A little gentle haggling is fine in markets, antique and curio shops, and in taxis. Don't push it too far, though, and keep in mind that the extra K1000 might be worth far more to the vendor than you. The exception to this is in Mogok where you can expect traders at its gem market to come in with a starting price around 10 times the item's value.
Dangers & Annoyances
For the vast majority of visitors, travel in Myanmar is safe and should pose no serious problems.
- Some areas of the country remain off limits due to ongoing civil war and/or landmines.
- In off-the-beaten-track places, where authorities are less used to seeing foreigners, local officials may ask you what you are up to. Saying you're a tourist normally satisfies them.
- If you have any tattoos of Buddha on your body, keep them covered up.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots:
New Zealand (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
Safety Guidelines for Hiking
We've heard about some travellers finding new paths and staying in the hills for a week or more. Most, however, stick with day trips. Here are a few points to consider before lacing up the boots:
- Hike with at least one companion; in most cases it's best to hire a guide.
- Do not venture by foot into areas restricted to foreigners; ask around before taking off.
- Camping in the hills is not technically legal, as foreigners must be registered nightly with local authorities by owners of 'licensed accommodation'.
- Trail conditions can get slippery and dangerous, especially in the rainy season.
- Walk only in regions within your capabilities – you're not going to find a trishaw out there to bring you back.
Bugs, Snakes, Rats & Monkeys
Mosquitoes, if allowed, can have a field day with you. Bring repellent from home, as the good stuff (other than mosquito coils) is hard to come by. Some guesthouses and hotels don't provide mosquito nets.
Myanmar has a high incidence of deaths from snakebite. Watch your step in brush, forest and grasses.
Family-run guesthouses, particularly in rural areas, might have a rodent or two. Wash your hands before sleeping and try to keep food out of your room.
In a few sites, such as Hpo Win Daung Caves, near Monywa, or Mt Popa near Bagan (Pagan), you'll have monkeys begging for snacks. Take care as bites are possible.
While not unheard of, crimes such as mugging are rare in Myanmar. Locals know that the penalties for stealing, particularly from foreigners, can be severe. Most travellers' memories of locals grabbing their money are of someone chasing them down to return a K500 note they dropped. If someone grabs your bag at a bus station, it's almost certainly just a motorcycle-taxi driver hoping for a fare.
Insurgents & Landmines
Large parts of northern, eastern and southern Shan State, as well as areas in Kachin, Kayin and Rakhine States, remain off limits to travellers because of ongoing fighting between the Burmese military and various armed ethnic organisations.
Landmines in restricted border areas are a threat.
Scams & Hassle
Myanmar touts are pretty minor league in comparison with others in the region. Most hassle is due to commissions. These small behind-the-scenes payments are made, whether you like it or not, to a taxi, trishaw driver or guide who takes you to a hotel, to buy a puppet or even to eat some rice.
When arriving at a bus station, you may be approached by touts, some of whom will try to steer you to a particular hotel that offers them a commission. Be wary of claims that your chosen place is 'no good', though in some cases motorcycle-taxi drivers who warn travellers that 'foreigners can't stay there' turn out to be correct. If you know where you want to go, persist and they'll take you.
That said, a few travel-related businesses and touts do go to creative lengths or use hard-sell techniques to rustle up customers, so try to keep your wits about you.
Be wary of fanciful offers of jade or other gems, as some are filled with a worthless rock or concrete mixture. Never buy gems on the street.
People may approach you to say hello. In some cases, they're just curious or want to practise some English; in other cases the conversation switches suddenly from where you're from to where you might need to go. However, it's all pretty harmless.
Do not change money on the street.
Transport & Road Hazards
The poor state of road and rail infrastructure plus lax safety standards and procedures for flights and boats means that travelling can sometimes be dangerous.
Safety often seems to be the last consideration of both drivers and pedestrians. Proceed with caution when crossing any road, particularly in cities. Do not expect drivers to follow road rules.
