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“Myanmar private tour”
Review of Myanmar

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London
1 review
44 helpful votes
“Myanmar private tour”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 2 January 2010

My Fiancé and I have just arrived back from a 2 week tour of the country. I have to say before travelling to Myanmar / Burma we were extremely apprehensive given the current situation in the country (but any of fears were eased).

It is almost impossible to travel in Myanmar without a guide and we opted for a private tour guide in Myanmar .On the contrary to most trips this worked out much cheaper than joining a large tour group. The other advantage of travelling this way was we were able to plan our trip to our specifications and Tint (our tour guide) got us excellent deals on all the hotels we chose! (and it doesn’t matter too much when you miss your morning alarm).

There are many options open when travelling in Myanmar, but we choose Tint after a friend’s recommendation and his knowledge of the country and superior English made the trip unforgettable (there are a lot of “tour guides” who simply drive you from attraction to attraction). We also chose to do the whole trip overland so Tint arranged an air conditioned van and pleasant driver to accompany us. Although there are some long driving days (3x 12 hours) and internal flights are cheap we gained a lot from looking out the windows watching the world on the driving days.

Anyway if you are thinking of going to Myanmar I could whole heartedly recommend dropping Tint an email [--]

I would also recommend focusing your time around Inlay and Bagan which were our highlights.

At Inlay we stayed on the lake at Serenity Hotel, although more expensive than most it was well worth it.

Although the Kumudara Hotel in Bagan is a little run down in some areas, the junior suite which we stayed in was brand new and equivalent to the best 5* rooms in the country (at a very fraction of the cost!). The glass fronted balconies have a view directly to a number of temples and the staff were eager to please, they even arranged a delicious 5 course private pool-side dinner.

Enjoy your trip!!

Helpful?
44 Thank brett31
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Bern, Switzerland
Level Contributor
6 reviews
77 helpful votes
“Money and foreign currencies in MYANMAR (BURMA)”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 23 September 2009

In many aspects, Myanmar is certainly a destination for travellers with advanced experience. But when it comes to money and changing foreign currencies into local 'Kyats' (almost pronounced like "[to] chat"), things get really complicated, frustrating and irrational.

After having visited the country six times and having also lived in its capital Yangon for more than seven months, here are a few thoughts that may of interest for the traveller, in order to avoid the silly situation that you would like to pay your bill, but you cannot, because none of your means of payment are accepted.


I. BEFORE YOU ENTER MYANMAR
Here is what you should know *before* you enter the country:

1) Credit Cards, Traveller Cheques, ATM-Cards, etc. - leave them all at home! Only a few well established hotels in Yangon may accept credit cards, but charge an additional fee. Outside Yangon, it is not 'difficult' to pay by credit card or traveller cheques - it is virtually impossible! Nobody will accept them, and most of Burmese clients would not even have the technical installations to accept them. The same is true for ATMs or any other cash machines: Having never seen one, I assume that they simply don't exist in Myanmar, meaning you have no direct access anymore to the cash on your bank account once you entered the country. The only chance might be a transaction through a local bank, but you will certainly face some additional charges at least. (I have never tried that. Knowing a little about how the Burmese handle their money, however, I doubt that there will be much success with local banks.)

2) EURO, Chinese RMB, Japanese YEN, Australian Dollars, Singaporean Dollars, UK Pounds etc. - leave them all at home! Maybe some well established hotels in Yangon may exchange these currencies at a very bad rate and only in small amounts. Apart from these exceptions, nobody will change these currencies.

So there is only one foreign currency that rules the country: the good old US Dollar in cash. Take it with you, and plenty of it! (Remember: no chance of getting fresh cash once you are in the country.) Be aware that you will have to indicate larger amounts of cash at the immigration; this is, however, just a formality.

That means also, you have to make a budget before you leave for the Golden Land.



II. EXCHANGING FOREIGN CURRENCIES IN MYANMAR
In most of the countries, you can exchange your currency already at the airport. Not so in Myanmar: There are practically no official exchange offices, and currency exchanging is a business done somewhere in the shades. Some tourists would simply accept relatively bad rates at the hotels' receptions. Most of the tourists, however, would leave it to their tour guides to change a certain amount for them. Tour guides are probably in any way the most reliable source of information for tourists; even if they take a small commission on the amount changed, I have never heard of a tour guide cheating on his or her clients.

If you really take up the task to change it on your own, then the first address to exchange money is the Bogyoke Aung San Market in Yangon. Here, particularly the jewellery shops are known to have enough money at hand to change also several hundred US dollars at once. Ask around for the rate, usually somewhere around 1US Dollar = 1100 Kyats. The price may slightly vary, depending on the current economic or political situation, or simply depending on rumours. And unlike other goods, there is only a very small margin to negotiate the price, maybe plus/minus 10 Kyats at the most. (The website www.irrawaddymedia.com gives regular and handy updates about reasonable exchange rates.) You can also change money at the Zegyo Market in Mandalay, but you will most probably get somewhat lower rates.

And if you ask around, please do so quietly, as there are still rumours and accounts about laws prohibiting Burmese citizens actually from owning foreign currencies. Remember that it will be mostly the Burmese who will pay for a foreigner's wrongdoing.


III. CHANGING DOLLARS INTO KYATS
Changing US Dollars into the local Kyats follows various rules: For example, 100-Dollar notes get a better price than the notes on 50 or 20 Dollars, meaning that you get more Kyats with one 100-Dollar note than with five 20-Dollar notes. So it is handy to exchange the amount of Kyats you want to have with 100-Dollar notes, while keeping some small Dollars for payments at particular tourist places such as the Shwedagon Pagoda or the Mandalay Marionettes Theatre. This also, because if you pay particularly small amounts with a '50' or '100' note, nobody will be able to give you your change back in US Dollars.

Then, some other rules apply for the US Dollar:
- Take NEW notes with you! The paper must be almost fresh from the press, and the face of the American President must not be scratched. (I told you it gets irrational - but the Burmese are dead serious about that!) Nobody will accept relatively battered and worn notes, simply with the explanation that the local banks won't accept them.
- Do not take any notes that start with the numbers 'CB...' and 'CV...': Some years ago, a few fake dollars must have entered the country, probably bearing these numbers. So people active in the business still avoid dollar notes bearing these numbers like the plague.

And finally, be aware of the fact that exchanging Kyats back into US-Dollars is a very dificult task, and people will only offer you considerably lower rates, others will simply not change them back at all.


IV. THE THING WITH THE FEC
Until about 2003, foreigners entering the country were forced to change 200 US Dollars into the so-called Foreign Exchange Currency (FEC), officially at the rate of 1 USD = 1 FEC. Changing FEC back into USD was almost impossible. Foreigners had to spend the FEC as soon as possible, and particularly hotels were simply forced by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism to accept the currency. In reality, however, the Burmese never really accepted the FEC, and the unofficial term "Mickey Mouse Money" speaks volumes about the currency and the appreciation of the governmental agenda behind it. Consequently, the exchange course from FEC into Kyat dropped dramatically as well.

Should anybody nowadays try to convince you that FECs are still valid, just say "No!" - Hands off from FECs!

Helpful?
39 Thank fgpolestar
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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