If you are traveling to Myanmar, you must have known my first Myanmar travel tip. Go now!!
If you are thinking about putting together a Myanmar itinerary together, here are 9 Myanmar travel tips to make your trip even better.
2023 Myanmar Travel Tips
1. Travel To Myanmar Now
Myanmar is an epic country that is changing so fast, and we urge people to get there soon. You can still climb up several of the Bagan pagodas, but over time we can only imagine this will end. UNESCO will eventually let us only view the best temples of Bagan from a distance.
Right now you can rent an e-bike in Bagan and explore temples that are not even on the tourist map. If you’re looking for a unique honeymoon, a honeymoon in Myanmar couldn’t be a more romantic place.
*When looking for the best price and biggest selection of hotels in Myanmar check prices on Booking.com, we’ve found they are the best option and have a great cancelation policy.*
2. Use Local Currency
Like many places in the world, you’ll always get a better deal if you pay with the local currency, Burmese kyat. The exchange rate in March 2023 was $1 USD = 2,100 kyat. Restaurants will usually accept USD if that is all you have, but you won’t get a favorable exchange rate. Most restaurants were offering $1=1,200 kyat.
We do however suggest bringing enough USD for 3-4 days of spending, just in case you don’t get to an ATM or the ATM isn’t working. We’d suggest bringing at least $150 USD per person and tucking it away with your passports. No matter where we travel, we always have some emergency cash on hand.
3. Take Money Out At The ATM
Back in 2012, Myanmar didn’t have a single ATM machine, and tourists had to bring new USD bills in pristine condition and exchange money in Myanmar. This is no longer the situation. Now in 2020, there are over 1,000 ATM machines in Myanmar.
All major tourist cities and some hotels will have them. We personally used the ATM at the Mandalay airport, on the main road in New Bagan, and in Inle Lake. We saw them everywhere, there was even one in the middle of the lake in Inle.
Note that every machine we used had a maximum withdrawal limit of 300,000 kyats per transaction. We were also noticed several places in Myanmar accept credit cards, so just in case you are running low on cash you may be able to use your credit card, however, there may be fees. We settled our hotel bill at the Amata Garden Resort in Inle Lake on our credit card.
4. Apply for a Myanmar eVisa Online
The easiest and fastest way to get a Myanmar visa is to apply for the Myanmar eVisa online. Apply online the week before, and within 3 days your eVisa will be emailed to you. You just have to print it and show it at immigration.
If you prefer, you can still visit the Myanmar embassy and apply for your visa in person. The price for a visa is the same no matter where you apply, but let’s get real who really wants to go back and forth to an embassy to pick up a visa?
Related Article: Complete Inle Lake Myanmar Guide
5. Buy A Local Myanmar SIM Card
Several restaurants and hotels say they have wifi, but you’ll learn very quickly the wifi is terrible. If you can even connect, you’ll be lucky to upload a photo to Instagram. Pick up a local Myanmar SIM card and purchase a data package. Data packages in Myanmar are super cheap, and it’s great to have Google maps and other apps while you’re out exploring.
You’ll be amazed that Google maps can give you directions on dirt roads to some of the best Bagan temples. Often we had 4G coverage and only when we were in the mountains did we not have service.
We purchased our Myanmar SIM card at the airport, but there are cell phone shops selling them in Bagan and Inle Lake. There are two main cell phone companies in Myanmar
Best Data Plans in Myanmar:
- Ooredoo 1,500k fee for a SIM card, 1.5 GB valid for seven days 2,500k, 2GB valid for 30 days 5,500k, 4GB valid for 30 days 10,000k, 10GB valid for 30 days 19,000, or if you have a lot of work to do 40GB valid for 30days 50,000k. Click here to view plans
- Telenor prices are similar to Ooreddo click here to view plans as specials may change
We purchased an Ooreddo sim card and the 10 GB data package for 19,000 kyat, which was valid for 30 days. This lasted us our entire 10-day trip, and we often turned my phone into a hotspot so we were able to have wifi on our computers too. We purchased our Myanmar SIM card at the airport, but as we were sightseeing in Mandalay, we saw many shops selling them.
Our Bagan hotel only had wifi available in the lobby, but no one likes to sit in the lobby struggling with bad internet. We can’t imagine being without a data package, especially when it’s so cheap.
6. Avoid Night Buses
Night buses in Myanmar are very common and popular because they save on a night’s accommodation, and you don’t waste a day traveling. This may sound like a win-win situation, but the reality is that night buses have some drawbacks.
