Myanmar (Burma) Travel Guide
Our Myanmar (Burma) Travel Guide is a free resource designed to help familiarize travelers with important destination information before embarking on a trip to Myanmar (Burma). The information may help adventure seekers enjoy the best of Myanmar, whether the tour is overland, or as part of an Irrawaddy or Chindwin river cruise. The Information provided within is designed to help potential travelers understand what to expect when they begin their trip, and should be used for referential purposes only.
Myanmar (Burma), officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is a sovereign country located on the Bay of Bengal in Southeast Asia bordered by Bangladesh, China, India, Laos, and Thailand. Visitors to Myanmar are drawn in by the country’s spirituality and history with its vast number of temples, pagodas, and other historical sites. The city of Bagan, located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, is considered the main tourist destination of Myanmar, being one of the largest archaeological sites in all Southeast Asia. Other attractions include the Mandalay Palace – the last royal palace of the Burmese monarchy, Inle Lake – a serene lake located in the mountains, Shwedagon Pagoda – the over 2,000 years old, 344 ft (105m) tall, golden pagoda of Yangon, and of course the legendary Irrawaddy River that both begins and ends within Myanmar.
Once the center of the Pagan Empire, Bagan today is a tourist, artist, and archaeological mecca with over 2,000 temples, pagodas, and stupas. Bagan is also home to a large open market where fresh produce, spices, carvings, silk, and rattan products are sold daily.
On February 24, 1826, the peace treaty of the first Anglo-Burmese War was signed at Yandabo. Today, it is a picturesque village famous for its pottery. Each family home and workshop has its own unique pottery style and markings.
Monywa - Hpo Win Daung Caves
At the Hpo Win Daung Caves of Monywa, find hundreds of Buddha statues placed inside nearly 1,000 small and large, richly decorated niches. The statues and paintings date to periods between the 14th and 18th centuries
Traveling to Myanmar
Recently, Myanmar (Burma) has seen a substantial increase in tourism since the United States lifted sanctions in 2012. Due to the increased demand, hotels and other accommodation tend to fill quickly months in advance, so it is best practice to plan booking at least a few months ahead to be sure you can find accommodations at reasonable rates. November through March is considered the “cool season” – high season – for travel in Myanmar. During these months, it is necessary to book even further in advance to ensure you can secure accommodations. Myanmar has a tropical monsoon climate with three distinct seasons: Cool, Hot and Rainy. Each season has its own benefits for travel and touring.
Myanmar has international airports located in Mandalay (MDL) and Yangon (RGN). There are multiple flights daily to/from Mandalay (MDL) or Yangon (RGN) airports. All domestic flights are operated by local airlines. These tickets are issued by local airline agents. There are multiple local flights daily from Mandalay (MDL) or Yangon (RGN) to Bagan (NYU) - Nyaung U Airport.
Myanmar (Burma) Travel Documents
Myanmar (Burma) requires that each visitor be in possession of a passport that is valid for the full duration of his or her visit to the country, and that the passport has at least one blank page. It is also recommended that each person be in possession of a passport that is valid for at least six (6) months after your return date to avoid any issues with immigration, customs, airports, etc.
Myanmar (Burma) visa regulations and procedures change frequently, sometimes without notice, and these changes are often poorly advertised. Those traveling to Myanmar should check the embassy website for your home country, or use an experienced local visa service to acquire the proper visas. Myanmar has also begun to offer “e-Visa” that can be applied for online on their visa webpage.
The official currency of Myanmar is the kyat (pronounced “chat”). While the information listed below is current as of this printing, the monetary situation in Myanmar is rapidly changing.
Credit cards are not widely accepted in Myanmar (Burma), outside a few of the larger, international hotels in Yangon and Mandalay. The processing is typically done through Singapore, Bangkok or Hong Kong, and is at the mercy of Internet connections, so it is recommended to not rely solely on credit cards for your trip to Myanmar. It is not uncommon for businesses, including the major hotels, to scan both sides of a credit card, in addition to running it through the processor, and save it in their system. Hotels and other businesses that do accept credit cards are typically only able to process Visa and MasterCard. Please also note that hotels and other companies that can process credit cards will typically add a service fee of 4% to 6% per transaction.
