Myanmar, formally known as Burma, has emerged as a ‘top 10’ travel destination for Australian’s and will only become more popular as the word gets out!
Intrepid travellers searching for the ‘untouched experience’ are flocking to Myanmar as it has only recently opened its doors to tourism. You will encounter some challenges whilst travelling as opposed to more established Asian destinations such as Bali and Thailand, as the Infrastructure is only just being developed. Yet the additional effort is very much worth it for the rewarding experiences you will enjoy in this extremely beautiful and untouched paradise.
Travelling in South East Asia is a great way to discover new and exciting places. But it is best to research and be prepared for your trip. The following information is a guide that we hope you find useful.
What makes Myanmar memorable are the near constant encounters with people eager to introduce foreigners to their country and their culture. Their country is littered with glittering golden stupas, bountiful rice fields, ruined temples and picturesque mountain paths.
When to go to Myanmar
Myanmar has a tropical climate, with the monsoon bringing rain from May to October. Between July and September many roads are impassable. The best time to visit is from November to February, when the temperatures are mild when compared to the 40°C heat during March to May.
TOP tourist attractions in Myanmar
Formerly known as Rangoon and was the capital of Myanmar. Most tourist begin their journey from here. It is famous for its colonial architecture, friendly street vendors and Shwedagon Pagoda. Shwedagon is the heart of Yangon and, is the most sacred pagoda in the country. Folklore states the Pagoda was constructed during the time of the Buddha-more than 2,500 years ago and where the holy hair relics of the Buddha were enshrined. It is one of the wonders of the world and the most revered pagoda in all Southeast Asia.
Bagan is located in the upper Myanmar and is the capital of Myanmar’s first dynasty. More than 2,000 temples and stupas are located along the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwady river and encompassing 42 square kilometers of a dessert like topography. They were built more than 1,500 years ago and considered the most memorable place for tourist to visit.
The geographical centre of Myanmar, the city has long been an economic hub and has become a cultural melting pot. You can roam the former royal city of Mandalay. Take a walk up Mandalay Hill at sunset and help young monks to practice their English, or marvel at the gold-leaf-encrusted Buddha image inside Mahumuni Pagoda.
INLE LAKE, Myanmar
A busy tourist industry has grown up on the picturesque Inle Lake, which has several resorts on the water, as well as in the nearby town of Nyaungshwe (more affordable accommodation). Long motorised boats take day-trippers to thriving markets, stilt villages, and ruined temples.
National parks in Myanmar
Myanmar’s has rich opportunities for ecotourism, trekking and safaris to experience in its national parks. The best parks include the Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park (northwest of Monywa); Hlawga National Park (near Yangon); Popa Mountain Park (central Myanmar); Lampi Island (Myeik Archipelago); and Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary (located in Minbu).
GOLDEN ROCK (Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda)
You will be amazed by Kyaiktiyo and its Golden Rock Pagoda. It is a 5.5m shrine built on a gold-plated boulder balancing atop a cliff. It’s a very popular pilgrimage site for Buddhists.
MRAUK U, Myanmar
The collection of temples in the former capital of Rakhine may be on a smaller scale than in Bagan, but their appeal is increased by the fact that a settlement still exists around them. Mrauk U was, however, can be closed from time to time due political unrest. We strongly recommend you check status before travelling.
NGAPALI & NGWE SAUNG Beaches
It may be difficult to get to from Yangon but these beaches are absolutely spectacular and well worth the effort. Chaung Tha and Ngwe Saung beaches are more easily reached when compared to Ngapali, the former being popular with local families and the latter more international and upmarket. Due to the exceptional quality of the beaches, water and sand, they are becoming extremely popular with tourists. You will also enjoy breathtaking views of the Bay of Bengal, particularly at sunset.
Travel Tips for Myanmar
Money, Exchange and ATM’s
You can exchange AUD into Myanmar Kyat when you get to your hotel or guesthouse, in a local bank or at the airport (more expensive). Refrain from using the money exchangers on the street as often they will short change you.
Myanmar now has a a limited supply of ATM’s. There are ATM’s at the airports and many in Yangon and Mandalay city centres, as well as in Nyaung U in Bagan. You might not find ATM’s in smaller towns.
When to use dollars and when to use kyats
Typically, US dollars are used for paying for your accommodation and some forms of transport, such as internal flights. Everything else from food, street snacks, tuk tuks and guides are paid for in kyat.
It’s Cheap in Myanmar
On average, you can live for less than $50 a day, including the cost of accommodation and transport. It’s only expensive if you choose stay in top-end accommodation and eat at expensive restaurants.
Most travellers rely on the Myanmar Lonely Planet. If you don’t have prearranged accommodation we recommend you talk to other travellers, who will steer you in the right direction.
Getting Around Myanmar
Buses abound and are the main form of transport to get you to almost any part of the country (where tourists are permitted). Your accommodations receptionists can help you book your ticket in advance or can tell you what time to turn up at the local station in order to buy your ticket.
The bus journeys are long, sometimes averaging 10-12 hours. Never ask a driver about the time of arrival. Due to superstitions the locals firmly believe that asking when you will arrive at a destination conjures up bad spirits. Don’t bother asking – you won’t receive an answer.
You can also organise private cars and vans.
Unlike Bali, you do not barter or haggle when in Myanmar.
The Internet is hard to find
In Myanmar, internet is either non-existentand or EXTREMELY slow.
Burmese people are genuine, friendly and warm-hearted people. They are fascinated by foreigners, that you can see the sheer excitement on their faces. Smile and say hello, shake hands or offer a warm embrace.
It is truly and amazing country and well worth researching for your next destination. We also have a blog on the need to research for overseas holidays.
Travel Insurance Plus team
World Travel Guide