Useful Myanmar Travel Tips
See explanation with cartoons of Do’s and Don’ts to get clear pictures: http://www.dosanddontsfortourists.com/
- Myanmar People are friendly, helpful and polite.
- Respect the Myanmar People & the unique their traditions.
- Don’t take any photo that may make people feel embarrassed.
- Do smile.
- Don’t point with your foot.
- Wear decent cloths when visiting religious sites.
- Do tuck away your feet.
- Don’t touch anyone on the head.
- Please learn the basic words of Myanmar Language.
- Women travelers are very safe in Myanmar.
- Don’t kiss in public place.
- Don’t disturb people praying or meditating.
- Calling with your finger up means calling for challenge.
- Please learn local customs before visiting ethnic minority villages.
- Do try Myanmar traditional transport facilities.
- Visitors should be understanding when experiencing electricity outages.
- Don’t touch the rob of the monk.
- Spread your wealth, use your money wisely.
- Myanmar is a cultural destination.
- Myanmar currency should be exchanged that the official exchange counters and banks.
- If tourists wish to help the people of Myanmar, they should consider the creative way to contribute communities, not to individuals.
- Giving money or sweets to the children is not advisable.
- Myanmar people are delighted when the tourists participate their festivals.
- Using drugs is illegal in Myanmar.
- Help protect Myanmar wildlife by refusing purchase wildlife products.
- To maintain Myanmar’s unique heritage, don’t buy antiques, buy arts & crafts instead.
- Help us keep Myanmar clean.
- Practice safe sex.
- Do not go where you are advised not to go.
- Relax and enjoy your holidays.
I feel your concern about restrictions at temples and pagodas. I would send below some do’s and don’ts that you might need to know when you visit religious sites in Myanmar. These are simple rules of etiquette ensures that you don’t accidentally offend someone, although you would surely be forgiven anyway.
• Bringing light loose and fitting cotton clothes and pale color will be definitely an advantage in this tropical country.
• Always good to cover the arms and knees in temples. It is very important that knees and shoulders are covered and ladies should not wear shorts or braless T-shirts in such places.
• Hats and sunglasses are also strongly recommended.
• Warm clothes are advised to bring if travelling to Inle Lake and Shan Hills. Could be cold in some places at night so maybe bring a warm fleece.
• Hotels are easy going, very friendly and you can wear freely.
Footwear: Sandals and shoes which are easy to put on and take off are suggested to wear for all visits to pagodas and temples. Normal shoes or slippers is okay. Normal walking shoes with no blisters will be fine. When going mountains, walking and trekking activities involved, suggest to bring very good walking shoes. For soft trekking, we don’t need trekking boot, normal walking shoes with no blisters will be fine. Slippers are okay too.
Foot wares including the socks are not allowed in the religious precincts such as Pagodas, temples, and monasteries. There is certain place or kept-places where one can leave their foot-wares without losing during the time of studying or learning the religious monument. Because it is not the right way to hold the foot-wares all the way you visit in those places.
Money: We’d suggest to bring cash notes for your personal expenses (must be brand new, clean, no ink, crisp US Dollars) because ATM machines don’t work well in everywhere and in some countryside of Myanmar. USD is most common use and you can exchange local money easily in town while ATMs and CC remain an emergency option only!
Miscellaneous: Any items that is essential for you and things you always keep around yourself (charging cable, sockets with two and three pins sockets, camera, sunblock, sunglasses, etc.) Some mosquito spray useful. Bring some sun cream for the lake.
Important Note: You will need to arrange the E-visa: http://evisa.moip.gov.mm/ prior to entering Myanmar.
Visitors from 65 countries currently can apply the visa through http://www.evisa.moip.gov.mm/. The processing time is about (3-5) working days for granting an e-Visa. Passengers with e-Visa are only permitted to enter at Yangon International Airport. If your nationality is not on the list, you can apply for this visa at a Myanmar embassy in or near your country. Please contact the embassy for more details. Different embassies have different rules to apply for a tourist visa.