Tattoos & Buddha Images
Depictions of Buddha deemed inappropriate or offensive by Buddhists have caused serious problems for visitors to Myanmar. In 2015 a New Zealand bar manager in Yangon spent 10 months in jail for posting on Facebook an image of Buddha wearing headphones to promote a cheap drinks night. In 2016 a Spanish tourist was deported when monks in Bagan saw that he had a tattoo of Buddha on his leg. Heed local religious sensitivities and moderate your behaviour accordingly.
When it's working, the electricity supply is 230V, 50Hz AC. Many hotels have generators (some run at night only). Local power sources in many towns are scheduled for night hours only.
Power outages occur everywhere, including in Yangon and Mandalay. Many smaller towns have short scheduled periods for electricity, usually a few hours in the evening (and power always seems to be available if a premiership soccer game is on). Many hotels and shops run generators 24 hours, others keep them on only for a few hours (eg 6pm to 10pm, and maybe a few hours in the morning).
Embassies & Consulates
Most foreign embassies and consulates are based in Yangon. Check the government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mofa.gov.mm) for more information.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Myanmar's country code||95|
|International access code||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
If you have your visa ready and a valid passport with at least six months of validity from the time of entry in hand, you should have no trouble entering Myanmar either by air or land.
There is no requirement for you to show an onward ticket out of the country in order to enter Myanmar.
For the vast majority of visitors, clearing customs is a breeze, but it's important to be aware of the restrictions; for further details see www.myanmarcustoms.gov.mm.
Any foreign currency in excess of US$2000 is supposed to be declared upon entry. Besides personal effects, visitors are permitted to bring duty-free:
- 400 cigarettes
- 50 cigars
- 250g of tobacco
- 2L of alcoholic liquor
- 150ml of perfume.
It's not a problem to bring a camera, video camera, laptop or mobile phone. You cannot bring in antiques, pornographic materials or narcotic drugs.
A wide variety of antiques cannot legally be taken out of the country, including the following:
- prehistoric implements and artefacts
- old coins
- bronze or brass weights (including opium weights)
- bronze or clay pipes
- inscribed stones
- inscribed gold or silver
- historical documents
- religious images
- sculptures or carvings in bronze, stone, stucco or wood
- frescoes (even fragments)
- national regalia and paraphernalia.
Everyone requires a visa. Single-entry tourist visas last 28 days.
Citizens of 100 countries can apply online for tourist visas via Myanmar's Ministry of Immigration and Population website: http://evisa.moip.gov.mm.
The cost is US$50. After your application is processed, you'll be emailed an approval letter. Print it out and give it to the passport official on arrival at the airport or designated land borders with Thailand and you'll be stamped into the country.
E-visas can be used at Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw international airports; and at three Thailand–Myanmar land border crossings: Tachileik, Myawaddy and Kawthoung. You can exit the country at any overland border crossing bar the remote Htee Khee crossing (although you will need a permit and permission to exit to China and India).
Citizens of 51 countries can also apply online for business visas (US$70, valid 70 days), but you'll need a letter of invitation from a sponsoring company and proof of your company's registration of business.
Tourist visas (28 days) are valid for up to three months from the date of issue. Starting the process a month in advance is the safe bet; these days the processing can take anything between a day and a week.
There are slight differences between the application procedures at Myanmar embassies in different countries. Some require two passport photos, others only one. Postal applications are usually OK, but it's best to check first with your nearest embassy about its specific application rules.
If you’re already travelling, it’s possible to get a tourist visa at short notice from the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok; the cost is 1260B for same-day processing (application 9am to noon, collection 3.30pm to 4.30pm), 1035B for the next day.
Visa Extensions & Overstaying
Some travellers extend their trips by overstaying their visa. This is not normally a problem, as long as you don't overstay for more than 14 days. You will be charged US$3 a day, plus a US$3 registration fee, at the airport or land border as you exit the country. The fine can be paid in kyat as well, but it's important to have the correct amount, as receiving change is unlikely.
However, some hotels won't take guests who have overstayed their visas, and domestic airlines may be unwilling to let you on planes. If you're overstaying, it's wise to stick with land routes and places within easy reach of Yangon. There have been cases in the past of tourists being instructed to leave the country immediately if their visa has expired.
Myanmar etiquette is based on respect for others.
- Greetings Both hands may be used to shake hands, and Myanmar women may prefer to simply smile and make a slight nod. Don't kiss in public.
