24 Mar All the things to know before traveling to Myanmar
If you read this article, you probably already have decided to take a trip to the wonderful country of Myanmar: great idea! I visited Myanmar in January 2020 and I loved it! Before my trip I did a lot of investigation to make sure I was fully prepared. But I had to go on many different websites to get my answers. Consequently I lost a lot of time… With this blogpost I intend to answer those questions you are probably also asking yourself before travelling there. So here are all the things you need to know before traveling to Myanmar!
This is probably the first thing you need to know before traveling to Myanmar: when to go there?
The best time to visit Myanmar is from October to March. On the one hand, the weather is better at this time of the year. It’s dry and the temperatures are warm, but not too high. Therefore it’s very pleasant for sightseeing! On the other hand, the hot air balloons in Bagan are flying only from October to beginning of April. You have probably seen those stunning pictures of the Unesco Heritage site of Bagan at sunrise with hot air balloons in the sky. If you want to see them, it’s better to come from October to March. Indeed their flights are directly impacted by the weather conditions. There are already less hot air balloons flying from mid- March. For those reasons the period from October to March is the pick season for tourism in Myanmar.
Nevertheless you can visit Myanmar in low season, from April to September. The advantage is that the prices will be cheaper, especially for the accommodation. But you won’t see the hot air balloons in Bagan and the weather will not be as pleasant (read the next paragraph for more info about the weather).
I travelled in Myanmar during the second half of January in high season. It was the perfect timing as we got to see the hot air balloons in Bagan every morning on the 5 days we stayed there (and do a flight). And we enjoyed the weather: it was not too hot and we didn’t get any rain!
How long to stay in Myanmar and which places to visit?
How long you should stay is of course one of the essential things you need to know before traveling to Myanmar! I recommend you to stay at least 2 weeks to discover all the beauties of this country without being in the rush. If you travel for 2 weeks you will have the time to visit at least 4 cities. For me the best cities are Yangon, Inle Lake, Bagan and Mandalay.
It is possible to see those places in 10 days. Nevertheless you won’t really have time to enjoy each destination and to rest.
If you have more time and you can stay for 3 weeks in the country, you can add more places like Ngapali Beach and Hpa-An.
To get more info on the places to visit and the best itinerary you should read my ideal itinerary article: 2 weeks in Myanmar, the ultimate itinerary.
What is the weather like in Myanmar?
I always like to check the weather before a trip because I want to make sure I will pack the right clothes! That’s why I had to put this one in the list of the things you need to know before traveling to Myanmar. Knowing how the weather would look like there helped me to anticipate some things I was not expecting at first.
What are the different seasons in Myanmar?
Let’s start with the weather at a national scale! There are 3 seasons in Myanmar:
- The cool and relatively dry season is from late October to mid-February (northeast monsoon). At this moment the average temperatures are around 20-24 C (68-75 F).
- There is a hot and dry season from mid-February to mid-May (inter-monsoonal season). Then the average temperatures are higher with 30-35 C (86-95 F).
- And lastly a rainy season is occurring from mid-May to late October (southwest monsoon). At this time the average temperatures are 25-30 C (77-86 F).
As I visited Myanmar during the second half of January, I experienced the cool and dry season. We had sun every day, and coming from the European winter it was really pleasant!
What is the weather like in the different cities of Myanmar?
I am giving you below also specific information about the weather per city, as it was quite different from one place to the other.
Yangon was the warmest city. During the day I enjoyed around 30 C degrees (86 F) but the nights were cooler with around 20 C (68 F) degrees.
Inle Lake was the coldest place. I had a maximum of 24 C (75 F) degrees during the day, but very cold nights, mornings and evenings with an average of 10 C (50 F). As the boat tours on Inle Lake are starting at the crack of down, I highly recommend you to cover yourself with warm clothes.
In Bagan the weather was cooler than in Yangon but not as cool as in Inle Lake. The daily temperatures were around 28/30 C degrees (82/86 F) whereas at night they were around 10-15 C (50-60 F).
Lastly in Mandalay I also experienced warm days 25-30 C (76-86 F) and cool nights 10-15 C (50-60 F).
What is the budget for a trip to Myanmar?
A budget estimation is of course one of the things you need to know before traveling to Myanmar. And I have great news for you: it’s not expensive at all to travel in Myanmar!
Firstly you can find accommodations for all type of budget. I booked most of my hotels for a cost between 30 to 50 EUR (35 to 55 USD) per night (for 2 people).
Secondly the food is very cheap: the meals usually cost less than 5 EUR / USD.