Generally, you will need 2 or 3 photos and enough cash to pay for your visa (at most embassies it’s 30 USD). Some embassies will ask you to come in person to apply for the visa or they will ask for your CV (to check where you have been working in the past) and they might ask for your planned travel itinerary. It usually takes about 3 days to get your visa.
The visa for Myanmar is valid for 28 days and occupies a full page in your passport – the visa expires 90 days after it is issued so don’t apply too early. Please make sure you have enough pages in your passport. The passport has to be valid for at least 6 more months. Indeed, it can sometimes be a little bit of a hassle to get your visa but once that’s done you will be rewarded by visiting a country that is like no other!
Arrival immigration pass: On your arrival, you will have to pass immigration by yourself, collect the luggage and outside of immigration (arrival hall), your guide will be waiting for you with welcome board in hand. You will then receive all the travel documents from your guide. In any case or any emergency during the trip, you can call to our Green Season Travel operation hotline number +95 1 392194 (Ms. Myo) or customer care manager +95 9420016634 (Mr. Jack) for assistance.
Show Respect: Turn off mobile phones, remove headphones, lower your voice, avoid inappropriate conversation, remove hats, and no smoking or chewing gum.
Cover Yourself: This is the rule most ignored by tourists who dress for the heat in countries around Southeast Asia. Shoulders should be covered and long-pants worn rather than shorts. Some temples in tourist places may be more lenient, but your modesty will be appreciated.
Respect the Buddha Statues: Never touch, sit near, or climb on a Buddha statue or the raised platform. Get permission before taking photographs and never do so during worship. When exiting, back away from the Buddha before turning your back.
Don’t Point: Pointing at things or people around the temple is considered rude. To indicate something, use your right hand with the palm facing upwards. When sitting, never point your feet at a person or image of Buddha.
Stand Up: If you happen to be sitting in the worship area when monks or nuns enter, stand to show respect; wait until they have finished their prostrations before sitting again.
Phone calls to home: Myanmar has no telephone roaming agreement with other countries so you won’t be disturbed by phone calls on your mobile during your holiday. Do you want to be in contact with your home and tell people how much you are enjoying Myanmar? There are internet cafes around the country (you guide can point them out) and although it is a bit slower than in your home country the connection should normally work. Sim-cards are available everywhere in Yangon and so cheap. You can buy and also can top up with 3000 Ks, 5000 Ks or 10000 Ks. And you can make a phone calls to home.
Like most all tropical climates, there are three distinct seasons in Myanmar: the hot and dry, the rainy, monsoon season and the cold season. In Myanmar, winter lasts from November to February, hot season from March to May, and rainy season from end of May to end of October
End of May – October is rainy season in Myanmar, lower Myanmar and western parts of Myanmar such as Rakhine State, Tanintharyi Division, Mon and Kayin States receive more rainfall than dry zone areas like Mandalay, Bagan and central Myanmar. Dry zone areas will be less dusty, not touristic and everywhere is green and so refreshing in the green season (rainy season). Mountains like Northern Shan State, Eastern Shan State, Kalaw and Inle Lake will be green and best to go the whole year round.
Bagan, Inle Lake, Mandalay: Temperature is cooling off from May, with showers available anytime. Better chance of sunshine in July and refreshing rain every now and then from June to September. The rest of the day the weather is clear. Average Highs: 34C. Lows 24°C.
Mixed sunny spells and rain showers, some of them prolonged on the coast. Central plains mostly dry with occasional showers in the afternoon. Average Highs 35°C inland (32°C on the coast). Lows. 25°C, cooler in the hills.
