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useful infomation for trips to myanmar

Traveling to Myanmar is for many reasons special and the information provided below will help you prepare for the trip. Please take special note of the chapters marked with an asterisk (*).

AIRLINES (DOMESTIC)

We use the following 4 domestic airlines: Air Bagan, Air Mandalay, Asian Wings and Air Cambawza. All these airlines fly French-Italian ATR turboprop planes (Avions de Transports Régionaux), a type of plane well suited for the local conditions, airports and distances. The configuration is either 40 seats (ATR-42) or 70-seats (ATR 72) in rows of 4 seats with a middle aisle. Entry-exit is at the back of the plane. Standard One-class configuration.

Air Bagan operates 1 Fokker-100 Dutch-made jet aircraft with 95 seats, 12 of which are business class seats (Lotus Class - 3 rows of 4 with middle aisle). Economy class configuration is: 2 seats –aisle- 3 seats. Entry/exit is at the front of the plane.

We do not use Myanma Airways (domestic) flights (not to be confused with Myanmar Airways International). If passengers insist on flying Myanma Airways (if for example no other airline is flying to that destination), passengers will be asked to sign a Liability waiver.

AIRLINES (INTERNATIONAL)

The following airlines currently fly into Myanmar: Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Air Asia, Myanmar Airways International, Malaysia Airlines, Silk Air, Air China, China Eastern, Mandarin Airlines, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Indian Airlines and Vietnam Airlines.

AIRPORT TAX

An international airport tax of 10 USD per person is payable cash in USD or FEC (Foreign Exchange Certificates) when departing Myanmar on an international flight. Departure tax is not charged for domestic flights.

ARRIVAL FORMALITIES

Queue up at the immigration counters with a filled out arrival card and your passport with your visa stamped inside. After passing immigration, collect your luggage from the luggage belt and proceed to the customs counter. Hand over your filled-out customs form. Note that items of value and currency in excess of 2000 USD are supposed to be declared and taken again on departure, but in practice things are made quite easy for tourists. Also note that mobile phones and laptops are no longer kept in storage on arrival as is still claimed in some guidebooks.

EXCHANGE

There is no compulsory exchange of money anymore at the airport even for individual and independent travelers. Please DO NOT CHANGE money at the booth just behind immigration at the airport. The rate is much lower (50% less) than what you get in town.

US DOLLARS are accepted for change everywhere and the EURO is getting more and more popular, especially in Yangon. The exchange rate in Yangon is generally better than upcountry. If possible bring new series US Dollar bills ("big heads" instead of "small heads") and with series numbers not starting with CB as these are not accepted in Myanmar due to rumors of these series being counterfeit. Generally notes should be in very good condition and not torn, dirty or washed out as these will not be accepted in Myanmar, even in many hotels! Most hotels and better restaurants accept payment in USD.

CLOTHING

Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for traveling in Myanmar. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat and umbrella are a good idea in the rainy season and the umbrella can also offer useful shade from the sun.

Evenings in the hill stations and on Inle Lake can be quite chilly so bring a sweater or other warm clothing if visiting these areas. This applies especially for the winter months November-February for treks and the Inle lake area where early morning boat rides can be quite cold. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting pagodas and monasteries.

Shoes (and socks!) must be removed before entering any religious building or private home. It is therefore useful to wear shoes without too many laces and which can easily be taken off. We provide small towels to clean your feet before putting back on your shoes.

CREDIT CARDS & TRAVELERS CHECKS

Credit cards and Travelers Checks are currently mostly NOT ACCEPTED in Myanmar. Only some upscale restaurants and some hotels do accept credit cards with a surcharge (minimum 3%). As charging these cards requires going through the Internet, some delays can be experienced if the Internet connection is not working or slow (see chapter internet).

Please make sure to bring enough cash (USD or EUROS) for your purchases and payments. Most hotels accept US Dollars as payment. Please bring new series US Dollar bills ("big heads" instead of "small heads") and with series numbers not starting with CB as these are not accepted in Myanmar due to rumors of these series being counterfeit. Bank notes should be in very good condition and not torn, dirty or washed out.

