Burma is one of the most mysterious countries in Southeast Asia. After many years in isolation, it has finally emerged from seclusion with a new name (Myanmar) and phenomenal opportunities for adventurous tourists. Myanmar offers spectacular natural beauty, an incredible variety of vistas including dramatic mountains, vast lakes, temple-dotted dusty plains, thick green jungles, and splashing rivers. There are also lively markets, English colonial buildings and extremely friendly people. A canopy of jungles forms the roof of much of Myanmar. The Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea stretch the length of the southern shores. Yangon (formerly Rangoon), the capital, is a city of quaint English colonial architecture with charming streets. The royal city of Mandalay is the cultural and spiritual center of the Burmese people. Dream-like Inle Lake quietly boasts stunning beauty and fascinating ethnic hill-tribe people. The magnificent archaeological site of Bagan, once one of the greatest Buddhist cities of Southeast Asia, never fails to astonish visitors with its three thousand temples scattered across immense dusty red plains. Adventures Asia staff is ready to help and plan you an ideal journey in Myanmar.
The climate of Myanmar is roughly divided into three seasons: summer, rainy and cold season. From March to mid-May are summer months; the rain falls from mid-May to the end of October and the cold season starts in November and ends in the end of February. Generally, Myanmar enjoys a tropical monsoon climate. However, climatic conditions differ widely from place to place due to widely different topographical situations. Temperature of towns varies according to their location and elevation. Mountain ranges of Myanmar created different climatic condition, rain forest that makes regular rainfall for the rice farmers and also acting as natural barrier which protecting the mainland from typhoon and hurricane.
IMMUNIZATION BEFORE TRAVELLING TO MYANMAR
No vaccinations are officially required for a visit to Myanmar. Strongly recommended is Malaria prophylaxis. Vaccinations against Polio, Tetanus and Hepatitis are also recommended.
Inoculations or vaccinations are not needed or required unless you come from or pass through an infected area. Clients should bring sufficient medication with them if required and should check for updated health recommendations before your visit Myanmar regarding hepatitis, malaria, typhoid, etc.
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS FOR MYANMAR
You should bring a money-belt to safely carry your travel documents and cash, and ensure that your luggage has a lock. Bring photo-copies of your passport and visa. When flying into or within Myanmar, you will probably be given baggage claim tags (they will be stuck to the back of your ticket). Keep these, as you will need to show them when leaving the airport.
SAFETY TIPS WHILE TRAVELLING IN MYANMAR
Crime in Myanmar: Most travelers’ memories of locals grabbing your money are of someone chasing you down because you dropped a K 500 note in the street. In remote towns such as Shwebo or Monywa, you can feel pretty confident leaving a bag on the ground at a bus station while you go for a quick tea. But don’t tempt anyone. There has been a smattering of reports of street crime, particularly in Yangon, which include burglaries of some expats’ homes. Exercise guarded caution on vulnerable occasions when you’re carrying your bags – and when in particularly touristy places.
Cool, comfortable cotton is the most suitable fabric for Myanmar’s warm, humid tropical climate. Locally made cotton is available at most destinations.
For travelers heading to high altitude destinations (such as Kyain Tong, Inle Lake, Golden Rock and Putao) and if the trip consisted of taking boats on lakes and cruising on rivers, it is advisable to take a sweater or jacket as it can be chilly at night and while taking the boats.
One should bring flip flops (or) easy-to-take-off shoes as there would be several shoes-off places of interest. Visitors are expected to properly dress while visiting religious monuments like monasteries, pagodas and temples. Covering shoulders and knees is considered appropriate.
Myanmar used to be a cash-only country due to restrictions imposed on all credit cards & traveler cheques transactions.
Since September 2012, ATM machines are available for local currency at KBZ BANK, CB BANK, Ayeyarwaddy Bank, Myanmar Eastern Bank and AGT Bank. In 2013, bank or wire transfers can be made into the banks in Myanmar from worldwide. Also in 2013, Visa Card can be used. You can draw money from ATM maximum 300,000ks (estimate 300usd) per person per day. If you want to drawn more money, you should make the next days.
