for single entry.
You should print out the confirmation of your visa (received by e-mail). You will show them at the airport upon arrival.
Attention: It’s necessary to choose a place (airport or land borders) where you will enter the country. You also need to fill in the address of your first accommodation!
Available Airports and land border crossings (to enter the country):
- Yangon (International Airport),
- Mandalay (International Airport)
- Nay Pyi Taw (International Airport)
- Tachileik (Thailand-Myanmar Ground Transition) *
- Myawaddy (Thailand-Myanmar Ground Transition)
- Kawthoung (Thailand-Myanmar Ground Transition)
- Tamu (Incicko-Myanmar Ground Transition)
- Rih Kwah Dar (Incicko-Myanmar Ground Transition)
* Read the conditions of the land border between Thailand and Myanmar
Visa: Exceeding length of stay
Staying longer in the country is not such a problem. You only need to pay 3 extra dollars a day. They collect the fee upon departure from Myanmar. The registration fee for this service is another $ 3.
Example: You stay the extra 5 days. Payment is going to be an additional $ 18 (5 × 3 USD + 3 dollars for a registration fee).
How to get to Myanmar?
The best way to get to Myanmar is via Bangkok. (You can find a return ticket from Europe for about 600 USD). For flights from Bangkok to Myanmar, we recommend searching though Momondo. A one-way ticket from Bangkok to Yangon costs around 50 USD.
Land Border crossing
Borders with China, Bangladesh, and Laos are currently closed for foreigners. Two Indian land border crossings are open. The current state at individual crossings can be found here.
Land borders with Thailand offer several options:
Be careful only with Mae Sai / Tachileik borders crossing – although foreigners are allowed to cross the border, there is a closed zone behind the Tachileik area. In case you want to continue through the zone, you will have to pay high fees for traveling through the closed area. That’s why we recommend taking another land border crossing.
On the way out of the country, there is one extra option via the: Phunaron / Htee Kee border crossing. You are not allowed to enter the country via this border, but you can leave Myanmar via Phunaron / Htee Kee border crossing without any problem. It’s the shortest way from Dawei to Bangkok. You can easily get to the nearest Thai town of Kanchanaburi by minibus (is cost about 80 THB).
There are not many options to choose in Myanmar. Forget Couchsurfing or Airbnb. Tourists are always required to stay in a licensed hotel or hostel with registration for foreigners. Camping is also prohibited, and it’s quite well guarded.
While accommodated in Myanmar ho(s)tel, you can expect breakfast in the morning. Quality and quantity vary ho(s)tel to ho(s)tel. Even a very small and cheap hostel can surprise you with a perfect breakfast. Prices for 1 room range from around 10,000 to 25,000 MMK per night (6 to 15 USD). You have to show your passport to check in at ho(s)tel.
There are some law exceptions for overnight stays in Myanmar:
- You are allowed to stay overnight in the monastery. For this stay is appropriate to leave at least a small contribution to the monastery.
- Homestays on multiple day treks (e.g. Kalaw – Inle lake).
Booking an Accommodation in Myanmar
The best page to book accommodation in Asia is Agoda.com. They usually have more offers than Booking and Agoda is also mostly cheaper than Booking. We used both. It’s always good to compare offers. Sometimes you won’t find certain ho(s)tel on either website. Then there is nothing easier than asking directly in the ho(s)tel (usually they do have a free room). It can be also cheaper to ask directly at the ho(s)tel. Plus you can ask for a discount (e. g. if you are staying for several nights).
Transportation in Myanmar
Transportation in Myanmar is crazy! Crazy and adventurous. I bet transportation will be one of the strongest experiences of your journey around Myanmar. In general, Myanmar does not have good quality roads – even though they are slowly but constantly constructing new ones.
Finding out which bus goes where can be difficult. If you properly ask several people around the bus station, where you can find your bus (going to XYZ), somebody will get you to the right bus. It’s good to research at least some information about your connections on the internet and write down the name of your destination. Having written name of the destination is your key to success (many cities are pronounced completely differently than written) – just show it on your mobile phone.
Note: Having a local SIM card with data is absolutely necessary. Traveling without the internet would take way longer.
