Myanmar Travel Guide
Myanmar, previously Burma, is quickly becoming one of the hottest travel destinations in Southeast Asia as tourists line up to explore the country. The high interest in the country is due to the fact that it used to be a pariah state and was closed to the outside world. So, there's some sort of mystery around the country.
There are many attractions in Myanmar ranging from ancient ruins to unexplored jungles, glittering golden stupas, bountiful rice fields, peaceful beach resorts, legions of monks, picturesque mountain paths, and rich cultures. The people of Myanmar are also ecstatic about tourists and are eager to make them feel welcomed and introduce them to their way of life.
Myanmar doesn't quite have the facilities to handle large influx of travelers so you might experience some challenges here. But your overall experience will be positive as you explore a country that has just recently opened its doors to the outside world.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, the current situation in Myanmar is incompatible with serene and safe travel in the country.
Capital city: Naypyidaw
Currency: Myanmar Kyat (MMK). 1 USD = 2,099.59 MMK. Know that Kyats are not exchangeable outside of Myanmar. Make sure you exchange your leftover money before leaving the country.
Electricity: Power voltage is 230 Volts. Power socket type A, C D, G and I.
Language: Burmese is the official language.
10 Handpicked Highlights of Myanmar
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon
In the middle of Myanmar’s biggest city of Yangon is the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred religious monument in the country. Covered with gold plating and other ornaments like rubies and sapphires, the massive temple has a mesmerizing glow. The architecture and the interior decoration are also stunning and you have the opportunity to see relics and artifacts as old as 2500 years. The best time to visit Shwedagon Pagoda is early in the morning and at night.
Bagan and its thousands of temples and pagodas
Nothing can prepare you for the variety of temples and pagodas and magical sunrise and sunsets you’ll see in Bagan. You can look at pictures all you want but the experience itself is indescribable.
Thousands of Buddhist stupas, pagodas, and temples are scattered across a flat region close to the Irrawaddy River. And the region is very picturesque. Ensure you bring a travel camera with you for some stunning photography.
Lake Inle, with villages on stilts and floating gardens
Lake Inle, which spans over 45 Square miles, is one of the natural attractions of Myanmar. Things to see here include villages built on stilts, floating vegetable gardens supported by bamboo poles, and opportunities for handicraft shopping and outdoor adventures.
The lake and the surrounding regions are very photogenic and you can expect to take stunning photographs here. After exploring the lake and the water community, you can hike or bike in the mountainous regions that surround the lake.
Inn Dein Pagoda Complex, near Inle Lake
The Inn Dein Pagoda complex is made of a series of ancient brick pagodas that rise from a dry forest. Currently in different stages of ruin and repair, the pagodas are entrusted with vines and growing trees. As the wind blows and some of the bells chime, the whispers of the ancients can be heard over the wind, each with its own personality, welcoming you to the tiny village. Ok, I’m being a little dramatic.
The village isn’t commercialized yet but it’ll get there. A highlight of your trip there will be the hospitality of the locals as the villages are very welcoming and friendly.
Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, the Golden Rock
You can refer to Myanmar as the land of pagodas and you’ll be totally right. Another important religious site to visit in the country is the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda which is a golden rock dangling off the side of a mountain. It’s a striking place to visit and the surrounding areas are very beautiful.
You can take a bus to the temple or trek there. But the trek tends to be more exciting as you get to take in the natural landscape of the area.
Mandalay Hill & Mandalay Palace
Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar and has some interesting sights for tourists. One of the best things you can do in the city is to watch the sunset from the Mandalay hill. You get an incredible scenery of the surroundings including the several pagodas and monasteries that populate the region on the top of the hill.
The Royal Palace sits at the center of the town and is still in the process of repair as the original structure suffered significant damage during World War II. While the royal palace may never regain its former glory, it’s still an important part of the country’s history and worth visiting.
U Bein Bridge, near Mandalay
Near Mandalay is the world’s oldest teak bridge, the U Bein bridge that’s quickly becoming one of the most visited spots in Myanmar. Amazingly, most of the bridge’s original construction is intact. You can enjoy a walk across the bridge or ride a bicycle on it.
