Top Myanmar Travel Tips | Thahara

Myanmar Top Tips

We’ve pulled together and answered some of our guests’ most popular questions. Here you’ll find everything you need to know...

Here you will find recent news articles from different media sources, both locally based newsoutlets and international ones.

Recent News:

Don't Wait To Visit Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi Urges Travellers

Myanmar Guardian's view on The

Local News Outlets - go to these sites for all kinds of insight to Myanmar news and happenings:

www.frontiermyanmar.net

http://www.irrawaddy.com

http://www.mmtimes.com

Tips for Visiting Myanmar:

The NLD (National League for Democracy) led by the famous Aung San Suu Kyi came to power during the historic general election of November 2015.. Myanmar is embracing change in a very exciting way. There are rapid changes and information is changing all the time. We hope the info below will help: 

Accommodation

The huge amount of people coming to visit since sanctions were lifted in 2012 has stretched Myanmar’s tourist infrastructure to the limit. There is a shortage of hotel rooms in major destinations such as Inle Lake, Yangon and Bagan, though many new hotels are being built. Accommodation in Yangon can easily fill up as far as a month in advance, particularly if it is a popularly ranked place. It is very difficult to just ‘show up’. Thahara has selected a special group of unique boutique places around the country. Please contact us if you have any questions whatsoever. Remember that it is essential to book ahead for the high season (November to March).

Money

Myanmar is no longer as cheap a destination as it once was, so adjust accordingly. In particular, prices for even basic accommodation have risen dramatically. In tourist hotspots like Bagan, you can pay US$35 to US$40 for a dingy, no-frills room. Thahara has selected a few special places around Inle Lake to cater to all travellers, check out our 4 hotspots with budget, medium and luxury prices.

Over the last few years, ATMs that take international cards have started appearing throughout Myanmar, meaning that travellers no longer have to carry bundles of cash around with them. You can find ATMs even in relatively remote destinations like Hpa-An and Mrauk U. We have found that KBZ Bank has the most reliable ATMs – they accept both Visa and Mastercard, and charge a fee of 5000 kyat (around US$4) per transaction. It’s now also possible to receive international cash transfers via Western Union. It is still worth bringing some US dollars with you and changing some for local kyat in case if you’re stranded without access to an ATM or, which sometimes happens, the ATMs are not working! Don’t forget to tell your bank that you are going away! When bringing foreign currency, specifically USD it is important to note that crumpled or torn bills are often not accepted so it is advisable to bring crisp bills. You will often get a slightly better exchange rate if you exchange larger bills for example $100 bills will get you the best exchange rates.

Credit cards are accepted mostly only in top-end hotels. Some travel agents in Yangon and Mandalay also take them, usually charging a small fee, for purchasing flights.

In places open to foreigners, Myanmar is very safe, with very little crime. Still, you should take the usual precautions of using hotel lockers or safes for your valuables. 

No-go zones

Some parts of the country remain closed to foreigners due to on going conflict between the government and various ethnic armies clustered in eastern and northern Myanmar. These areas are mostly in Kachin and Shan States, close to the frontiers with China and Thailand, and far from the major tourist destinations. Although some countries – including the UK and Australia – still advise against travel to Rakhine state in western Myanmar (following sectarian violence in 2012) Mrauk U is now seeing increasing numbers of tourists.

Accurate information on conflicts and closed areas can be difficult to come by. Check your government’s advice prior to travel, and ask about the situation once you are in Myanmar.

Getting Around

Unless you fly, all travel in Myanmar takes time (it's a nine-hour bus trip from Yangon to Mandalay, for example). Buses are almost always faster than the trains, but bus rides are bumpy – you might consider taking tablets for motion sickness. Boats are also an option for some routes; the Mandalay–Bagan service is popular among travellers.

Yangon International Airport is the main hub for domestic flights, and there are a number of services linking the main centers of the country. Local airlines include Air Bagan and Myanmar National Airlines. Organising travel as a foreigner can be difficult and complicated, as many people in Myanmar do not speak English. To make your life easier and your holiday more enjoyable Thahara can help you book all your domestic flights. And no worries regarding car rental (with driver) as we can book this for you as well. 

In most cities in Myanmar taxi is the best mode of transport. Taxis are generally cheap and easy to find, you of course can and should try to barter the price down. It is good practice in general to establish the price of the ride before you set off. Take care not leave anything in taxis, as you most likely won’t see it again!

Etiquette tips

    •    Myanmar is emerging from decades of isolation, and as such it is more conservative than nearby countries. Many people still wear traditional dress – the longyifor men, the htamein for women, both sarong-like garments. You rarely see anyone expose their knees or shoulders, and you will make everyone more comfortable if you follow suit.