Since early 2014 it has become easier to find an ATM in Yangon, and there now are a few ATMs in Mandalay and Bagan. Travelers should not expect to find ATMs outside of these areas. Myanmar does not accept a variety of foreign currencies, and it is recommended to bring only crisp, new (no older than 2013) US dollars, with no tears, creases, folds, or fading as they will be likely rejected by currency exchanges. Currency should have no markings, discoloration or writing or it will typically not be accepted. It is also recommended to exchange money upon arrival at the airport at designated currency exchange booths. Most items, including meals, bus tickets, trishaws, taxis, and items from the markets are usually quoted and paid in kyat. When traveling to rural areas it is best to carry lower denomination currency as making change with larger bills can be challenging.
Health and Mobility
Many of the destinations in Myanmar (Burma) and along the Irrawaddy River are not handicapped accessible. Most Irrawaddy River cruises involve walking over uneven ground. Most sites do not have elevators, and are not handicapped or wheelchair accessible and many sites have numerous steps that may be steeper and narrower than is common in Western countries. Tour sites and facilities may also be impossible to navigate with wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, or any other mechanical mobility device. Additionally, most sites like temples, pagodas, and stupas will require the removal of shoes before entering. For your safety and enjoyment, it is recommended that you be in good physical condition. Also, a travel insurance policy that covers medical expenses, emergency evacuation, etc. is highly recommended.
Prepare for a variety of weather conditions depending on your travel season and the river. Layering clothing items is always your best bet, as this allows each person to adjust to any temperature, including artificially maintained temperature, by removing or adding items throughout the day. Most of Myanmar (Burma) has a tropical monsoon climate with three seasons: cool, hot, and rainy. Please see the table below for average high and low temperatures:
|Jan||88 / 54||91 / 64||77 / 39|
|Feb||91 / 59||95 / 66||79 / 43|
|Mar||93 / 66||98 / 71||84 / 50|
|Apr||95 / 73||98 / 75||88 / 59|
|May||97 / 79||93 / 75||84 / 64|
|Jun||99 / 79||88 / 75||82 / 66|
|Jul||97 / 79||86 / 73||81 / 66|
|Aug||97 / 75||86 / 73||81 / 66|
|Sep||93 / 75||88 / 73||81 / 64|
|Oct||93 / 72||91 / 73||81 / 61|
|Nov||91 / 64||91 / 71||77 / 54|
|Dec||88 / 63||91 / 64||75 / 43|
Most stores and market vendors will only accept cash payments in kyat, but some larger stores in Yangon, Bagan, and Mandalay will accept Visa and MasterCard (where Internet service is available). It is a good idea to take some cash to use for on-the-spot gratuities, purchasing of souvenirs or sundries, and taxis.
Also, while Myanmar is a country rich in precious gemstones, jade, gold etc., it is recommended to only shop for these items with trusted and well established stores or jewelers to avoid fake or misrepresented items.
Many of the local customs in Myanmar differ greatly from Western culture. In virtually every temple complex, as well as monasteries, it is required that all visitors cover their knees and shoulders when entering the grounds. Shoes will need to be removed at the entrance to the temples. Traditionally, socks must also be removed for temple visits.
Many visitors to Myanmar (Burma) go to areas where locals are simply living their daily lives. Should you wish to take a photo of locals, please request their permission first (simply pointing to your camera and allowing them to nod is sufficient). Monks wearing red robes will be encountered virtually everywhere in Myanmar. Women are not allowed to touch monks, even by accident, so please allow plenty of room for them to pass. Most of the temples visited are active temples, and you will see locals worshipping. Temples are also the community centers of life in Myanmar, and many people gathered are not in the process of worship. Your guide will let you know when it is not acceptable to take photographs.
Entry documents will be required at all border crossings, so please carry proper identification with you all times, and never place it in checked luggage. While border crossings are typically not a problem, you must be prepared to open your luggage on request of immigration and customs officials.
When arriving by airplane, it is not unusual for a border guard to ask you questions such as “where are you from”, “where are you going”, “how long will you be there”, or “what is the purpose of your trip.” Always answer honestly and politely. If you are bringing laptops, cameras, or other electrical equipment with you on your trip, you may be required to register these items with the local customs authority to ensure you are not charged duty on these items when you return home.