ELDERLY PEOPLE

Some roads in Myanmar are not in the best shape and most of the vehicles are also a bit older. For elderly people or those with health and back problems especially, we recommend avoiding longer road trips like Bagan to Kalaw or Inle Lake to Mandalay. In some places like Monywa-Po Win Taung, some jeep rides are planned. Please let us know in advance of people with back problems or who need special attention are traveling in order for us to make necessary arrangements.

ELECTRICITY

Myanmar uses 220V, and a mixture of flat 2-pin, round 2-pin or 3 pin plugs. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor. Power outages are quite common but most hotels have their own generator.

ENTERTAINMENT

There is not much in the way of western style entertainment in Myanmar but Yangon has some good restaurants and there are a few bars and nightclubs, notably in the city's international hotels. In the rest of the country, entertainment is mainly confined to the hotels, mainly tourist-orientated restaurants and the ubiquitous Burmese teashops.

FOOD

The staples of Burmese cuisine are rice, rice noodles, and curries (bot cari) . The main ingredient of the meal is usually rice and the curries tend to be not as spicy as those from India or Thailand. A clear soup called hingyo accompanies most meals and a fermented fish sauce or paste called ngapiye is usually served to add to the flavor. Chinese, Indian and European food is served in restaurants at most tourist places.

GEMS / PRECIOUS STONES

Myanmar is well known for its riches in precious stones, especially rubies (pigeon-blood) and jade (imperial-jade). Should visitors chose to purchase gems, they do so at their own risk and rely solely on their own judgment and knowledge. A & F Myanmar does not assume any responsibility for gem and antique purchases through “recommendations” made by our guides. Our guides are instructed not to recommend any specific shop. Even if pressed to do so by visitors, the sole responsibility for their purchase lies with the buyer.

A relative guarantee for the quality of purchases is given by an official receipt and certificate issued by government-licensed dealers. Prices in such shops are higher but are more credible and would theoretically allow you to return the purchase in case you are unhappy or if it is of lesser value. The issued paper can also be shown when exiting the country as export of gems and stones, and without such a government-issued paper are illegal.

HEALTH

No vaccinations are required except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present. However visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio. Malaria is present in Myanmar and it is advisable to take precautions especially if traveling off the beaten track. Please consult with your usual doctor or a doctor specialized in tropical countries before traveling.

Medical facilities are rather limited in Myanmar (Yangon has the best facilities) and it is essential to take out a good medical insurance policy before traveling. Such an insurance should cover the cost of an evacuation flight out of Myanmar (most of the time to Bangkok) which are sometimes necessary.

HOURS OF BUSINESS

Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 09:30 until 16:00. Most shops are open every day. An exception is Bogyoke Market (Scott Market), which is closed on Monday, on public holidays and full moon days (like all markets in Myanmar).

INSURANCE

Medical facilities are rather limited in Myanmar (Yangon has the best facilities) and it is essential to take out a good medical insurance policy before traveling. Such an insurance should absolutely cover the cost of an evacuation flight out of Myanmar (most of the time to Bangkok or Singapore) which is sometimes necessary either on a regular flight or on a special flight. For adventure tours, such as cycling, proof of purchase of a travel insurance policy will be required.

INTERNET

Internet access is still in its development stages. Internet is also regulated in Myanmar and the access to some websites is filtered or impossible. Note that most free mail services like Yahoo or Hot mail CANNOT be accessed in Myanmar. It is best to have your mail forwarded to A & F Myanmar (we will provide you with the right contact person) or the hotel e-mail address.

Most of the hotels have now some internet terminals and in cities like Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake), you will also find some small internet cafés. Internet connections in Myanmar are generally slow and some patience will be required!

LANGUAGE

The national language of Myanmar is Burmese, of which there are over 80 different dialects spoken. The written language uses an amazing looking script based on ancient Indian characters. In the cities many of the older generation still speak very good English and it is also becoming popular again with the younger generation.

