Lots of travelers wonder how much money is needed to travel in Myanmar now that the country is more open to tourism than before. The travel infrastructure is growing. As recently as 2013, travelers had to carry all their cash with them because finding ATMs in Myanmar wasn't easy. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. As of 2019, there were more than 1,000 ATMs countrywide.
Calculating rough daily costs for Myanmar (Burma) really depends on you and your travel style. Myanmar can be explored on a backpacker’s budget, but on the other hand, you’ll find plenty of luxurious hotels if you're more inclined for comfort.
Overall, despite accommodation and tour costs being slightly higher than those in Thailand, Myanmar is still a very affordable destination.
About the Money in Myanmar
The local currency in Myanmar is the Burmese kyat (pronounced "chyat"). The abbreviation is "Ks."
Much like in Cambodia, prices in Myanmar often get quoted in U.S. dollars. Always try to pay with kyat, the official currency, first. Your kyat will only be useful as a souvenir outside of Myanmar, but U.S. dollars work well in many other countries in Southeast Asia. If a price is given in dollars and you choose to use kyat, pay attention to the exchange rate someone gives you. Proprietors will happily take your U.S. dollars then give change back in kyat but at exchange rates in their favor.
Tip: Don't exchange U.S. dollars in the airport where rates are the worst. Wait until you get to your hotel.
The first travel expense you'll encounter for Myanmar is the eVisa. Before arriving in Myanmar, you’ll need to pay $50 for an eVisa (an express eVisa is $56). You should apply for your Burmese visa online before planning your trip.
Land-based transportation in Myanmar is a good value and will only make up a small part of your budget.
- Taxis: Taxis in Yangon, although not metered, are surprisingly cheap for the time spent in traffic. While the norm in Asia is to negotiate hard with drivers before getting inside, you can relax a little in Yangon. One exception is when taking a taxi to and from the airport; you’ll pay a premium (around $10 – 12) to go the 9 miles to the city center.
- Buses: Overnight and long-haul buses in Myanmar are great deals given the amount of distance traveled. An overnight tourist bus from Hsipaw in the north of Myanmar to Yangon (snack, water, and movies included) costs around $20. For getting around Yangon, public buses are very cheap (around 30 cents per ride), but figuring out routes can be difficult without local guidance.
- Trains: If you aren't in a hurry, train travel is the way to go in Myanmar! Although the rail network certainly shows its age, the scenery and experience make up for the bumpy ride. The insignificant price difference between classes for cars on trains is often well worth the money; upgrade for additional comfort.
Accommodation Costs in Myanmar
When budget travelers claim that Myanmar is much more expensive than neighboring Thailand or Laos, they are usually referring to accommodation prices. Prices for government-sanctioned guesthouses and budget hotels are higher than in other parts of Southeast Asia. The good news is that standards are often higher, too. A full-service hotel in Mandalay with elevator attendants and the works can cost as little as US $30 per night. Most decent budget hotels include a free breakfast.
Backpackers traveling to Myanmar will find that the cost of dorm beds in basic hostels are slightly higher than in other countries in Southeast Asia. Bunks in basic hostels can be as cheap as $5 – 8 per night, but they can go to $15 or more during high season. If traveling as a pair, the cost of two dorm beds is more than the rate for a private double room. Ask at reception before committing to two bunks.
A 4-star hotel in Yangon starts at around $40 per night; prices increase depending on season and the location.
Food in Myanmar is inexpensive, although portion sizes are smaller. Breakfast is often included in the price of hotel rooms. Restaurant prices vary, but a bowl of noodles or curry rarely costs more than $2 at a basic eatery.
Food costs shouldn't be a concern while traveling in Myanmar. Enjoy the delicious local cuisine! As always, eating at street-food carts is the cheapest option. Braving attempts at Western food in tourist-oriented restaurants and eating at your hotel will cost more.
Tipping isn't customary or expected in Myanmar. If someone does give you excellent service, you can round up the total a bit or give some of your smaller-denomination kyat.
Beer, even at restaurants in Myanmar, is shockingly cheap. You can enjoy a large bottle of local beer for $1 or less; expect to pay double that at nicer restaurants.
Although you won’t see as many mini-marts in Myanmar as you do in the rest of Asia, bottles of local rum or other spirits can be purchased from shops for around $3. Imported spirits are more difficult to find and cost much more.
Along with accommodation, entrance fees at popular tourist places in Myanmar are a little pricier than expected.
As is common in many Southeast Asian countries, a double-pricing standard exists; tourists pay more than locals. You'll need to pay $7 for entrance to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. To enter the Inle Lake Zone, you'll need to pay $10. Entering Bagan, another highlight of traveling in Myanmar, costs $20. Less-popular places such as the Drug Elimination Museum in Yangon (entrance: $3) and the National Museum (entrance: $4) are relatively inexpensive.
Although using Myanmar's many new ATMs is the most convenient way to get kyat, you'll need to pay around $6 per transaction. Also, check the exchange rates quoted by machines. Your bank may also charge an international transaction fee.
Paying by credit card is becoming more acceptable in Myanmar, especially at hotels. Be aware that a fee (sometimes as high as 10 percent) may be added to your bill. Stick to paying with cash or booking hotels online whenever practical.
Saving Money in Myanmar
In summary, how much money you need to travel in Myanmar mainly boils down to your preferences for hotels and tours. You’ll spend more if you choose to book organized tours, hire private drivers, and stay in upscale hotels. Prudent budget travelers can still get by on the cheap in Myanmar!