Thirdly you can take the bus to travel from one place to another, which is very economical. You can count 10 to 20 EUR (11 to 22 USD) for a bus ticket.
Lastly, if you rent a scooter in the cities, you will be independent and not have to pay for taxis. Renting a scooter costs around 7 EUR / 8 USD per day.
Here a reasonable budget per person for 2 weeks trip: 770 EUR / 900 USD including the flights to travel in between places in Myanmar.
I have included in this amount:
- Food: lunch and dinner
- Accommodation: mid range hotels
- Flights between cities
- Taxis or tuk-tuk inside the cities
- Fees to access some of the areas (Inle Lake, Bagan, Mingun, Mandalay)
- Activities (like the boat tour in Inle Lake)
- SIM Card with 4G and Internet data for the phone
- Small souvenirs
How to get the VISA for Myanmar?
How to apply for a visa is always a stressful question before a trip! One of the things you need to know before traveling to Myanmar is that most of the foreigners require a Visa to travel. Only the citizens from Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Macau can enter visa-free for a certain period of time.
You can get your visa at the embassy and/or consulate of Myanmar in your country. But Myanmar also has an efficient online e-visa system. The price is the same with both methods: USD 50.
The tourist visa is valid for 28 days. Do not apply too late as the process can take some time, especially if you have to do it via an embassy or a consulate. But do not do it too early either, as the validity of the visa is for 90 days from the date of issue.
For the visa application your passport must be valid for at least six months after your departure from Myanmar.
The easiest and fastest way is definitely the e-visa! You can apply online here: E-visa Myanmar.
Here is the 4 steps process:
- Fill in the secure online visa form. You will have to upload a color photo (4.6 cm x 3.8 cm) taken during the last 3 months
- Confirm all the information entered and pay with credit card.
- Get the approval letter by email: the process may take up to 3 working days. Print out the approval letter and bring along with passport. You will need to present it upon arrival.
- The Immigration office will stamp the e-visa and passport upon arrival.
I received my e-visa within 24h, it was quite easy and so fast!
How to deal with money in Myanmar?
General information about the money in Myanmar
The currency of Myanmar is the kyat MMK. It’s pronounced “chat”.
On the date I am writing this article, the exchange rate is at 1 EUR for around 1500 MMK and 1 USD for around 1350 MMK.
Check the current exchange rate here: Currency converter.
If you want you, you can of course change money before flying to Myanmar. But you will find ATM and money changers in the main places. There are no foreigner banks but local banks like Kanbawza (KBZ) Bank, Asia Green Development Bank and CB Bank are providing ATM.
If you are withdrawing money from the ATM, be aware that the local banks will charge a MMK 5,000 minimum fee per transaction, on top of the fee deducted by your own bank. There is a maximum withdrawal limit of 300,000 kyats (about $225USD) per transaction (sometimes less).
My experience with the money in Myanmar
I withdrew money at my arrival at an ATM in Yangon International Airport very easily. But once I was in Bagan I struggled a bit. I tried to withdraw money several times from several ATM and it was not working (mostly on ATMs from CB Bank). It even happened twice that I tried to withdraw money right after someone, and it wouldn’t work for me whereas the person just before got some cash. I finally found an ATM from KBZ Bank that was working in another part of Bagan. Fortunately I had no issue in the other places.
Apparently it happens frequently that the ATM are experiencing power cuts, or running out of funds. So do not wait last minute, just in case this happens!
You can still pay with your credit card in a few places like hotels, but most of the local restaurants and shops won’t accept it.
You may wonder if you can bargain and if you have to tip. It’s always possible to bargain in small shops selling craftwork or souvenirs as usual in Asia. Tips are not mandatory but of course always appreciated.
Which SIM Card to buy in Myanmar and how is the WiFi?
Nowadays most of us want to have a good connection while travelling: to organize our trip day by day, to contact our family and friends, to work, or to post on social media. For me it’s very important! In Myanmar you can find WiFi in many places, like hotels. Nevertheless it often happens that the WiFi is not working properly, or working at the reception of the hotel, but not in your room. Who wants to spend an hour at the reception of the hotel checking their emails before going to sleep? Certainly not me! Therefore I made sure to find the best SIM Card provider before arriving in Myanmar.
SIM Card providers in Myanmar
There are 3 main providers for SIM Card in Myanmar: MPT, Telenor, and Ooredoo.
- MPT is a government-owned and military-controlled company. It was the first on the market and had the monopoly for a long time. Therefore it has the widest cellular network in the country. But it’s also the most expensive especially for tourists, and the Internet speed is not better than the other providers.