- Eating The right hand is used for eating, the left for personal hygiene.
- Temples, shrines & mosques Dress conservatively at all religious sites, ie no revealing clothes, and legs and shoulders covered. Shoes and shocks should be removed before entering the religious site. Also refrain from taking photos of Buddha statues.
- Heads and feet Don't touch people on the head and avoid pointing your feet at people or religious objects when sitting.
- Bargaining Gentle hagglling in markets and taxis is OK, but not in shops.
- Homosexuality is seen as a bit of a cultural taboo, though most locals are known to be tolerant of it, for both men and women.
- 'Carnal intercourse against nature' is legally punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years. The law is rarely enforced, but it renders gays and lesbians vulnerable to police harassment.
- Gay and transgendered people in Myanmar are rarely 'out', except for 'third sex' spirit mediums who channel the energies of nat spirits.
- Some Buddhists believe that those who committed sexual misconduct (such as adultery) in a previous life become gay or lesbian in this one.
- Public displays of affection, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are frowned upon; a local woman walking with a foreign man will raise more eyebrows than two same-sex travellers sharing a room.
- For more information on GLBTI issues in Myanmar, see Colours Rainbow (www.colorsrainbow.com). Also check Utopia-Asia (www.utopia-asia.com), which publishes a gay guide to Southeast Asia, including Myanmar.
- Agencies offering gay-friendly trips to Myanmar include Purple Dragon and Gay Tours Myanmar.
A travel-insurance policy is a very wise idea. There is a wide variety of policies and your travel agent will have recommendations.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you're already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Wi-fi is the norm in big cities – most hotels and guesthouses and some restaurants and cafes will have it and it's normally free. There are also internet cafes in the cities, although they are usually used for online gaming. Internet access can even be found in relatively remote locations, such as Mrauk U.
However, with low bandwidth and power outages, it can often be a frustrating exercise to send and receive large files over the internet, particularly in rural areas.
You have absolutely no legal recourse in case of arrest or detainment by the authorities, regardless of the charge. If you are arrested, you will most likely be permitted to contact your consular agent in Myanmar for possible assistance.
If you purchase gems or jewellery from persons or shops that are not licensed by the government, you run the risk of having them confiscated if customs officials find them in your baggage when you're exiting the country.
Drug-trafficking crimes are punishable by death.
The best available is the 1:2,000,000 Periplus Editions Myanmar Travel Map, a folded map with plans for Mandalay, Yangon and the Bagan area, or the ITMB 1:1,350,000 Myanmar (Burma). Another choice is the 1:1,500,000 Nelles Myanmar, a folded map on coated stock. Good places to buy maps online include International Travel Maps and Books (www.itmb.com) and East View Map Link (www.maplink.com).
Myanmar-based Design Printing Services (www.dpsmap.com) prints useful tourist maps of Myanmar, Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan; sometimes these maps are sold locally for about K1000 or given away by tour agencies, at hotels and international gateway airports. For more detailed country-wide maps, contact Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU; www.themimu.info).
- Newspapers and magazines Read the English-language newspaper Myanmar Times (www.mmtimes.com), published Monday to Friday, and the weekly current-affairs magazines Frontier Myanmar (http://frontiermyanmar.net) and Mizzima Weekly (http://mizzima.com).
- Radio Bring a short-wave radio and listen to BBC and VOA broadcasts.
- TV Watch satellite TV – you'll often find CNN, BBC World, Al Jazeera, and other news and entertainment channels at hotels.
Cash mainly. ATMs accepting international cards are increasingly available in cities, towns and tourist areas. Bring pristine US bills for exchange.
There are now hundreds of ATMs across the country. There is a withdrawal fee of K5000 and a withdrawal limit of K300,000 per transaction.
Don't rely solely on ATMs, especially in more off the beaten track towns: the machines don't always work. Also make sure you keep records of ATM transactions in case of any problems.
The most useful of the local banks (open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday) are CB and KBZ, both of which now issue and accept MasterCard and Visa cards and have ATMs in which you can use overseas-issued cards for a K5000 charge per transaction.
Do not change money with people on the street.