July is actually a great time to travel through Myanmar as the paddy fields are green, it’s a bit cooler and a bit cheaper to travel around. There are fewer tourists (a better choice of hotel rooms). June to September is cheaper. And best of all, Myanmar is at its best – green and refreshing. With some good planning you don’t have to worry too much about the rain. Mandalay, Bagan, Northern Shan state, Kalaw, Inle Lake and Loikaw are not getting that much rain (and it’s often short) so I would suggest to focus on these areas. Rakhine (which includes Mrauk U is fantastic but can sometimes get a bit more rain). It only rained at night but if you’re less lucky it can be a bit more adventurous (meaning it’s a bit wetter and muddier near the temples) in July.
August: Taung Byone Nat Festival – Taung Byone Village near Mandalay, Myanmar
Our professional teams in the region can give you the most up to date information on festivals, weather forecasts and the best low-season deals. To contact us, please leave your information in the contact form in our website and we’ll get back to you shortly.
In April which is the hottest month, the temperature in Yangon averages around 95.0° F. During the day, the temperature can rise to 100° F to 104° F. In the winter months, the weather never gets very cold; for instance, the coldest months – December and January – have an average temperature of 77° F. Night temperatures fall to 60° F. Average annual rainfall of the division is 103 inches.
Rainy season lasts from May to October. Rain is heaviest in July and August. Regardless, in total, the annual rainfall is only around 250 cm. When summer rolls around, Yangon can be very hot and very sticky; if one is traveling at this time, they are advised to bring very comfortable, loose cotton-based clothes. Winter is the most pleasant time of the year to visit Yangon. Temperatures can fall to as low as 16oC and the rain would be most unlikely. This makes ideal weather for strolling about.
Health risks in Myanmar include: cholera, dengue fever, hepatitis, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, rabies and typhoid. We strongly recommend you to visit either your personal physician or a travel health clinic 4-8 weeks before departure. Up-to-date advice should be sought before deciding whether these precautions should include vaccination, as medical opinion is divided over its effectiveness. Malaria risk exists throughout the year in the whole country, except in bigger towns such as Yangon and Mandalay. Medical facilities with western standards are very limited in Myanmar and practically only exist in Yangon. Many doctors have been educated in Europe (especially in the UK) but have limited access to modern medicines and limited updated knowledge on medicine. All travelers visiting Myanmar with Green Season Travel must show proof of a health insurance upon arrival in the country so in case of emergency we can assist and make sure you will receive the necessary medical attention in Myanmar or in Bangkok, where the best medical facilities are available. Before visiting Myanmar, it is good to read some more about the history, culture and politics of the country. Different authors have different point of views so always keep in mind that any book written about Myanmar always describes the personal opinion of that particular author (whether it is written from inside the country or written by opposition groups living outside the country).
WHEN WOULD BE THE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL AROUND MYANMAR
Nowadays certainly NOT in November or in February as somehow the whole world seems to believe these are the only months to visit! Especially if you live in Yangon you have the chance to go on short trips all the time so it’s easy to avoid the peak season. The green season can bring a lot of rain to Yangon and it feels like it rains every day the whole day, but upcountry weather is much better with often a few days in a row with no rain or hardly any rain!
The best places to visit in each month of the year in Myanmar are:
January: Excellent to visit Mrauk U (cool nights, not too many tourists, stunning temples and yes, it is absolutely safe).
February: As it’s busy everywhere (Chinese New Year & Europe spring holiday) best to avoid “the big 4” but visit Northern Shan State; Hsipaw and Kyaukme.
March: Getting hot and dry so go for the mountains, wash an elephant in Kalaw and plant a tree for our earth.
April: Water festival – do the opposite of what everybody does and stay in town and join the celebrations!
May: It’s so hot: only going to Ngapali or Ngwe Saung beach makes sense in this period.
June: Yes, finally – rain has come – go to Mandalay (good hotel deals and not many tourists).
July: Probably the best month for Bagan; it’s green (especially towards the end of July). Hotels offer attractive prices, less touristic and no dust, easy to moving around from one temple to another.
August: Inle Lake is beautiful, go on a biking trip on arrival in Heho and end at the lake, explore the lake by boat or villages on stilts by kayak. No worries about “the lake being empty” in this period.
