Why You Should Travel To Myanmar?
Myanmar has the power to surprise and delight even the most jaded traveler. You will be absolutely amazed by Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, even if you feel you are 'templed out' after traveling Southeast Asia. Stand in awe of the more than 4000 sacred stupas that are scattered across Bagan. Take hundreds of photos on a longboat ride down Inle Lake to watch the fishermen perform their unique craft. Fly high over the city of Mandalay or Bagan in a hot air balloon during sunrise, or take a day trip and explore Mount Popa.
There's no excuse why you wouldn't want to visit this beautiful country and if you are planning backpacking trip, make sure this country is on your list. Myanmar is a perfect destination for backpackers and adventurers alike and can be easily and safely traveled on a budget.
This comprehensive country guide has everything you need to help you plan your adventure to this gorgeous Southeast Asian country: A brief history of the country, a quick breakdown of the politics and local laws, how to get there, the most popular destinations, fun things to do while you're there, helpful hints and travel tips, hostel reccommendations and a budget breakdown.
Most Popular Destinations In Myanmar
The main tourist destination in Myanmar and capital of the first Myanmar Empire; one of the richest archaeological sites in South-east Asia. The magic of Bagan has inspired visitors to Myanmar for nearly a thousand years.
A vast lake that is outrageously beautiful. Inle is located in the mountains which makes it cooler than other areas. Lake transport is by long-tail boat,
An ancient volcano with a Buddhist monastery at its peak. This is a great day-trip activity from Bagan or Mandalay.
The old capital city and largest city in Myanmar. Yangon is probably your starting or ending point. Though there isn't too much to see, this city is a blast to explore.
A perfect midway point between Bagan, Inle Lake and Yangon. Mandalay is full of colonial era temples, wooden monasteries, breathtaking pagodas, and rich culture.
Getting To Myanmar
When flying into Myanmar, it is best to fly into either Yangon or Mandalay. This will allow you to apply for, and enter the country with an E-visa. More information about the E-visa below in our Helpful Hints and Travel Tips section of this guide.
Myanmar is increasingly becoming more popular among the backpacker community. Just a few years ago, getting in, and travelling around Myanmar may have presented problems. Now, it is possible to fly into other Yangon or Mandalay from many origin cities. Points of origin include Bangkok, Kolkata, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Hanoi, Seoul, and Doha. We recommend visiting Kiwi.com to check for flight deals. We found that AirAsia out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was the cheapest option for flying into Yangon.
For all the land borders, you'll need to get a Myanmar Visa beforehand. No Visa on Arrival are valid on any land borders.
Thailand: Myawaddy / Mae Sot border crossing - This is the easiest and fastest way from Bangkok towards Yangon and most of the country. There are frequent direct buses from Bangkok to Mae Sot, and direct buses from Chiang Mai. From Myawaddy, there is at least one daily bus to Yangon (about 18h, about USD10).
China: Ruili (in Yunnan) and Lashio border crossing - A permit (as well as a visa) and a guide are needed. You will most likely need to join an organized tour. It is impossible for foreigners to cross, even for the day, without first getting a visa in Kunming, and a tour group.
India: Moreh/Tamu border crossing - Since August 2014 it is possible to cross this border, but a special permit (as well as visa) is required. This permit is required by Myanmar, to enter and to exit that border. However you can only apply for this visa in Yangon, therefore making this option pointless.
Bangladesh/Laos: It's currently not possible to cross the borders between Myanmar and Bangladesh or Laos.
Getting Around In Myanmar
Popular tourist destinations such as Yangon, Mandalay, Inle Lake and Bagan are open to foreigners. However, much of Myanmar is closed to foreign travelers, and many land routes to "off the beaten path" areas are closed and require a special permit, and a guide/interpreter/minder may be mandatory. All permits can be obtained in Yangon.
Plane: This is the fastest option for traveling long distances in Myanmar. There are a dozen privately owned airlines that all have satisfactory safety ratings. Air KBZ and Mann Yadanapron Airlines have the best safety ratings and customer reviews.
