Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
When to Go?
The best time to visit Myanmar is from November to March when temperatures are relatively low (average 15 – 30 degrees centigrade) and when there is practically no rain. Note that in December and January the temperature can drop to near freezing at night in the highlands of the Kalaw, Pindaya, Taunggyi and Inle Lake area. In April and May which is the hottest season the temperature often tops 40 degrees centigrade in Yangon, and in Mandalay and Bagan it can get even hotter. The monsoon starts between mid-May and mid-June bringing frequent rains particularly in the southern as well as western region of Myanmar which last until September.
Passport and Visa
All travellers to Myanmar require a valid passport with minimum 6 months remaining and a Myanmar visa. There are two ways to obtain a Myanmar Visa.
Myanmar Embassy or Consulate
Apply for a tourist visa at any Myanmar Embassy or Consulate. Tourist visas are issued for a duration of 28 days at all Myanmar Embassies or Consulates and can be extended in Myanmar up to a maximum stay of 90 days. Any tourist whether travelling on a package tour or individually will receive the same type of tourist visa.
Pre-arranged Visas on Arrival
Pre-arranged visas on arrival can be arranged through Expeditions Myanmar for travellers arriving at Yangon International Airport. Expeditions Myanmar requires passengers’ passport details including name as spelled in your passport, nationality, passport number and occupation together with scanned copy of passport which shows clients’ pictures latest 3 weeks prior to arrival in Myanmar. Expeditions Myanmar will apply for tourist visas and send a visa confirmation letter issued by the Myanmar authorities to the travel agency or traveller by email attachment. Travellers will have to show this visa confirmation letter to the airline when boarding the international flight to Yangon. Upon arrival at Yangon International Airport travellers have to contact the Visa on Arrival counter, show their visa confirmation letter, hand over 1 passport photo and pay the visa fee of US$ 30 per person (subject to change without prior notice). Expeditions Myanmar charges a handling fee for all visas on arrival of US$ 20.
Formalities on Arrival
All items of jewellery, cameras and foreign currency in excess of US$ 2,000 must be declared upon arrival. No Myanmar currency may be imported or exported. Duty free allowance is 200 cigarettes and one litre of wine or spirits. Officially it is not permitted to bring mobile phones into the country: however, this regulation has not been enforced for many years. Expeditions Myanmar representative will meet travellers on arrival after immigration and customs control points have been passed, and will display an 'Expeditions Myanmar' sign for easy recognition.
No vaccinations are officially required for a visit to Myanmar. Travellers should check with their doctor or a travel immunization clinic regarding the advisability of inoculation against typhoid, hepatitis, tetanus and Japanese encephalitis as well as Malaria Prophylaxis. It is wise to use an insect repellant against mosquitoes, especially in forested areas. The sun can be remarkably hot, and a hat and high-factor block cream are advisable. Take along any prescription medication with sufficient supplies. Myanmar hospitals are not considered to be of international standard, however there are two private medical emergency clinics in Yangon with rather good facilities.
The 5 domestic airlines operating in Myanmar are Myanmar Airways, Air Mandalay, Air Bagan, Yangon Airways, Asia Wings and Air Kamboza. Expeditions Myanmar uses only the last 4 of these, which are all private-sector operated and up to international service and safety standards. Flights are however frequently delayed, with explanation for the delay rarely being provided, and travellers should be prepared for unscheduled waits at domestic airports. Frequent flights are operated to major tourist destinations countrywide with ATR-72, ATR-42 and Fokker 100 aircraft. Baggage allowance on domestic flights is limited to 20kg. Excess luggage can be left in Yangon hotels for collection on return.
Expeditions Myanmar provides air-conditioned cars and coaches where available for all tours. Public train, ferryboat, bus and other transportation services are available throughout the country, however, these services are generally of a lower standard and uncomfortable for some. Boat trips between Mandalay and Bagan are operated by Chinese-built local ferries or on more comfortable tourist boats. The river journey takes usually around 8 hours (depending on the river conditions it might take longer).
There are no official hotel categories in Myanmar. Hotel categories are rated by Expeditions Myanmar according to general international hotel criteria. Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay offer a wide choice of accommodation including boutique hotels and international five star properties. In other regions travellers should not expect top deluxe properties, though increasingly there is charming and traditional oriental style accommodation available. In some regions accommodation can be simple and basic.
