Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is a Southeast Asian nation that shares borders with China, India, Laos, Bangladesh and Thailand. After decades under oppressive military rule, Myanmar is finally seeing tourist numbers begin to grow. How much do we really know about the country that paints such a colorful picture in the minds of so many? A country known for it’s political unrest, bustling street life, vibrant market scene, serene lakes and stunning Buddhist Temples.
Fun Fact: Myanmar is a terrible place to be a Barber or Hairdresser because there’s so much superstition about hair cutting. Here, nobody cuts their hair on Monday, Friday and on their birthday.
Myanmar Travel Info
Language: There are about one hundred languages spoken in Myanmar but Burmese is the most widely used and is spoken by two thirds of people here. Many people in Myanmar also speak conversational English.
Currency: Burmese Kyat.
Visa: With a valid passport, that does not expire for at least 6 months after you plan on leaving Myanmar, you should have no trouble getting a visa. Citizens of over 100 countries can apply for a tourist e-visa online. This will be valid for 28 and costs about $50. Make sure you apply for your visa at least 1 month in advance of your trip.
Electricity: Myanmar operates on 230V/50Hz and has two different plug sockets types that are mainly used. A European socket with two round prongs and a socket D type that has three round prongs. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Myanmar Festivals & Celebrations
Myanmar is an ethnic and cultural melting pot where travelers can experience a huge variety of festivals, cultural events and ceremonies throughout the year. In order to get the true feel of a country, you need to dive into it’s festivals and celebrations and see first-hand how the people come together to celebrate and honor century old beliefs and traditions.
Thingyan Festival: This festival marks the beginning of each year in the Myanmar calendar. Do you know how they celebrate it? People bring out their inner child and splash water on each other. The best (or worst) part about Thingyan is that the water splashing goes on for up to four days. If you visit Myanmar during a leap year then you get to celebrate the Thingyan Festival for five days.
Kachin Manaw Festival: Another festival that marks the beginning of the new year is the Kachin Manaw Festival. During this festival, intricately detailed poles are designed and placed amidst the area where the celebration takes place. People join hands and dance around these poles to welcome a New Year that can bring hope and joy into their lives.
Kyaikhtiyo Thadingyut Festival: The most awaited festival in Myanmar. Kyaikhtiyo Thadingyut welcomes Lord Buddha back to Earth from the heavens above. People light up the entire country with candles. This festival is particularly popular with kids because when they visit the homes of elderly people they get money and gifts.
Safety In Myanmar
Safety is a concern for most people traveling to Myanmar. Bag-snatching, pick-pocketing and other scams to take advantage of travelers are common in some places. Some parts of Myanmar are dangerous so always do your research before you travel and make sure that you avoid any dodgy areas. Female travelers to Myanmar should be mindful to dress appropriately and be extra careful when walking alone or at night. Based on many years of solo travel around southeast Asia I would never leave home without travel insurance. I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your Myanmar trip. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Amazing Things To Do In Myanmar
Explore the temples
Discover thousands of temples featuring incredible art and architecture all over Bagan. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were built in the Bagan plains. Over 2,200 temples and pagodas are still standing today and most can be explored on foot. Tourists from all over the world come to get a glimpse of the temples (and the sunrise) from hot air balloons.
No visit to Myanmar is complete without seeing the 2500 year old Shwedagon Pagoda. No matter where you are in Myanmar, you won’t miss out on the shimmer of the Shwedagon Pagoda that ninety-nine meters high. This is the most sacred pilgrimage site for Buddhists in Myanmar and is believed to contain relics of the four previous Buddhas of the present kalpa. The top of the Shwedagon Pagoda is made up of several diamonds which rest on the gold body.
Shop the markets
To get the real feel of a place you need to visit the local markets. Myanmar has lots of really lively, captivating markets that you must take a wonder around. Visit the Thiri Mingalar Market that lies in the outskirts of the capital city in Myanmar. It’s one of the largest markets that you will come across. Enjoy the typical market hustle and bustle and buy some of their fresh, local produce to take home for your dinner. Some of the best flea and street markets in Myanmar include Bogyoke Aung San Market in Yangon. Jade market in Mandalay (where you can buy, you guessed it, Jade) and Zegyo Market also in Mandalay.
Inwa is an ancient city near Mandalay, in central Myanmar. From the 14th to the 19th century Inwa was Myanmar’s capital city and it has religious ruins still scattered all around from this time. Worth seeing in Inwa is the Bagaya Kyaung which is a 19th century working monastery made of teak.
As the experts know, great wines start in the vineyard so what’s your poison? Myanmar will take care of your thirst in the best way possible with it’s many vineyards. A trip to the Aythaya winery, the 1st vineyard of Myanmar, will be worth it as you explore the delicious wines, tour the wine making process and experience wine lessons at the regular tasting events.
The Ayeyarwady River
The Ayeyarwady or Irrawaddy river in Myanmar forms the delta region. It’s captivating beauty and enchanting calm will wash all your worries away. This river is not only the largest in the whole of Myanmar but it is very important too. The Ayeyarwady River joins the cultural, modern, economic and historical branches of the country together. The river travels a course of 1300 miles before finally joining paths with the Andaman Sea.