MOBILE PHONES

Your mobile phone will NOT work in Myanmar. Myanmar has currently no roaming agreement with any country. But prepaid cards in value of USD/FEC 50 (CDMA-450 MHZ) are available. USD/FEC 50 card is maximum 90 days validity once after activated. Clients can also rent mobile phones CDMA 450 & 800 MHZ with prepaid cards. These prepaid mobile phone cards are aimed at tourists visiting Myanmar who wish to keep in touch with friends and family.

MONEY

The currency in Myanmar is the Kyat (pronounced 'chat'). As in many countries of the area, the US Dollar is the most useful currency to carry and it can be exchanged into local currency. However there is no need to change big amounts into the local currency as most of the places catering to tourists also accept payment in US Dollar bills. Furthermore the biggest kyat bill is 5000 kyats and 900 kyats equivalent approximate to 1 USD Dollar (subject to change).

Please bring new series US Dollar bills ("big heads" instead of "small heads") and with series numbers not starting with CB as these are not accepted in Myanmar due to rumors these series are counterfeit. The EURO is more and more accepted by money changers.

Credit cards and Travelers Checks currently CANNOT BE USED or exchanged in Myanmar (with some rare exceptions in upscale restaurants and hotels)! It is necessary to bring enough cash in US DOLLARS or EURO. Other foreign currencies are difficult to change.

There is a parallel official currency the FEC (Foreign Exchange certificate), which can be used (as you use cash US Dollars) to pay hotels, flight- train tickets, souvenirs, meals etc. It is at par (1:1) with the US Dollar but make sure to spend it before leaving Myanmar as it is valid only in Myanmar.

Banks are open Monday to Friday between 10:00 and 14:00. There is not anymore required to change 200 US Dollars into 200 FEC (Foreign Exchange Certificates) upon arrival at the airport.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Normal print films are available in Myanmar but professional quality films (like slide films) are very difficult to find and it is better to bring your own. In towns like Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Nyaung Shwe, digital photos can easily be downloaded and loaded onto a CD-ROM in case you run out of memory. It is not allowed to photograph facilities with strategic military interest (bridges, army compounds, police stations, army personnel, etc.).

PROHIBITED ITEMS

Mobile telephones and laptop computers with modems are officially not allowed into the country but the rule is not enforced and they can be brought in. However mobile phones will not work in Myanmar, as the country does not have any roaming agreements. Items of jewelry, cameras and foreign currency (above USD 2000) are supposed to be declared at customs upon entry.

Export of Buddha images and antiques or articles of archaeological importance is prohibited. Gemstones can be safely bought only from government-controlled outlets and the buyer should ask for a certificate (please read more details under Gems/Precious Stones above).

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS 2011

January 4

Independence Day

February 12

Union Day

March 2

Farmer's Day (Peasants’ Day)

March 19

Full Moon Day of Tabaung

March 27

Armed Forces Day

April 13-16

Water Festival

April 17

Myanmar New Year Day

May 1

Labour day ( May Day)

May 17

Full moon Day of Kasone

July 15

Full moon Day of Waso

July 19

Martyr’s Day

October 12

Full moon Day of Thadingyut

November 10

Full moon Day of Tazaungmone

November 20

National Day

December 25

Christmas Day

RELIGION

Buddhism is the dominant religion in Myanmar and over 85% of the population practice it. The monastery is the traditional focal point of village life in Myanmar and monks rely on villagers for donations of both money and food. Every boy in Myanmar is expected to spend some time as a monk. The remainder of the population are Christians, Muslims and animists.

ROAD TRAVEL

Road travel allows visitors to see more of the country and is a great way to get closer to the land and its people. However some distances are quite long in Myanmar, and they are even longer because road conditions make (relatively) fast travelling difficult. Roads are in poor conditions although efforts are being made to upgrade most roads especially after the yearly rainy season which ends in October. The relatively old vehicles used in Myanmar also make long distance travel less comfortable than in neighbouring countries.

SHOPPING

There are many fantastic local products in Myanmar that make excellent souvenirs and memories from your trip. Traditional crafts include lacquerware, especially in Bagan, woodcarvings, stone carvings, bronze work, rattan, silver jewellery, silk longyis and hand-woven textiles.

