Planning your visit to Myanmar-10 things to know

If you’re considering a visit to Myanmar, this post shares some key points you should consider
1 Myanmar Visa requirement for Indians:
Indians can get eVisa to visit Myanmar- cost is 50 USD and can be applied online- you will need a soft copy of a passport size photo before applying. eVisa approval letter will arrive within a day or two and is valid for 90 days from the date of issue.

eVisa is single entry only and allows you up to 30 days of stay in Myanmar for tourist purposes and is valid only for entry via select airports like Yangon, Mandalay etc. If arriving by road or ship etc pls cross check. You may need a stamped visa.

Use this official website: https://evisa.moip.gov.mm/ There're many other sites which may charge extra.

2. Currency
Myanmar local currency is known as Kyat, currency code MMK. 1000 MMK is roughly 50 INR. Indian forex traders won’t be stocking MMK, so your best bet is to either withdraw from an ATM in Myanmar upon arrival or carry USD and convert (I recommend the former). Most shops in Myanmar do readily accept USD as well. Myanmar domestic airlines list their fares in USD. There’re no coins in Myanmar- some sell coins that existed earlier as souvenir. Lowest currency note is 100 MMK (INR 5). Bigger shops/hotels might round off to nearest 1000. Most currency notes are often old, dilapidated  and in sorry state- if the note you get is in very bad shape don’t hesitate to ask for a replacement.

3. Public transportation
Public transportation in Myanmar seems reasonably good.
Yangon city has a good network of AC and Non AC buses- a 20 km journey from Airport to Sule Pagoda costs 500 MMK or 25 INR, short trips cost 200 MMK or INR 10- bus driver will NOT give change back- cash needs to be dropped inside the box next to the driver- be sure to carry adequate change- same fare irrespective of where you get off the bus.


Google maps wasn't showing bus numbers/public transport options to reach a destination, but your hotel/hostel staff will help. Most major bus stations have a supervisor who can assist you, bus numbers are written in English on most buses.

Train network exists but is very old- almost like world war 2 times with a narrow gauge track and very old coaches. But all the trains I travelled were on time and took me to destination at very affordable prices.

Bike taxies are very popular in most part of Myanmar- they quote like 2000 MMK for short distances like 2-4 kms- you can negotiate based on distance and how badly you want a ride.

Ferry: Some parts of city can be reached by ferry- separate tickets apply for foreign nationals.

Cycle rickshaws and regular taxis are also available at reasonable fares. Most taxis are old and have bare minimum comfort n features.

4. Food
Vegetarians are a minority in Myanmar- not very easy to find veg food or veg restaurants. I have a separate coming up on this

Non-vegetarians will enjoy a range of street foods- every street has some stalls selling delicacies.

Most hostels offer complementary breakfast.

5. Things to do/explore
Most prominent attractions in Myanmar will be Pagodas and Buddha statues- there’re thousands of them all over the country. Depending on your time, interest you can explore few major ones in each city.

Myanmar is a reasonably big country-almost the size of Thailand. There're many less popular towns you can explore, other than the most visited Yangon, Bago, Bagan and Mandalay.

There are a few beach towns, lakes, palaces and other historical places you can explore. Some activities like hot air balloon can also be tried. I didn’t find anything super impressive- things that are must visit and worth traveling all the way for or attractions/activities not available anywhere else in the world. If you’ve explored Thailand enough, then you’d have seen similar Pagodas and attractions that Myanmar has on offer.

Of course I have spent only 5 days in Myanmar and explored only places around Yangon and Bago. I’ve not explored north Myanmar or places far away from Yangon, so don’t let my above statement discourage you- do your research and decide.

It is very much possible to explore Myanmar on your own, without pre-booking any package or availing service of a tour operator. However should you wish to do it that way, your hotel will be able to assist or you can book from various travel agencies on the streets of Yangon.

6. Tourist scams
Very minimum and manageable. I read a lot about tourist scams in Dala village- I managed to visit it on foot without having to availany services. Myanmar is a poor country and like in any place, people hope to make some money from tourists. Regular precautions should suffice. As such people are friendly and supportive. I didn’t face any issues.