The roads in Myanmar are rough and windy and aren’t fun at night with a maniac bus driver. We’ve heard a lot of bad things from other travelers about the night buses. We personally avoid them, but if you’re on a budget, it’s an option, just not the most comfortable. Most backpackers traveling from Bagan to Inle Lake opt for them just to save the night, but it wasn’t worth it to us.
Most night buses arrive between 3 am-5 am, and most hotels don’t allow check-in until 2 pm, so you’re stuck staying awake the entire time with your bags. You can leave your bags at the front desk, but we travel with a drone and tons of camera equipment this is never an option. In the end, you’ll end up losing a day of travel if you aren’t able to sleep on the bus and then be up all day because you can’t check into the hotel.
Related Article: How to get from Mandalay to Inle Lake
7. Book Myanmar Hotels In Advance
If you are traveling during the high season in Myanmar, you’ll want to book your hotels in advance. If you want to stay in a specific hotel, book it at least a month in advance because high season sells outs are common.
We booked our hotel on the way to the airport, and we had very few options for Bagan hotels. It doesn’t matter if you are on a budget or a luxury traveler, book in advance.
Recommended Myanmar Hotels We’ve Personally Stayed In
- Bagan -Kumudara Hotel Pagoda View |Booking.com | TripAdvisor
- Mandalay – Hotel A1 | Booking.com | TripAdvisor
- Inle Lake – Amata Garden Resort | Booking.com |TripAdvisor
8. Wake up Early
You’ll want to wake up early most days, especially for Bagan sunrises. Nothing will ever beat watching the balloons over Bagan during sunrise. There isn’t much nightlife in Bagan, so plan on being in bed early, so you’re ready for another early morning.
9. Inspect Restaurants Before Dining
No one wants to get sick on vacation. Usually, we are advocates for trying all the local restaurants and eating street food, but in Myanmar, you need to use a bit more caution.
Food safety and cleanliness are lacking when compared to neighboring countries. Most travelers get a little bout of food sickness in Myanmar, so spend time choosing a restaurant, and you may need to spend a little extra money.
A few things to look for:
- Is the food made to order, or is it all pre-cooked in pots?
- How is the food being handled?
- Does the staff wash their hands?
- If something looks off or smells wrong with your food, don’t eat it, it’s not worth getting sick over.
On our 10 day trip to Myanmar, we spent more money than we would have liked to on meals, but we were very picky about the restaurants. We are happy to report we never got sick, and who knows if we would have eaten at the local restaurants. We just would rather be safe than stuck on a toilet in Myanmar.
Related Article: Street Food Safety Guide
Saturday 18th of January 2020
Hi guys, Thanks for sharing. Were there any areas that your Ooredoo sim didn't have reception? I'm planning a similar trip but will be teaching English online at the same time and need to make sure I'm covered. Thanks, Erin
Tuesday 28th of January 2020
Erin- Coverage is constantly changing for the better so we really can't say BUT we can say in 2017 we didn't recall ever really being without service for too long. SIM cards are so cheap if you find one company doesn't have great coverage, you can easily try out another company. Oh, the joys of cheap data in Asia!
Tuesday 3rd of September 2019
How much daily spending cash would you recommend (mostly food and maybe souvenirs)?
Monday 6th of April 2020
That's a tough question and depends on your food tastes and how many souvenirs you like to bring home. I would plan $50 a day, you should be able to eat great and pick up some great souvenirs. If you plan on taking a hot air balloon ride or other tours make sure to bring extra for those or prepay for them in advance.
Tuesday 22nd of January 2019
Does anyone have experience with visiting the islands in the south? We think to roll gently down the coast by rental motorcycle to see what is going on. Are there hotels/hostels/rooms in the south, on the islands? Are there likely to be Police road blocks stopping us?
Monday 4th of February 2019
Sounds like an interesting trip - We don't have any 1st hand experience with this region - let us know how it goes.
Saturday 1st of December 2018
Hi Hannah Me an my friend are going to travel to Myanmar two weeks from now. We will visit the Golden rock and Inle lack. I would like to know what will be the weather there, because I have read its rather cold?? What should we pack a fliz or a unniqul would be sufficient . We appreciate you help Best regards Gila& Tamar
Sunday 2nd of December 2018
We are not there now but we did visit in January and really wished we packed warmer clothes. The mornings and evenings are quite chilly. We mainly were in Inle Lake and Bagan. I would bring layers to stay warm. Have a blast in Myanmar.
Sunday 25th of November 2018
What are the current guidelines for tipping drivers? Guides? Restaurants? I have seen a lot of different information and want some feedback.
Sunday 2nd of December 2018
What you tip is always up to you. What do you think they deserve, did they go above and beyond? In restaurants I still stick to 20% and drivers/tours guides for the whole day about $10. Usually they are paid really little and if they did a great job what's $10 to you?