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. A country known for its political unrest, bustling street life, vibrant market scene, serene lakes and stunning Buddhist Temples. Myanmar is a terrible place to be a hair stylist due to the superstition about hair cutting. Nobody cuts their hair on Monday, Friday and on their birthday for fear of bad luck.
MYANMAR TOP 5 THINGS TO DO
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 the shimmer of the Shwedagon Pagoda that gleams 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.
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.
In western Shan State, you will find the picturesque Inle Lake. You must take time to stop off Inle lake on your way to Bagan. 22 km long and 10 km wide, the lake sits in a valley between two mountain ranges. Explore the villages and towns across the lake and see the wooden houses that are built on stilts. Inle Lake is famous for its floating villages and gardens and the unique way of life of the local Intha people, with their communities living on the water.
This pagoda, also known as the Yadana Labamuni Hsu-taungpye Paya was founded in 1974 by a Buddhist monk and is located near Mandalay. It’s famous for its large pythons that live coiled around the Buddha statue. 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.
The Saddar Cave
Saddar is a must-see cave 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 statues and Stupas. As you go deeper into the caves expect to hear the shrieks of nocturnal bats flying all around you.
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MYANMAR TOP 3 FESTIVALS
This festival marks the beginning of each year in the Myanmar calendar. Locals 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.
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 which will be valid for 28 days and costs about $50. Make sure you apply for your visa at least 1 month in advance of your trip. Use these free online visa checker and calculator tools so you know if a visa for Myanmar is required (which depends on the country you’re from) and if so, how long it will take to process your visa and the cost.
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 new country you visit.
Lonely Planet Myanmar: Check price on Amazon
WHAT TO EAT IN MYANMAR
For southeast Asian cuisine Burmese food is quite underrated which is surprising because it’s so 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. Some of the most delicious, traditional dishes that you must try when in Myanmar are listed below. Don’t drool!
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 <em>their</em> 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 a really 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.
Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, Myanmar will not disappoint you. A basic hotel room in Indonesia can cost less than $20 dollars. If you’re looking for accommodation that includes western amenities and comforts then there will be more options to choose from in the big cities and popular tourist hotspots like Yangon, Naypyidaw or Mandalay.
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. Myanmar is a very popular year-round destination you know!
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Myanmar. However, if you are backpacking in Myanmar or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Southeast Asia very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
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 its perhaps not as cheap as Thailand. The cost of your trip to Myanmar really depends on the level of comfort you will expect while here. If you are backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating street food then budget between $20 to $30 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 $100 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in big cities such as Yangon and Mandalay then budget about $100 to $200 plus a day.
IS MYANMAR SAFE FOR FEMALE TRAVELERS?
Safety is a concern for most people traveling to Myanmar. Pick-pocketing, bag-snatching and other scams to take advantage of tourists are common in some areas such as Yangon and Mandalay. Female travelers should take care to dress appropriately and be extra careful when walking alone or at night. Some parts of Myanmar are dangerous so do your research before you go and avoid these places. Based on many years of solo travel in Southeast Asia I would never leave home without travel insurance. I would never leave home without insurance and I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your Myanmar trip.
MYANMAR VISA CHECKER
MYANMAR FLIGHT DEALS
MYANMAR TOURS & ACTIVITIES
MYANMAR PACKING TIPS
Packing for a trip to Myanmar, like most other places in Southeast Asia, is a breeze. You really don’t need as much travel gear as you may think for a trip to Myanmar and it’s always best to travel light whenever possible.
That said, the gear you do bring on your trip should be the very best option available for you and that doesn’t always mean the most expensive. Jetset Bunnies around the globe are always discovering the latest and the greatest in travel gear for women and this is where we share our fabulous finds with you.
It’s so easy to travel light in hotter climates just remember to pack lightweight and breathable lose-fitting clothing. Be prepared for the occasional chilly morning and evening depending on the month you visit and pack a warm sweater or coat.
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. Read our related blog post with advice on how to choose the best backpacks for women travelers. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.