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.
2018 Myanmar Travel Tips
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.
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. Exchange rate in January 2018 $1 USD = 1,350 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.
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 2018, there are over 1,000 ATM machines in Myanmar. All major tourist cities and some hotels will have them. We personally used the ATM in 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 (about $225USD) per transaction. We were also noticed several places in Myanmar accepted 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.
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 a 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?
Buy A Local Myanmar SIM Card
Several restaurants and hotels say they have wifi but you’ll learn very quickly the wifi is bad. 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 7 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 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 that 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.
Avoid Night Buses
Night buses in Myanmar are very common and popular because they save on a nights 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 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 3am-5am 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
Book Myanmar Hotels In Advance
If you are traveling during 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 | Agoda | Booking.com | TripAdvisor
- Mandalay – Hotel A1 | Agoda | Hotels.com | Booking.com | TripAdvisor
- Inle Lake – Amata Garden Resort | Agoda | Hotels.com | Booking.com |TripAdvisor
Wake up Early
You’ll want to wake up early most days but especially for Bagan sunrises. Nothing will ever beat a 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.
Inspect Restaurants Before Dining
No one wants to get sick on vacation. Normally we are advocates for trying all the local restaurants and eating street food but in Myanmar, you need to use a bit more caution. The food safety and cleanliness is 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 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 in 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 know’s if we would have 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