Get ready – it will be a bumpy ride!
Traveling by Bus in Myanmar
You’ll be amazed by the differences among various type of buses you meet in Myanmar. We had a chance to take smelly cargo bus (1/3 for passengers and the rest for load) and on the other side, we ride also by 5-star bus with huge business class seats, food, blankets, headphones and drinks on board.
If you are traveling long distances, we recommend taking air-con buses. It’s definitely worth the comfort.
Dress warmly! The temperature in the bus is usually much lower than outside, so you can get easily sick. So please, take a jacket and long sleeves with you inside the bus.
Be prepared that there is not much to choose from if you want to visit more remote areas. For example, there is a dirt road between Mrauk-U and Bagan, well it has some asphalt base, but we wouldn’t survive without being wrapped in scarves to be able to breathe. It was so dusty that we had to shrug off centimeters of dust every then and now.
You won’t be starving while traveling by bus. There are several people with different snacks on their head, in their hand or in the basket on each bus stop. Bus stops and bus stations are usually placed directly by restaurant or stores. Stops are long enough to have a lunch or dinner there.
TIP: Ask for bus tickets already at your hotel. In most cases, you can purchase them at the reception desk and transportation from your hotel is usually included. The price of the ticket purchased at the reception desk is unlikely to vary from the ticket purchased at the bus station.
Be prepared for:
- Overnight buses – Night buses are very popular in Myanmar especially for long distances. Be prepared for early morning arrivals, it’s not an exception to arrive at 2-3 AM. The most usual arrivals are around 4-5 AM.
- Extraordinary “toilet” stops – especially in remote areas, while there is no restaurant or shop, the bus stops at the edge of the road. Woman go to one side of the bus and men go to the other side. To be honest, we were slightly surprised at the beginning.
- Burmese pop songs and shows – If you don’t want to listen to the “great” Burmese production don’t forget your headphones. There are TVs on some buses. They play only comedy shows. Don’t worry. Burmese comedies are so simple and unfussy that you have no problem to understand them even without any knowledge of Burmese…
- Long breaks/pauses – When the bus stops, it’s usually long. Often an hour-long lunch/dinner break.
- Tip for girls – if you are traveling to more remote areas (poor quality of roads), you will appreciate your sports bra (roads can be incredibly bumpy).
Crossing Myanmar national borders by bus
During longer journeys, you won’t avoid national borders. The process is simple: bus stops, everyone has to get out and show a passport or national ID. It takes longer, especially for foreigners. Customs officers often ask, where are you heading to, where is your hotel or how do you like Myanmar so far. It’s not complicated, it just takes time.
Waiting for a passport check at the national border …
Traveling by Train in Myanmar
Traveling by train is definitely an unconventional experience in Myanmar! We definitely recommend trying it. We were fascinated from the first ride! The lower the class you take the more authentic experience is. Ladies with a huge basket of corn on their heads are balancing without a problem in the crowded train. Vendors with all sorts of goods are walking through the train back and forth – there are definitely scenes to watch.
For longer rides, we recommend paying a few kyats more for the comfort of the first class, you will appreciate it. If you want to enjoy the view, do not be afraid to ask for the window seat.
TIP: Do not buy train tickets online, prices are 10x higher on the internet!
Traveling by Boat in Myanmar
Great option if you are already tired of bumpy roads. There is breakfast, lunch and snack included if it’s a longer cruise. We took a boat from Bagan to Mandalay. Although it was a long journey, there were things to watch by the river bank. You can admire for example temples on your arrival to Mandalay or unconventional life on the river banks.
Do not be afraid to haggle hard with the taxi drivers. Especially when they approach you on your way out of the bus. You can also use the Grab app to check the local price.
An ideal option for city travels! Grab is something like the Asian version of Uber. It’s a very popular and cheap way of transportation. We strongly recommend downloading this app into your phone. You can check the price in advance and avoid haggling with taxi drivers.
You can “Grab” either classic car or motorbike. Motorbikes are cheaper than cars. Great choice for solo travelers. If you are 2 or more, the car is always cheaper.
At the same time, I do not recommend paying through the application but in cash. Locals haven’t learned yet how does the system work, so they might ask you to pay again in cash.