September: Mon & Kayin State: Did you ever see any greener paddy fields? Go for private day cruise on Thanlwin River (much more scenic than the Ayeyarwaddy), paddle by kayak through the rice fields flanked with lime stone mountains in the back ground.
October: Just before the tourist high season starts so it might be good to visit Bagan, Mandalay or Inle Lake again – many festivals in this period like Kyaukse dancing elephant, the Shwezigon festival in Bagan or the Phaung Daw Oo festival on Inle Lake.
November: Time for adventure and to go to places that are still quiet. What about a 4-wheel drive tour in Eastern Shan State or discovering the Chin Hills
December: Up till 22 Dec it’s always very quiet in Myanmar – a great period to travel anywhere in the country. Just spoil yourself these last weeks of the year but make sure you’re back home
Some recommendations to read:
We encourage visitors to read Embassy travel advice, for example from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office https://www.gov.uk/foreign-traveladvice/burma or from the Myanmar ministry of hotel and tourism http://www.myanmartourism.org/index.php/tourist-information/permitted-areas which identifies which areas should be avoided by visitors. These are not areas which form part of the usual tourist destinations.
Tourism was estimated to provide around half a million jobs in 2015, and plays an increasingly significant role in helping Myanmar people to earn a sustainable income, including through new community-based tourism products which rely on visitors for their livelihoods. We encourage tourists to continue to visit, so that they can play a role in helping Myanmar people for a better living and setting the country on the road to prosperity.
We wish to express sadness at the continuing internal conflicts and concerning security status in some of very remote border places like northern Shan State at China border and Northern Rakhine State at the Bangladesh border and call on all concerned to ensure that the people of Myanmar can live in peace and security throughout our beautiful country’.
1) River of Lost Footsteps: Thant Myint U (written by the grandson of the former UN secretary general U Thant a balanced version of recent Myanmar history)
2) Lonely Planet Myanmar: almost a must have when traveling in Myanmar
3) Burmese Design & Architecture (published by Periplus.com): a beautiful coffee table book about Burmese arts and a good introduction to the culture
4) My life as a Shan princess (by Inge Sargent): written by an Austrian lady who became a Shan princess living in Hsipaw interesting insight in the Shan royal history.
5) Burmese Days (George Orwell) is a classic on Myanmar (writ en during the colonial times by an English officer) and although it can be a bit “slow” to read, it gives an excellent insight into Myanmar psychology, thinking and behaviour of people.
6) The Gentleman in the Parlour (William Somerset Maugham). One of Britain greatest authors made a trip to South East Asia in the late twenties. Burma was one of the countries Somerset Maugham visited.
7) John Falconer, David Odo and Mandy Sadan, Burma, frontier photographs, 1918 – 1935, 2000, Brighton. Fantastic book with pictures of James Henry Green. The Burma collections of James Henry Green (1893- 1975) have recently been made available to the public through the James Henry Green Charitable Trust. The collections were put together by Green during his career as a recruiting and intelligence officer in Burma during the 1920s and 1930s. It includes over 200 textiles and an outstanding collection of 1600 photographs. Most of the pictures were taken in Northern Burma.
8) Burma, Art and Archaeology (edited by Alexandra Green and T. Richard Burton) is a very interesting collection of articles on different subjects from wooden monasteries, bronze sculpture to court dress in Shan State.
9) Sylvia Fraser- Lu, Splendour in Wood, The Buddhist Monasteries of Burma, Bangkok, 2001. This is a beautiful book about the wooden monasteries in Myanmar. Very detailed and enriched with drawings and pictures.
10) Ma Thanegi, Nor Iron Bars a Cage (or as she calls it herself “my prison book” about the 3 years she spent in Insein Jail as a political prisoner.
11) Caroline Courtauld Myanmar: Burma in Style: An Illustrated History and Guide. It is a great illustrated account of the history, politics and culture of the people and the country.