Myself and my boyfriend are starting a round the world trip In July and would like to visit Burma at some point. I don’t know much about the country and have a few questions I was hoping someone who has visited could help me with.
I think we will be heading there after spending some time in India – is it possible to enter overland or is it easier to fly? How easy is it to acquire a visa? Where are the best places to visit?
Burma is an amazing and unique place, well worth a visit.
You’re probably better off flying in to be honest, you can’t get in by river/sea and most overland borders are for closed off areas unless you come in through China (but to be honest even that border may have closed since I last looked since it is very open to fluctuation),and there still aren’t any bus/train services connecting the country with anywhere else. If you fly into Yangon, you may be better doing so from either KL or Bangkok, as these are relatively close hubs and fares may be cheaper.
As for the visa’s, where are you from?? Assuming you are English, then yes you will need a visa in advance (most countries do to be fair). You have to apply to the Burmese embassy for that, it may or may not be easy to get when you are on the road, it depends on what the constantly in flux political situation is. I managed to get one okay, but that was a few years back. You should be able to get one in advance, but leave plenty of time to do so.
The best places to visit are all listed in most guidebooks or on these websites, so I won’t repeat the info.
One piece of advice though, take as much cash with you that you will need for the length of your stay. ATMs were pretty much non existent outside of the airport when I was there and as far as I know the situation hasn’t changed much. Plus the fact that Burma has got REALLY expensive in recent years.
You will have a great time in Burma. I have been many times and have seen the changes that are happening even as I write. The tourist infrastructure is better than it use to be, but that being said, at the moment ATM’s are still unseen, credit cards are only accepted in major hotels and even then they prefer cash. The USD is the preferred currency, but the notes must be clean, no damage, crisp and 100 and 50 dollar notes are best. They will convert it to Krit for you at the money changer’s at Scott’s Market in Yangon or have the taxi driver take you to the Park Royal Hotel (Royal?) and at the back is a shop that changes money and the rate is pretty good. All the drivers know where to take you and most speak English, so you will get there without a problem.
As Michael said the transportation to other parts of the country are very poor, but not impossible. It’s best to find a cheap tour to transport you to Bago, Bagan, Mandalay etc. It will have AC and that can be a God send. Public transport in Yangon is best by taxi, but they are open air, gas chambers, but they get you there. Public transport to places outside of Yangon are almost non-existent, or you may be cramed into a bus that will take you weeks to get to where you want to go. Trains are not an option. It is best to use a private tour service or you can now find group tours which will cost you less.
Hotel as now 4 times what they were 2 years ago and finding a room is a challenge. There is a reason my neighbor from Burma has not been to his condo in Bangkok? He owns a hotel and is now making lot’s of money. There are many hotels being built, so by the time you get to Yagon there may be a few more. The day’s of just showing up without a reservation for a hotel are gone. Book ahead of time! You can go online an see what’s available. Now there are more home stay places run by families, but you have to go and take a chance that there is no room at the inn. Cash is king and credit cards are not accepted except by the top tier hotels.
When outside Yangon you can book a hotel at places like the Golden Rock, Bago, Bagan, but many are poor quality, but that is changing as there is more demand for better quality service.
This is a country of great beauty and it doesn’t take much to peel back the outer skin and see an amazing country in rapid change. The people of Burma are very welcoming and seem to always have a smile for a tourist. Respect is very important, as is calmness of self. Many people speak English in Yangon and much fewer as you venture out.
As Michael said, it has become EXPENSIVE! Bargain for everything within reason. When I first visited Burma hotels were under 25 USD for a decent place in Yangon, but now well over 100 USD. Food is still cheap, taxi has gone up, but a bargain by western standards.
Enjoy this county as you may not get a chance to visit a country in flaux like this. The people have been under the control of the military for over 50 years, and now you can even get an English language weekly newspaper directed to westerners. Just a bit of advice! Wash you hands as I have gotten sick there, street food is OK if it has not been siting there for hours. If a stand is busy and you observe fast turn-over of food then it’s usually safe.
Take a look at RG or LP guide books for details of where to go. Agoda. Booking.com etc for hotels and book ahead!
Just to let you know that we’re publishing our first guide to Burma in July: Snapshot Myanmar (Burma). It’s our first straight-to-digital title and will be available on iPad, Kindle, etc.
As the guys say above, Burma is becoming increasingly expensive, but our author sought out plenty of bargains as he travelled the length and breadth of the country, as well as some great places where you should really treat yourself.
The temples of Bagan (Pagan) and Inle Lake are musts, but – and this will no doubt sound like a travel cliché – many visitors find that the fondest memories of their trip are of the Burmese people themselves.
Felice I am going to Myanmar in November. I tried to purchase the ebook version for iPhone/ipad. The answer I received from itunes was: "The item you've requested is not currently available in the U.S. store."
Can you offer any assistance or recommendations.
Keith Drew Sorry to hear that Felice. I've asked our Digital Department to look into this and will post an updated reply here when I hear back from them.
Keith Drew Sorry for the delay. The Myanmar (Burma) Snapshot is currently available on the US iBookstore – try just searching "Rough Guide Snapshot" and selecting it from the list. You might need to check that the store you're trying to purchase it from is right – check the country icon at the bottom right-hand side of the screen. If you continue to experience problems, Apple's support team will be able to advise further.
Keith Drew PS Have a great trip!