Grab will be useful in other Asian countries as well.
Note: If Uber operates there as well, use Grab anyway. Grab is cheaper than Uber! Uber was actually more expensive than a regular taxi in some places!
Rent a motorbike, scooter or bike in Myanmar (Motorbike rental)
Why you shouldn’t be afraid to rent a motorbike in Myanmar:
We have never sat on a motorbike before we visited Asia and we were strongly against motorbike driving in the past. However, there are several times more motorbikes than cars and often it’s the only way to explore the surroundings. In addition, local roads don’t let anybody go faster than 40-50km/h.
So, in the end, we have rented 15 different motorbikes or scooters in Myanmar and it was great.
It costs around 10,000 MMK (6-7 USD) per day. Prices start at 6,000 MMK for e-bike in Bagan and go up to 10,000 MMK. A manual transmission is always a little bit cheaper than automatic. Gasoline will be roughly 2000-4000 MMK per day (depending on driving distance).
For example, rental of manual transmission motorbike in Dawei costs 8,000 MMK per day, automatic was for 9,000 MMK.
- Don’t forget to ask for a helmet.
- Your promise is usually enough as a deposit for a motorbike.
- They even don’t ask to see your driving license (it happened only once out of 15 cases to us).
- Don’t look for the classic gas stations – look for homes with gasoline bottles in front of them. Locals will be always willing to help you.
- Renting a bicycle cost around 2000 MMK/day (1,5 – 2 USD).
Food in Myanmar
Burmese cuisine doesn’t belong to the most renowned ones. Especially if you spent some time in Thailand or Vietnam, you will wish to go back quickly.
Myanmar street food offers various salty and sweet fried pancakes, rolls, balls – they fry nearly everything. We often ate noodles or soups (from 300 MMK). You can also get cooked corn, eggs, sweet rice in a banana leaf, piece of watermelon or other fruits.
In every restaurant, you will typically see several pots with curry (the local name for meat and sauce). Locals are usually able to tell you what pork, chicken or fish is that. You can simply point to a particular pot to choose your dish. Besides the meat, you will be served with rice and plenty other bowls of vegetables. It’s usually a nice feast.
If you are on the coast, we recommend you to try fresh fish or seafood. It’s usually very good, fresh and much better than frozen products that you can find in supermarkets (at least in the Czech Republic).
TIP: Go to restaurants crowded with locals. This is a very good sign of a good and cheap restaurant.
Breakfast depends on each ho(s)tel but usually, you can expect rice with an egg or soup and toast. Sometimes fruits might be served. Tea and coffee is a must.
If you love milk and dairy products, you will be disappointed. Basically, there is no way to find any (local people seem to miss certain digestive enzymes).
Money and currency
The official currency of Myanmar is Myanmar Kyat (MMK). By only 4 ATM withdrawals you become a millionaire.
1000 MMK is around 0,7 USD. The current exchange rate course can be found here.
Card payment is not accepted at the vast majority of places (except for some hotels). You can exchange cash in “money exchange offices”. US dollars and Thai Bahts can be exchanged without any problems.
We were withdrawing cash out of the ATMs. There are ATMs in the majority of Myanmar cities. However, if you are going to the countryside, it’s better to stock yourself with some cash.
Beware: ATMs in Burma allows you to withdraw a maximum of 300,000 MMK only. There is a universal withdrawal fee of 5,000 MMK. (No matter which ATM you chose.)
Beware #2: Do spend all your Burmese Kyats before leaving Myanmar! It’s nearly impossible to find an exchange office out of Myanmar. There should be one in Bangkok – SuperRich.