- Telenor was the first challenger of MPT to offer good deals for tourists. Their Internet access is said to be OK, but it’s not the fastest on the market. But they are working hard on extending their coverage in the country.
- Ooredoo is a new provider that is focusing on the Internet more than the voice services. They actually have the fastest Internet speed. But their coverage is less good than the other providers: once you go out of the main cities, it doesn’t seem to be working that well.
See my recommendation in the next paragraphs!
Where can you buy a SIM Card?
It’s quite easy to buy a SIM Card in Myanmar nowadays. You can buy a SIM Card at your arrival at the airport. There are kiosks for all prepaid SIM providers. You may have to provide your passport information and your visa for Myanmar and pay in the local currency. There is an ATM not far from the SIM card providers so it’s easy.
You can also buy the SIM Card at a phone shop in the cities, or directly in the streets: some hawkers are selling them.
My experience with SIM Card and WiFi in Myanmar
I bought my SIM card at the International airport in Yangon the day of my arrival. Although my flight arrived very late in the evening, the SIM Card shops were still open.
I bought it from Ooredoo because I needed a fast speed Internet, and I knew I would visit mainly big cities and touristy places. I paid 23,500 MMK (15 EUR, 17 USD) for a tourist package with 20GB + the SIM Card. The data were available for 30 days. I ran out of data one day before the end of my trip and I was using my 4G everyday to post and share stories on Instagram.
I didn’t regret opting for Ooredoo as the 4G was very reliable with this SIM Card. Can you believe I even had 4G in the middle of Inle Lake?!
If you plan to visit more remote places in the country, you can buy 2 SIM Card: an Ooredoo one for the main places and Internet and another one to make sure you have a good coverage like MPT.
What is the dress code in Myanmar?
Everyone wonders what to wear in Myanmar! This is definitely something I googled to get ready for my trip! Hence I have added it to the things you need to know before traveling to Myanmar. Indeed there is a respectful dress code to visit the pagodas and religious sites. Here is what you have to keep in mind:
- No shoes and no socks,
- Wear a bottom that covers the knees (so no shorts),
- No spaghetti blouse.
- You also have to be respectful and keep silent.
Most of the time I was wearing long dresses or skirts, and tops that covered my shoulders, and it was fine.
As you will often walk barefoot, I would recommend you to take some wipes with you: your feet will get dirty!
In the big cities like Yangon or Mandalay you will feel comfortable wearing jeans, light pants, or long dresses and skirts. In places like Bagan or Inle Lake that are most laid back, you can wear what you want (except in pagodas and temples of course). But remember that depending on the time of the year you are visiting, the temperatures can be cold at night.
How to travel between places in Myanmar?
You might wonder what is the best way to travel between places in Myanmar. I had the same question, therefore I am sharing it amongst those things you need to know before traveling to Myanmar. There are 2 options with their pros and cons: the flight or the bus.
You can take a look at this website to organize your trip 12go.asia. You will find here information for all the ways of transportation between 2 places, the timings, and the prices (not sponsored).
Flying in Myanmar
Flying has two benefits: it is the easiest and fastest way to go from one place to another. The only inconvenient is that it’s the most expensive. I flew with Golden Myanmar Airlines, the cheapest one (between 65 and 90 USD depending on the destination). I booked my flights one month in advance online, but you can book last minute too as usually seats are still available. There are 2 departures a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
For domestic flights you just need to be there one hour in advance. The check-in and security process were quite fast. The planes are small, but ok in term of comfort. A snack and a drink are served during the flight. The luggage collection is very fast once you arrive.
Taking the bus in Myanmar
Taking the bus has one main benefit: the price is very cheap. So it’s the best solution if you are travelling on a budget. It will cost you between 12 to 23 USD depending on the company, if you book economy or business/VIP, and the destination. There are some inconvenient though: the duration and the time of travel. Indeed it takes 10h to 12h to go from one touristy site to another. Most of the trips are only available at night with departures at the end of the afternoon, and arrival in the early morning (around 6 am). Therefore you might not be able to check-in in your hotel and use the bathroom for a well-deserved shower after a night in the bus.
The buses are comfortable but the roads can be quite damaged. Therefore the journey can be bumpy, which can prevent you from sleeping, no matter how comfortable the bus is.
The bus companies are usually providing a blanket, and drinking water (and a towel, toothpaste and toothbrush for VIP night buses). As the bus drivers will take breaks along the way, you can buy food if needed and use the bathroom.
You can buy the bus ticket online or in a dedicated shop in every town (probably in your hotel as well).
How to go from one place to another inside the cities in Myanmar?
