Myanmar is charming destination which boasts and abundance of temples but also isn’t short of perfect sandy beaches. In general, the country is more expensive than its neighbors in terms of travel cost, so some budgeting may be in order. This guide will help budget travelers plan their dream trip to Myanmar while still enjoying the core charm of this mysterious and majestic country.
Obtaining your Visa
Most Westerners will need a visa to enter Myanmar which will allow you to stay in the country up to 28 days. The cheapest way to obtain a Visa to Myanmar is to apply through the embassy – this costs $50 online for an Evisa, the official visa site is https://evisa.moip.gov.mm. With this visa you are only allowed to enter and exit the country via the Yandon, Mandalay, and Nay Pyi Taw International airports – which means no land crossings!
Flying to Myanmar
Air Asia is the premier choice for low cost flights into Yangon or Mandalay from the surrounding countries. The two best airlines with direct flights from European countries are Thai airways and Emirates with return fares ranging from £500-£700.
Money in Myanmar
The local currency in Myanmar is kyat (pronounced ch-yat). Business owners in Myanmar prefer new currency notes. Hence, the value you get from new notes is more than the old or folded notes. There are over 3000 ATM’s in Myanmar so you can draw money out of these – if they’re working! Exchange rates at the airport and at hotels are likely to be shockingly bad. The way to find the best exchange rate is by asking at markets, travel agencies, and supermarkets. Banks are a big no no.
The best city to exchange money is Yangon and the best places to exchange money is the Gold Shop in China town, as well as the Bureau Exchange in downtown.
The overnight buses are the top choice to travel inter-city. Routes with highway like Yangon – Bagan, Yangon – Mandalay have a wide range of overnight services which start from $12 one-way with sleeping berth and that all important air conditioning!
For the 4-hour journey from Bagan to Mandalay a day bus is far cheaper than the $70, 45-minute flight. Although the flight may be more comfortable and hassle free. On this route another option is a river cruise which lasts for 8 hours. This is available with meal included for about $15.
Trains are very cheap in Myanmar but for a reason – the quality will not match the comfort you can find not he buses or planes.
Yangon Heritage Trust, an organization whose aims are to protect British Architecture remaining in the city provide free walking tours of the city for 2 hours 3 times per week. You will be escorted by volunteers who have profound knowledge not only about the heritage sites but also the local life.
Authentic Asia, a local Myanmar Tour Operator provides free tours for Travel Bloggers 3 times a year. The tour is a full day and the emphasis is on letting visitors try the new things, mostly off the beaten tourist track.
Top Things to do
According to the Myanmar Tourism Board, the top 4 tourist destinations are; Inle Lake, Yangon, Mandalay, and Bagan.
At these tourist focused cities, backpackers can easily find a network of hostels which can accommodate you for $5/night with breakfast is included in this price sometimes.
Delicious street food is available in these cities and you can find a traditional meal for around $2. Other services in these 4 cities are closer to western standards than the rest of the country including internet access, laundry, and international phone calls.
One of the trendiest destinations in Myanmar currently is the Mergui Archipelago. This stunning area hosts 800 islands in a Marine National Park. The park includes beautiful diving sites and untouched beaches. It could be extremely expensive to immerse into its water via a private yacht, but you can head to Dawei town for about $20 and start your adventure around the coast. Its only $7/ day to rent a motorbike which could help you to discover your own private beach.
Another destination that can make your trip a once in a lifetime experience is Lashio. This area is totally off the tourist radar. Myanmar Outfitter Adventure, a social enterprise, sells reasonably priced tour which allow you to plunge into the pristine waters from a cascading waterfall. There are also chances to live in a homestay with a local family, tasting their real food. The trip to Lashio is a wonderful experience and great value for money.
You should prepare to pay entrance fees at temples and pagodas that can sometimes be quite expensive. A visit to Shwedagon pagoda costs $8, the zone fee of Bagan is up to $20, while the Inle Lake zone fee is $10. Sometimes you are requested to pay camera fee as well. These points should all be counted for your travel budget. The total entrance fees for all 4 cities can cost up to $55/ person.