Bus: Traveling by bus in Myanmar is a popular and cheap option. However, the roads in Myanmar are in questionable condition. If you are going to travel by bus, we recommend JJ Express. This is the most trusted, reliable, and safe, bus company in Myanmar.
Train: Myanmar has an extensive, but ancient rail network. Trains are slow, noisy, often delayed, have electrical blackouts, and disgusting toilets. However this is the best way to see the countryside. We recommend Seat61 for all your Myanmar train travel advice.
8 Most Popular Things To Do In Myanmar
Helpful Hints & Travel Tips
Do I need a visa? Essentially everyone needs a visa for entry into Myanmar. As of 2014, citizens of over 100 countries can apply for an E-visa that can be picked up on arrival. This is awesome, as otherwise you have to apply for your visa at an Embassy. The only type of visa issued through the e-Visa service, however, is a single-entry tourist visa for US$50 or business visa for $70.
What is the power voltage? Myanmar uses all-purpose outlets, meaning almost any plug will fit into the outlets. Myanmar uses 230V.
What about smoking weed or drinking in the streets? Weed is illegal. You are in a very conservative, third-world, military controlled country. Don't do it! As far as drinking in public goes, yes it is permissible but don't don't become too overly intoxicated in public.
What about the Rohingya Conflict? Check out our recently written Is It Safe To Travel in Myanmar? article that breaks down the conflict, politics and answers any safety concerns. In short, Myanmar is safe to travel to and within.
Myanmar is conservative: It is important to dress moderately, especially in temples and pagodas. Cover your shoulders and knees, as the locals do. Be patient, polite and show respect.
Money: Myanmar is still predominantly a cash economy. Though there are more ATM's being installed every week, cash is king in this country.
Potable Water: Tap water in Myanmar is not safe to drink. Most restaurants, with the possible exception of roadside stalls, now use packaged ice made from bottled water, so ice should be safe.
Safety: Myanmar is one of the safest countries in the developing world for tourists to visit, mainly because of the strict Buddhist culture but in part because of the government's Draconian punishments for those who trouble foreigners.
Tattoos and religious images: Displaying tattoos or other images (t-shirt) of religious figures may be considered disrespectful or even illegal. Myanmar police will arrest and may deport people sporting tattoo of Buddha or any other tattoos which can be interpreted as having religious significance. It is better to cover religious tattoos while visiting public places.
LGBT Travelers: Homosexuality is illegal in Myanmar, penalties include prison sentences of up to 10 years.
Five rules for coming in contact with a monk:
1) Giving money to a monk is considered a sign of disrespect; those that ask for and accept money are almost always fakes.
2) Ladies, it is NEVER permissible for you to touch a monk.
3) Gentlemen, you may shake the hands of monks if they greet you.
4) Never, ever touch the robe of a monk, regardless of gender.
5) You will see monks walking around the streets in the morning, chanting, with bowls in hand. They are asking for donations of food.
How Expensive Is Myanmar?
The official currency in Myanmar is the Kyat (MMK)
$1 USD = MMK 14,009 (July 2018)
Food: Average cost, per person/per day: $8
Food in Myanmar is super cheap. Whether you are eating from street carts, or seeking out the fancier options, it will be hard to spend over $15/day.
Accommodation: Average cost per night: $20
This is surprisingly one of the more expensive parts about traveling in Myanmar. All hotels, hostels, guesthouses must be registered with the police. It is illegal to 'stay" at someones house, unless they are registered with the government. Because of this, hotels and hostels can charge whatever they want.
This cost will vary depending on how you choose to travel around the country - bus, rail, or flight. As far as day-to-day travel, there are tuk-tuks, bicycles, or electric scooters in almost every city.
These options are cheap, and should cost you no more than $5 USD per day.
Activities/Spending Money: Average cost, per person/per day:: $10
We like to give ourselves a little bit of extra spending money every day. Maybe we want to treat ourselves to a nice dinner, buy a cool souvenir, or go on an unexpected day trip. Additionally, sometimes there are entrance fees into some places you want to go - a cost that most people forget to include in their budget. *When you arrive in Bagan and Inle Lake, you will be asked to pay a National park Fee of around $10 USD.
Beer: Average cost, per person/per day: $6