Approximate prices in Myanmar
|Examples of prices||USD||Kyat (MMK)|
|Lunch at the restaurant||1,5 – 2 USD||2000 – 3000 MMK|
|Street food||0,33 USD||500 MMK|
|Accommodation in a hotel with breakfast for 2||8-18 USD||12000 – 26000 MMK|
|3h Circular train in Yangon||0,13 USD||200 MMK|
|Taxi (45 minut)||4,3 USD||6500 MMK|
|Bus (16 h)||16 USD||24000 MMK|
|Train (4 h)||1 USD||1500 MMK|
|Motorcycle – 1 day||6,6 USD||10000 MMK|
|Water 5l||0,6 USD||1000 MMK|
|Piece of melon||0,2 USD||300 MMK|
|Chips||0,2 USD||300 MMK|
|Ice cream||0,13 USD||200 MMK|
|Entrance to monuments/temples||1,5 – 6,6 USD||2000 – 10000 MMK|
|7GB of data SIM card||8,5 USD||13000 MMK|
Backpacking budget for Myanmar
Our daily budget was approximately 20 USD per person. We traveled through Myanmar for 28 days and we spent approximately 560 USD in total. To have an idea about our travel style, here are a few examples. We went nearly to all Burmese interesting places, we were hiring motorbikes on regular basis, visiting sights and places of worship, we wandered around and took some excursions. We were choosing accommodation from cheaper ones on Agoda. We ate both, in restaurants and on the street as well.
There is an advantage of 2 people traveling together because you can always rent only one scooter/motorbike. Accommodation for 2 in one room is also cheaper.
Speaking from our experience, the majority of people in Myanmar are good ones, who don’t want to rip you off. And even if they put the price little bit higher, you won’t even notice that. While buying a street food or shopping in stores, it´s usually not necessary to bargain unless you are a haggling lover.
It’s good to ask for the price in advance! For example: if you already ate the food, you can no longer demand price.
It’s a completely different thing with taxi drivers! You should always try to haggle with them. Especially if they approach you first. It’s also good to ask for a discount if you want to stay in the chosen accommodation for several days.
As I spoke about good people, there might be an exception in the Inle Lake area which is already a bit touristy. A day-long boat trip with your personal boatmen can be bargained at 20,000 MMK. In general, you can apply the rule – the more touristy area – the more haggling will be needed.
TIP: If someone approaches you first with an offer of XYZ, take advantage of your negotiation position. Refuse offered price and put it lower. He/she came up with something you might not be interested, so take advantage of it.
Religion and Traditions in Myanmar
Myanmar is one of the most Buddhistic countries in the world. Thousands of temples, pagodas, and Buddha statues on every corner of this country. There are more than half a million monks and other 75,000 women living in the monasteries. Men are dressed in dark red robes, while women wear pink ones. Regular visits to the temples belong to the everyday life of Burmese people.
Notice: There is religious music playing during the night and early morning from pagodas every day (that’s why you should not forget your earplugs.
How to dress while visiting places of worship?
We should always have covered shoulders and knees while visiting temples, pagodas, or other religious sites. You are also not allowed to wear shoes neither socks. It’s common to leave your shoes at the entrance to the temple/pagoda.
If you want to take a picture of the Buddha, never turn your back to an image of Buddha. Your head also should be lower than his.
You will surely notice that local people often chew a strange thing. They usually have a red mouth and dirty teeth. That’s caused by betel. Betel is an easily available stimulant that is loved across whole Myanmar. It’s dry and chopped areca nut in a leaf of pepper with a limestone paste. Betel causes that people often have a red mouth and poor quality of teeth.
Thanaka – Myanmar traditional face paint
A more pleasant habit of Burmese is to use Thanaka. Women, men, small or big, young and old have been using this “cream” since ancient times. Thanaka cream is made by grinding wood of a Thanaka tree with a small amount of water. It’s used as make-up as well as sunscreen. Thanaka is applied together with a few drops of water.
Social TIP: To experience even more engagement with the locals, put some Thanaka on your face and you will see what happens. Locals were so excited to see us wearing Thanaka!
Avoid the cultural faux paux!
Girls beware of the power of your underwear! Now, we are not joking. If you want to have your clothes washed in the hostel, skip the underwear. Even a smiling nice old lady can start screaming at you. Burmese are very superstitious. Men believe that touching a woman’s pants will make them lose all their strength.
If you wash your laundry yourself, don’t hang it out of the room or to a string that is higher than person’s head. It’s very impolite as well.
Kissing is forbidden
Kissing in public is inappropriate in Myanmar. There is a kissing ban on trains and platforms. In general, we have hardly even seen any couples holding hands.
