Traveling is a positive experience for everyone, and it allows us to experience other cultures and open our eyes when it comes to our own.
It has been said that the more we travel, the more experience and therefore, the more we learn.

Myanmar offers one of the world’s best travel experiences. The country has a rich culture vastly different to that of the west, unique traditions that have stood the test of time, majestic religious monuments and a fascinating, if at times tragic, history. The landscapes are diverse, from pristine beaches to towering mountains, and the people are diverse as well with more than 300 ethnic groups residing within Myanmar’s borders. And the gentle nature and warm hospitality of the locals never fails to impress visitors. There truly is something for everyone.

There is also no better time to come and experience Myanmar. The country is undergoing a slow but noticeable transition, bringing about positive improvements for locals and visitors alike.

Infrastructure improvements: Roads are being upgraded, airports are being expanded and new hotels are opening everywhere. Although power cuts are still a part of daily life, they are shorter and less frequent than in the past.

Communications improvements: A few years ago, staying in touch with friends and family back home was virtually impossible for visitors. These days the internet has vastly improved and internet cafes are everywhere. International telecommunication companies are working on improving mobile phone coverage, creating affordable SIM cards and opening international roaming for the first time.

New destinations: The government has been lifting travel restrictions on remote areas, allowing foreigners to now explore new corners of the country.

Growing cultural scene: With censorship all but eliminated, Myanmar’s arts scene has exploded in recent years. Yangon and Mandalay, in particular, are home to dozens of art galleries and live music concerts, stage performances and lectures are held with regular frequency.

However with growth does come some negative effects: slowly western-influence is spreading in to the daily life with an increasing number of people shunning the traditional Myanmar longyi for jeans. Historic buildings are being torn down to make way for new, high-rise buildings. Popular tourist sites are seeing more and more tour buses.

To put it simply, if you are interested in an untouched culture, beautiful architecture, witnessing an incredible mix of people and ethnic tribes, and want to see the ‘real’ Asia, give Myanmar a go. Now is the time and we’re confident that you’ll love it! A trip to Myanmar is more than a holiday; it’s an experience to be remembered forever.

We wish you a truly inspirational journey!

                 

 

The Union of Myanmar is one of the most racially diverse countries on the planet. Home to roughly 60 million people with an average density of about 70 people per square kilometre, Myanmar is a cultural melting pot with outside influences from neighbouring countries of India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. The influence of these countries, combined with local customs and traditions, have formed the culture of the Burmese people that has stood the test of time – lasting for over 2000 years.

The vast majority of the residents of Myanmar, around 70%, are Bamar, the term used for ethnic Burmese. The remaining 30% of the population is comprised of a 135 different ethnic groups. Whilst many of the city-dwellers may blend together in their daily activities, in the countryside and rural areas you will find an incredible mix of cultures and traditions untouched by time.

The predominate culture of Myanmar today is based on the strong influences of Buddhism and Mon culture. The surrounding countries, including India, China and Thailand have all played an important role in shaping the country’s culture throughout time. In recent history, the British colonised region leaving its unique stamp on the cultures of Myanmar.

Burmese artwork is heavily influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism, and various statues and images of the Buddha portray unique characteristics. Dance also plays a significant role in the culture of the Burmese, with many of the traditional dances influenced by neighbouring Thailand. Myanmar also features a variety of traditional musical instruments and orchestras, with a sound that is atypical when compared with the local music of other regions.

The Burmese love a good festival and occasions such as weddings, Buddhist noviation ceremonies and full moon days are joyfully celebrated with colourful outfits accompanied usually by food, music and dance. One of the most popular events to take place throughout the year is Thingyan, a five-day event which celebrates the coming lunar New Year. While Thingyan is an important in a religious sense, it is also a great party with plenty of revelry and water throwing.

Food and dining also play an important role in Myanmar culture. In fact, a common greeting is ‘saa pi bii?’ which translates in to ‘Have you eaten yet?‘. Meals are a time for friends and family to gather together and chit chat and even the humble tea shop is central to a town’s business and social scene. Given the incredible mix of cultures of the tribes and races which have come to settle in Myanmar over the years, the local food has adapted to create an incredible mix of Thai, India and Chinese cooking. This delicate mix has come together to form Myanmar’s own exquisite cuisine.

The best way to sum up the culture in Myanmar is complete and utter diversity. It would be impossible to define the Burmese culture on its own, as 135 races and ethnic groups with vastly different backgrounds form the makeup of Myanmar’s culture.

We hope you are getting excited about your upcoming holiday in Myanmar. Before you pack your bags, here is some useful information for your preparations as well as what to expect whilst traveling through the Golden Land.

Airport
BAGGAGE REGULATIONS

Baggage allowance on domestic flights is limited to 20 kg. A fee of maximum 3 USD per kg is charged for excess luggage but most of the time, if it is only a few kilograms extra, the airline waves this fee. Excess luggage can be left in Yangon hotels for collection on return from upcountry. Passengers are permitted one piece of hand luggage which should have a maximum length of 56 cm (22 inches), width of 45 cm (18 inches) and depth of 25 cm (10 inches) including all handles, side pockets, wheels etc. However, in practise these regulations are not followed properly.