    •    Though people are more open than in the past when discussing politics, some guardedness remains; do not instigate political conversations.

    •    Money is handed over and received with the right hand, while the left hand loosely supports the right arm.

    •    Never use your feet to point at a person or thing.

    •    When entering pagodas and monasteries it is important to be respectful and follow instructions provided, for example taking off ones shoes when entering. It is also advisable when entering religious place to be properly dressed, i.e. covered shoulders and knees.

    •     A kissing sound if often made to attract the attention of people, usually a waiter.

    •     There is no uniform rule for tipping and it is better to evaluate on a case-by-case basis. Many restaurants will include a service charge, usually around 10% but some restaurants do not, in this case it may be nice to leave a tip. It is not uncommon for people to refuse tips as well. Some restaurant owners may not want you to tip staff while others may encourage it. Confusing we know! This is why we recommend evaluating it on a case-by-case basis.

    •    A smile always goes a long way, as does knowing a few words in Burmese.

Safety and Health:

It is always advisable to check with your doctor about vaccines and anti-malarial advice prior to travelling to Myanmar. If you have recently travelled to a country with Yellow Fever, then you may be asked for proof of Yellow Fever vaccination to be granted entry to the country.

Medical care in Myanmar is often not up to the standards of many countries and can be expensive. We therefore strongly advice that anyone traveling to Myanmar purchases travel and health insurance. While in Yangon and Mandalay emergency medical care is available, outside these two cities medical care is harder to come by. For more serious emergencies, which are rare, sometimes a visit to Bangkok is necessary so make sure you health provider covers this.

It is generally not advisable to drink the tap water in Myanmar. Showering and brushing your teeth with water though is usually fine and problems with this are rare. We recommend drinking bottled water and staying away from ice in drinks outside of nicer establishments.

For the best and most up to date information on safety and health, we recommend that you check your countries travel advice for Myanmar.

Communication:

Only a few years ago it was highly unlikely that foreign phones would work in Myanmar, but this is no longer the case. Many service providers now offer roaming in Myanmar but roaming charges are often very high. Until recently a Sim card could cost upwards of $1000 dollars, thanks to the rapid development of the country since the lifting of sanctions in 2012 you can now pick up a Sim card for around $1-$2 (what an exciting time to come visit!). Getting a local Sim is cheap and easy and is probably the best way to make use of your phone in Myanmar. Data and minutes are easily purchased at many kiosks and shops all over the country, prices do fluctuate but it costs around $10 for 2GB of data. There are three main telecommunications providers, Ooredoo is a Qatari based provider, Telenor is a Norwegian based provider and MPT is a state owned Telecommunications Company. In cities such as Yangon and Mandalay signal is generally good. Telecommunication companies are rapidly expanding their services to all corners of Myanmar, in more remote place signal might be harder to come by but this is constantly changing.

Most hotels now offer Wi-Fi or have Internet capabilities. Myanmar is still in the early stages of development so Internet is often slow, and sometimes does cut out; in more remote places Internet is harder to come by. In most cities and larger towns there are Internet cafes but realistically most hotels now have Wi-Fi.   

Frontier is Myanmar’s most read English language newspaper that has a variety of pieces concerning both domestic stories and international stories too. It is also possible to obtain foreign newspapers and magazines with many top end hotels supplying them for free.

Tips for what to do in Myanmar:

There is so much to do and see in Myanmar that it can often feel overwhelming trying to decide what to see and trying to organise transport and guides can often be a headache, don’t worry that’s what we are here for. Check out some of Thahara’s ‘experiences’ for the easiest, best and most intimate ways of exploring all that Myanmar has to offer. With local experts and once in a lifetime experiences, we can make your time in Myanmar unforgettable.

Myanmar is a booming country with new restaurants and bars opening by the minute. For more information on what’s happening in Yangon and other cities check out some of the following websites who provide information on new restaurants, bars, museums and much more:

Food:

Myanmar’s cuisine is a wonderfully diverse affair with influence coming from China, India and Thailand just to name a few. Different regions mean different specialities all of which bring a unique Myanmar twist, to bring some truly wonderful and unique dishes to your table. For those real foodies why not try out cooking yourself, check out our cooking experience with one of our master chefs.

It can often be difficult to know what to choose, as menus can sometimes be large and a seemingly impossible task to choose a dish. To help you out here is a list of all of Thahara’s favourite foods. Why not try some of them out:

Shan Noodles or Shan Kaun Swe-  A famous dish from Shan state which is noodle based with a deliciously rich peanut sauce with freshly prepared vegetables thrown into the mix. A staple at the office, see it being prepared here:

Tamin Jaw: Fried rice that can be served with vegetables or meat of your choosing.