Bring New Bills
In July 2016 the Central Bank of Myanmar urged banks and moneylenders to accept crumpled and old US dollar bills. That said, bringing to Myanmar pristine 'new' bills – bills issued in 2006 or later that have colour and are in perfect condition: no folds, stamps, stains, writing marks or tears – is still recommended.
Bills damaged in any way will attract lower rates of exchange or may still be rejected. You will get the best exchange rates from US$100 bills, but it's also a good idea to bring some small dollar bills – ones, fives and 10s.
Credit Cards & Travellers Cheques
Travellers cheques are useless. However, in Yangon and other major tourist spots you'll increasingly find credit cards accepted by top-end hotels, restaurants and some shops.
Myanmar remains a predominantly cash economy. The national currency, the kyat (pronounced 'chat'), is divided into the following banknotes: K50, K100, K200, K500, K1000, K5000 and K10,000.
The US dollar is less of an alternative currency than it once was, but many guesthouses and hotels still quote prices and accept payment in the greenback. Prices in reviews alternate between kyat (K) and US dollars (US$), depending on the currency in which prices are quoted at the place itself.
Most everyday Items, such as meals, bus tickets, trishaw or taxi rides, or bottles of water or beer, need to be paid for with kyat.
When paying in US dollars, check the exchange rate being used and your change carefully. Locals tend to unload slightly torn bills that work fine in New York but are likely to be worthless for the rest of your trip in Myanmar.
Donations & Bribes
Have some small notes (K50, K100, K200) ready when visiting a religious temple or monastery, as donations may be requested and you may wish to leave one even if it's not.
The government has vowed to fight corruption, but it's a fact that bribes remain an ingrained feature of large sections of Myanmar's economy. You may find that a small amount of 'tea money' is need to expedite certain services – use sense and discretion if you find yourself in such a situation.
The US dollar is the only foreign currency that’s readily exchanged and/or accepted as payment for goods and services.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
You'll find official bank and private licensed exchange booths at places such as Yangon and Mandalay airports, Bogyoke Aung San Market and Shwedagon Paya in Yangon.
Never hand over your money until you've received the kyat and counted them. Honest money changers will expect you to do this. Considering that K10,000 is the highest denomination, you'll get a lot of notes. Money changers give ready-made, rubber-banded stacks of a hundred K1000 bills. It's a good idea to check each note individually. Often you'll find one or two (or more) with a cut corner or taped tears, neither of which anyone will accept.
Many travellers do the bulk of their exchanging in Yangon, then carry the stacks of kyat around the country. Considering the relative safety from theft, it's not a bad idea, but you can exchange money elsewhere and the spreading of ATMs is making such a strategy increasingly unnecessary.
Tipping is not customary in Myanmar, though little extra 'presents' are sometimes expected (even if they're not asked for) in exchange for a service.
Airport If someone helps you with your bags, a small tip is welcomed.
Restaurants As wages are low, it's a good idea to leave change for waiters.
Temples A small donation is appreciated if a caretaker is required to unlock a temple.
Government offices and post offices 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday
Shops 9am to 6pm
Restaurants 11am to 9pm
Cafes and tea shops 6am to 6pm
Banks 9.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday
Photo-processing shops and internet cafes can burn digital photos onto a CD, but you should have your own adapter. Colour film – Fuji and Kodak – is available in Yangon and Mandalay.
Avoid taking photographs of military facilities, uniformed individuals, roadblocks and strategic locations, such as bridges.
Most locals are very happy to be photographed, but always ask first. If you have a digital camera with a display screen, some locals (kids, monks, anyone) will be overjoyed to see their image. It's also very easy and cheap to get digital photos turned into prints that can then be given to people as presents.
Some sights, including some paya and other religious sites, charge a camera fee of K100 or so. Usually a video-camera fee is a little more.
For tips on how to shoot photos, pick up Lonely Planet's Travel Photography.
Most mail out of Myanmar gets to its destination quite efficiently. International-postage rates are a bargain: a postcard is K500, a 1kg package to Australia/the UK/the US K16,200/18,900/20,700.
Post offices are supposed to be open from 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday, but you may find some keep shorter hours.
