Myanmar Travel Guide

Myanmar is simply amazing. The country of 55 million is rapidly emerging from more than 50 years of military dictatorship, blossoming into as worthy a stop as its popular neighbours. The people are more than friendly; they are thrilled to have tourists after being closed off to the west for so long. And it’s safe; you won’t constantly need to feel for your purse or hold jewellery tight in fear.

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Traditional Festivals

It is almost impossible to visit Burma and not experience one of the hundreds of Burmese festivals that are celebrated across the country throughout the year. Cultural or religious events, these festivals are a riot of colour and pageantry, music and dancing. Here is our guide to the best of the Burmese festivals:

It is almost impossible to visit Burma and not experience one of the hundreds of Burmese festivals that are celebrated across the country throughout the year. Cultural or religious events, these festivals are a riot of colour and pageantry, music and dancing. Here is our guide to the best of the Burmese festivals:

Taunggyi Fire Balloon Festival

Taunggyi Fire Balloon Festival

Date: 2016 – 8 th to 14 th November, 2017 – Not specified yet

Where: Taunggyi

What:

The Taunggyi Fire balloon festival takes place in November in the capital of Shan State and celebrates the Full Moon of Tazaungmon with a dazzling array of balloons and fireworks, which light up the sky for the 5 days leading up to the full moon.

Phaung Daw U Festival

Phaung Daw U Festival

Date: 2016 – 8 th to 14 th November, 2017 – Not specified yet

Where: Taunggyi

What:

The Taunggyi Fire balloon festival takes place in November in the capital of Shan State and celebrates the Full Moon of Tazaungmon with a dazzling array of balloons and fireworks, which light up the sky for the 5 days leading up to the full moon.

Taungbyone Nat Festival

Taungbyone Nat Festival

Date: 2016 – 11 th to 18 th August, 2017 – Not yet specified

Where: Taungbyone

What:

The Taungbyone Nat festival in August provides an altogether different experience, where the world of Myanmar spirits meets gay pride in a small town north of Mandalay.

Thingyan Water Festival

Thingyan Water Festival

Date: 2016 – 13 th to 16 th April, 2017 – Not yet specified

Where: Countrywide

What:

The biggest, most exuberant and most famous countrywide festival is the Thingyan Water Festival, which takes place in mid-April (one of the hottest times of year), lasts for several days, and culminates with Myanmar New Year’s Day. The most devoutly religious may spend this time meditating at monasteries, but most people spend the week dancing, drinking, playing music and throwing a lot of water.

Kachin Manaw Festival

Kachin Manaw Festival

Date: 2016 – 9th and 10th January, 2017 – Not yet specified
Where: Myitkyina
What:
The Kachin Manaw Festival, a celebration of Kachin culture, takes place in Myitkyina in early January. Dancing, traditional costumes and huge, brightly coloured ‘Manaw’ poles are features of this popular festival.

The Ananda Pagoda Festival

The Ananda Pagoda Festival

Date: 2016 – 9th to 24th January, 2017 – Not yet specified
Where: Bagan
What
The Ananda Pagoda Festival (late December/early January) celebrates the traditional lives of farmers in Bagan; locals come from all the villages in the area in their decorated bullock carts and camp on the plain for the duration of the festival. Entertainment is provided by theatrical troupes and on the final daybreak there is a formal alms giving to the monks who live in the nearby monastery. 

ESSENTIAL TRAVEL TIPS

Visa
Myanmar has a new online e-visa system.  Please go to the official Myanmar ministry of Immigration e-visa website to complete the application. https://evisa.moip.gov.mm/  The visa is only valid for entry into Myanmar via Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw, is valid for 28 days, and costs $50.  This will take 4 working days to authorize.  Passports must be valid for at least 6 months after your departure.  It is possible to enter Myanmar overland, but a visa must have been arranged beforehand through a Myanmar Embassy.

Language
The main language of Myanmar is Burmese, although many people in cities and tourist areas also speak English.  Outside of these areas there are many different ethnic and language groups.  

Telephones
It is now possible to purchase a SIM card for as little as 1,500 kyat ($1.50) from many local shops.  Cards work on a top up, pay as you go basis.  

Internet
The internet is now widespread in Myanmar, where you will find many cafes and hotels have a Wi-Fi connection.  Due to bandwidth restrictions however, internet speeds can vary dramatically, according to demand through the day.

