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Travel Tips for Myanmar

Belmont, California
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Travel Tips for Myanmar

My husband and I traveled in Myanmar for 2 weeks in Feb 2014. We are not budget travelers. We stay in nice hotels and had guides in each of the cities that we visited: Mandalay, Bagan and Yangon.

First tip is with regard to dress: To visit the religious sites, your body needs to be covered from shoulders to below your knees. Bare shoulders or legs are not allowed. On the flip side, your feet have to be bare. No shoes or socks allowed. So wear short-sleeved shirts, long pants, and easy off sandals or flip-flops. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses are a good idea too.

Money: Most prices are given in USD$ at $1 = 1,000 kyats (sounds like "chats"). They accept USD$ interchangeably with kyats for the most part. However, *they only accept brand new perfect condition USD$*. This is because the amount of kyats that they receive from the money changers is dependent on the condition of the USD$. Any crease, smudge, mark or blemish of any type decreases the amount that they will receive. Therefore, they will not accept USD$ that are not in pristine condition. Carry $1 for tips and small purchases and carry a range of USD$ denominations for all purposes. For large purchases, they prefer $100. They do not know what to do with Euros or any currency other than USD$. If they do accept Euros or UK Pounds, it's at the same rate as USD$.

We were told that real nuns (female monks) never solicit money from foreigners; only from shop keepers. If nuns come up to foreigners to solicit money, they are most likely fake nuns scamming for money.

Scott's Market in Yangon (aka, Bogyoke Aung San Market) is the best place in Myanmar to buy jewelry, art, figurines, cloth, items made from cloth, longyis, and other items. Good prices, good quality, reputable proprietors, low pressure, comfortable environment.

Guides are highly recommended. We had guides in Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay and it made all the difference. We went to the right places at the right times, avoided crowds, saw what we wanted to see, learned a lot, and were chauffeured in air conditioned comfort. If you want a guide, reserve one a minimum of 3 weeks in advance during high season, 2 months in advance is better. The good guides are in high demand and are reserved by tour agents in addition to individuals.

Mandalay, Bagan and Yangon Guide Recommendations:

In Mandalay, I first contacted Soe Soe (soe.paing246@gmail.com; 09402538362) who I found on Trip Advisor. He was not available, but he arranged for Hla Myo (hlamyonaing7@gmail.com; 09-402713137) to be our guide. Hla Myo (sounds like "La Myu", the H is silent) is fantastic: excellent English, very knowledgeable, really nice person, very reliable and great at logistics, can discuss any topic. We really enjoyed our time with him. I can't recommend Hla Myo highly enough.

In particular a special thing Hla Myo did was to take us to a monastery to have lunch with the locals and the monks. This is a monastery that he personally supports and not a tourist thing. After lunch, we met briefly with the head monk and gave him a donation. This was one of the highlights of our trip to Myanmar.

In Bagan, our guide was Thein Than (sounds like "Thane", I think) (tthanbnyu@googlemail.com, 0947105071 and 09402682759). Also excellent in all respects. He is very knowledgeable and makes a point of explaining the historical significance of each site and the specific design features of each site. The only challenge that I had with Thein is that he answers "yes" to all questions even if he doesn't understand the question, so sometimes I would have to ask a question 3 or 4 different ways until he understood what I was asking and I got an answer.

In Yangon, our guide was Chit Kaung Htut (chitkaunghtut.tbelc@gmail.com, 09 420 1515 37). Chit is awesome as well. We only had 1 day with him because he was booked already for the other 2 days that we were in Yangon. I wish we had been able to spend 3 days with him. We ran out of time, but he supports a monastery that teaches English and an option is to go to the monastery with him and speak English with the students. I would have loved to have done that. Thein Than in Bagan made arrangements for us with Chit in Yangon which was very helpful.

Mandalay, Bagan and Yangon Hotels:

Myanmar is fairly expensive especially for Southeast Asia. I am not willing to stay in budget hotels. I stay in 4 or 5 star hotels which are fairly expensive in Myanmar. There are lower end places and then a big cost jump to nicer places. Most places I travel, I am able to find 4 star hotels at reasonable prices, but not in Myanmar. I had to pay more for places that I was willing to stay.

In Mandalay, we stayed in Hotel Shwe Pyi Thar http://www.hotelshwepyithar.com/. It is very nice and new. Outside of Mandalay. Nice view.

In Bagan, we stayed in Blue Bird http://www.bluebirdbagan.com/. Our guide told us that this is the best hotel in Bagan, but we did not see any others so we can't compare. It is a very lovely garden hotel. It feels like an oasis. The only shortcoming is non-existent to glacial wifi. Other than that, it's great.

In Yangon, we stayed in Hotel Grand United Ahlone Branch www.hotelgrandunited.com/about_hgu_al.php. This is sufficiently nice, but a bit more of a utilitarian hotel. Hotels in Yangon in particular are expensive.

Myanmar is very safe. In some villages, they not only don't lock their doors, but they don't even have doors. It is the only place I have traveled where I did not have to worry about pick pockets or any other theft. The people are very kind and peaceful.

If you charge anything to your hotel room, find out if you can pay the room charges by credit card. Some places we could, some places we could for an extra fee, and we were surprised that in some places we could only pay our room charges in cash. We were rushed checking out to get to the airport and had to scrounge to come up with enough cash to pay our hotel bill.

Tips are not expected except in Yangon. In Yangon, they carry your luggage and things that you don't even want them to do and then they stand there blocking your way until you give them a tip. We did not encounter anything like this anywhere else in Myanmar.

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1. Re: Travel Tips for Myanmar

Thanks for this report. I will make note of the guides you recommend.

2. Re: Travel Tips for Myanmar

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