AIRPORT TAXES
The domestic airport tax (1000 Kyats) and the international airport tax (10 USD) are included in the air ticket and is not needed to be paid at the airport when checking in.

ARRIVAL FORMALITIES

After arrival at Yangon International Airport queue up at the immigration counters with a filled-out arrival card and your passport with your visa stamped inside. After passing immigration, collect your luggage from the luggage belt and proceed to the customs counter. Hand over your filled-out customs form to the officer. Note that mobile phones and laptops are no longer kept in storage on arrival as is still written in some guidebooks and websites.

If you choose the visa on arrival option, you will have to queue up at the visa on arrival counter and present the 2 approval letters from the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Immigration previously sent by us. Someone from the Immigration department will be there to assist you and give your visa application form and passport picture at the counter. Please note that the guide is not allowed to access the area near the visa counter and will wait for you after the luggage belt and customs counter. Please contact your sales consultant for more information on visa on arrival.

Best Time to Travel

Myanmar is tropical and influenced by the monsoons and there are distinct 3 seasons. Travel is possible throughout the year however it is better to plan your trip to some places with the following in mind:

Best travel time is the winter (November – February) when it is dry and rather cool (20-30°C) and little humidity. It seldom rains in these months. In the mountain areas of the Shan and Chin states, it can get very cold at night and the northern state of Kachin often experiences snow during this period. Warm clothing is advised for those travelling to Myanmar during this period, particularly as some hotels and restaurants are not well insulated.

The hot season (March – May) temperatures are in the range 30-35°C. Some places become extremely hot. Bagan and Mandalay reach temperatures up to 45°C while the Shan & Chin states may still have comfortable temperature around 20°C to 30°C. However it is very pleasant in the mountains during this period. This is the best season for trekking in the mountains or a boat trip at the Gulf of Bengal.

Rainy season (May – October) has temperatures between 25-35 °C with high humidity. In the evenings temperature falls to 20 °C. But in the north and central Burma the temperature falls to as low as 10 °C. The South West monsoon during this time brings heavy rainfalls, mostly on the coast. It is advisable to avoid coastal areas during these months. There is rain in upper Myanmar at this time but not nearly as much. The rain greens everything and nature lovers find this the best time to visit.

Communication
INTERNET

Although dramatically better than in years passed, Internet access in Myanmar can still be frustratingly slow for visitors. In main cities such as Yangon and Mandalay the connections are faster and more consistent than in Inle Lake, Bagan and other more rural areas. Internet cafes and access at the hotel is common and WIFI is becoming available in some restaurants and cafes. The price is very reasonable, usually less than 1USD per hour, but be prepared to wait when loading or sending emails.

MOBILE PHONES
Myanmar has started to implement international roaming agreements with some overseas telecommunication providers. Please check before your trip with your telecommunication provider if you can use your mobile phone in Myanmar. Otherwise, your handset and SIM card from your home country will not work.

In October 2014, two new international companies have launched telecom networks and the price of SIM cards dropped dramatically. However the network is still relatively underdeveloped and thus often overloaded. International dialing is expensive but incoming calls are free of charge.

POST/MAIL
Myanmar’s mail services are behind the times like many other aspects of Burmese industry. While the mail system is quite affordable it can be unreliable and on occasion mail can be lost. If you happen to buy anything valuable while in Myanmar it is not recommended that you mail it home but rather take it home with you when you depart the country.

If you purchase anything that you absolutely need to ship back as opposed to bring with you on the plane we recommend using a reputable courier such as DHL. DHL is reliable but has its price. If you happen to purchase an extremely large or heavy item there are options for shipping it however you will have to consult your guide as to those options if the situation should arise

DOs and DON’Ts
When visiting Myanmar, there are some customs and beliefs that travelers should be aware of before coming to the country in order to avoid offending any of the locals.

Here are some helpful hints to keep in mind whilst visiting:

– Never wear shoes and socks inside a pagoda or monastery, as they are not allowed, although some monasteries allow footwear in the grounds. When visiting someone’s home, shoes should always be left at the door. You should also remember that carpets, mats and other kinds of floor covering are meant to be sat upon, so should avoid walking on them especially with your shoes on.
– Myanmar dress is conservative; therefore visitors should avoid wearing anything alluring in public. In a pagoda, men and women should avoid wearing sleeveless shirts or revealing clothing.
– Do not step over the body of anyone else. But if you must, always ask to be excused first.
– When you offer something to a monk or nun or an elderly person, use both hands. With others, apart from casual transactions at shops or food stalls use your right hand or both hands in order to be polite in the case of giving or receiving gifts, etc.
– Monks and nuns should not be touched. Women should be careful not to let any part of their body touch a monk’s robes.
– Do not lose your temper. Furthermore, touching someone older than you on the head may also be interpreted as an act of aggression and should be avoided.
– Please ask before taking photos of people, particularly monks
– Avoid posing or sitting with Buddhist images
– Don’t point your feet at anybody or anything. As well, be sure not to sit with your feet pointed at a Buddha image (sit cross-legged or with your legs tucked behind you)
– Learn a few words of the Myanmar language. It is always greatly appreciated!
– Do not show affection in public.
– Do not give money directly to a monk.
– Do not step voluntarily on a monk’s shadow.
– Do not accept any kinds of drugs here. Penalties for drug-trafficking range from five years’ imprisonment to a death sentence.