Electricity
Myanmar voltage is 220-240 volts.  It is advisable to bring a universal adaptor, which fits multiple socket types.  The electricity supply in Myanmar is unreliable, which can lead to blackouts.  All major hotels will have back up generators

Climate
Myanmar has a tropical monsoon climate.  A cool season, from November to February, a hot season, from March to May, and a rainy season, from June to October.  The most comfortable time to travel is in the cool season.  Temperatures range from around 28 degrees in the cool season, to 38 degrees in the hot season.  

Clothing
With generally high temperatures in the popular locations around the country, lightweight cotton and linen clothing is recommended for most of the year; warmer clothes may be needed for the evenings, which can sometimes be cool. Even outside the rainy season there can on occasion be downpours, so it is advisable to pack a light raincoat. Travelling to higher altitudes and further North, it is advisable to take warmer clothes, particularly in the cool season, when temperatures can drop significantly.

Culture
The main religion of the country is Buddhism, which you will notice in all aspects of everyday life.  Monks and nuns hold a very important status in society and should not be touched.  Revealing clothing is often frowned upon, and not permitted in pagodas, shrines or monasteries, where shoes and socks must also be taken off.  

Money
The official currency of Myanmar is the “kyat” (pronounced “shat”).  As of November 2015, businesses in Myanmar are no longer permitted to accept or trade in USD.  It is possible to exchange dollars to kyat at an official currency exchange, which are located at airports, and at local bank branches.  Dollars must be brought into Myanmar in perfect condition, with any blemishes resulting in a worse exchange rate, or the money may not be accepted.  There are now over 600 ATMs in Myanmar as well, which accepted Visa or MasterCard.  These charge a 5,000 kyat transaction fee, and have a withdrawal limit of 300,000 kyat.  

Transport
Buses will cost you around $7 to $30, depending on the length of your journey and what class of bus you use. Luxury ‘VIP’ buses, available on most popular routes, command a premium. Domestic flights typically cost between $40 and $200 for a single journey.

Taking the train can be more fun, but it is also slower than the bus – tickets range from $10 to $25 when booking online for ‘Upper Class’ seats or sleepers, again depending on how far you are travelling (tickets can be bought more cheaply at railway stations in kyat, and ‘Ordinary Class’ seats are cheaper still, although it usually make for an uncomfortable journey).

Travelling by boat is a unique way to experience Myanmar, and can be used for long-distance trips on the Irrawaddy River, with prices from $10 to $70, depending on the distance you are travelling and the speed of your boat.

Having a car and driver for the day usually allows you the greatest flexibility; taxis or car hire starts at around $50 per day.

Food and Drink
Eating out in Myanmar is, in general, inexpensive – you can expect to pay K1000 to K3000 for a simple meal at a local restaurant or teahouse, and for something more sophisticated, or for well made western food, you should pay no more than K4000 to K8000. Upscale restaurants in cities and major tourist spots will cost more.

Tap water is not safe to drink so you will need to buy bottled water, which costs around around K200 to K300 per bottle. Domestic-brand Coke costs around K800 for a bottle.

Guides
In some locations, hiring a guide can offer real benefits. A professional English-speaking guide will typically cost between US$30 and $50 per day, depending on your location. But you can often find locals who are willing to show you around for free; you should give them a small amount of money – or gift – in return.

Tipping is not customary in Myanmar, but a small contribution may be expected for hotel staff and guides. The country does have a custom of ‘tea money’, which is given for volunteered services, such as a local showing you around a market or gaining you entrance to a locked temple. These contributions should usually be around K200 to K500.

Personal security
In all the areas that foreigners are allowed to visit, Myanmar is very safe in terms of personal security: incidents of crime against foreigners are extremely low and Yangon is considered to be one of Asia’s safest large cities, with no areas that need to be avoided.

You may sometimes be approached by ‘money changers’ and people trying to sell things (their statements should not always be taken at face value), but this will usually be done in a good-natured manner. In fact, you will often find that people approaching you simply want to take the opportunity to talk to a foreigner and maybe practise their English.

Travellers Tips

Patience Is Important

Wake Up Early

Laugh At Yourself

Meet Local People

Pack A Scarf

Observe Daily Life

Back Everything Up

Take Lots Of Photos

Smile & Say Hello

Keep An Open Mind

WHY TRAVEL WITH US?

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