TIME DIFFERENCE

Myanmar is 6h 30 min ahead of GMT in winter and 5h 30min in summer: 1500H GMT = 2130H in Myanmar (winter). Myanmar is 30 minutes behind Bangkok (Thailand) time: 1500H in Bangkok = 1430H in Myanmar.

TIPPING

Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in a country where the average annual income is only around 250 USD. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters can also be tipped.

VEHICLES

Vehicles used in Myanmar (from 4–seater saloon cars to 45-seater buses) are generally of an older manufacturing date (which can be 10-15 years back) as the import of new vehicles is currently not possible or prohibitively expensive, given the current economic situation in Myanmar. While every effort is made to provide the best possible and available options, visitors have to be prepared to travel in less comfortable vehicles than in neighbouring countries like in Thailand, Laos or Cambodia. We appreciate your understanding.

All vehicles do have air-conditioning and we provide all our clients with complimentary water and towels in ice-boxes in each vehicle.

VISAS

A visa is COMPULSORY to enter Myanmar. A 28-day tourist visa is usually sufficient for most visitors. The current regulations for entering Myanmar are as following:

1. Individual visa

This visa is issued by a Myanmar Embassy or Consulate. An invitation letter is not mandatory, and it usually takes 3-5 working days to issue this visa. It is NOT REQUIRED anymore to change 200USD on arrival into FECs for the holder of a FIT visa.

2. Package Tour visa

This visa is issued by a Myanmar Embassy or Consulate. It usually takes 3-5 days to issue the visa. With the confirmation of your booking, A & F will send the letter to the Embassy. We will need the full names, passport numbers, nationality and name of Myanmar Embassy we have to send the letter. A copy of the letter will be send to you by fax or e-mail.

3. Visa on arrival

If the country you are living in doesn’t have a Myanmar Embassy or Consulate, you can either send your application to the closest country with such a representation or ask us to arrange a Visa on Arrival (VOA). For a pre-arranged visa on arrival, please provide us passenger’s full name, father’s name, date of birth and place, Passport No, Issuance/Expiry date of passport, Nationality, Sex, Race, Religion, Occupation, Home address, Flights in/out and a scanned passport photo. The application process for visa on arrival will take at least 21 working days.

After getting the approval letter, we will send you a copy of this authorization by fax or scanned e-mail attachment. The letter should be presented at the airline check-in counter. Upon arrival in Myanmar you will get your visa stamped in your passport and pay 30USD/passport in cash at the airport (this fee can be included in your package price and we will then settle the visa fee for you). Our service fee for these arrangements is 20USD/passport and it will be included in your package rate. The service fee will be charged whether the visa application is accepted or not.

Please bring a supply of passport size pictures for any eventuality when traveling in the region (2 photos).

WEATHER

Myanmar has three seasons similar to many other parts of Southeast Asia. The Southwest monsoon starts at the end of May or beginning of June and lasts until the end of September. This season brings frequent and heavy downpours of rain, mainly in the afternoon and evening especially in Yangon, the rest of the country is dryer. In the rainy season the weather is more humid what can make travelling less comfortable. The rains give way to dry weather in October and the temperatures are generally lower and more pleasant at this time. In March the temperatures start to climb again leading up to the next rainy season at the end of May. Temperatures between March and May can be very hot reaching over 35oC in some places.

NOTE: Myanmar is in the northern hemisphere so it is also winter from November to February. You need to bring some warm clothing for early mornings everywhere, and especially for higher areas like Shan State (Kalaw, Inle Lake, Pindaya, Kengtung, Putao). The hotels in those areas are NOT equipped with heating or fireplaces so be prepared for some colder nights!

WATER

It is not advisable to drink tap water but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. All hotels provide a complimentary bottle of local mineral water per person in the room. Ice cubes in drinks is generally OK in good standard hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid it on street stalls or in country areas. Some minor stomach problems are always possible when travelling in exotic countries. Bring a supply of your usual anti-diarrhoea medicine.

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useful infomation for trips to myanmar

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