The sunsets on U Bein can only be described as legendary. And this makes the bridge one of the most photographed places in all of Myanmar.
Hiking/trekking in Kalaw, Burmese countryside
Blessed with rolling hills, scenic mountains, and beautiful little villages, Kalaw is one the best places for people that want to explore the outdoors in Myanmar. There are several hikes available for tourists of all fitness levels and itineraries. You get to breathe fresh air and enjoy incredible scenery. When you are done with your hike, you can explore the architecture of the town and learn about the culture of the people.
Ngapali Beach, probably the most famous beach in Myanmar
If you want to spend some time at the beach in Myanmar, then you should head to the Ngapali beach which is famous for its beautiful stretch of white sand and palm tree-lined coast. Kayaking, snorkeling, trips on local fishing boats, and scuba diving are popular activities you can enjoy at the beach.
The Mergui Archipelago is an untouched and unspoiled paradise in Myanmar that consists of idyllic beaches, dense rainforests, and both roaming animals and marine animals. With very few people visiting the archipelago, it’s the ultimate island getaway. Only those truly hungry for a unique adventure make their way here and they’ve never been disappointed by their experiences.
Myanmar's Geography & Landscapes
Myanmar can be divided into five geographic regions namely:
- The northern mountains.
- The western ranges.
- The eastern plateau.
- The central basin.
- The lowlands.
- The coastal plains.
The landscape of the country is mostly made up of hills, valleys, and mountain ranges that generally run from north to south. Myanmar also has many rivers most of which also flow from North to South, including the large Irrawaddy River.
Best Time To Go To Myanmar
Myanmar has a mostly tropical climate with the rainy season generally between May to October. During this time, roads can become impassable. The central plains receive only a fraction of the rain seen on the coast and road conditions tend to be better there during the wet season.
March to May is generally the duration of the dry season and temperatures can become extreme and get in excess of 40°C. While you can visit the country during the dry season, the best time is generally between November to February when the temperatures are intermediate and very manageable.
Traveling in Myanmar
The political situation in Myanmar is currently unstable and people traveling to the country at this time need to be extra vigilant. Ideally, you should wait until the political situation improves and find out about the current state of the country before going. Below are tips to stay safe in Myanmar.
- Pickpocketing is common, so take extra care of your belongings.
- Don’t display or flaunt your valuables.
- Don’t buy gold or gemstones from an unlicensed source.
- Some towns are under martial law. Research the local situation of a town before going there.
- Avoid demonstrations and public gatherings.
- Obey all military instructions especially those regarding curfew.
- If you won’t do it at home, don’t do it in Myanmar.
- Purchase good travel insurance.
Getting to & Around Myanmar
The major gateways to the country by air are the Mandalay International airport, Nay Pyi Taw International Airport, and Yangon International airport. There are a number of domestic flights in the country such as Golden Myanmar Airlines, Air KBZ, Mann Yadanarpon Airlines, and Air Thanlwin.
Buses are one of the most popular ways to get around. Most bus services are privately owned and are affordable. Public buses operate only in the biggest cities and are very cheap. Guesthouses can help you book or buy bus tickets for a small fee. P The railway system in Myanmar is outdated, slow, and uncomfortable. They are also more expensive than buses although they are a great way to interact with the locals and see some amazing scenery.
Shared taxis and vans are available for some routes and are especially useful for short trips. Some shared taxis are specifically tailored for tourists.
There’s a lot of hassle to hiring a car in Myanmar even though it’s possible. I wouldn’t recommend you hire a car though. The roads are not in good condition and may even become impassable during the wet season.
Domestic travel is cheap in Myanmar and can be an appealing choice for tourists. However, delays and schedule changes are very common so you’ll have to keep your schedule flexible if you intend to fly within the country.
While accommodation used to be very cheap in Myanmar, the large influx of tourists has created a big demand that the current facilities can meet. This has driven up prices of available accommodation and you may pay up to $15 or $20 for a double room in a guesthouse. Prices tend to go up during the peak season and it’s advisable you book accommodation in advance.