Yangon’s Night Market
Night markets serve a vital role in Myanmar’s society, experience them up close for genuine interactions with the people of Myanmar. There is something highly exhilarating about the night markets in Myanmar particularly the night bazaar that runs along Strand Road between 37th and Wa Dan Streets. This is the city’s first market regulated by the government and the perfect place to indulge in an all-you-can-eat street food buffet. Yangon’s night market is open from approximately 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
The Saddar Cave
Among several caves, Saddar is a must-see one in Hpa An. It’s about 20 km from Hpa An center and the best way to get there is by taxi. The Saddar caves contain different Buddhist statue and Stupas, wall golden frescoes placed all along the walking path. As you continue to go deeper into the caves feel the thrill and adrenaline rise in your body with the sudden outbursts of shrieks from nocturnal bats flying all around you.
Win Sein Taw Ya
Win Sein Taw Ya is the largest reclining Buddha in the world at 30 meters high and 180 meters long. This reclining Buddha is filled with rooms that showcase dioramas of the teachings of Buddha. Visiting the giant Buddha involves walking into a giant head but don’t get too excited, it is still a place of worship and you’ll need to take your shoes off! After almost 15 years of construction, the reclining Buddha is still not complete.
This pagoda, also known as the Yadana Labamuni Hsu-taungpye Paya was founded in 1974 by a Buddhist monk and is near Mandalay. It’s famous for it’s large pythons that live coiled around the Buddha statue. Myanmar worships these snakes that find their place beneath the statues of Lord Buddha. Visit the Snake Pagoda in Myanmar to learn about the story that made the monks and people of Myanmar believe that these snakes are holy. It is also believed that the monks who looked after the Pagoda have come back in the form of the snakes.
Other than these top things to do in Myanmar, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Plan ahead so that you can take your time exploring and be prepared to be flexible because sometimes travelers you meet along the way will have the best suggestions for undiscovered gems.
What To Eat In Myanmar
For southeast Asian cuisine Burmese food is quite under-rated which is surprising because it’s damn tasty. Burmese food has a lot of Thai influence which is unsurprising because it’s on the border. Here’s a few great Burmese dishes to try when you’re in Myanmar.
Mohinga Soup: It’s hard to concentrate on writing when all the mind can do is think about this flavorful delight. Mohinga soup is a bowl of rice noodles that float in a fish soup and has crispy fried fritters on top. You can find this at nearly every street food stall.
Ohn No Khao Swè: This hard to pronounce delicacy is another Myanmar speciality. The noodles served in this dish have a rich and creamy taste of coconut milk and the traditional dish is mainly served with chicken. Taste a touch of lime and dash of chili with each bite too.
Flat Bread and Pe Byouk: Served right out of the clay ovens these flatbreads should be next on your list of finger-licking delicacies to sample in Myanmar. The flatbread is served alongside Pe Byouk which is simply flavorful peas.
Burmese Curry: The old classic but if in Myanmar you have got to taste their curry which is a bit blander than Indian curry. Choose your preferred meat and with every bite get to experience a unique Myanmar blend of spices and herbs.
Tea Leaf Salad: Also known as Laphet Thohk, this is a delicious tangy mix of diced cabbage, tea leaves, tomatoes, fried beans, nuts and peas all mixed together with peanut oil, chili and lime.
Stuffed Tofu: Fried food, you either love it or hate it. This tofu roll is stuffed with veggies, some chopped chili, a special Myanmar sauce and the quintessential lemon juice.
Where To Stay In Myanmar
Myanmar is an incredibly affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Myanmar is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget. Hostels and dormitories make travel to Myanmar affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
If you’re traveling to Myanmar during peak season or wish to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have already been snapped up. Indonesia is a pretty popular year-round destination you know!
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Myanmar.
If you’re backpacking in Myanmar or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Asia very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Myanmar Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Myanmar
You can visit Myanmar all year round, due to its tropical climate however the best time to visit weather wise is in the winter season that’s between November and February. As the weather is pretty perfect during this time the winter season can get crowded so don’t write off visiting Myanmar in the rainy season between July and September. That is only if you can put up with a lot of rain.
Myanmar Travel Budget
Myanmar is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets although perhaps not as cheap as places like Thailand. The cost of your trip to Myanmar really depends on the level of comfort you will expect while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating street food then budget between $25 to $35 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $35 to $60 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Yangon then budget about $60 to $150 plus a day.
- Budget: $10-25
- Mid-range: $25-$60
- Splurge: $60+
Meal For One
- Budget: $1.00-$5.00
- Mid-range: $5-$15
- Splurge: $15-$50+
Myanmar Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to Myanmar, like most other places in southeast Asia, is a breeze because it’s so easy to travel light in hotter climates. Tropical southeast Asia climates also mean high humidity so lightweight and breathable lose fitting clothing is essential.
Be prepared for the occasional cool evening depending on the month you visit and pack a warm sweater just in case. If you’re visiting during the wet season bring a rain jacket and an umbrella. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need in the larger cities such as Mandalay and Yangon.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Myanmar include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Myanmar check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Asia Packing List For Female Travelers.