Myanmar is a vast country and it is generally one of the safest countries in the world to travel. Insurgency problems near the Indian and Thai borders are in areas far off the beaten track and will not affect a traveller’s journey through Myanmar in any way. While Myanmar has opened most areas of the country to foreign visitors, there are still a few areas for which government permission is required. In such cases Expeditions Myanmar will endeavor to gain permission where possible.
Local Time GMT + 6:30 hours.
Money (bring enough cash)
Since 2011 several private sector banks and money changers have emerged. These money changers can be found at domestic airports. US Dollars, Euro and few other currencies are accepted in cash. Bills must be in perfect condition without any creases or markings, otherwise they may be declined. Most of the official money changers are extremely picky about the condition of notes whereas traditional black market money changers offer slightly lower rates but are more flexible with notes condition. US dollar bills with the letters "CB" in the serial number may also be declined in some places.
For the time being credit cards are only accepted by a few hotels which mostly charge high commissions on credit card payments (between 4-8%). It is recommended to carry both local currency Kyats and US dollars in cash, you will need both. Exchange rates in 2013 varied from 950-1000 Kyats per US dollar and 1270-1320 Kyats per Euro.
The official language is 'Myanmar/Burmese' with numerous regional and minority languages and dialects. English is spoken at all major hotels. Basic English is also spoken widely throughout the country, and travellers will almost always find someone who will at least understand and speak a few words of English. Expeditions Myanmar provides guiding services in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Russian.
Myanmar cuisine embraces Indian style curries with meat or fish as well as vegetables and regional salads and soups. Chilli is popular in Myanmar and is often used in spicy dishes such as curries, though Myanmar food in general is not as hot as the Thai cuisine. There is a broad range of Chinese, Thai and Indian restaurants sprinkled around the major cities, and also Western food as well as many other types of food can be found in Yangon, Mandalay and some other tourist resorts.
Shopping is plentiful in most areas of Myanmar with colourful markets and stalls adorning most streets. Most popular buys include antiques, embroidery, gems, lacquerware, mother-of-pearl, hand-woven silk longyis, traditional woodcarvings, customary puppets and tribal crafts. Jewellery should be purchased through an authorized dealer who will issue a receipt so that the items can be exported. Bargaining is an elemental part of Myanmar life in small shops and markets.
Post, Telecommunications & Internet
The postal service in Myanmar is unreliable and letters sometimes take months to arrive at their destination. The country code for international calls to Myanmar is (95). Myanmar telephone lines are old and in poor condition in general. Calling overseas, if getting a line, costs usually around 5USD per minute. Be prepared to be cut off from outside world while travelling in the country. Myanmar has domestic GSM and CDMA mobile networks but there is no international roaming yet. It is possible to buy prepaid Tourist SIM cards with 1 month validity or hire a local mobile (only available in Bagan since Oct 2011). Overseas calls with Tourist SIM cards are much more economical than using normal phones and connections tends to be better. Internet cafes have emerged to most cities in Myanmar in the last few years. Connections are still slow and some email accounts may be unavailable due to service provider security filters.
Tipping is common in Myanmar and much appreciated. Tipping is entirely voluntary and should encourage to good and satisfactory service. Major hotels and restaurants usually add 10 % service charge to bills. Where it is not included a tip of 5-10 % of the bill would be appropriate if the service is satisfactory. Porters should be tipped at 300 Kyat per bag. Recommended tip for local guides is 15 Usd per person per day and 5 Usd pp per day for drivers.
International and domestic flights departure taxes have been included in the airfares.
Do's and Dont's
Never drink tap water – purified, bottled water is available everywhere. Eat at established restaurants and avoid peeled or cut fruit as well as ice cubes. It is wise to guard against sunburn, dehydration and heat exhaustion. Light clothing made from natural fibres is useful most of the year around and a sweater or jacket is needed when touring hill areas and the Inle Lake region from November to February. When visiting pagodas and other religious buildings great care must be taken to appear modest and correctly dressed. Women should not wear shorts, braless T-shirts or have bare shoulders when visiting such places. Shoes and socks must always be removed at pagodas and monasteries. Photography in airports, railway stations and near any military installation is forbidden.