Domestic Airlines

We use the following five domestic airlines:

– Yangon Airways (private airline)
– Air Bagan (private airline)
– Air Mandalay (private airline)
– Asian Wings (private airline)
– Air KBZ (private airline)
– Maan Yadarnapon (private airline)
– Golden Myanmar Airways (private airline)

Each of Myanmar’s airlines operates with different flight schedules depending on the time of year. All seven airlines fly French-Italian ATR turboprop planes (Avions de Transports Régionaux), a type of plane well suited for the local conditions, airports and distances. The configuration is either 40 seats (ATR-42) or 70-seats (ATR 72) in rows of 4 seats with a middle aisle. Entry-exit is at the back of the plane. Standard one-class configuration; there is no business class on Myanmar domestic airlines.

MYANMA AIRWAYS:
Myanma Airways (not to be confused with Myanmar Airways International) is a national government owned airline for the nation of Myanmar. For the purposes of security Myanmar Diaries only uses private airlines and never Myanmar Airways. Their aircrafts are old and have a very poor reputation for being in disrepair. If passengers insist on flying Myanma Airways (if for example no other airline is flying to that destination), passengers will be asked to sign a liability waiver.

Electricity

Myanmar uses 230V, 50Hz AC. Blackouts are more the rule than the exception especially from December to June every year. This is the time that people use electricity on quota basis. However, all international tourist class hotels have backup generators to provide electricity when power is cut. In simpler hotels in remote and off the beaten track areas as well as at some hotels at the beaches, especially in Ngwe Saung, generators do often not run 24h.

It is recommended that you bring an international electrical adaptor to recharge your camera batteries and other devices. The power plugs and sockets used in Myanmar are mostly two-pin (rounded) and three-pin British style (both rounded and flat) but you also find other types.

Embassies in Yangon

The following is a list of foreign embassies and consulates in Yangon, Myanmar:

AUSTRALIA
No. 88 Strand Road, Kyauktada Township
Yangon, Myanmar
Tel: +95 (0) 1 251810, 251797, 251798
Fax: +95 (0) 1 246159
Website: http://www.burma.embassy.gov.au

FRANCE
No. 102 Pyidaungsu Yeiktha Road, Dagon Township
Yangon, Myanmar
Tel: +95 (0) 1 212520, 212178
Fax: +95 (0) 1 212527
Website: http://www.ambafrance-mm.org

GERMANY
No. 9 Bogyoke Aung San Museum Road, Bahan Townhsip
Yangon, Myanmar
Tel: +95 (0) 1 548951-2
Fax: +95 (0) 1 548899
Website: http://www.rangun.diplo.de

ITALY
No. 3 Inya Myaing Road, Golden Valley, Bahan Township
Yangon, Myanmar
Tel: +95 (0) 1 527100-1
Fax: +95 (0) 1 514565
Website: http://www.ambyangon.esteri.it/ambasciata_yangon

UNITED KINGDOM
No. 80 Strand Road, Kyauktada Township
Yangon, Myanmar
Tel : +95 (0) 1 380322, 370863, 370867, 371852
Fax: +95 (0) 1 370866
Website: http://www.ukinburma.fco.gov.uk/en

U.S.A.
No. 110 University Avenue, Kamayut Township
Yangon, Myanmar
Tel : +95 (0) 1 536509, 535756, 538038
Fax: +95 (0) 1 511069
Website: http://burma.usembassy.gov

Emergency Service in Myanmar
MYANMAR DIARIES 24 HOURS EMERGENCY NUMBERS(German, English)
From Myanmar: 09-250 388 006

From abroad: +95 (0)9 250 388 006

CONTACT ADDRESS
Myanmar Diaries – Myanmar
No. 16, 6th Floor, U Aung Myat Street,
Tha Pyae Gone, Yangon – Myanmar

Telephone: +95-(0)1 86 19 201
Fax: +95-(0)1 86 19 202
Web: http://www.myanmar-diaries.com

Your home embassy may be able to assist with advice during emergencies or serious problems. You might want to register if possible before you arrive so that the embassy staff will know where to reach you in case of emergency at home. If calling a Myanmar emergency number you may have to ask the aid of a Burmese speaker because there might not be an English-speaking operator on the line:

Ambulance: 192
Fire department: 191
Police: 199
Red Cross: (01) 392029 / 30

Food

Given the incredible mix of cultures of the tribes and races which have come to settle in Myanmar over the years, the local food has adapted to create an incredible mix of Thai, India and Chinese cooking. This delicate mix has come together to form Myanmar’s own exquisite cuisine. Curry is one of the most common dishes served in Myanmar, always with a serving of steamed rice. The food in Myanmar differs immensely depending on the region.