Kindly make sure any American money you bring is in good condition and are not dirty, damaged or tattered. Each day, make sure that you have enough small bills in local currency for your daily needs (snacks, shopping, etc.).
Myanmar’s national currency, the kyat (pronounced chat, and abbreviated K) is divided into the following banknotes: K1, K5, K10, K20, K50, K100, K200, K500 and K1000. You can exchange US dollars or euros to kyat in official exchange counters, hotels or travel agents.
Myanmar Standard Time is 6:30 hours ahead of Greenwich Meantime (one and half hour difference with Singapore and 30 minutes with Thailand)
INTERNET IN MYANMAR
Telecommunications in Myanmar have long been behind most developed and other Southeast Asian countries, however things are changing and mobile penetration is growing and infrastructure is improving fast. You can find an internet café or hotel with wifi even in remote locations. However, internet speeds can be slow, especially in rural areas. You can find free wifi at many restaurants and bars.
Previous government internet restrictions have now been lifted, so people are free to access most websites and services – including Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and so on.
Best buys include lacquer wares, silver, wood and stone carvings, hand-woven silks and cottons, gems, traditional puppets and handicrafts. All gems and jewelries purchases should be made through a government authorized dealer who must issue an official receipt, which is required for export of such items.
CUSTOMS FORMALITIES IN MYANMAR
Foreign currency, jewelries, electrical goods and video cameras need to be declared at the airport.
Gems and jewelleries purchased from authorized dealers are allowed to be taken out. Antiques (items over 40 years old) are not allowed to be taken out of the country.
DO’s & DON’Ts IN MYANMAR
- Respect the Myanmar people and their unique traditions: Visitors are not asked to abandon their ways, they are asked to adapt to the Myanmar environment.
- Respect the elders: Let the oldest be served first, and bend a bit when crossing close in front of the elders.
- Wear decent clothes when visiting religious sites: Please cover your shoulders and knees, and take off your shoes and socks when entering pagoda areas.
- Offer articles with both hands. Seek permission on retrieving an article above a person’s head.
- Keep the feet on the ground: Do tuck away your feet, when you sit, your legs should not be stretched out and your feet should never face the Buddha.
- To maintain Myanmar’s unique heritage, do not buy antiques. Buy arts and crafts instead: Myanmar loses its heritage every.
- Help protect Myanmar wildlife by refusing to purchase wildlife products: The illegal selling of wildlife endangers the species native to Myanmar. Tourists should not buy these products.
- Myanmar currency should be exchanged at the official exchange counters and banks, not on the black market.
- Don’t sit with back against Buddha Image. Don’t handle Buddha Images or sacred object with disrespect. Don’t keep Buddha Images or sacred objects in inappropriate places.
- Don’t offer to shake hands with a monk. Women should not touch a monk.
- Don’t step on others shadow or any part of their bodies. Don’t point a finger straight in others’ faces. Don’t point with your foot: In Myanmar the feet convey messages. Pointing with your feet means disrespect.
- Don’t touch anybody on the head: The head is the most esteemed part of the body. To be touched on the head is considered aggressive.
- Don’t touch a woman on any part of her body.
- Don’t gamble. Don’t use drugs. Using drugs is illegal in Myanmar.
- Don’t go where you are advised not to go: Myanmar is slowly opening up and more destinations will be accessible to foreigners in the future.
- Don’t kiss in public: Displaying physical closeness in public places is frowned upon in Myanmar.
- Don’t disturb people praying or meditating: Visitors should avoid loud talk and should take care not to touch people meditating.
- Calling with your finger up means calling for a challenge: Calling someone with your fingers down is considered polite.
- Don’t touch the robe of a monk: Monks are very revered; they observe many rules, study the Dhamma, practice meditation and are highly respected in Myanmar society. Visitors should never touch the robe of a monk, not even if they see a worm crawling up his robe.
- Giving money or sweets to children is not advisable: Instead of creating children’s dependency on tourism, visitors should consider the saying: “Don’t give a helpless person a fish, teach them how to catch a fish and they will learn for a lifetime”.
There are lots of things you should and shouldn’t do when visiting Myanmar, but don’t worry, if you have any query or need local assitance, please feel free to contact us at Adventures Asia to have an affordable, safe and local journey in Myanmar.