DHL is a more reliable but expensive way of sending out bigger packages.
If you don't want to be overburdened with your souvenir purchases as you travel around Myanmar, enquire whether the shop can package your gifts and arrange to have them delivered to a final destination hotel by bus – the extra fee is often minimal.
Major fixed public holidays:
Independence Day 4 January
Union Day 12 February
Peasants' Day 2 March
Armed Forces Day 27 March
Workers' Day 1 May
Martyrs' Day 19 July
Christmas 25 December
The following public-holiday dates vary according to the lunar calendar:
Thingyan Three days in April
National Day Mid-November to late December
- Smoking Banned in most indoor public places, indoor workplaces and on public transport. It is allowed in hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars. However, some hotels and guesthouses are totally nonsmoking, others have designated smoking floors.
Taxes & Refunds
At many shops, hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars you will pay 5% government commercial tax (the local equivalent of VAT). At some places you will also pay a 10% private service tax.
There are no refunds to travellers on the commercial tax paid on goods exported from Myanmar.
Most business cards in Myanmar list a couple of phone numbers, as landlines frequently go dead and calls just don't go through.
Local call stands – as part of a shop, or sometimes just a table with a phone or two on a sidewalk – are fast disappearing following the introduction of affordable mobile-phone services. If you do find such a stand, a local call should be K100 per minute.
To dial long distance within Myanmar, dial the area code (including the '0') and the number.
A useful resource is the Myanmar Yellow Pages (www.myanmaryellowpages.biz).
Internet cafes using Skype and other VOI protocols, official telephone (call) centres and top-end hotels are among the ways to call overseas, though sometimes this can be done on the street through vendors offering use of their mobile phones.
Via a landline, it costs about US$5 per minute to call Australia or Europe and US$6 per minute to phone North America.
To call Myanmar from abroad, dial your country's international-access code, then 95 (Myanmar's country code), the area code (minus the '0'), and the five- or six-digit number.
Mobile phone numbers begin with 09. Prepaid SIM cards are widely available from K1500 and can be used in unlocked phones. If your handset is locked, it's possible to buy a smartphone in Myanmar for as little as US$80.
There are three mobile networks: government-owned MPT (www.mpt.com.mm) and the private operators Telenor Myanmar (www.telenor.com.mm) and Ooredoo (www.ooredoo.com.mm). All offer pay-as-you go SIM cards (from K1500), which can be used with unlocked smartphones.
For call and text fees and internet plans, top-up cards of between K1000 and K10,000 are widely available.
The local Myanmar Standard Time (MST) is 6½ hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT/UTC). When coming in from Thailand, turn your watch back half an hour; coming from India, put your watch forward an hour. The 24-hour clock is often used for train times.
Living on Myanmar Time
Chances are that your bus or train will roll in late, but much of Myanmar actually does work on a different time system. Burmese Buddhists use an eight-day week in which Thursday to Tuesday conform to the Western calendar but Wednesday is divided into two 12-hour days. Midnight to noon is 'Bohdahu' (the day Buddha was born), while noon to midnight is 'Yahu' (Rahu, a Hindu god/planet). However, it's rare that the week's unique structure causes any communication problems.
The traditional Myanmar calendar features 12 28-day lunar months that run out of sync with the months of the solar Gregorian calendar. To stay in sync with the solar year, Myanmar inserts a second Waso lunar month every few years – somewhat like the leap-year day added to the Gregorian February. The lunar months of Myanmar are Tagu, March/April; Kason, April/May; Nayon, May/June; Waso, June/July; Wagaung, July/August; Tawthalin, August/September; Thadingyut, September/October; Tazaungmon, October/November; Nadaw, November/December; Pyatho, December/January; Tabodwe, January/February; and Tabaung, February/March.
Traditionally, Burmese kings subscribed to various year counts. The main one in current use, the thekkayit, begins in April and is 638 years behind the Christian year count. Therefore, the Christian year of 2017 is equivalent to the thekkayit of 1379. If an ancient temple you see sounds way too old, it may be because locals are using the thekkayit.
Another calendar in use follows the Buddhist era (BE), as used in Thailand, which counts from 543 BC, the date that Buddha achieved nibbana. Hence AD 2017 is 2560 BE.