Going from one place to another inside the cities is one of the useful things to know before traveling to Myanmar. You can either choose to be independent and rent a bike/scooter, or use the taxi system.
You will find some places to rent a bike/scooter in all the touristy cities. Sometimes you can even rent one directly from your hotel. It will cost you around 10000 Kyats a day (7 EUR /10 USD). In Bagan, motorbikes are not permitted for foreigners, but e-bikes are allowed. In Inle Lake and Bagan, the bicycle is also a good way of transportation.
If you cannot or do not want to ride a scooter, you can use the taxi system. I highly recommend you to download the app Grab. It works like a local Uber and will allow you to get cheaper prices than the regular taxis. You will need a local SIM Card to use this app though, as you have to enter a local phone number for your registration.
As I am not able to drive a scooter, I had to rely on the taxi system. In Yangon I booked mostly car taxis via the app Grab. In Inle Lake I used taxis as well. But as the app Grab was not working, I booked my taxis and tuk-tuks via the local system (check with your hotel for example or directly in the street). In Bagan I used tuk-tuk taxis that I booked directly on the street (here as well Grab was not working). You can also book them via your hotel. In Mandalay I ordered my transport via Grab. You can book car taxis or tuk-tuks. The tuk-tuk is cheaper but less comfortable.
What to eat in Myanmar?
I really loved the food in Myanmar: it is so varied and tasty! Before my trip I had no idea of how it would look and taste like. Therefore I thought it was a good idea to share this in the things you need to know before traveling to Myanmar! Here are some of my favorite dishes from the Burmese cuisine.
I loved the tea leaf salad, the most famous dish of Myanmar. It’s made with pickled tea leaves, shredded cabbage, sliced tomatoes, crunchy deep-fried beans, crisp, roasted peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, fried garlic, garlic oil, and slices of chili (and sometimes also dried shrimp). You can have it as a snack, as an appetizer, or as a meal coupled with a plate of rice. The Burmese tomato salad with peanuts is also very good.
The Shan rice noodles are something you have to try as well if you visit Myanmar! It’s a combination of thin rice noodles in a clear peppery broth with marinated chicken or pork, garnished with toasted sesame and garlic oil. It’s served with a side of pickled vegetables.
I often saw curries in the menu of the restaurants I have visited. My favourite were the pumpkin curry and all the ones with coconut milk. I had only vegetarian ones but they can be made with pork, fish, shrimp, beef or mutton.
Lastly I have eaten very good dishes in Mandalay: Late Kot (hearty roll stuffed with pea), Tet Ta Yar (100 layers shallow fried dough with pea sauce), and Mont Pyat Ta Latt (local savoury pancake).
What are the zone fees and entrance fees in Myanmar?
This information is part of the things you need to know before traveling to Myanmar, as it will help you plan your budget. As tourists we are used to pay entrance fees to visit any landmarks. Places like Shwedagon Pagoda for example have an admission fee. Shwedagon Pagoda entrance fees are actually the most expensive entrance fees in Myanmar with 10,000 MMK (around 7 EUR/USD). But you also have to pay admission fees to access certain areas, which is rather unusual.
Here are some of the places that requires to pay zone fees:
- Bagan: 25,000 MMK for 5 days (access to the whole area)
- Inle Lake: 13500 MMK (access to the whole area)
- Mandalay: 10,000 MMK (access to a few sightseeing places, but you do not need to pay to enter the city)
- Sagaing: 5,000 MMK (access to Mya Thein Tan Pagoda – the White Pagoda – and Mingun Pahtodawgyi – the incomplete Pagoda).
You will get a ticket proving that you have paid the entrance fees. Keep it with you as the tourist police is controlling regularly!
Is Myanmar safe?
If a country is safe or not is always something you should check before your trip. I traveled in Myanmar for 2 weeks with a friend of mine. As 2 women we never had the feeling that we were in danger. If I am not wearing any expensive jewelry or accessories, I am carrying an expensive camera. Nevertheless no one ever tried to steal it from me. Besides all the locals we have met were pretty friendly and helpful. No one bothered us when we were walking in the streets in big cities like Yangon or Mandalay. On top of that when we were alone in Bagan, our tuk-tuk driver was very helpful and took us to many cool spots. Therefore I would say that Myanmar is a safe country for travelers! Of course you always have to be cautious. Dot not take risks.
Hopefully in this article I have tackled all of the things you need to know before traveling to Myanmar! If you have any other questions before your trip to this beautiful country, do not hesitate to ask me in the comment. I will do my best to help you!
I highly recommend you to take a look at the other articles I have written about Myanmar as well: