Travel Guide

TRAVEL GUIDE IN MYANMAR

Country Name: Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Population: 55.2 million
Capital City: Naypyidaw (Pop: 925.000)
People: Burmese 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Rakhine 3.5%, Chinese 3.5%, Mon 2%, Indian 1.2%, other 5.8%
Official Language: Myanmar (Burmese)
Currency: Kyat (MMK)
Time Zone: GMT + 6:30 Hours
International Dialing Code: +95

History

Myanmar has a long history and its greatness dates back to the early 11th Century when King Anawrahta unified the country and founded the First Myanmar Empire in Bagan more than 20 years before the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. The Bagan Empire encompassed the areas of the present Myanmar and the entire Menam Valley in Thailand and lasted two centuries. The Second Myanmar Empire was founded in 16th Century by King Bayinnaung styled Branginoco by the Portuguese. King Alaungpaya founded the last Myanmar Dynasty in 1752 and it was during the zenith of this Empire that the British moved into Myanmar Wars in 1825. During the Second World War, Myanmar was occupied by the Japanese from 1942 till the return of the Allied Forces in 1945. Myanmar becomes a sovereign independent state on 4th January 1948 after more than 100 years of colonial administration.

Geography

Myanmar, a republic in South-East Asia, bounded on the north by Tibet Autonomous Region of China; on the east by China, Laos, and Thailand; on the south by the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal; and on the west by the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh, and India. It is officially known as the Union of Myanmar. The coastal region is known as Lower Myanmar, while the interior region is known as Upper Myanmar. The total area of the country is 676,552 square km (261,218 square miles).

A horseshoe-shaped mountain complex and the valley of the Ayarwaddy (Irrawaddy) River system are the dominant topographical features of Myanmar. The mountains of the northern margin rise to 5881 meters (19,296 ft) atop Hkakabo Razi, the highest peak in Southeast Asia. The two other mountain systems have northern to southern axes. The Arakan Yoma range, with peaks reaching more than 2740 meters (about 9000 ft), forms a barrier between Myanmar and the subcontinent of India. The Bilauktaung range, the southern extension of the Shan Plateau, lies along the boundary between southwestern Thailand and southeastern Lower Myanmar. The Shan Plateau, originating in China, has an average elevation of about 910 meters (about 3000 ft).

Generally narrow and elongated in the interior, the central lowlands attain a width of about 320km (about 200 miles) across the Ayarwaddy-Sittaung delta. The delta plains, extremely fertile and economically the most important section of the country, cover an area of about 46,620 sq. km (18,000 sq. ml.). Both the Arakan (in the northwest) and the Tenasserim (in the southwest) coasts of myanmar are rocky and fringed with islands. The country has a number of excellent natural harbours.

Weather

Myanmar has a tropical Monsoon climate with three seasons, hot, rainy and cool. The coastal regions have an average temperature of 32 °C and northern region, considered the coolest an average temperature of 21 °C. The central areas are the driest, while Yangon and the coastal areas receive the most rain during the monsoon season. During the monsoon, resorts and hotels at Ngapali Beach are closed.

Mar - May - Hot Season; hot, humid

Jun - Sep - Rainy Season; cloudy, humid

Oct - Feb - Cool Season; mild, sunny

Please note: The weather can be unpredictable in Asia and we suggest you carry an umbrella or raincoat with you.

Culture & Customs

Traveling to another part of the world partially is to experience differences in culture and customs. Trying to adapt to local customs is part of being a good guest. The Myanmar people are typically easy going and quite forgiving when travelers are not intimately familiar with their customs.

Pay attention to:

Try not to show annoyance or anger by shouting or becoming abusive. It is considered extremely impolite and is unlikely to achieve a positive outcome. In Myanmar people always try to be considerate towards others feelings before taking an action and will always try to avoid making others ‘lose face’. Avoid touching a person’s head or feet, and do not point with your feet to items or people, as it is considered extremely rude.

It is customary to take of your shoes and socks before entering a person’s home, temples and various buildings. If you are unsure, look to see if there are any shoes outside of the door! Displays of affection are not common in Myanmar, please remain discreet while in public.  Myanmar people dress very conservatively and topless or nude sunbathing is not acceptable at any time. Myanmar people normally greet each other with “where are you going”, however the more formal “Mingalabar” is widely used by foreigners and appreciated

Temple Etiquette

Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country and foreigners are always welcome in pagodas and monasteries. However, it is important that a few simple rules of etiquette are followed:

  • Dress appropriately and act with the utmost respect when visiting pagodas or monasteries.
  • Do not wear shorts or tank tops. Men and women should make sure their shoulders and knees are covered.
  • Remove your hat and leave your shoes at the entrance of any pagoda or monastery grounds.
  • When sitting in front of a Buddha, make sure your feet are placed to the side, rather than cross legged.
  • Never point your finger or the soles of your feet towards any image of Buddha.
  • A woman may accept something from a monk but should never touch or sit next to a monk.
  • Giving of alms is deeply rooted tradition and should be done with the utmost respect. Do not give money or cigarettes and be discreet when taking photographs of monks or nuns.
  • Show respect and turn off mobile phones, remove headphones, lower your voice and avoid inappropriate conversation.

 

Currency

The official currency of Myanmar is the Kyat (MMK). Foreign currency can be exchanged at recognized outlets such as banks, airports and exchange centres. All foreign currency should be clean and free from any marks, rips or tears or may not be accepted.

ATMs that accept VISA and MasterCard are available in the main cities of Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon and Mandalay, dispensing money in Kyat. The maximum withdrawal is approximately US$300. There are few if any ATMs outside of the major cities and credit cards may not be accepted at hotels, so precautions should be taken.

Phones and Internet Service

Local sim cards are now available to purchase at the airport or local convenience stores for domestic calls only. International roaming is not widely accessible in Myanmar and we suggest you contact your local telco provider for more information. International subscriber dialing is available at all major hotels although very expensive.

Internet access is available in most major tourist areas as well as larger hotels, restaurants and airports. Connections are relatively slow by western standards and can be unstable from time to time.

Myanmar International postal services delivering worldwide, mostly route through Singapore, Bangkok and Seoul. DHL is also available for express deliveries.

Transportation

Taxis are the main form of transportation in the major cities with fares within city limits ranging from MMK1000 – 8000. There are some metered taxis available in Yangon. But most of the taxis do not have meter. Thus, the price for those taxis need to be agreed upon with the driver before starting the journey.

Passport and visa

A passport with at least six months’ validity from the date of entry into Myanmar is required.  We recommend you make a photocopy of your passport and keep it somewhere separate, or scan your passport and keep the scan in an accessible email account.

A visa is required for all nationalities and can be obtained via e-Visa or your nearest Myanmar embassy or consulate.

Please visit the Myanmar official government website for more information.

http://evisa.moip.gov.mm/

 

Health and Safety

Your health can be at risk in Myanmar due to poor sanitation and lack of effective medical facilities. Rural areas may not have pharmacies or hospitals, so make sure you travel with a full supply of any prescribed medicine you take. Every traveler is responsible for their own health. If you have a medical condition or allergy which requires particular attention, carry a doctor’s letter with you that describes the nature of the condition and treatment needed. We also recommend you pack a medical kit, including paracetamol and a diarrhea remedy.

We recommend that you check your government’s travel advisory for the latest information on travelling in Myanmar and consult with your health provider for any medical issues.

Vaccinations

Before travelling, please ensure you have adequate protection against disease.  Contact your doctor or health clinic for the latest medical advice on the vaccinations you need, no less than two months before your departure.  Malaria is common in SE Asia and is mainly confined to remote and rural areas.

Travel insurance

Myanmar Vision Tours does not provide travel insurance. As you know, travel inevitably involves some risk and this should be recognized by holiday-makers. Travel insurance is a cost-effective way of protecting yourself and belongings should any problems occur, such as cancelled trips, delays, medical emergencies, baggage loss or damage. It also gives you peace of mind. Thus, please purchase and ensure you have adequate coverage for any adventure related activities.

Food and drink

It is not advisable to drink tap water in Myanmar. Bottled water is cheap and widely available. Myanmar food is a mixture of Indian and Chinese cuisine, with curries, soups and rice as staples. The national dish is Mohinga, a fish broth with rice vermicelli, onion, garlic and lime that is served with fish cakes and fritters usually eaten for breakfast.

Public holidays

Myanmar has many public holidays, most of which are related to religious festivals and based upon the lunar calendar. The biggest festival is Thingyan which precedes the Myanmar New Year. The five-day celebration takes place during the middle of April and is a time when people return to their villages to celebrate, usually by sprinkling water over each other. Nowadays it is becoming more of a water fight, with buckets and water pistols!

Helpful tips

Myanmar is a very poor country with little in the way of social services and you are likely to see poverty.  Please read the following advice about donations and gift giving.

Do not give money to people begging, especially children. This reinforces the belief that begging is an acceptable way to make a living.   If children make money from begging, their parents are less likely to send them to school.  Children working on the streets are also vulnerable to abuse.

Giving money and goods to beggars can accentuate an unequal relationship between locals and visitors, with tourists being seen as purely money givers.

Avoid giving money to people that look like monks, it is a practice frowned upon by most Myanmar people and is considered to go against their Buddhist principles.

Do not feel that you necessarily have to give material things. Sometimes, giving your friendship, time and interest to locals can be the best gift of all.

Tipping

Tipping is a becoming entrenched in Asia although it is not something that is generally done in Myanmar. Waiters, porters, drivers and guides will appreciate a tip for their work. Small gifts are also appreciated.  Tips are never expected at smaller restaurants, food stands or by taxi drivers.

Useful websites:

The official tourism website for Myanmar:

http://www.myanmartourism.org/

Please note: Domestic airlines impose baggage weight restrictions of around 20kg maximum, so travel lightly where possible.