Travel guide To Myanmar Tours
BEST TIME TO VISIT MYANMAR?
You can visit Myanmar all the year round but the best time to come is between October and February as the weather during this period is neither too hot nor wet.
Visiting Myanmar during the monsoon season from June to September, the climate in central Myanmar (Bagan, Mandalay, Hsipaw, Kalaw, Inle Lake) is similar to Northern Thailand. This means refreshing rain from June to September. The rest of the day the weather is clear. It is always comfortably warm (but not as hot as March-April). There are fewer tourists (so you have a much better choice of hotel rooms). June to September is cheaper and best of all, Myanmar is at its best – green and refreshing (less dusty and dry than in the winter here).
Any passengers departing Myanmar on international flights will need to pay a departure tax of US$10.00 per person.
CLIMATE & WEATHER
Myanmar has three seasons:
- Cool Season - October through February, with average temperatures of 20-24 C
- Hot Season - March through May, with average temperatures of 30-35 C
- Wet Season - June through September, with average temperatures of 25-30 C.
The ideal time to visit Myanmar is during the cool season.
However, even during the wet season, while Yangon normally receives morning and afternoon showers, rainfall in Bagan and Mandalay is very low. The weather around Inle Lake and in Shan State is quite pleasant all year round, but cold at night from December to February.
Myanmar Border Crossings
As visitors can now enter or leave Myanmar overland via its border ports, you can avoid expensive international air tickets and could save time by not travelling through the capital city Yangon unnecessarily. This will help you make the most of your travel between Myanmar and other Greater Mekong region
Myanmar Border Crossing Points
The most popular Myanmar border crossing points are:
• Muse (Myanmar) - Jaegao/ Ruili (China)
• Tachileik (Myanmar) - Mae Sai (Thailand)
• Kawthaung (Myanmar) - Ranong (Thailand) • Myawaddy (Myanmar) – Mae Saut (Thailand) • Ta Muu (Myanmar) – Inn Phar (India)
There are more than 3 border check points between Myanmar and Thailand but Tachilek and Measia are the only points available at the moment. It is only a short two minute walk across a bridge between the two border towns. After crossing the bridge, clients can proceed by land (3 hours driving) or by flight (15 minutes) to Kyaing Tong, the home of hill tribes.
Although it’s a small border town, Tachilek is very developed due to the border trade. There are many good hotels so it is possible for clients to rest safely and comfortably in Tachilek if desired.
We require one month advance notice to apply for the border crossing permit. Visas can be obtained at the border check point. Our guide will be there to assist clients with the visa procedure.
A border crossing permit letter will be arranged for persons who take full package tours or who at least utilize some of our services, such as car hire, flight arrangements, accommodation, guides, etc. , subject to government regulations.
The Myanmar and China crossing at Muse-Ruili is currently the most popular junction. The border checkpoint is about a 15 minute drive from Ruili, China. After crossing the border gate, clients arrive into downtown Muse, a Burmese town. If time permits, clients can proceed up to the city of Lashio by car or bus, which takes 4 hours.
Muse, like Tachilek, is developed due to the border trade. Clients may spend a couple days with satisfaction at the hotels. All of our mentioned car driving hours can be changes, depending on road conditions.
Credit cards are only accepted at a very few major hotels, airlines and some international shops and restaurants. We suggest you bring a sufficient amount of cash for personal expenses. The exchange of traveler cheques cam also be difficult and time consuming. Banks are closed on Saturdays, Sundays and all public holidays, but the first ATM has been installed in Yangon.
We recommend you bring US Dollars and in larger notes to receive a better exchange rate. Exchange of other foreign currencies such as Euros, Yen and Pounds Sterling may be time consuming and difficult since authorized money changers throughout Myanmar will usually only accept US Dollars. The FEC (Foreign Exchange Currency) used in Myanmar as currency next to the local currency Kyat (pronounced “Chat”) is equal to the US Dollar (1=1) and can easily been used as payment for purchases throughout the country.
DOMESTIC AIRLINES & FLIGHTS
There are seven airlines in Myanmar: Air Bagan, Air KBZ, Asian Wings Airways, Air Mandalay, Myanmar Airways, Myanmar Airways International and Yangon Airways. Myanmar Airways International (MAI), is the sole airline for some foreign destinations.
Air Mandalay and Yangon Airways 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.
There are 13 foreign airlines flying to Yangon: Air China, China Southern Airlines, Thai Airways International, Indian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Silk Air, Malaysian Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Mandarin, Jetstar Asia, Phuket Airline, Thai Air Asia and Vietnam Airlines.
Only drink purified bottle water. Bottled water is readily available and some hotels provide complimentary bottles. Carry a bottle with you throughout the day. Luxury Travel Ltd Myanmar provides you fresh tissues and drinking water during touring days.
DUTY FREE ALLOWANCE
Two bottles of liquor, two cartons of cigarettes, 100 cigars and half liters of perfume are allowed per person. The Yangon Airport arrival hall has a selection of duty free shops with a full range of items at good prices.
MOBILE PHONES and WIFI
Mobile telephones from other countries currently do not operate in Myanmar. Customs will hold your telephone upon arrival and you can collect it upon your departure. However, things are changing fast and VNPT and Viettel of Vietnam is operating in Myanmar now and many other operators are expected soon. Wi-Fi is not available in the country at the time of this writing.
MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE - (MSG) ALERT
Throughout most Asian countries, including Myanmar, MSG (Monosodium Glutamate and known locally as 'AJINOMOTO') is still used in food preparation in some restaurants. Some travelers who may experience swollen feet, hands or headaches will more than likely have had a good amount of MSG in their food. It is always best to inform your guide when ordering if you do not wish it to be added to your food.
