Our Myanmar Travel FAQ aims to give you all you should know if you take a holiday in Myanmar; visas, language, money, food, climate, places to see and the time difference. Until recently, few tourists went to this largely closed country but times have changed and the attractions that people remember from colonial times are being enjoyed again.
What time zone is Myanmar in?
Will I manage if I only speak English?
Is there a reliable Internet Service?
Will my mobile phone work?
Should I arrange travel insurance?
Will Myanmar be a culture shock?
What is food like in Myanmar?
What clothes should I pack?
How much luggage should I take?
What is the electric current in Myanmar?
What is the best currency?
Can I use credit cards everywhere?
How expensive is travel?
Should I tip in Myanmar?
Passport & Visa
Do I need a visa?
Are there any passport requirements?
Is it safe to drink the tap water?
Is it safe to travel in Myanmar?
Why is it important to avoid drugs?
Is it safe to drive?
What do I do in an emergency?
How do I report a crime?
What are the common scams?
Will I enjoy the shopping?
Things to do
What sightseeing options should I have?
Where are the best beaches?
What is the best alternative to arrive in Myanmar?
How should I get around in Myanmar?
What is the traffic like?
What is the climate like?
Q. What time zone is Myanmar in?
A. Myanmar is 3.5 hours behind Australia, 6.5 hours ahead of London and 11.5 hours ahead of New York.
Q. Will I manage if I only speak English?
A. English is the second language after Burmese; Myanmar, then Burma, was a British colony.In tourist areas you should always be understood you. Many signs are in English and Burmese. It is nice and always appreciated if you know a few local words such as Hello, goodbye, Thank you etc. If you have an organised Myanmar holiday you will have a guide to help in the event of any problem.
Q. Is there a reliable Internet Service?
A. The Internet is improving but it is often slow. Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay which are the main tourist centres have the best facilities.
Q. Will my mobile phone work?
A. SIM Cards can be bought though coverage in remote regions is non-existent.
Q. Should I arrange travel insurance?
A. It is advisable to have suitable insurance so that you are covered for any medical problem, delay, disruption of your holiday or loss of belongings and important documents.
Q. Will Myanmar be a culture shock?
A. It is worth reading about local culture before you travel. The Burmese are very hospitable people who do not easily take offence but that is as long as you respect their culture. There are several simple things to remember:
• Dress appropriately at religious sites which means no bare shoulders, mini-skirts or shorts. You will need to remove your shoes at times, for example when entering a temple. At no time should you have your back to a Buddha image or statue.
• It is rude to point in any way with your feet or touch anyone’s head.
• Don’t take close-up photographs of anyone without permission. That certainly applies when you are in a temple.
• Bow forward slightly with hands together when introduced to someone. This formal greeting is not required on every occasion.
Q. What is food like in Myanmar?
A. The cuisine reflects the things grown in the Country which are similar to elsewhere in the wider region. It has been influenced by the Chinese, Indians and the Mon. Rice comes with most meals, often in form of noodles. Fresh vegetables are used as a side dish or within the recipe itself. You can expect dipping sauces and soups together with herbs and spices. Dishes may be stewed, grilled or fried. There is little red meat in the diet; you are likely to get poultry, pork and fish in your dishes. The food is very healthy with little oil. Be prepared to eat street food which is very fresh, especially from busy stalls and definitely inexpensive. The national dish is Mohinga. It is a rice vermicelli and fish curry, usingchili, coriander with regional variations. It can vary from sweet to spicy.
Q. What clothes should I pack?
A. Pack according to the season. You may need some warm clothing at night in some areas but generally temperatures are fairly high. Light cottons that dry quickly are ideal and some clothes that are necessary if you are going to visit temples etc.
Q. How much luggage should I take?
A. You should never need more that the standard airline allowance of 20 kgs. and remember you want some space for souvenirs. A basic medicine kit will be a useful item to put into your case. Remember if you are on a Cambodia tour package and constantly on the move, you have your luggage to take with you so don’t pack too much unless you are certain you will be it.
Q. What is the electric current in Myanmar?
A. 230 Volts
Q. What is the best currency?
A. The local currency is the Kyat but the US Dollar will be accepted in many places though torn notes and coins cannot be used. It means that you should have some local currency for small bills. The Euro is sometimes accepted in tourist areas.
Q. Can I use credit cards everywhere?
A. You can use credit and debit cards in provincial cities to withdraw money and cards for purchase in some cities. Cards can be used to settle accommodation or restaurant bills in major cities. In remote rural areas, you should have cash.