Most items you purchase internationally can be brought back into the US or Canada. We do recommend, however, that you check with both your home country’s customs office for current restrictions, as well as with the embassies of the countries you are visiting for any restrictions on items that may be unlawful to take outside their borders.
When you return to your home country, you should be prepared to declare everything you purchased or acquired while traveling. Many countries will ask you to complete a customs form, which will require descriptions and values of the items. These forms are easier to complete if you keep your sales receipts easily accessible. Most countries have set customs duty exemptions for both quantity and value of certain items. We suggest that you familiarize yourself with these allowances and limits prior to your travel.
Myanmar River Cruise
A Myanmar River Cruise on the Irrawaddy River is the best way to experience Myanmar’s landscape, history, and culture. The Irrawaddy River flows 1,348mi (2,170km), beginning and ending within Myanmar, connecting the people from the far northern mountains to the southern delta plains. The banks of this mighty river are full of life as it was centuries ago. You will see rural river villages, farmers using ox and yoke to plow their fields, temples and pagodas over 2,000 years old, and bustling village markets of fresh fruits, vegetables, silk, artwork and more. Cruising the Irrawaddy in Myanmar, you will be transported in comfort and style through the country’s interior, bearing witness to the beauty and majesty of both its urban and rural areas.
The Irrawaddy river has been a the major commercial and cultural artery of Myanmar linking its resource rich interior with its more developed coastal cities. Aboard a river cruise in Myanmar, professional trained local chefs prepare the best of local Asian food with the freshest ingredients it demands, modern western haute cuisine, and the most delicious of popular standards. Daily guided excursions, led by highly-trained, English speaking local guides, will take you to see the marvels of the country. While cruising you can watch the life along the river, sunbathe, have a glass of wine, read a book, or just enjoy the reflections on the water while feeling the cool breeze sweeping over the river.
Select a Cruise for your Myanmar River Tour:
Myanmar Travel Safety
General Information: Before traveling to Myanmar or any destination, it is highly recommended that you look at your country’s international travel information for the most up-to-date travel advisories. For the United States, this information can be found here.
Vaccinations: The consulates of the countries to be visited will provide information on vaccination requirements and/or suggestions. It is recommended you also consult the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) for their current recommendations. Their website in the US is here.
Crime: The areas in Myanmar open to foreigners, travelers, and tourists are generally safe and relatively low crime. However, travelers should still take the necessary precautions to avoid “crimes of opportunity” such as pickpocketing, theft, and mugging. Using in-room safes and keeping a close eye on valuables should help to avoid most issues. Scams involving gems and jewelry merchants selling low-quality items at inflated prices exist within the country. Guarantees from merchants are not always honored. Be sure to carefully consider any purchase of gems and jewelry while in Myanmar.
What To Bring
Depending on the season in which you will travel, it is advisable to prepare for a variety of weather. Layering clothing is recommended, as cool mornings may give way to hot, humid afternoons, and all the buses, restaurants, suites, and public areas are generally air-conditioned.
The following items are essential for any destination: comfortable walking shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellant, hat, umbrella, lightweight raincoat and/or other outerwear garment appropriate to seasonal weather conditions. It is also recommended that you bring duplicates of prescription eyewear, copies of prescriptions for any medications (generic equivalents are usually easier to obtain), copies of credit card information, and copies of your passport information pages and visas.
Comfortable, sporty, casual clothing is appropriate for most touring. We suggest lightweight, light-colored, “expedition-style” clothing in natural, moisture-wicking fabrics that may be layered. A mix of shirts, everyday khakis, slacks, skirts, dresses, and walking shorts are appropriate for your daily travels. Early mornings, late evenings, and air-conditioned spaces may require a light sweater.
At many sites, like temples and pagodas, visitors are required to have knees and shoulders covered; therefore, long pants or skirts, and shirts with sleeves are required. Most religious sites also require that shoes and socks be removed. Sun hats are highly recommended (although cannot be worn in some temples), as is a light rain jacket, especially during the rainy season.
Sturdy, comfortable walking shoes, with good ankle support, are highly recommended, as there is a significant amount of walking at most sites. Visitors will be asked to remove their shoes and socks at specific sites; therefore, you may prefer to wear shoes that are easily removed.