Here are some of our favourites!
• Shan Noodles – sticky rice noodles topped with tomato sauce with sesame and peanuts and your choice of chicken or pork.
• Butterfish Curry – made with a local freshwater fish.
• LahpetThoke– Pickled tealeaves served with fried nuts and beans.
• Bachelor Chicken Curry- an Indian-influence chicken dish
• And the country’s national dish, Mohinga – rice noodles in fish broth, chick pea and lemongrass soup

Gay and Lesbian Travellers

While Myanmar isn’t often considered a top gay and lesbian travel destination, gay and lesbian tourists can still be accepted and not face any forms of discrimination while in the country. The country is home to a small gay community, especially in and around Yangon but can be somewhat closed. However, there are a number of places where gays and lesbians can get together openly. Most Burmese follow Theravada Buddhism, as do Thais. This brand of Buddhism openly accepts individuals for who they are, and unlike Christianity which places a high value on the relationship between a man and a woman, does not actively discourage homosexuality. Theravada Buddhism has therefore created a society in Myanmar where individuals are accepted for who they are.

Myanmar does not have any laws against homosexuality and there have been no reports of anyone arrested for homosexual behavior. In most cases, a local woman walking with a man will likely raise more eyebrows than two men sharing a room. Even in the furthest reaches of the country, many of Myanmar’s ethnic groups are still highly tolerant of gays and lesbians. However, in areas where the dominant religion is Christian or Islam, some may object to homosexuality, but this forms a very small minority.

Gemstones

Myanmar has long been regarded as a rich source of rare gems and precious stones for hundreds of years. Some of the renowned precious stones to be found in the country included pigeon-blood rubies and imperial jade. Visitors who purchase precious stones do so at their own risk based purely on their own judgment.

Myanmar Diaries does not accept any responsibility for gem and antique purchases, although “recommendations” may be made by our guides or by your sales consultant on request. When purchasing precious stones and gems in Myanmar, a relative guarantee for the quality of an item is the presence of an official receipt and certificate, which is issued by dealers licensed by the government. While the prices in the certified stores are higher, the product is generally more authentic and can be returned if you are unhappy with the purchase. Purchasing at a government-licensed dealer will also provide travellers with the appropriate documentation to carry the gems or precious stones out of the country, as the exportation of such goods without the appropriate documents is illegal.

Getting Around

While Myanmar is a large and diverse country with many wonderful places to see and lots of things to do its infrastructure is poor and transportation system can be very slow at times. Roads are often also very bumpy due to poor maintenance in rural areas. Also many routes, especially the mountainous areas of Myanmar, are closed due to conflicts with neighboring countries or tribal groups. These policies can be changed often so make sure to check with us before planning your trip for the latest information on what is occurring with regard to the opening and/or closing of borders or roads.

Another important factor affecting the ability to travel within the country of Myanmar is the weather. During heavy rainfall many roads can close down; so traveling to Myanmar during the dry seasons when weather is pleasant is a great idea.

Travel within the country is pretty much unrestricted in the for tourists accessible areas. You may travel freely without being questioned. Some remote areas are however restricted to foreigners and need permission to be arranged a few weeks before arrival. Some areas such as Putao or Mrauk U have recently been opened to tourists again. Please be aware that the situation might change according to the political situation.

Some methods of local transport are still powered directly by people such as the trishaw or horses, although there are many places to rent a bicycle if you would prefer that. Taxis and other modes of travel are available for long journeys within Myanmar.

Myanmar Diaries recommends traveling by air, some public buses, riverboat or private vehicle for long distances. Domestic flights are arranged only with Myanmar’s privately owned airlines that are very well regulated. All cars used on tours are air-conditioned (except very rural areas such as Mrauk U). Other vehicles such as jeeps, vans, coaches and buses are available upon request. There will also be the opportunity for you to charter a ferry and/or a cruise ship.

BUSES
Tourist buses in Myanmar are roomy and are air-conditioned making travel on them comfortable. Taking a local non-tourist bus can be a fun experience for a short period but be aware that they tend to be very full, unsafe and uncomfortable. Some VIP night coaches between Yangon-Mandalay, Yangon – Shwe Nyaung (Inle lake) and Bagan – Shwe Nyaung (Inle lake) are very comfortable with reclining seats, good service and toilets on board. Furthermore, the cost of traveling by local bus in Myanmar is very affordable in comparison to flights.

TRAINS
Myanmar’s railway network comprises 2900 miles of railway track and 550 train stations. Traveling by train in Myanmar can be very enjoyable and scenic, especially if you are a fan of trains. However the ride on trains in Myanmar can be on the other hand very bumpy due to bad but steadily improving rail conditions at times and be prepared for delays caused by any number of reasons.

– The Yangon – Mandalay line has the least problems of staying on schedule of any train.
– The Hsipaw-Mandalay (150 km) is very popular and offers some of the most stunning views ever. (Paul Theroux managed to do this back when foreigners weren’t supposed to, in his book The Great Railway Bazaar).
– Kalaw – Shwe Nyaung (Inle) offers beautiful views over the mountainous landscapes of the Shan State.
– Most of the other lines are slower and are less comfortable and are not desirable to travel on.

Trains that travel long distances have dining cars that are accessible to passengers traveling by first, upper and sleeper class. It is also possible to order food from your seat and have it brought to you but food quality is very poor. There is also the opportunity to buy food from vendors on the platforms when the train stops which happens quite frequently.

CARS
This is by far the most convenient and scenic way to travel in Myanmar except walking. The cost of renting a car however might be more expensive than one would think due to a shortage in gasoline and car parts in Myanmar. The cost of renting a car for drive between cities is between $100 and $190 US dollars. Bear in mind that you cannot drive a car in Myanmar and if you do so it could cause some problems with local authorities. Myanmar Diaries can propose a vast array of automobiles available for you to choose from for your drive. These vehicles are in good condition and have air conditioning.

Among the most popular and reliable rental cars in the country are second-hand, reconditioned Toyota Corona hatchbacks imported from Japan from 1988. Cars that are slightly more up to date are Toyota Chasers (from 1990 to 1992). Myanmar also produces its own Mazda jeeps – MJs – 80% local parts. These jeeps are great for off-roading.

BOAT
A cruise on the Ayeyarwaddy River is often on the ‘wish list’ of visitors. These range from multi-day luxury cruises to simple one-day trips. Some of the key routes include:

– Mandalay to Bagan – on IWT (Government ferries) or privately-owned boats such as Malikha or RV Shwe Keinnery. Charter boats are also available for rent such as MS Hintha or RV Yandabo.
– Myitkyina to Mandalay via Bhamo – Operated by a number of privately owned speed boasts and IWT ferries.
– Mawlamyine to Hpa-An – Small private boats of IWT ferries
– Sittwe to Mrauk U – Small private boats of IWT ferries

In addition to river cruising, the southern Mergui Archipelago is an increasingly popular place for live-aboard cruising with the option of adding scuba diving around the islands.

LUXURY BOATS
For more affluent travel on newer vessels, some luxury boats operate in the upper and lower regions of the Ayeyarwaddy River. We offer cruises of between one and 14 nights along the river between the cities of Yangon and Mandalay. Please check with your sales consultant about the latest programs.

Getting there and away
BY AIR

Direct flights to Myanmar are still relatively difficult to find but tend to be more and more. However, many travelers from all corners of the globe can still generally fly to Yangon or Mandalay with one stop. The country is home to three international airports situated at Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw.

BY LAND
Despite the country sharing a land border with China, Thailand, India, Bangladesh and Laos, the only land-border crossings can take place with Thailand and China. Fees for the border crossing do apply and special permissions by the ministry of tourism and immigration are needed for most borders. Please contact your sales consultant.

BY RIVER AND SEA
Travelers cannot enter Myanmar by seas or river.

Guides in Myanmar

While traveling in Myanmar with Myanmar Diaries there are a couple different types of guides that will bring you knowledge and guidance on your journey:

THROUGHOUT GUIDES
These guides accompany you throughout your entire journey through Myanmar from arrival to departure. You can of course go some places such as the beach without the throughout guide. Throughout guides are highly recommended by Myanmar Diaries because they possess a perfect command of the native tongue and also have familiarity with Myanmar’s landscape and cultural norms. Our throughout guides are extremely polite and seek to provide you with the tools you need to experience Myanmar from the tallest Pagoda to the smallest village. Your throughout guide will be with you every step of the way!

STATION GUIDES
A station guide meets you at a specific destination within Myanmar such as Inle Lake or another area. Station guides are particularly knowledgeable about the area in which they are stationed and will accompany you from their area to your next destination before traveling back to their post. Many tour guides have thick accents but all speak English.

If you require a guide to speak something other than English we have to provide a throughout guide from Yangon. Station guides only speak English. Please notify us ahead of time.

Health

If you travel to Myanmar prepared your chances of becoming ill are very low. Make sure that you have that all of your vaccinations are current and that you are vaccinated for Tetanus, Polio and Diphtheria. Other vaccines recommended include Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B (if you are in-country for over 3 months), Typhus and Tuberculosis, vaccinations against rabies and Japanese encephalitis are also advised. Officially there are no vaccinations required to enter Myanmar. However, any travels from West Africa, Central Africa, Central America or South America need to present vaccinations records against Yellow Fever upon arrival but this is often overlooked by the authorities.

HEALTH ADVICE
– Drink plenty of fluids during the day (2 liters).
– Do not drink tap water in Myanmar. Only bottled water is drinkable.
– Do not eat unpeeled fruits, raw vegetables and ice.
– Wash your hands frequently
– Most important: Trust your gut feeling. If you don’t like your food stop eating and do a double take when eating from street vendors.

Import and Export Restrictions
IMPORTS

Any time you bring in over USD 10.000 you are required to declare the currency to Myanmar officials, however many people do not. If you bring any expensive electronics or other equipment it is best to declare these items when you enter the country just in case they are lost or stolen (very rare) during your trip.You may bring up to two bottles of liquor, a bottle of perfume, 2 cartons of cigarettes, 100 cigars. You must be at least 17 years of age to proceed through customs.

EXPORTS
The export of playing cards or other gambling equipment, antiques, anything to do with archaeology or pornography is prohibited. Furthermore, Myanmar does not allow the export of any of its currency when leaving the country. You may bring in and exit with as much foreign currency as you like but you must declare it (if over USD 10.000). Be sure to keep track of all your spending with receipts wherever possible to avoid being accused of black market activities when you return home.

