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**Be sure to note the important information about CREDIT CARDS and TRAVELER’S CHECKS in the 'Money Matters' section**
Visa is required
1) A regular TOURIST VISA can be obtained by the traveler applying directly to an overseas Myanmar embassy. It may take a few days or longer depending on the particular embassy.
2) VISA ON ARRIVAL ( pre-arranged ) -
We would need the passport scan and other information about 3 weeks prior to arrival in order to apply.
After your passport is checked at the immigration desk, you will proceed directly to the baggage area. After collecting your checked luggage and clearing the customs inspection, you will go out to the arrival area where you will be met by your tour guide (if you are on an escorted tour).
As a basic rule-of-thumb, all valuable items brought into the country such as jewelry, cameras, electrical equipment, etc. should be declared upon arrival and subsequently brought out of the country upon departure. (In actual practice however, it is not necessary to declare cameras or computers or even jewelry). All foreign currency in excess of $2,000 is supposed to be declared though in reality, this is rarely if ever checked.
Money Matters * CREDIT CARD & TRAVELERS CHECK ALERT!!
As a result of the US sanctions, credit cards and travelers checks are not accepted in Myanmar at most hotels or at any banks. A few deluxe hotels and restaurants have found a way to accept credit cards for expenses. Therefore travelers should bring enough CASH for all expected expenses (USD or Euros are the easiest- larger bills get slightly better rate). * Please also note there are no ATM machines.
Currency - The Myanmar currency is known as the 'kyat' (pronounced 'chaat'). The official rate is about 6 kyat to the dollar but the 'real' rate is much higher. Visitors may change their dollars into kyat at the local market rate. Major hotels and a few restaurants will charge in USD but most other expenses in Myanmar will be in kyats.
For a general reference, as of August 2011 the approximate exchange rate was One USD = 750 Kyats, however this can vary up or down over a period of days and weeks.
** USD notes which are old, torn or have marks are not accepted in Myanmar. Bring USD currency, with ‘big heads’ not the older ‘small heads’ design and avoid the series ‘CB’ as it is not accepted either.
Myanmar Time is GMT + 6.5 (and is 30 minutes behind Bangkok time)
For comparison: New York is GMT - 5, Paris is GMT + 1, and Hong Kong is GMT +8
Language & Religion
Myanmar people speak Burmese although quite a few can also speak English.
The vast majority of Myanmar people (about 87%) are Buddhist with a minority of Christian, Muslim and Hindu.
Climate and Weather
Myanmar has three "seasons": Hot Season - March to mid-May with average temperatures 25-38 C Rainy Season - mid-May to September with average temperatures 23-33 C. "Winter" Season - October to February with average temperatures 18-24 C. The main tourist season is during the Winter season, but it doesn't rain much up-country and the travel season is now virtually all year long. In fact many prefer the rainy season for its lack of crowds and the cooler weather.
What to Wear
Warm weather clothing is quite adequate for Yangon and most tourist spots although up-country around the Inle Lake area and other higher elevations the temperature may reach near freezing at night during the 'winter' season. Travelers should bring appropriate cold weather clothing if traveling there. Additionally, suggestive or revealing clothing is never a good idea in this conservative and largely Buddhist culture. When visiting religious shrines and temples, modest dress is required and easily removable footwear (such as sandals) is recommended since such sacred grounds must be visited only in barefeet (no socks either). Hats and sunglasses are usually appreciated, as is an umbrella for the rainy season. (May – September). Sunscreen will also be of use to travelers as Myanmar is a sunny place, especially in high season (Oct – April)
While no immunizations are formally required, malaria prophylaxis is sometimes recommended by traveler's personal physicians. Occasionally, typhoid, hepatitis, tetanus and Japanese encephalitis vaccinations are also recommended. Drink only bottled or boiled water and it is suggested that food not be purchased from sidewalk vendors. Insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites is recommended, especially up-country and in wooded areas. Recent news articles have mentioned a general increase in Dengue fever risk in SE. Asian countries.
* Travelers should also remember that temperatures in Myanmar are generally hotter than their home country and should pace themselves according to their fitness level to avoid any medical problems from over exertion or dehydration.
