Since opening its doors to the world in 2011, the tourism industry in Myanmar (also known as Burma) has developed rapidly. Yangon and Mandalay are two of the country’s biggest hitters on the travel circuit and yet, Myanmar remains the most authentic destination in Southeast Asia. The people are extraordinarily kind and welcoming and added to this, the incredible scenery and fascinating historical sites, and the embodiment of Asian charm and enchantment is all wrapped up in one holiday to Myanmar. Here are some things to note before your stay.
Packing for Myanmar
Packing for Myanmar can be a challenge – on the whole Myanmar is very hot, so sunscreen and light clothing are both a must, but in Inle and the mountains, the mercury dips and mornings and evenings can get extremely chilly. It’s wise to pack a fleece and clothes you can layer. Bugs are ever-present and insect repellent will be your best friend, especially in the evenings. Sleeveless tops, shorts and miniskirts are not allowed in temples and shoes and socks must be removed before entry. Hand sanitizer is useful to have around for feet and hands that are dusty from sightseeing.
For many years Burma was a black hole in a hyper-connected world and it was difficult to get in contact with home during a stay here. Today, the arrival of international operators means you can generally use your mobile phone normally, but it’s worth checking with your operator before departure. Many visitors to the country buy a SIM card on arrival to use during their stay. The internet, while not always fast, does work in hotels.
Currency and Tips
The local currency is kyat. ATMs are available in major hotels and airports, but most are in Yangon and Mandalay. You can pay via credit card in hotels and some shops, but there is a charge to do so. A taxi into town during the day costs around 1,500 kyat and up to 5,000 in the evening. Your guides and drivers, though already organised through us, generally expect a tip – the equivalent of £6 for a guide per day per person and £2 for the driver is a good guideline.
Around £1-£2 to porters and housekeeping staff is sufficient. Tipping isn’t expected in restaurants, but if you feel the service was good, 10% of the bill is ideal. You should tip in kyat if you're leaving a tip. Taxis are not metered, so it is best to fix the amount for journeys in advance.
The gems on offer in Myanmar are beautiful and if you’re in the market for some bling, make sure to buy from a serious jeweller. They’ll be able to provide you with a certificate of authenticity, so you can head home safe in the knowledge you’ve bagged the real thing.
If you’re making a domestic trip during your stay, the easiest way is by air. Planes are scheduled early in the morning, usually between 7am and 9am. There are not always electronic boards at provincial airports – keep watch for a hostess, who will appear and shout the destination of the aircraft. Crossing borders in Myanmar isn’t difficult – the customs process is generally straightforward and tourists are considered trustworthy.
Myanmar has some of Southeast Asia’s friendliest people and with its sparkling pagodas that dot the skyline, incredible greenery, next-level food and historic treasures, pockets of magic and serenity are hidden everywhere. There’s a raw, undiscovered beauty about the country that will captivate you from the moment you land until it’s time to take off.