- Apart from most guesthouses, hotels and upscale restaurants, squat toilets are the norm. Most of these are located down a dirt path behind a house.
- Usually next to the toilet is a cement reservoir filled with water, and a plastic bowl lying nearby. This has two functions: as a flush and for people to clean their nether regions while still squatting over the toilet.
- Toilet paper is available at shops all over the country, but not often at toilets. Some places charge a nominal fee to use the toilet.
- Sit-down toilets are not equipped to flush paper. Usually there's a small waste basket nearby to deposit used toilet paper.
- It's acceptable for men (less so for women) to go behind a tree or bush (or at the roadside) when nature calls.
- Buses and smaller boats usually don't have toilets.
Ministry of Hotels & Tourism Tourist Information Located in Yangon. This office is quiet, and often the staff has sketchy knowledge on restricted areas of the country.
Myanmar Travels & Tours Located in New Bagan.
MTT Located in Mandalay. Efficient and generally helpful staff.
Travellers who want to arrange a driver, or have hotel reservations awaiting them, would do well to arrange a trip with the help of private travel agents in Yangon and other major cities. Many Myanmar 'travel agents' outside Yangon only sell air tickets.
For anything other than straightforward visits, you might want to call on the services of one of the following recommended domestic travel agencies.
Asian Trails This experienced outfit can arrange specific-interest tours of Myanmar, including cycling and mountaineering, as well as visits to remote areas.
Ayarwaddy Legend Travels & Tours Can provide advice on visiting off-the-beaten-track areas, such as mountain climbing in Chin State.
Columbus Travels & Tours Established in 1993, Columbus also has branches in Mandalay, Bagan and Inle.
Diethelm Travel Among other things, this five-decades-old Swiss-owned operation can arrange walking tours of Yangon, visits to an elephant camp near Kalaw or a beach safari from Ngapali.
Discovery DMC This experienced European-owned agency is well versed in arranging trips to areas that are off the beaten track and need permits.
Flymya Online booking agency for hotels, domestic flights, express buses, car hire, tours and events.
Good News Travels The owner, William Myatwunna, is extremely personable and knowledgeable, and can help arrange visits across the country.
Journeys Myanmar Can arrange river trips on a wide range of luxury craft and other options. Also biking tours and sailing holidays in the Myeik Archipelago. Located off Pyay Rd.
Khiri Travel The friendly, professional team offers biking and kayak trips in Shan and Kayin States, walking tours of markets and meetings with fortune-tellers, as well as many other options.
Myanmar Trekking Worth consulting if you're interested in off-the-beaten-track trekking adventures across Myanmar.
Oway Online booking agency for a wide range of hotels, domestic flights, express buses, car hire and tours.
SST Tours This ecotours specialist has excellent contacts in the country's national parks and reserves, and can arrange trips that will delight nature lovers.
Travel with Children
Travelling with children in Myanmar can be very rewarding as long as you come well prepared with the right attitude, the physical requirements and the usual parental patience.
- Lonely Planet's Travel with Children contains useful advice on travelling with kids on the road.
- People in Myanmar love children and in many instances will shower attention on your offspring, who will find ready playmates among their local counterparts.
- It may be confusing for some children (and distressing to adults) seeing children working at restaurants and teahouses. Sadly, this is an unavoidable fact in a country with high poverty levels.
- Myanmar has a low level of public sanitation, so parents would be wise to lay down a few ground rules with regard to maintaining their children's good health, such as regular hand washing.
- Children should especially be warned not to play with animals they encounter, as a precaution against rabies.
- Nappies (diapers) are hard to come by outside the major cities; come prepared if your travels will take you off the beaten track.
- Most high-end hotels and restaurants will have highchairs available.
- When travelling with children, it may be more comfortable getting about by private car.
Sights & Activities
- Rides on trishaws and in horse carts.
- Boat trips on Inle Lake in dugout canoes.
- Big Buddhist sights and ancient ruins can make for good learning experiences, including Yangon's Shwedagon Paya, the reclining Buddhas in Bago, or the 10-storey Buddha in Pyay. You can climb into the back of the lacquered Buddha image at Nan Paya in Salay.
