Planning a trip to Myanmar
Myanmar is definitely booming in Southeast Asia. Construction sites are proliferating in Yangon, I would highly suggest visiting this country before it is totally destroyed by tourists/getting much more expensive.
Getting to Myanmar
Yangon International Airport should be the most accessible gateway. It is located at about 45 minutes away from downtown Yangon. Taxi counter is available at the airport. Price should be fixed. (you never know though) It costs about 15,000 kyats a cab to downtown.
ATMs (they accept Unionpay cards) and money exchange counter are available in the airport right after baggage area. I used US dollars to exchange, rate is about 1:1350. Use USD100 note to exchange to have better rates.
Oh, and if you reach Myanmar during their holidays, remember to exchange money at the airport. Nothing is open in the town, NOTHING.
Basically cash is king. Though some shops accept credit cards like Visa, MasterCard and even Unionpay, cash is still safer.
Get a Telenor SIM card! Telenor counter is available at the airport. 8,000 kyats with 2GB data, 5 minutes outgoing calls and unlimited incoming calls.
How to negotiate with taxi drivers?
Taxi drivers are always a pain in the ____ no matter where I am. How do you know you are not ripped off by them? I usually check with hotels/hostels/locals. Just ask them how much it would normally cost then you will have an idea on how to negotiate down the fare to a reasonable one.
There are PLENTY of drivers around which means supply is more than demand. Try the next one until you are fine with the fare!
What to pack
It was extremely hot during the period I went (mid April to early May). Pack light, short sleeves and shorts. However, do note that you have to dress modestly when you enter temples which mean you need to have clothes with sleeves and a ‘scarf’ to cover your legs when you wear shorts/skirts. Alternatively, you can bring a pair of pants or a dress which can cover your knees.
A light jacket will also be useful for night bus aka a moving freezer.
Bring enough sunscreen and a cap with you. Sun is crazy.
Anti-bacterial or wet wipes is also a good idea. You might want to wipe you dusty face after a day out!
Getting around the country
Night bus / day bus is definitely the way to go. It is not the cheapest, but it’s the most efficient way other than flying which is too expensive as there are only a few airlines dominating the country’s air traffic. Bus tickets can be purchased through your hostels/hotels/travel agency on the street. Usually pick up service is included, so be sure to ask about this!
I would recommend taking ‘VIP’ night bus as it is equipped with air-conditioning, reclined seats, water and snacks.
Train…would be a nice way to see the country but it is EXTREMELY slow yet EXTREMELY cheap.
My final Myanmar itinerary
I had no time planning Myanmar before I flew. So I just made my itinerary on the go. In my opinion, Myanmar is not just about B-A-G-A-N! South of Myanmar is worth more exploring yet getting there is not convenient, for example, Dawei. We could only get as far as Mawlamyaine and had to return. From what I have researched, you can either fly to Dawei from Yangon or some other major airports or taking a bus from Yangon or Mawlamyaine.
Day 1 Yangon
Day 2 Yangon
Day 3 Yangon (stuck in Yangon due to Thingyan Festival, no buses were operating)
Day 4 Yangon – Bagan (overnight bus)
Day 5 Bagan
Day 6 Bagan – Kalaw (overnight bus)
Day 7 Kalaw
Day 8 Kalaw – Inle Lake Trekking
Day 9 Kalaw – Inle Lake Trekking
Day 10 Inle Lake
Day 11 Inle Lake
Day 12 Inle Lake – Hpa-An (overnight bus)
Day 13 Hpa An
Day 14 Hpa An
Day 15 Hpa An to Mawlamyaine (by boat)
Day 16 Mawlamyaine
Day 17 Mawlamyaine to Yangon (day bus)
Day 18 Yangon
Day 19 Yangon – Home
Myanmar Pricing as of April 2017
|From Airport to Downtown per cab||15,000|
|From downtowan to Yangon bus station per cab||10,000|
|Shwedagon Pagoda (Foreigners only)||8,000|
|Yangon to Bagan (VIP night bus)||18,000|
|Bagan to Kalaw (15 pax van)||15,000|
|Bagan Entrance Fee||25,000|
|Kalaw Inle Lake Trekking||39,000|
|Inle Lake Entrance Fee||12,000|
|Inle Lake to Hpa An (VIP night bus)||18,000|
|Hpa An to Mawlamyaine (boat)||8,000|
|Mawlyamyaine to Yangon (day bus, no AC)||5,000|