Myanmar, Asia - Stein Travel
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Myanmar, also known as Burma and fondly referred to as 'the Golden Land' because of the abundant use of gold leaf on its temples and buildings, is a country with a rich diversity of culture and people. Its impressive heritage spans over three millenia, reflected in some of Southeast Asia's most abundant and opulently adorned temples. The majesty of gold-plated Schwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, the astounding temple ruins of Bagan, and the mystique of Mandalay are just some of the unique drawcards that earn rave reviews and repeat visits from those that enter Myanmar's well guarded borders.

Myanmar is situated along the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea and its northern borders stretch all the way up to the Eastern Himalayan mountain range. It borders India to the west, China to the north, and Thailand and Laos to the east. One third of Burma's perimeter is uninterrupted and undeveloped coastline.

This beautifully scenic country has a rocky political past. It was a British Colony from 1885 until 1948, and for the past three decades has been ruled by a military dictatorship. Many argue that tourism can open the country up to the international community and therefore help bring democratic change to Burma. Visitors are certainly encouraged to stay at privately owned guesthouses and to avoid government-affiliated enterprises.

Burma has one of the lowest tourist crime rates in the world, so travellers can relax in the knowledge that their trip will be untroubled. It is only recently making an appearance on the international travel scene due to its internal politics, but Burma's unspoiled beaches, incredible historical attractions, snow-capped mountains and jungle wilderness are all fast becoming an irresistible draw for the avid traveller.

Information & Facts


Business hours are 9.30am to 4.30pm from Monday to Friday. Lightweight suits are recommended during the day and jackets are needed for top-level meetings. Most commercial business transactions will be conducted in English. Business cards in Burmese script can be useful. It is important to maintain trust, honesty and friendship in a business relationship. Favours received, such as a reference, should be repayed later in the future.


Burma has three seasons, the very hot summer from March to May, the wet and humid monsoon from May to October and the cold, dry winter from November to February. Typhoons occasionally occur in Burma between April and October. Average daily temperatures usually reach around 86°F (30°C) while the evenings are slightly cooler. During the winter season, average temperatures are around 77°F (25°C) with evenings dropping to 59°F (15°C). Coastal areas are usually much more humid, but slightly cooler overall.


The international dialling code for Burma (Myanmar) is +95. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code. The area code for Yangon (Rangoon) is (1) and Mandalay is (2). Internet cafes are widely available in Mandalay and Yangon and public telephone booths can be found on nearly every street corner as well as at railway stations and airports, however international calls are expensive. The military regime carefully controls and monitors all Internet use in Burma and restricts Internet access through software-based censorship that limits the materials individuals can access online. A loop-hole has been reported by some travellers: add an "s" to the "http" portion of the URL to bypass the blocked site. Several cyber cafes have been allowed to open, but access to the Internet is very expensive, and access to most international e-mail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo is prohibited, although Gmail can now be accessed.


It is rude to step over any part of a person or touch an adult on the head and hugging and kissing in public is frowned upon. Most Burmese families don't wear shoes in their homes and if visiting, it is advised to remove shoes before entering the house. Monks should be treated with respect, even if they are children and women should not speak to monks. When dining out it is best to keep voices low in restaurants.

Duty Free

Two bottles of liquor, two cartons of cigarettes or 100 cigars and half litre of perfume are allowed per person. Valuables including jewellery, cameras, electronic equipment, etc, should be declared at customs upon arrival. Purchases of locally bought goods may require receipts upon departure.


Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. European plugs with two circular metal pins as well as British style plugs with two flat blades and one flat grounding blade are used.

Getting Around

Air Mandalay, Air Yangon and Bagan Air run a good internal flight service, but Myanmar Airways has a poor safety record for internal flights. Other options include the Yangon-Mandalay bus service for long distances. There are daily express trains from Yangon to Mandalay. A private company runs these trains, though regular trains are not recommended, as they are slow, dirty and unreliable with uncomfortable seating that can result in 'saddle-soreness'. Travelling around town is easy and the fare is negotiable. Most towns, including Mandalay, use horse carts and trishaws. Alternatively, bicycles can be rented for a small price. Domestic highway bus terminals are Aung-Yadanar and Sawbwargyi-Gone, both about 10 miles (16km) from downtown Yangon. River travel is another good option for getting around Myanmar. With over 5, 000 miles (8, 000km) of navigable rivers, boat and ferry rides are often more comfortable than cramped buses for commuting long distances.


Malaria and dengue fever are common in Myanmar, especially during the rainy season (May to October). Cyclone Nargis, which hit in May 2008, has increased the risk of cholera so visitors should drink only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice drinks. A few cases of avian influenza (bird flu) have been reported, and although there is little risk for travellers, contact with live poultry should be avoided. There are basic medical facilities in Rangoon and Mandalay, for serious medical cases, evacuation is recommended. Payment in cash is usually required before any treatment. Comprehensive medical insurance is advised. Travellers from yellow fever infected areas require a vaccination certificate to enter Myanmar. MSG (monosodiumglutomate) is added liberally to many dishes and travellers sensitive to this ingredient should specify "no Ajinomoto" when ordering.


Burmese is the official language, yet English is widely spoken and understood. Burmese's alphabet is made up of circular and semi-circular characters. Other languages spoken are Karen, Shan and Kachin.


The official currency is the Kyat (MMK) pronounced 'Chat'. The best currency to travel on in Myanmar is the US Dollar. The Foreign Exchange Certificate (FEC) is a legal currency for visiting tourists that is usable in government shops and hotels. It is no longer a requirement to convert US$200 into FEC upon arrival in Myanmar. One FEC is equivalent to one US Dollar. It is recommended to use US Dollars. It is difficult to cash American Express travellers cheques in certain cities, such as Mandalay, and even when it is possible the commission can be as high as 10 percent. US Dollar notes will not be accepted if they are damaged or torn in any way, or have pen marks on them. There is a big difference between the official and unofficial exchange rates; street moneychangers offer favourable rates at hotels and Scott Market. As a rough guide, the black market rate is in the region of US$1 = MMK 1000 - a dramatic difference when compared to the official government rate. Very few major hotels, airlines, shops and restaurants accept credit cards and ATM cards can rarely, if ever, be used. It is advisable to carry cash. Banks are closed on weekends.

Passport Visa

All foreign passengers to Myanmar must hold confirmed return/onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. They will also require a tourist visa, which is valid for 28 days. Note that applications for visa extensions are not possible once in Myanmar; however, a fine of USD 3 per day overstayed, can be paid at Immigration upon departure. Foreign passengers are only allowed to travel to/from Myanmar by air or sea, and will be required to convert a minimum of USD 200 into local currency upon their arrival in the country. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Myanmar, if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Travellers need to exercise caution when travelling to border areas in and around Burma due to heavy military activity, particularly along the borders with Thailand. There are only a handful of legal crossing points. Burma does however boast one of the lowest crime rates in the world, making it a safe travel destination. Anti-government demonstrations that took place in August 2007 were led by thousands of monks in cities across the country, but were dispelled by a government crackdown resulting in violent clashes between protesters and the police. The protests reflect the citizens' long pent-up opposition to the repressive military regime. Visitors are advised to avoid all gatherings and not to take any photographs of the police, military or demonstrations. The monsoon season is June to September in the southwest of Burma and December to April in the northeast, and flooding may occur. Severe weather often also precedes monsoon season; a devastating cyclone hit Burma in May 2008 killing thousands of people.


The Burmese offer their help freely and genuinely, and don't expect anything in return, though gratuity is greatly appreciated. Tipping 5% on a meal is acceptable. Porters, drivers and tour guides expect a small tip.

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