7. Air connectivity
Yangon is the main airport from where flights are available to different cities. But domestic flights are very expensive- Yangon-Mandalay flight was 100 USD one way, more expensive than what I had paid to reach Yangon from Chennai. I had no clue Yangon has so many airports- check this detailed post on airlineblog. You may want to fly into Yangon and fly out of Mandalay etc to avoid flying back n forth.

Yangon airport is decent.

8. Budget- how much it will cost
Myanmar is not an expensive country to visit. Once you manage a cheap flight ticket, rest of the expenses will be bare minimum. Below is an idea how much various things cost
  • Hostel rooms- 6 to 10 USD per person, per night for shared accomodation
  • Decent hotels and resorts- 40 USD+ per room per night onwards
  • Proper vegetarian meal- INR 600-700 approx
  • Public transportation cost- approx. INR 200-300 per day or less, depending on usage, type
  • Entry fees to attractions: INR 500 per person (Shwedagon and Bago), many attractions are free to explore.
  • Cup of coffee: Around INR 25
  • Flight ticket to Myanmar from India- 20-25k under normal conditions, but possible to get for 10-12k during AirAsia Big sale and other promotions. (without checkin bag n food)
Summary: Excluding flight, you can manage Myanmar trip within 100 USD per day in luxury (good hotel, food, taxi hire etc) or about 30-40 USD in budget (cheaper hostels, more public transport etc)- check this post to understand my Myanmar trip expense, which was just about 31k for 5 days, everything inclusive.

9. Visiting Myanmar as an extension to another trip.
If you have time at hand, it might be very economical and convenient to visit Myanmar as an extension to your trip to other South East asian countries such as Thailand or Singapore or Malaysia etc.

Budget airlines like Air Asia, NOK Air have very cheap flights to Yangon, Mandalay etc from their hubs in Bangkok DMK, Kuala Lumpur KLIA2 or Singapore. So if you've planned a trip to Thailand or Malaysia etc you can extend it by another 3-4 days and fly to Mandalay or Yangon to explore Myanmar. This will be cheaper than making a separate trip to Myanmar from India- but do check visa requirements for the countries involved in your trip, as single entry visa may make your return flight complicated- you may have to buy a through ticket like Yangon-KUL-Chennai to avoid another immigration clearance at transit country.

10. Other concerns/points to note:
  • Most part of Myanmar is dirty. Cleanliness and Hygeine levels are very low even by India standards.  Things get worse after a rain and in suburban areas. Do exercise caution while buying street food or walking around
  • Lungi seem to have its origin in Myanmar
  • Most Pagodas and temples will have multiple exits. You can carry your footwear in a bag- this will allow you to exit from some other entrance and proceed to next attraction, not necessarily having to come back from where you started.
  • Almost all Pagodas offer free drinking water
  • Do check timings- most Pagodas are open till late evening
Bonus Question: Is Myanmar safe for solo female travelers?
I think yes- along with usual precautions it should be perfectly fine. I may not be the best person to comment on this but my observations below:

I walked 4 kms from Shwedagon Pagoda to my hostel near Sule at around 9 PM. Did not face any issue. no one troubled me-except few bike taxi drivers who wanted to check if I want a ride

I walked 6 kms in Dala all alone- day time- always had a fear back of my mind what if 3-4 locals gang up and loot my valuables. Nothing of that sort happened. No one troubled me.

The hostel I stayed had many European female travelers. Even on the street many shops had female staff working late night. Didn't see anyone teasing/troubling/harassing foreigners/females during my trip. Thus I can't think of any reason to say Myanmar is unsafe. Do take usual precautions and I think you will be fine.

You may want to check with Divyakshi Gupta or Sonal of DrifterPlanet for their assessment of safety during female solo travel.

10 comments:

Appreciate your efforts and interests to comment. Comments may be moderated due to increased spam. Will ideally respond to comments within few days.Use Anonymous option if you don't wish to leave your name/ID behind- Shrinidhi

Powered by Blogger.