The time to travel in Myanmar, or Burma if you prefer, is now! Myanmar is currently the most rapidly changing of the countries in Southeast Asia. After decades of being mostly closed off due to sanctions against the ruling regime, the country is more open for tourism than ever!
Here is what you need to know to better enjoy your travel in Myanmar.
- Official Name: Republic of the Union of Myanmar (still widely referred to as ‘Burma’)
- Time: UTC + 6:30 hours
- Country Phone Code: +95
- Capital City: Naypyidaw (moved from Yangon in 2005)
- Largest City: Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon)
- Primary Religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam
- Drives on the: Right (vehicles still have the driver side on the right)
Myanmar / Burma Visa Requirements
Getting a visa to visit Myanmar has never been easier. With the introduction of the eVisa system in 2014, travelers can simply apply online and pay the $50 fee with a credit card. You’ll need a digital, passport-sized photo taken of yourself against a white background within the last three months. A Visa Approval Letter is sent via email within three days. Just print the letter and show it upon arrival in the airport in Myanmar to receive a visa stamp in your passport. The Visa Approval Letter is valid for up to 90 days before entering Myanmar.
If an eVisa won’t work for you, a tourist visa for Myanmar can still be obtained by applying at an embassy outside of Myanmar before your trip.
A visa for Myanmar grants only one entry and allows you 28 days in the country. Proceed directly to one of the immigration counters to get stamped in, not the visa-on-arrival counter.
Money in Myanmar
- Official Currency: Burmese kyat (MMK)
- Abbreviations: K or Ks.
- Also Accepts: US dollars (USD)
- ATMs: Now found in most tourist areas; major Western networks work. ATMs dispense local currency.
- Credit Cards: Aside from booking flights, credit cards won’t come in very handy in Myanmar.
- Tipping: Tipping is not expected in Myanmar and may even confuse people. Read more about when and where to tip in Asia.
Dealing with currency in Myanmar was once a tricky affair, with certain devalued denominations and dated bills pawned off on tourists because they were no longer accepted within the country. Foreign-networked ATMs, once hard to find, can now be found in most tourist areas; reliability is increasing.
Prices are often given in US dollars, but both dollars and kyat are accepted. The informal exchange rate is often rounded to 1,000 kyat for $1. If paying with dollars, the newer and crisper the better. Banknotes that are marked on, folded, or damaged can be refused.
Don’t get scammed! See what you need to know about the currency in Myanmar.
Electronics and Voltage in Myanmar
- Power: 220-240 volts / 50Hz
- Outlets: The multi-sockets found in most tourist hotels accept several types of plugs. The flat-pronged American-style plugs (NEMA) work, as well as the round European-style plugs (CEE 7).
Power outages are common throughout Myanmar; many hotels and businesses in Yangon have large generators ready to go.
The switchover to generator power can cause damage to electronic devices -- be careful when you choose to charge phones and laptops!
Finding working Wi-Fi with acceptable speeds outside of Yangon is a serious challenge. Internet cafes can be found in Yangon and Mandalay.
Inexpensive SIM cards for mobile phones can easily be purchased from retail shops; 3g is available in many areas. You’ll need an unlocked, GSM-capable phone to take advantage. Read more about using your mobile phone in Asia.
Accommodation in Myanmar
Tourists must stay in government-approved hotels and guesthouses, so prices for accommodation in Myanmar are higher than those found in neighboring Thailand and Laos. Prices may be higher, but so are the standards. Whether you’re traveling on a tight budget or not, you may find yourself being escorted by a sharply dressed elevator attendant to your room equipped with mini-fridge, satellite TV, and bathrobes!
Hostel dorm rooms are available in tourist areas and are the cheapest way for backpackers to sleep. If traveling with someone, the price for two dorm beds is often the same as the price for a private double room.
- See these 10 important things you should know before traveling to Myanmar.
Getting Into Myanmar
Despite the opening of land-border crossings with Thailand mainly for political reasons, really the only reliable way to get in and out of Myanmar without complication is by flying. Yangon International Airport has connections to many points throughout Asia including China, Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia. Flights from Thailand to Yangon are economically priced and easy to book.
Currently, there are no direct flights from Western countries to Myanmar, but that may change as sanctions are lifted and tourism grows. See some tips for scoring cheap flights to Asia.
Getting Around in Myanmar
The rail system in Myanmar is a remnant from the colonial days. Trains are slow and rattly -- but perhaps that’s part of the charm. The rural scenery you’ll enjoy through the large, open-air windows more than makes up for the bumpy ride!
Buses and trains are easy enough to book in Myanmar, although train stations usually have few signs in English. Friendly locals will gladly point you to the right windows and platforms to get you on your way.
- See the ins and outs of transportation in Myanmar.