Myanmar travel advice
Climate and weather – Whilst it is fair to say they are not as distinct as climates experienced elsewhere in the world, Myanmar has three seasons.
- Cool(ish) Season – October through to mid-March with average temperatures ranging from 20-24°C. Please note that this is considered the most popular time to travel and as such, it is also one of the most crowded and expensive. Then again, it is the only time of year when the climate is relatively cool and the majority or sites/excursions are accessible (hot air ballooning companies for example only operate from November to mid-March). In order to avoid availability issues, we would recommend booking at least nine months in advance for this time of year.
- Hot Season – Mid-March through to May with average temperatures ranging from 30-35°C. Due to the extreme temperatures, most travellers are understandably put off travelling during this time of year, but that’s not to say it’s necessary to avoid. If anything, you will benefit from notably fewer crowds, get access to cheaper hotel rates, better guide availability and best of all, the majority of the country is still accessible to tourists. Assuming you’re happy to put up with constant air conditioning and carry out touring at a slower pace, visiting during this time of year should present no problem at all.
- Green Season – June through to September with average temperatures ranging from 25-30°C. This is the period during which heavy, yet sporadic rainfall replenishes the country’s arid land and thirsty rivers. Very few tourists choose to visit during this time of year, but the benefits of visiting more than outweigh the negatives. To help explain why, we would recommend reading our Myanmar in Focus article titled, ‘15 reasons to visit Myanmar during the green season‘. Although some of the photos featured overlap with the month of May, it’s likely you will experience similar conditions throughout the entirety of this period. More remote regions are likely to be shut off due to flooding however, which is likely to be a massive inconvenience for anyone looking to get off the beaten track, or those looking to carry out slightly more adventurous excursions.
Credit cards – Both tourists and business travellers holding an international Master Card, Visa, Maestro, Union Pay or Cirrus card are now able to withdraw money from ATMs in all major locations all around the country. For the time being we advise clients to count on their cards only as an emergency back-up. The exchange rates and the commission on foreign transactions vary, and the issues have been reported on the compatibility with all foreign banks. We would like to suggest to keep bringing sufficient cash for the duration of the trip just in case of any malfunctions.
Currency – Myanmar Kyat is the national currency with denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5000 and 10000 available. At present, 1 US Dollar is worth approximately 1300 Myanmar Kyat. Previously it was possible to pay for most purchases in US Dollars, but as of October 2015, the government announced the revocation of foreign exchange licences in a move that hopes to encourage the widespread use of Myanmar kyat as opposed to US dollars. Now you should expect to pay for all purchases using local currency. Even though most hotels accept cards, we would always recommend keeping enough money handy to cover any additional purchases at checkout.
Money exchange – All major tourist destinations including Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake offer money exchange services. Whilst Euros, Thai Baht, Malaysian Ringgitt and Singapore Dollars are slowly being accepted, US Dollar is by far the easiest currency to exchange (especially in areas outside of Yangon). Please note that bills must be in crisp condition with no marks, stains or folds. As frustrating as it sounds, if the note is anything otherwise, it very likely the cashier will hand it back. If the bank or exchange service in your home country is unable to offer notes that meet this standard, we would recommend looking around until you find somewhere that does.
Travellers cheques – Traveller Cheques are not accepted at present.
Domestic airlines and flights – Air Bagan, Air Mandalay, Yangon Airways, Asian Wings, Air KBZ, Golden Myanmar Airlines, Mann Yadanarporn Airline are privately operated airlines flying throughout Myanmar. There is a 20 kilo limit for baggage per person and excess baggage fees may be charged. We suggest you leave items not needed upcountry in Yangon and collect them upon your return.
Drinking water – Only drink purified bottle water. Bottled water is readily available and some hotels provide it on a complimentary basis. Carry a bottle with you throughout the day. Tour Mandalay manufactures our own “Eau Minerale Mandalay” – purified water produced at our own bottling plants in Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Shan State. We supply many of the leading hotels throughout Myanmar as well as offering free bottled water throughout Tour Mandalay tours to all our clients.
Duty free allowance – Two bottles of liquor, two cartons of cigarettes or 100 cigars and half litre of perfume are allowed per person. Yangon Airport arrival hall has a selection of duty free shops with a full range of items at a good price.
Gratuities and tipping – Myanmar people are genuinely happy to help foreign visitors and don’t expect anything in return. But if your guide, driver or any other person during your trip was especially kind or helpful a gratuity would be a generous gesture and greatly appreciated.
Health – No inoculations or vaccinations are required unless coming from or passing through an infected area. Clients should bring sufficient medication with them if required and should check for updated health recommendations before your departure to Myanmar regarding hepatitis, malaria, typhoid, etc. Please contact us if you would like detailed information on emergency health services available.
Immigration and custom formalities – Your valuables (jewellery, electronic equipment, etc.) should be declared on your customs declaration form upon arrival. Receipt of purchase and an export permit voucher for locally bought goods such as gems and jewellery may be required upon departure.
Insurance – We recommend all clients to obtain the necessary personal baggage, medical and accident insurance before arrival. All vehicles used by Tour Mandalay are insured in accordance with local regulations. International SOS has a local representative office in Yangon with a 24 hour on call service for emergency evacuation and medical assistance.
Language – The majority of the people speak Myanmar (Burmese) and English is widely used.
Left luggage – Our office (or your Yangon Hotel – if you are returning there) will be happy to store luggage or belongings which you do not need to take upcountry.
What to bring – Sunhat, sun glasses, sun protection for your face and body, prescription medicines, insect repellent and an umbrella (rain or shine). An antibiotic cream for minor cuts and scratches, extra pair of prescription glasses, a small flashlight.
What to wear – Shorts, short skirts or revealing clothing are not appropriate especially when visiting temples or any religious site. Myanmar is a conservative Buddhist culture and improper dress can be offensive. Please dress with respect for the local culture. Lightweight, easy to carry clothes of cotton and cool fabrics are ideal all year round. A winter sweater or jacket and socks may be needed in the cool season when visiting upcountry especially around Inle Lake and Kalaw, when the weather can be quite cold during the night. Wear comfortable walking shoes which can be easily removed when required. Sandals, thongs or flip-flops (available locally) are very convenient footwear.
Overland border crossings – It is possible to cross the border between Myanmar and Thailand without a special permission since August 28, 2013. Please note that you need a valid visa to enter Myanmar as Visa on Arrival is not available at the overland border posts. It is also possible to cross overland from China in Ruili/Muse, but a special government permission is required. If you book a full package tour with Tour Mandalay, we may be able to arrange it. Departing from Myanmar through this border town may also be arranged. Please contact our office for up to date information.
Power and electricity – Our recommended hotels in Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake and Ngapali Beach offer 24 hours electricity. In more remote locations, 24 hours electricity might not always be available.
Voltage – The voltage in Myanmar is 220-230 Volts AC. Most of the international hotels have their own generators. Other places may experience power cuts and voltage fluctuation which can damage equipment like computers. Please travel with the required protection for your electrical items.
Religion – The majority of the people of Myanmar are Buddhist although Christianity, Islam and Hinduism are also practiced.
Telecommunications – Internet connection (Wi-Fi) is now available free of charge at many hotels and local businesses throughout Myanmar, but it’s often slow and unreliable especially outside of Yangon and Mandalay. IDD telephones & fax facilities are available in most hotels in Yangon and Mandalay but charges are quite expensive. Incoming calls from abroad are usually free of charge.
Visa requirements – We would recommend that all clients arrange visas online. This can be done by visiting the e-visa section of the Ministry of Immigration and Population’s website (please click here to access). All of the information you require can be found here.