Security in Myanmar
Myanmar might have been a dangerous place to travel a few years ago, but things have changed. Although you might hear about some conflicts in the news, Myanmar is a safe area for tourists. You don’t even have a little chance to get into closed/restricted areas. Not even by mistake!
Burma is divided into several regions. There are regular checks and passport controls on regions borders. Everybody on a bus has to get out an went through check. Customs officers often want to know what your next destination and your planned accommodation is.
Diseases, hygiene, and recommended vaccination
Soon you will find out that Myanmar has not the best hygiene standards. That’s why don’t forget to pack hand sanitizer. Always have basic medications with you. Especially for digestive problems (e.g. Smecta, Endiaron, and others…).
Notice that tap water is not drinkable. Always buy bottled one.
Vaccination shouldn’t be underestimated. The basic vaccinations while traveling to Sout-East Asia should be Typhoid Fever and Hepatitis A and B. In case you are entering the country from a region with a high risk of Yellow Fever (typically from African countries), then vaccination against yellow fever is required.
Language and basic phrases
Burmese is a very complicated language because it has its own unique alphabet. Even numbers have their unique characters. If you learn at least a few basic phrases, you will surely conjure up smiles on faces of the locals. The absolute must know is:
- Greetings – Hello / Good day – Mingalaba
- Thank you (very much) – Jezuba (tembate)
Other useful phrases:
- You are welcome – Iabate
- O. K. – Okay
- How much does it cost? – Be lau le?
- Is it alright? (for example, take a picture) – Asem pi la?
The vast majority of Burmese people don’t speak a word in English. In larger cities or touristic areas, some of the local guides speak a little bit. There is usually someone, who speaks basic English in ho(s)tels. If you need something, you can find a picture of that thing in your mobile phone and simply show it. That usually works.
SIM card and mobile data in Myanmar
Tons of billboards and ads of mobile operators might spoil the authentic experience of some old villages, and rural areas. On the other hand, it means that Myanmar is pretty well covered by mobile signal and data availability. You can buy a SIM card nearly in every small shop on the street. Local people will gladly help you to choose the right one for you.
- Wait for the golden hour – photos of temples are the most beautiful in sunset/sunrise light.
- Wear polarized sunglasses, especially if you’re visiting coast (sea colors are incredible)!
- Download offline maps – Locus Map, Maps.me, or Mapy.cz
- Always ask for prices in advance.
- Prefer VIP (air-con) buses for longer journeys.
- Take a scarf to cover your face while traveling by an old bus (it might be incredibly dusty).
- Dress warmly for bus ride (it might be cold with air-con or during the night).
- Girls, wear a sports bra while traveling on the bus.
- Ask for a helmet when hiring a motorcycle.
- Do not wash women underwear in a ho(s)tel laundry and do hang in common areas above your head.
- Enter barefoot and keep covered shoulders and knees while visiting places of worship (pagodas, temples…)
- Travel adapter might be needed in Myanmar. They use several different types of sockets across the country. Sockets have the standard voltage of 230V with a frequency of 50Hz.
Remember – the smile is a universal greeting!
Interesting facts about Myanmar
- The majority of children all over Myanmar use Bye-Bye instead of hello. Someone probably taught them, that it’s universal greetings.
- Women and children are commonly working on constructions (Lot of men are monks in monasteries).
- They have plenty of cows everywhere but don’t have milk or dairy products.
- Valentine’ day is a BIG thing in Myanmar. Everybody is dressed in red color. It seems to be the only day you can see couples holding hands, etc.
- People carry everything you can imagine on their heads.
- Burmese are a very noisy nation, they scream at each other and quarrel in public.
- In general, there are nearly no traffic rules (larger or pushier vehicle goes first).
- They drive on the right side of the road, but most vehicles have steering wheels also on the right.
- Locals stop foreigners to take pictures with them.
What to visit in Myanmar?
This article aimed to give you a bigger picture and comprehensive guide for all travelers, who are planning to visit Myanmar. Are you interested what are the best places to visit in Myanmar? We prepared details guide which is coming soon!
I want to go!
Are you decided? Great, just find a flight ticket:
Would you like to ask some further questions? We will be happy to help you!
Have you been to Myanmar and would you like to update any information? Write us an e-mail!