You are not allowed to export ANY of the following items: Old coins, fossils, jewelry or precious stones (unless a certified purchase), bronze or brass, antiques, wooden art over 24 inches tall or wide, frescoes or inscribed stones, any sort of national paraphernalia.

Insurance

When travelling to any foreign country it is a very good idea to carry traveller’s medical insurance. If you do happen to become ill or injured while on vacation without insurance the bills can become very expensive very quickly.

Myanmar can be an especially expensive place to become ill in light of the fact that sometimes patients will need to be air lifted to Thailand or Singapore from Myanmar in order to receive the best care. Such airlifts can cost upwards of $25,000.00 so it is very important that you have the proper insurance before travelling to Myanmar.

If there is such an emergency and you have no insurance the company responsible for medical transportation will not help you whatsoever. Make sure to receive physical evidence (a signed document) attesting to your coverage prior to leaving for Myanmar.

Money Matters
MONEY
Myanmar’s currency is called the Kyat, pronounced “chat” and the coins are called pya. Bills that represent Kyats are broken down into 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5000 and 10,000 Kyats denominations. Please be aware that the Kyat is a non-convertible currency and cannot officially be exchanged abroad. The official exchange rate in Myanmar is around 960 Kyats = 01 USD (as of June 2014).

Tourists are entitled to exchange money (US Dollars, Singapore Dollars and Euros) at the current market rate at the airport or at any licensed money changer on presentation of your passport. Please ask your tour guide for assistance.

USD
All USD brought into Myanmar must be in pristine condition. The slightest wear or mark or blueprint could make these bills worthless to a potential exchanger. The value of your money can actually be diminished based solely on the physical condition of it, so always carry crisp currency when entering the country.

Make sure that paper notes are not marked or stamped IN ANY WAY. Pencil marks can be removed but any permanent marks will adversely impact a note’s value or cause it to be rejected altogether. Do not have any creases or fold lines as this will also decrease a note’s value. Make sure that your bills are current US currency; none of the older variations such as those depicting smaller images of presidents. Make sure that if you are carrying $100 bills that their serial numbers do not begin with CB as this will possibly result in the bill’s rejection. $100 bills yield the best exchange rate while smaller denominations are slightly more expensive to exchange.

EURO
The Euro is rarely used in Myanmar, even at major hotels, and thus visitors travelling with Euro will need to convert their cash to Myanmar Kyats. There is no problem to exchange Euros into Kyats in big tourist destinations such as Yangon or Mandalay however it is very difficult to exchange Euros into USD. We suggest to exchange your Euros into Kyats upon arrival in Myanmar or to exchange Euros for USD before you enter the country.

CREDIT CARDS AND ATMS
The network of ATM machines covers the most visited cities in Myanmar by tourists and business travelers. Maximum amount per withdrawal is MMK 300,000 and daily maximum amount of withdrawal is MMK 1,000,000 subject to the limit set up by the issuing bank. The ATMs charge a small fee of MMK 5000 or equivalent for each transaction. Some visa cards are restricted by the issuing bank for oversea usage and therefore, customers may require seeking the approval of the issuing bank in order to do so.

Credit Cards are accepted by a few vendors- usually high-end hotels or shops. However, they usually entail a 5-10% surcharge and do not always work.
Please note that the banking system is still developing and the ATMs and Credit Cards should not be relied upon as the sole source of cash for your holiday.

TRAVELLER CHECKS
Traveller checks are not accepted in Myanmar.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE CERTIFICATES (FECS)
These certificates are no longer in use in Myanmar and were abolished as of March 2013. Some guidebooks may still carry wrong information.

BARGAINING
In Myanmar you are expected to bargain. So do so freely but respectfully. Keep a smile on your face, be realistic about the expected discount and if the vendor does not reach your final price do not push him or her too hard.

TIPPING
Tipping was unknown in Myanmar until tourists started coming to the shores. These days, people such as workers who help you with luggage at the airports and in hotels have grown accustomed to getting a tip from tourists. The same goes for tour guides and the drivers. There is a concept in Myanmar called ‘tea money’ which is similar to tipping; if a local helps you out like taking you somewhere or finds an important person for you they would be looking for you to provide a small amount of tea money for their help. It’s probably wise to always have some small change in Kyat handy for when these occasions arise.

Sometimes when visiting pagodas and monasteries you might be asked to make a donation. It is up to you whether to or not. The people of Myanmar are usually generous to the extent their finances allow. The amount depends on you but it might be around 100 – 500 Kyats.

Here is a general rule of thumb for tipping:

Guides:
about $5-$7 per day per person for a throughout guide.
about $3-$5 per day per person for an English station guide.

Drivers (car and boat): $2 per person per day is average.
Porters: 500 Kyats per bag is sufficient.
Restaurants: between 5% of the bill is usual.

Restricted Areas

In Myanmar it is important to take note of areas that are off limits to the foreign travelers. However, you may be able to visit these restricted places with a special authorization that Myanmar Diaries can provide. Please be aware that some permits might take several weeks to be approved and we ask your patience while we apply for these permissions. Many land routes to distant areas are also closed (e.g. Mrauk U, Putao, Kyaing Tong) and accessible by flight only.

