When you first exit the airport in Myanmar, you’ll quickly notice that the locals are wearing an outfit that you might not be familiar with. The men might appear to be wearing something similar to a skirt, or a kilt if you’re Scottish, while the women wear dazzling and vibrant colours in an outfit that covers their entire body. Well, this is Myanmar traditional attire and for both men and women, it is called a “longyi”.
As Myanmar is a very conservative country, the locals prefer to cover their skin as much as possible. This is particularly the case in public. Now while we’re not saying that you have to wear a longyi in Myanmar, it is worth noting how the locals dress and bearing this in mind when getting ready in the morning, or when packing your suitcase for that matter. Following some simple etiquette rules can go a long way to blending into Myanmar. After all, it’s never fun standing out from the crowd for the wrong reasons.
While clothing trends are beginning to slowly change in Myanmar, overall the country is very conservative. In particular this affects women, but doesn’t discount men.
Women: Much like in the rest of Asia, body or skin revealing clothing should be avoided. Shoulders and knees should generally be covered at all times. Sarongs and pashminas are a great way to get around this. This is particularly the case at religious sites, where you will simply be turned away if your dress code is not appropriate.
Men: The dress code isn’t as strict for you guys, but note that at religious sites knees must be covered. If you do happen to wear shorts, then it’s possible to buy and wear a longyi over them to cover your knees.
October – February: Known as the “dry season”. Generally temperatures are slightly cooler during these months, but still, you’re in the tropics so we aren’t talking much below 30 degrees. Light cotton and linen material is great. If you’re going up into any of the mountains (Kalaw or Hsipaw) then don’t forget a warm jumper as the nights can get cold.
March – May: Known as the “hot season”. Temperatures regularly reach into the mid 30’s and higher. Baggy clothes are essential along with a hat and a fair amount of sun cream.
June – September: Known as the “green season” or the “rainy season”. Expect rain. And we’re not talking your little sprinkling here and there. Myanmar is known for having a pretty heavy monsoon. A light raincoat is a good idea, although most of the time an umbrella which you can buy in country is best. A combination of both lightweight (during the day) and warm clothes (for the night and when in air conditioned buildings) is best.
There’s a number of destinations you might be visiting during your time in Myanmar. We’ve listed the most popular ones below, and what to expect
Yangon and the South: Being the largest city in Myanmar, Yangon generally receives the brunt of each season. The hot season is very hot, and the green season is very wet. It is also the least conservative city in Myanmar so you won’t need to worry as much about covering those knees and shoulders.
Bagan and Mandalay: Both Bagan and Mandalay are in the so called dry zone and as a result get very hot during the hot season. Lightweight and baggy clothes are a must. Due to being in the dry zone, they don’t receive much rainfall in the green season so make sure to still pack hats and sunnies.
Shan State: Most of Shan State is on slightly higher ground then the rest of Myanmar so make sure to pack warm things, particularly in the dry season. If you’re doing an overnight trek in then shorts are fine during the day, but bring trousers and jumpers for the evenings.
The Beaches: Generally at beaches it’s fine for women to wear bikinis. There will probably still be a few looks, but the locals have more or less gotten used to this. Jumpers are certainly not needed, but long sleeved clothing is a good idea to protect from the sun and also insects.
One pair of flip flops (thongs) and one pair of trainers or walking boots generally gets you through your time in Myanmar.
Flip Flops: Great for visiting religious sites wear you have to remove both shoes and socks. This is seen as a sign of respect to the Buddha. Flip flops are easily taken off and put on again. During the hot season and green season they come into their own as you try to keep cool or inevitably get wet.
Trainers/Walking Boots: Even in the cities, Myanmar can be a rugged country. Sturdy shoes go a long way in helping you navigate your way through the streets and down dirt paths.
If you’re planning to eat out at restaurants during the evening, most don’t have a dress code, but you might look a little odd turning up at some of the nicer establishments in trainers. One pair of smart/casual shoes will easily do the trick.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Likewise, when in Myanmar, do as the Burmese does. Try wearing a longyi during your time here you’ll quickly find out why it’s such a popular outfit. They are extremely airy, allowing you to keep cool and sweat free. They are available on almost every corner of Myanmar. Wearing a longyi is a way of connecting with the locals. You’ll soon notice the smiles that come your way and almost certainly the laughter behind you. And anyway, it is a perfect souvenir to take back home, so I don’t see why not?
Focus on lightweight, baggy clothing when packing for your trip to Myanmar as it can get pretty hot. A nice warm jumper for the cooler nighttime climate shouldn’t be forgotten though. Most importantly don’t forget to respect the country you are in and follow the simple etiquette rules around conservative clothing.