Domestic Airlines in Myanmar
The quickest and most comfortable mode of domestic travel is by flying. Modern ATR aircraft are used by Air Mandalay and Air Bagan (which also uses Fokker 100 jets). There is a 20 kg luggage limitation. When traveling up country excess baggage can be left until returning to Yangon. There are no domestic airport taxes to pay at the airports ( already included in tickets price ).
The voltage throughout Myanmar is 220-230 Volts AC. Because the voltage may be inconsistent, valuable or sensitive equipment like stereos and computers should have appropriate electronic protection. Electrical sockets may be two pronged, usually able to take round or blade style plugs though sometimes you need a 3 prong adaptor. The
most convenient solution is a universal adapter able to fit any of these configurations.
Cameras, ( including video ) are permitted in Myanmar. Restrictions on photography include military facilities and any structure considered strategic (including bridges and train stations though this last may be loosely enforced).
Your mobile phone will not work in Myanmar unless you rent a SIM card to use. For GSM it is only necessary rent the SIM card. For CDMA it is necessary to rent a handset as well as the SIM card. You can rent them at the airport at Yadanarpon Counter(09-410 10018) near door no. 2 at the Terminal 1 of the International arrival airport. Rates as of September, 2011 are given, however they are subject to change.
Rental For GSM SIM card, CDMA 450, CDMA 800
SIM card per day
deposit of SIM card
CDMA Handset per day
deposit for Handset
These SIM cards enable users to call and receive both local and internationally.
Users need buy a prepaid card for at least USD 10 (USD 20 and USD 50 cards are also available). These cards can be ‘topped up’ at some local stores downtown.
Internet and land lines
In hotels, guests should always check the rates before using IDD lines as the cost can be quite high at some hotels. In Yangon and Mandalay overseas communication is fairly easy but in Bagan, Inle Lake, and at the beaches it can be difficult. There are some Internet Cafes in Yangon and Mandalay. Major hotels will have internet and email as well.
Hospitals with the standard of care most tourists are used to do not yet exist in Myanmar. If a traveler were to become seriously ill or injured, they may need to be medically evacuated (med-evac) to the nearest major medical facility, most likely in Singapore or Bangkok. It is strongly recommended that travelers purchase insurance which will provide medical-evacuation coverage should they require it.
Gratuities & Tipping
No one should feel obligated, but it is common to tip drivers, guides, waiters at local restaurants and also usually hotel porters for good service.
Rules of the Road
In Myanmar cars, trucks, and buses rank first on the roads with pedestrians a distant second. Since Myanmar drivers assume that pedestrians will make way for them, travelers should be alert when crossing streets, especially in busy downtown Yangon.
No more International Airport Departure Tax
From July 2011 passengers no longer need pay $US 10 departure tax for international flights. The airlines now already include it in the ticket price. There are also no taxes for clients to pay for domestic flights.
No one should feel obligated, but it is common to tip drivers and guides, waiters at local restaurants and also usually hotel porters. The following suggestions on tipping are meant as general guidelines. For exceptional service travelers may wish to give more.
Porterage at hotel
In general, if a porter carries the clients bags to the room, a tip of about
US$.50 - $1.00 (in equivalent kyat) would be appropriate, depending on size, weight, etc. (in 2011 value that could approximate to about 500 – 1000 kyat local)
In general a tip of about 5% is appreciated for meal service (in kyat)
Some restaurants may also charge a service charge in which case tipping is not normally needed.
Driver tip ( for boat drivers and assistants also – Inle lake )
The driver’s tip may be about US$ 2 - $4 per day (or in equivalent kyat) for individuals, couples or small groups. For large groups, a tip of about US$ 1 – $ 2 (or equivalent kyat ) per person, per day would be suitable. For the drivers assistant about 1/3 the amount of the driver.* the same for Inle Lake boat drivers and assistant.
Tips for the tour guide can be quite varied. A fair average for the tour guide would be around US$ 7 – $20 per day for individuals or small groups (such as less than 10 persons). For larger groups around US$ 15 -$25 may be appropriate. It mainly depends on the satisfaction of the client and for exceptional service clients may wish to tip more.