Your travel consultant can advise you on restricted areas or those requiring prior permission. Please note that we will not accept the risk of sending you to an ‘off-limits’ area whilst on our tours.

Safety

Myanmar is one of the safest countries in the world, especially for foreign visitors. However, some thefts have been reported recently in touristic places such as Bagan or Inle Lake. You should use hotel safes when they are offered and avoid wearing valuable goods while travelling.

The sidewalks in Myanmar are often in poor repair so watch your step in either large cities or small villages. It is a good idea to use a flashlight while walking at night so you can see the ground in front of you because the lighting in some areas can be poor as well.

Shopping
While Myanmar is not the land of shopping malls like the United States one can still find many high quality products at extremely low prices. You will find these goods at outdoor markets throughout the country where you can get to know not only the store owners but in many cases those who manufacture the goods as well. Those who create the goods sold at market pour their heart and soul into their construction often yielding amazing results time and again. Everything from clothing to art to various Buddha statues can be found for sale.

You can buy items that contain precious metals and stones however you will need to do so not at town markets but from a larger store where you can obtain a receipt and the necessary paperwork to export the item. Do not ever buy jewelry containing precious gems at a small market.

A very popular item purchased in Myanmar is any number of variations of lacquerware, which is made into cups, tables, bowls and other items. Be sure to test the quality of your lacquerware by testing its malleability. If it is very still it is of poor quality.

Tapestries make great souvenirs, however they are not valuable and often dealers will attempt to sell them as antiques when in reality this is not possible since tapestries such as these cannot hold themselves together for more than 50 years or so.

Beware of most antiques since they are not allowed to be exported and you may lose your money. Consult with your guide before making a purchase.

Myanmar has some of the very finest textile work in the world and you should most definitely pickup some fabric before returning home if you can put it to use. Although this is one of the items you will pay a premium for, up to $20.00 for the materials necessary to create a shirt or skirt.

Other odds and ends can also be found such as dishes, silverware, wood carvings and various stone work.

Time
Time difference

Myanmar Standard Time is 5 ½hours ahead of GMT+1 (France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, etc.) in winter and 4½ hours in summer:
– 13:00h GMT = 18:30h in Myanmar (winter)

Myanmar is 30 minutes behind Thailand time:
13:00h in Thailand = 12:30h in Myanmar.

There is no daylight saving time (DST) used in Myanmar.

Visa and Travel Permissions
TOURIST VISA ARRANGED IN YOUR HOME COUNTRY
A tourist visa can be applied directly through a travel/visa agency in your home country or directly at the Myanmar Embassy. A tourist visa costs between US$20-50 but runs up to €50 in some Western Europe countries. Travellers will be required to submit the following when applying for a visa:

– a visa application form
– a photocopy of the passport photo page
– three passport-sized photos with a white background
– application fee

Those who intend to visit Myanmar are advised that a single entry tourist visa’s validity expires 90 days after issue and only allows a 28 days visit. Customs and immigration forms must still be filled out upon arrival.

E-VISA SERVICE
The electronic visa system is the most efficient way to obtain a 30-day tourist visa. The process takes 5 business days and costs 50 USD which must be paid in advance by credit or debit card. It is currently (as of October 2014) available for citizens of 67 countries but more countries are being added on a regular basis. The visa is valid for arrival at international airports in Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyitaw.

Official Website: https://www.myanmarevisa.gov.mm/

EXTENSIONS & OVERSTAYING YOUR VISA
Travelers to Myanmar are not permitted to extend their tourist visas, but overstaying is a possible option for those who may exceed their 28 days within the Union. A fine of $3 per day plus a $3 “registration fee” is charged. There is no exact regulation, but travelers should not exceed this by over two weeks. Overstayers are advised to have exact change ready at the immigration department at the airport (as they are not likely to change $100 bills and they won’t take Kyat). Note, overstaying your visa may lead to difficulties with airport immigration if you’re planning domestic flights, particularly in far-flung airports (like Sittwe or Myitkyina). It’s wise to stick with land routes.

PASSPORTS
All visitors to Myanmar are required to carry a valid passport and a Myanmar visa. The passports must be valid for six months beyond the intended stay.

TRAVEL PERMISSIONS
Certain regions in Myanmar require special permission for travel. In order to secure this approval we may ask for a scanned copy of your passport in advance. For specific areas, we need this scanned copy at least 3-4 weeks in advance in order to assure the paperwork completion.
From time to time, due to varying issues, places are closed without prior notice. In this case we will do our best to propose and alternate plan after consulting with the clients.

What to Prepare?

PRE-DEPARTURE TASKS
– Make sure your passport is valid with at least 6 months before the expiry date and that you have the correct visas. Have a look at the visa requirements for more information.
– Consider medical, baggage and trip cancellation insurances.
– Check with your doctor re vaccinations and medicines needed.