- Some kids might dig ruins of old palace walls and moats, which you can see at places like Bagan and Mrauk U.
- Indulge in some face painting by trying on thanakha (yellow sandalwood-like paste), which is sold and applied from sidewalk stands around the country.
- There's excellent birdwatching at the Moeyungyi Wetlands near Bago.
- Traditional puppet shows are performed in Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay, as well as other places.
- Beaches at Ngapali, Chaung Tha and Ngwe Saung and Southern Myanmar.
- Myanmar's festivals, such as Thingyan in mid-April with its throwing of water, and Taunggyi's fire-balloon festival in October or November, can be a lot of fun.
With its lack of paved roads or footpaths (even when present, the latter are often uneven), Myanmar presents many physical obstacles for those with impaired mobility. Rarely do public buildings (or transport) feature ramps or other access points for wheelchairs, and hotels make inconsistent efforts to provide access for travellers with disabilities.
For wheelchair travellers, any trip to Myanmar will require a good deal of planning. Before setting off, get in touch with your national support organisation (preferably with the travel officer, if there is one) and download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Also try the following:
Accessible Journeys (www.disabilitytravel.com)
Mobility International USA (www.miusa.org) Advises travellers with disabilities on mobility issues and runs educational international exchange programs.
Nican (www.nican.com.au) In Australia.
Tourism for All (www.tourismforall.org.uk) In the UK.
Volunteering opportunities in Myanmar include teaching, medicine, and assisting entrepreneurs and fledgling social businesses with skills and administration. There are plenty of NGOs, but they usually employ skilled personnel and require a long-term commitment.
Be very wary about visiting or volunteering to teach at orphanages – see www.thinkchildsafe.org/thinkbeforevisiting for more details.
Organisations in Myanmar that often look for volunteers include the following:
KT Care Foundation Myanmar (www.ktcare.org)
Myanmore (www.myanmore.com) Publishes the free Know It Myanmore guide twice yearly, which has further details about volunteering opportunities; a PDF is available online.
UN Volunteers (http://unv.org/how-to-volunteer)
VIA (Volunteers in Asia; http://viaprograms.org)
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Petrol is sold by the gallon; distances are in miles, not kilometres; 1 Burmese viss or 100 tical equals 3.5lb; 1 gaig equals 36in.
As in most Buddhist countries, foreign women travelling in Myanmar are rarely hassled on the road as they might be in India, Malaysia or Indonesia. However, there have been a few reports of sexual harassment.
Few Myanmar women would consider travelling without at least one female companion, so women travelling alone may be regarded as slightly peculiar by the locals. Lone women being seen off on boats and trains by local friends may find the latter trying to find a suitably responsible older woman to keep them company on the trip.
If you didn't bring tampons, one good place to find them is Yangon's City Mart Supermarket.
'Ladies' (per the posted signs in certain areas) cannot go up to some altars or onto decks around stupas, including the one affording a close-up look at the famous Golden Rock at Kyaiktiyo, or apply gold leaf on the Buddha image at Mandalay's Mahamuni Paya. Also, women should never touch a monk; if you're handing something to a monk, place the object within reach of him, not directly into his hands.
Most locals tend to visit teahouses, restaurants or shops with members of the same sex. Asian women, even from other countries, travelling with a Western man may encounter rude comments.
Citizens of 50 countries can apply for a single-entry business visa online.
Multiple-entry business visas, valid for up to a year, are not available online and require a foreigner to have visited Myanmar on three prior occasions. Whatever visa you have, it's important to make sure you don't overstay its validity – multiple-entry business visas require the holder to leave and return to Myanmar every 70 days.
Note, although some expats do use such visas to work full- or part-time in Myanmar, strictly a business visa is meant for conducting meetings and business, not for seeking and gaining employment – for that you will need a Long Stay Permit and Foreign Registration Certificate (FRC). To obtain such documents it is best to engage the services of a local visa and immigration specialist.
Among the work possibilities in Myanmar are teaching, journalism, medicine and a whole raft of NGOs. Online sources for jobs include www.work.com.mm and www.jobnet.com.mm.