Things You Need to Know Before Heading to the Golden Land
Myanmar is a destination less traveled in Asia, yet a destination that has a lot of things to offer. Untouched, magical and sacred can be the best words to describe this hidden gem of Southeast Asia. It is a country that used to be isolated for some decades which has finally opened its doors to tourism and now making its name on the travel destinations map. Pristine beaches, magnificent temples, rich culture and the warm hospitality of the locals await every traveler heading to the Golden Land.
Here is a rundown of the things you need to know before visiting Myanmar
First things first…
#1 Myanmar is SAFE. To be truly honest, my very first impression of Myanmar was, it was unsafe and full of crime. Before I head to a destination I have never been yet, I always make sure that it is extremely safe. I research, read and investigate a lot. Well, who would want to go to a place which is unsafe for tourists? After visiting Myanmar, I proved to myself that my initial impression of this country was totally wrong. It was the complete opposite, actually. MYANMAR is EXTREMELY SAFE and I can not help but to recommend this place to anyone I meet on the road. Yes, I urge you to travel to this country!
#2 Myanmar is still a developing country. With so many issues this country has gone through, be it political, social or economic issues, this country is still on the process of development and it is a long way to go.
#3 Visa is required for most countries. Visa can now be done via online or on arrival. Whilst most countries are obliged to get a Myanmar visa to be able to enter the country, visitors from ASEAN countries can enter the country, visa-free. The Myanmar tourist visa costs US$50.00 which is valid for 28 days while a Myanmar business visa costs US$70.00 valid for 70 days. You can check more here >>Myanmar: E-visa.
# 4 The best thing to get to Myanmar is VIA AIR. At first, I wanted to travel to Myanmar overland as I always travel on a budget. On the other hand, land border crossing is not widely permitted yet. In order for you to travel to Burma, you have to fly and can only enter through any of the three international airports (in Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pai Taw) However, some travelers have made it through Chiang Mai – Burma borders.
Money and Access to Bank Machines (ATMS)
#4 Currency: The official currency in Myanmar is called Burmese Kyat (MMK). US$1.00 is equivalent to MMK 1,000. You can check the latest conversion here.
#5 Bills: Though the official currency is Kyat, US dollars are widely accepted here. However, just like in Cambodia, your dollar bills have to be crisp and clean. Make sure that your bills are in mint condition as they refuse to accept bills in bad shape.
#6 ATMS: A few years back, ATMS were non-existent. However, as progress is coming, several bank machines can now be found in larger cities like Yangon.
#7 Cash: At present, some business establishment accept credit card payments. However, it is still advisable that you bring lots of cash.
# 8 Accommodation: It can be a bit problematic for budget travelers as it is quite expensive compared to its neighboring Asian countries. In fact, accommodation prices are increasing every year. If in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, you can find hostel rooms around US$5.00 which can be the cheapest price you can find, in Myanmar US15.00 can the be cheapest. Prices are at its most expensive especially during the high season.
#9 Weather: Myanmar generally has two weather types. May to June is the summer season which is also the low season. The temperature can rise up to 45 c yet an ideal time if you’d like avoid the crowds and enjoy the destination all to yourself. Cold season is from November to February which is the best time to travel around Myanmar. Whilst the weather is a delight, expect that accommodation prices are at peak.
Internet and WIFI Access
#10 Internet: Whilst you can connect to the Internet at the hotel or guesthouse you are staying at, it can somehow test your patience as it takes forever. SIM Cards can be purchased at the airport or major stores; however, topping up can be so pricey. US$6.00 for a 1 GB Internet load, 6x more expensive than in Cambodia and Thailand. Well, for those who are in need of digital detox, traveling around Myanmar can be just the right ticket for you.
Language and Communication
#11 Language: Burmese is the official language used and English is not widely spoken in the country. Only a few Burmese can speak English but don’t let it bother you. Remember, language should never be a barrier.
#12 Burmese Food: Burmese food is not internationally known. You can find delicious food but you can also find some strange ones. On average, you will be spending approximately US$.50 to US$2.00 for a meal.
#13 Buddhism: Majority of the locals, about 90% are Buddhists.
#14 The people are called Burmese. Burmese are extremely friendly, kind and will be happy to welcome you in their country and share their rich culture with you. The locals are really genuine and always have plastered smiles on their faces. Just be reminded that smiles are contagious and you can’t help yourself but to smile back – you have been warned.
#15 Locals often have yellow paint on their faces. The yellow paint or cream on their faces are called Thanaka. It serves as a beauty product for women but it also has other purposes such as for skin protection.
#16 Burmese men still wear longyi. Expect locals wearing long skirts everywhere. Many of us may not be accustomed to this clothing, but they just love wearing them especially the men. I tried it out and I was enjoying it at first but I found it uncomfortable after a few hours of sporting it around – well, it was a nice try, though.
Culture & Tradition
#17 Make sure to take off your footwear before entering pagodas, temples and other religious sites. People of Myanmar are really particular and observe their tradition really well. Please RESPECT THEIR CULTURE.
#18 Never point your feet towards Buddha. This act is extremely rude. Show some respect.
#19 Pointing your finger at someone or at sacred places is also considered rude.
#20 Locals love chewing betel nuts. You can see people especially the elders chewing some betel nuts and spit it out on the streets, leaving some red-stains on the ground. Yes, only in Myanmar I bet.
Have you also been to the Golden Land? What’s your Myanmar travel like? If I missed other things that should be on this list, feel free to write it down on the comment section below. Would you like an extra kick? Here are 10 photos that will make you want to visit Myanmar.
You can check more of my photos from Myanmar on my Instagram account.
Featured image: www.activetravel.asia