This is what happens when I have a 6-hour layover. I wrote down all of my insider-information from traveling around Myanmar and figured it might be helpful to others if I posted it. So here it is. Myanmar is changing really quick, which means that guidebooks, blogs, and other sources I referenced before my travels filled my mind with information that is now outdated. The notes I’ve gathered here are accurate as of December 2013 and are geared toward the high-level planning of a trip.
Why you should go right now
You know that picture hanging in your grandma’s kitchen of what your hometown used to look like before WalMart, Mcdonalds, and paved roads came in? Have you ever wanted to travel back in time to see what life was like back then? In Myanmar that “back then” is right now. Before 2010 the country was isolated for nearly 50 years which means it’s still the 1960’s here. It’s not going to last very long though–affordable cell phones were introduced recently leading to many people now having a phone, internet, although slow and unreliable—works, satellite TV is getting more popular with the increasing dependability of the Each issue we deliver 10,000 copies to a Targeted Readership of people who respond to advertising. These readers – your customers – can get their Free Copy in Yangon at: 75 Restaurants 90 Hotels 76 Coffeeshops/Cafes 33 Bars Business and First Class travellers are well educated individuals with high spending capacity. They can read their Free Copy at airport lounges in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Vietnam and Manila where we distribute 1,000 free copies. www.facebook.com/TheMyanmarInsider www.twitter.com/ MyanmarInsider www.myanmarinsider.com Contact Details: Travis Okar Swe • Thuta (email@example.com) Office Tel: 01-526165 • Phyo Naing Win (firstname.lastname@example.org) Unequalled Circulation electric grid, new shopping centers are starting to pop up, foreign investment is pouring in from all quarters, and Western styles are starting to replace traditional wear.
Why you should’t go
If you’re looking for the type of vacation where you relax, hang out at the beach, maybe see a Ping-Pong show and travel comfortably over well-constructed and efficient infrastructure, you’re looking for somewhere less interesting… like neighbouring Thailand. Since tourism was banned for decades in Myanmar, there is a distinct lack of tourist infrastructure. Which means that travel can be inefficient, uncomfortable and confusing. This is the flip side of going to a place where there are very few tourists–if it was comfortable and easy, the place would be overrun by pork-bellied, camera wielding, obnoxious and annoying Gap-Years like Thailand is. The high barrier to entry means that for the most part, you’ll have many tourist-type places all to yourself.
Don’t rely on internet and guidebooks
Myanmar is changing really fast and the internet, blogs, and travel guides can’t keep up. This makes planning especially difficult because there is loads of outdated information out there getting mixed in with the good intel.
A few things that you should know.
- Since the lifting of economic sanctions, you can use your foreign bank card to access the local currency, Kyat, from ATM
- There is no USD$10 “departure tax” when you are leaving the airport
- You don’t have to pay for accommodation with USD, but it does them a favour if you do because of inflation issues. The only situation I came across where I had pay in USD is when you take the train
- USD bills do not have to be 2006 notes and newer – just clean and in very good condition
- No one pays attention to the serial number on USD notes anymore
- The black market exchange rate is not the way to get your Kyat currency anymore. The white market rate at the airport is now just as good as what the black market can give you, but without the notorious mind-games and magic trick maneuvers those black market guys will play on you
- Always buy bottled water and never drink water directly from the taps as its not safe
- You should be aware that most roads and pavements, as well as public transport are generally in bad condition, so be very careful, especially at night
Generally speaking, Myanmar is a very safe place when it comes to personal security. Yangon is widely considered to be one of Asia’s safest bigger cities.
You will see many young boys in monks attire walking around the streets with bowls held out looking for money. A few spare small denomination notes is always a nice gesture to make and goes a long way.
There is also the chance of being approached by money changers and vendors trying to sell you their wares, but this is normally conducted in a good-natured manner. On the whole, the vast majority of people that you come across in Myanmar will be very friendly and genuinely want to be helpful.
Its not advisable for foreigners to eat from the street food stalls as hygiene may not be up to standard. But not too worry. Yangon is now full of good coffee shops, bars, restaurants and hotels.