Q. How expensive is travel?
A. Travel is very inexpensive in Myanmar though tourists will inevitably be charged more than locals.
Q. Should I tip in Myanmar?
A. Tipping is not mandatory but it will not be refused.
Passport & Visa
Q. Do I need a visa?
A. Yes, but you can get a visa on arrival and extend it from within the Country. If you want to obtain a visa in advance, you can get one from an Embassy or Consulate and there is now an e-visa facility that is suitable if you are intending an extended stay.
Q. Are there any passport requirements?
A. Your passport must be valid for 6 months when you enter Myanmar in common with what is now standard worldwide.
Q. Is it safe to drink the tap water?
A. It is advisable to drink bottled water which is cheap and readily available. Be cautious about having ice in drinks in all but the best restaurants and hotels.
Q. Is it safe to travel in Myanmar?
A. Myanmar is a relatively safe country and stories of tourists having any physical problems are very rare. There may be pickpockets in popular tourist areas so be on your guard and keep documents and any expensive electronics in a safe place at all times.
Q. Why is it important to avoid drugs?
A. The authorities are very intolerant of recreational drugs. You may be carrying prescription drugs for medical conditions and it is worth having documents to support that.
Q. Is it safe to drive?
A. It is far more convenient and sensible to use taxis to get around cities and public transport for longer journeys. Some of the roads are poor in remote areas, especially in the monsoon season. If the buses cannot get there, you should not try in a rental car.
Q. What do I do in an emergency?
A. In the event of a problem, you should contact your Embassy if accessible. That is especially the case for things like loss of passport. Police are low paid so to get a report you will need to make an insurance claim, you may need to pay a bribe and have a translator with you because few policemen will speak any English. Health facilities in places like Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay are obviously far better than in the rural areas. You should get a list of important telephone numbers for the regions on your itinerary.
Q. How do I report a crime?
A. There is a level of soft corruption in the police force and a guilty party can often escape a problem with a bribe. Don’t get angry and accept the reality. It is useful to have someone with you who understands English because it could be confusing otherwise and documents that you may be asked to sign will be in Burmese and not English.
Q. What are the common scams?
A. Tourists can be victim to attempts to overcharge for such as taxis and accommodation. If anyone offers you a service of any kind, establish the final price before you accept. The airport is the primary place where taxi scams can exist. Drivers know that you are unlikely to be familiar with the country and can therefore sometimes see that as an opportunity. Motorcycle taxis in cities may also try a ‘’scam’’ so be certain of the full price before you jump aboard.
Q. Will I enjoy the shopping?
A. There are modern shops in the Cities but tourists are often keener on local souvenirs. You should bargain at markets but be careful not to cause offence for the sake of what will usually be a small amount of money. There are some lovely crafts in Myanmar and you will help village economies by buying from them rather than in towns and cities.
Things to do
Q. What sightseeing options should I have?
A. The major tourist attractions are based around history and religion. There are two former capitals, Mandalay and Bagan. At one time it was thought that Bagan had 12,000 temples and there are still 2,000. The last Burmese monarchy had its royal palace in Mandalay. Inle Lake is a great natural attraction while Yangon, formerly Rangoon, was the capital until recently and the Golden Pagoda is the highlight of many landmarks in the City. Golden Rock Pagoda is a pagoda on a rock with is perched on a hill. Surely it must fall you might think, but it never has.
Q. Where are the best beaches?
A. Nabule Beach in Southern Myanmar on the Bay of Bengal 25 kilometres from Dawei City is the Country’s best beach. It is not overdeveloped that is sometimes a problem on such obvious jewels. Maungmakan, Tizit and Pyini are other beaches to consider; none are too accessible but in some ways that is their attraction.
Q. What is the best alternative to arrive in Myanmar?
A. Most arrivals in Myanmar fly into the Airports of Yangon and Mandalay. There are border crossings with all neighbouring countries.
Q. How should I get around in Myanmar?
A. The transport infrastructure is reasonably developed. There are domestic flights between Yangon and Mandalay. Train services are poor and slow. Buses connect the major areas of population although you should be mindful of potential problems in remote areas during the monsoon season.
Q. What is the traffic like?
A. You will need to have patience on the roads of Myanmar. Some of the roads are not great though they have certainly been improved in recent years. Keep your eyes open if you are crossing the road.
Q. What is the climate like?
A. The monsoon months are low season which means fewer crowds and often cheaper prices. That season starts around May and lasts until October inclusive. It does not mean heavy rain for long periods every day incidentally. Nights can be cold at altitude but temperatures are fairly good though it may feel colder than it really is when it is raining. Some lightweight rainwear and umbrella are useful if you are travelling in the monsoon season.