POWER & ELECTRICITY
Our recommended hotels in Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan offer 24 hour power (with a generator if needed). In other more isolated areas like Kyaingtong, the Shan Hills, Kalaw, Pindaya, Taunggyi, Nyaung Shwe and Inle Lake, generated power may not always be available.
The majority of the people of Myanmar are Buddhist, although Christianity, Islam and Hinduism are also practiced.
Telephones and fax facilities are available in most hotels in Yangon and Mandalay, but charges are quite expensive. E-mail facilities are now available at many hotels and local businesses in Yangon and Mandalay. Wi-Fi is not available in Myanmar at this time.
Traveler’s cheques may be very time consuming to transact. You must bring the original purchase agreement for the traveler’s cheques with you as proof when cashing your cheques.
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.
WHAT TO BRING
You should have a sun hat, sun glasses, sun protection for your face and body, prescription medicines, insect repellent and an umbrella (from April to October, no matter what the forecast). You should also have antibiotic cream for minor cuts and scratches, an extra pair of prescription glasses, a small flashlight, extra passport photos, decaffeinated coffee (if you prefer).
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, so please dress with respect for the local culture. Lightweight, easy care 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, since the weather can drop to near freezing during the night. Wear sensible walking shoes which can be easily removed when required. Sandals, thongs or flip-flops are very convenient footwear.
CUISINE AND CULTURE
Dining in Yangon can be both pleasurable and exciting, as food is generally inexpensive, so one can easily sample different dining options around the city. The city's food is influenced mainly by the neighboring countries and has therefore inspired various dishes from the following cuisine:
- Burmese - the local cuisine is an interesting blend of Chinese, Indian and local Myanmar influences. Typical Burmese dishes are curry-based and make use of chicken, seafood, and mutton. As the country is Buddhist-dominated, there is very little use of pork or beef.
- Chinese - the country sits next to mainland China, and since Yangon is inhabited by many local Chinese, various regional cuisines such as Cantonese and Szechuan are available in the market.
- Other Asian –Japanese and Korean influences are also very strong in the city's dining lifestyle. There are also Thai, Singaporean and Malaysian dishes on many restaurant menus.
- Western - most hotels and restaurants offer a wide variety of Western food. Items are usually available in buffet set-ups, as well as on the a la carte menus. The Western fast food industry has not significantly penetrated the dining market. Worldwide fast food chains are clearly absent in the city, although this has given rise to a few local fast food establishments and cafes.
Yangon has kept its local touch in terms of dining. Small teashops line the streets of Yangon, where one can find delicious local dishes served with favored hot beverages. The "mohinga" is the most popular snack item and is served in practically all corners of town. This light, curry-based fish noodle soup is very tasty, and although traditionally eaten for breakfast, it is now served all day. This tropical country also offers a wide variety of native tropical fruits, and while there is essentially no season for these fruits, most of the sweet and delicious varieties come out during summer months.
SPORT & RECREATION
Yangon is a city full of life, with a lot of activities to cater to your needs.
For those who are lovers of golf, Yangon has five major 18-hole international golf courses with beautiful panoramic views. Playing golf is very affordable in Yangon, and greens fees, caddies and buggies are all available at reasonable prices.
There are health clubs in most of the major hotels for those who like to exercise or just go for a swim. These are chargeable unless you are a guest in the hotel. Most health clubs are equipped with tennis courts, saunas, Jacuzzis, swimming pools and a gym. There are also some health clubs that have massage services.
Yangon has three major recreation clubs: the American Club, the British Club and the Australian Club. Each club has major events happening all year round. These clubs are mostly for members only, but there are various activities that are open to non-members. Activities that are seasonal are the Rangoon International Softball League, volleyball, the Football League and the Interclub Darts Competition. There is also Hash running which happens every Saturday, and anyone can join in the jog and have a drink after the run.
On Inya Lake, there is a sailing club that has boat races on weekends. People of all ages can come and sail the boats and there are instructors provided to sail with you if you are a beginner. About 20 minutes outside Yangon, there is a horse riding club. The horses are kept and well maintained by the Yangon Equestrian Club. There are of course trainers available to help you if you are a beginner.
For those families with kids, there are a lot of activities for your children to enjoy while they are in Yangon. There is the Yangon Zoo, the only zoo in Myanmar which has animals like bears, tigers, snakes and more exotic specimens. There are also a lot of amusement parks, with many games to play and fun rides. There are also fun fairs throughout the year.
To find out what events are happening, or for more information on activities you may be interested in during your stay, please consult the concierge desk at the hotel where you are staying.
Yangon is definitely the destination for alternative shopping. The city boasts unique, very reasonably priced items that one may not find even in its close neighbor cities. Some of these items include: precious stones and jewelry (jade, sapphire and rubies), lacquer ware, (these attractive works of art mostly coming from upcountry Bagan) and unique tapestries that equal Myanmar lacquer ware in terms of popularity. These woven fabrics are normally handmade using gold and silver thread, with a silver and metal finish.
Antique shopping is another popular activity in Yangon. Collectibles include statues, brass animal shapes, wooden fixtures, old clocks, and more. Meanwhile, fabrics shoppers might go on a buying spree with all the colorful traditional longyi that available. Prices are very reasonable and they are available in almost every market and store in town. Woodcrafts including figurines, wooden canes and heavy home furniture is also available.
The most popular place for bargain hunting is Bogyoke Aung San Market (“Scott Market”), where one can go through countless options for souvenir shopping at low prices. Other places for good buys include Chinatown and shopping centers around the city.