To answer your question. YES, one needs a visa to come to Myanmar and both tourist visas and business visa can now be obtained online, via the Myanmar government. You will need a few things and note that below is the official link.

Nationals of the following 7 countries and jurisdictions do not require a visa to enter Myanmar for visits up to 14 days:

 

For a comprehensive list please click below.

For a 28 day tourist visa:

  1. Your passport validity must have at least (6) months - CHECK THIS - they can send you back home if it doesn't! 
  2. You have to upload one COLOR PHOTO (4.8 cm X 3.8 cm) taken during the last (3) months.
  3. Visa, Master, American Express or JCB credit card for the payment of USD 50.00.

EVISA info and application

Here are 5 phrases you can try and below is a link to a YouTube video to practice learning them...we do recommend checking out the video to get the pronunciation right! 

 

  1. So Cute = HKYAC CA. YA LE
  2. It's Yummy = CA: LUI. KAUNG: LUIK TA
  3. Any Discount? = HRAU. BHA WUM:
  4. My Muscles Are Tired = NYAUNG: LUIK TA
  5. YES (polite version) = HUT and when you address friends or someone younger you can say "IANG"

learn to pronounce the 5 phrases on YouTube:

5 Burmese Phrases

Want to learn more about Burmese scripts?

Burmese scripts

And finally below is a link to a longer list of phrases/words to learn: 

Burmese Phrases

Some more useful phrases:

Mingalaba = Hello/ Greetings (Min-ga-la-ba)

Che zu tin ba deh = Thank you, Often shortened to Che zu ba.

Shaw ba oun la = Could you reduce it (Price)? Useful for when bartering with Taxi drivers and shop owners.

Saq tha la = Is it spicy?

Di hma ein tha shi la = Is there a toilet here? The ‘ein’ is pronounced like in vein.

Ingaleiq saga pyaw ta tha la= Can you speak English?

Na ma leh ba bu, sawri naw. = I don’t understand, Im sorry.

Recently read a article about unique games played in Myanmar written in the MyanmarTimes, which is a very informative daily English and Burmese newspaper, with both local and international news.

Read about 'The Encyclopedia of Myanmar games, volume II

Don’t panic, the people with the red teeth are not vampires. Very typical in Asia, betel nut is a form of chewing stimulant that stains your teeth red. Try it, if you are brave enough…

What is the yellow-white cream on people’s faces? It is called Thanaka and it is made from ground tree bark. Typically worn by women and young girls, but increasingly by men, the Burmese have been using it for over 2000 years. As well as using it like make up, Thanaka can be used as sunscreen and has a cooling effect that soothes sunburn too. It is also said to help clear your face of acne, why not try it yourself?

Recently read a article about unique games played in Myanmar written in the MyanmarTimes, which is a very informative daily English and Burmese newspaper, with both local and international news.

If you are lucky enough you might see the very impressive game of Chinlone in action. A cross between hacky sack and volleyball makes this game entertaining to watch. Here is a short Chinlone video, but to really get an idea of what can be done watch some of the professionals.

Myanmar or Burma, what’s the difference?

In 1989 under the ‘Adaptation of Expression law’ the English foreign language name was changed from ‘The union of Burma’ to ‘The union of Myanmar’. In a nutshell, there is not a huge difference between saying Myanmar or Burma. A lot of the time the debate between what to call the country becomes political, but mainly for people outside of Myanmar/ Burma and not so much for those inside of it. Both names are actually derived from the same word. Burmese language has two forms, a colloquial form that is used in conversation and for writing informal texts; it also has the literary form, which is a formal kind of Burmese. The literary form is a written not spoken form used for formal texts such as letters, academic papers and newspaper articles. The two forms have different spellings for lots of words. Myanmar is the spelling for Burma in the literary language where as Burma is the colloquial spelling of Myanmar in the colloquial language. So when reading an article in a newspaper (if you are able to read Burmese) you will see it written Myanmar. In a conversation with a friend though they may often refer to it as Burma, although Myanmar is increasingly being said in the colloquial setting. Not to get too technical, but for those who are interested the name Burma is actually just a local corruption of the word Myanmar in its spelling and pronunciation.  

So for the Burmese there is not a huge difference between the two, one is just more formal than the other. You should feel comfortable saying either, the vast majority of people in Myanmar or Burma will not view it as some sort of political protest to say Burma, they use it interchangeably, so you can too.  

More questions? Please call our office at +95 1 441 3410
Top