CLOTHES
– Clothing should be lightweight and of the drip dry variety. You will be in the sun a lot so long sleeves and a wide hat would be more suitable.
– Underwear should be synthetic and easily washable.
– Sleepwear.
– Shirts should be long sleeved and light weight with lots of closed pockets.
– T-shirts, short sleeved and again with pockets.
– Cool evenings necessitate the need for pullovers or a light weight jacket.
– A light weight vest with lots of pockets will be handy for carrying your film camera and binoculars.
– Long trousers made from a lightweight, quick drying fabric should have multi pockets for day trips. Long trousers that turn into shorts are ideal.
– For trekking lightweight long shorts (for modesty purposes) are acceptable.
– Bathing suit should be modest so as not to offend the locals.
– Hat for protection from the sun. Should have a wide brim and a strap.
– A sturdy poncho or parka will help to keep you gear dry in case of rain or waterfall spray.
– Footwear: You will need some sturdy comfortable boots for trekking or just walking around. They will need to support your ankle as well as having a non slip sole.
– Water proof sandals for those short trips and boating.
– Some smart casual clothes for the evenings and visiting restaurants.
– Evenings in the hill stations and on Inle Lake can be quite chilly so bring a sweater or other warm clothing if visiting these areas. This applies especially for the winter months November-February for treks and the Inle lake area where early morning boat rides can be quite cold. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting pagodas and monasteries.

PHARMACY
– Insect repellent with the percentage of DEET recommended by your travel medicine physician. It’s important that you bring an ample supply of good quality repellent.
– Antiseptic wipes for hand washing and emergency toilet paper.
– Personal First Aid Kit (bring in small amounts and in small containers)
– Aspirin/ibuprofen, etc.
– Cold-symptom relief tablets, antihistamine, cough drops. Adequate quantity of sweat-resistant sun screen with at least an SPF 15 rating or higher, and lip balm with sunscreen.
– Antibiotics.
– Prescription medicines in their original bottles. Acidophilus enzyme (available in capsules in health-food stores). This often helps your digestive system get in shape for “new” flora.
– Immodium, Lomotil, or similar anti-diarrheal medicine. Pepto-Bismol tablets and/or liquid (in leak-proof bottle).

VACCINATIONS
If you travel to Myanmar prepared your chances of becoming ill are very low. Make sure that you have that all of your vaccinations are current and that you are vaccinated for Tetanus, Polio and Diphtheria. Other vaccines recommended include Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B (if you are in-country for over 3 months), Typhus and Tuberculosis, vaccinations against rabies and Japanese encephalitis are also advised. Officially there are no vaccinations required to enter Myanmar. However, any travels from West Africa, Central Africa, Central America or South America need to present vaccinations records against Yellow Fever upon arrival but this is often overlooked by the authorities.

JANUARY
09 JanuaryKachin New YearCountry Wide
10 JanuaryManaw FestivalMyitkyina/Bahmo, Kachin State
14 - 15 JanuaryNaga New Year’s FestivalSagaing Region
17 January - 01 FebruaryAnanda Temple FestivalBagan
FEBRUARY
16 - 23 FebruaryKyaik Khauk Pagoda FestivalThanlyin(Syriam), near Yangon
21 - 23 FebruaryMahamuni Pagoda FestivalMandalay
21- 23 FebruaryNyan Taw Pagoda Festival Pyin Oo Lwin
MARCH
23 MarchShwedagon Pagoda Festival Yangon
23 March - 04 AprilShwe Saryan Pagoda FestivalNear Mandalay
APRIL
13 - 16 AprilThingyan (Water Festival)Country Wide
15 - 22 AprilShwemawdaw Pagoda FestivalBago
17 - 23 AprilPopa CeremonyMount Popa
MAY
20 - 21 MayShitthaung Pagoda FestivalMrauk U
JUNE
13 - 20 JuneThi-Ho-Shin Pagoda FestivalPakokku
JULY
06 June - 20 JulyChin-Lone FestivalMahamuni, Mandalay
AUGUST
04 - 08 AugustShwe Kyun Pin Nat FestivalMingun, near Myatheindan Pagoda
11 - 18 AugustTaung Byone Nat FestivalTaung Byone Village, near Mandalay
26 August - 01 SeptemberYadana Gu Nat Pagoda FestivalAmarapura, Mandalay
SEPTEMBER
19 SeptemberBoe Boe Gyi Nat FestivalTaungthamanInn, Mandalay
23 - 24 SeptemberShwekyetyet Pagoda FestivalAmarapura, Mandalay
OCTOBER
02 - 19 OctoberPhaung Daw Oo Pagoda FestivalInle Lake
09 - 16 OctoberKyauktawgyi Pagoda FestivalMandalay
10 October Elephant Dancing FestivalKyauk Se, Mandalay
14 - 16 OctoberThadingyut (Festivals of Lights) Country Wide
23 - 24 OctoberIndein Pagoda FestivalInle Lake
NOVEMBER
07 - 14 NovemberKaung-Hmu-Daw Pagoda FestivalSagaing
14 NovemberGolden Rock Pagoda FestivalGolden Rock
08 - 15 NovemberBalloon FestivalTaunggyi
13 - 14 NovemberThan-Bod-De Pagoda CeremonyMonywa
DECEMBER
07 - 14 DecemberShwe Myat Mhan Pagoda FestivalShwe Taung, near Pyay
31 DecemberNine Thousand Lamps FestivalGolden Rock

Learn more about Festivals in Myanmar

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