Burma or Myanmar – whatever you call it…it’s on everyone’s lips and has been for the past few years since Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed the tourist game open. A travel magazine is remiss if it doesn’t mention the place to buy lotus silk or a review of one of the 16 new hotels planned for Inle Lake alone – I kid you not. Hotel prices have been going up 30% every year and since there are only a limited amount of hotels – that means it’s the Wild West as far as prices per room are concerned. So you’ll need my Top Ten Tips for Myanmar.
That’s what happens when one day you are closed to outsiders and then the next it is go, go, go. Hopefully, someone in charge realizes that with great tourism comes greater responsibility. Tourism, as much as we love it, can destroy countries and hopefully this beautiful spot will age gracefully.
Saying all that, now is a great time to experience it for yourself.
This short post is our Top Ten Tips if you are new to traveling to Myanmar. Sorry if these things seem obvious, but better said then not.
- You need a visa so get one in time.
- You can pay almost everything in dollars (US, that is)…but only crisp new unfolded ones. So no matter where you are from…get some dollars.
- A lot of the hotels still don’t take credit cards and, if they do, they charge a fee…so get dollars.
- Exchange your money at Yangon airport, it has a much better rate than at hotels. – almost 1000 kyats per dollar more! (Most planes arrive in Myanmar from abroad there, we also changed it at Bagan airport too.)
- We were surprised by how many ATMS there are around, primarily at temples! Still it’s better to have cash. We did not try them so don’t know if they work with foreign cards.
- Don’t forget to change your kyat back to dollars before you go. We have $25 in kyat because we forgot and you can’t change it outside of Myanmar.
- Shopping: Haggle! I probably overpaid for a necklace in Inle Lake ($6) and that same necklace in Bagan was priced at $25!
- Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise but the food is really good! It has been described to us as oily and bland. We found that if you go to the right places that that is anything but true. You just have to know what to order: two things NOT to miss on the menu are the Pickled Tea Leaf Salad and the Aubergine Salad. (Yes, it seems every country makes this and it as smoky and just as delicious as the Greek or Lebanese – more on food in the individual posts coming up later this month!)
- Guides – I would suggest getting guides in some of the cities. If you do use guides, don’t let them order food for you – ask to see a menu as there is loads more stuff you might want to try!
- What’s to buy?: Each city specializes in certain products so I suggest buying those things in that city as you will have much more selection or you could leave everything to Scott’s Market in Yangon where, although selection is limited, the prices are competitive – if you haggle…