Having recently ended over fifty years of military dictatorship, Myanmar has opened up to the outside world, revealing a nation defined by friendly locals, cultural diversity, and a landscape dotted by stunning Buddhist architecture.
The Shwedagon Paya, in elegant colonial Yangon, is one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites, an immense stupa adorned with 27 metric tons of gold leaf. The old capital, Bagan, is a forty-two-kilometre zone home to more than 4000 exquisite Buddhist temples. Though parts of Myanmar remain closed to visitors due to ongoing conflict, the main sites are safe to visit – and responsible tourism is proving vital to getting this long-troubled nation back on its feet.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. In Myanmar, public buses can usually be relied upon in large cities, but in the smaller villages, transport tends to be via motorbike taxis or tuk tuks (rickshaws). Trains, where available, are relatively frequent but they are old and the conditions can be poor. It is not always possible to plan transport in advance.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Health & Safety
As of writing, smarttraveller.gov recommends a high degree of caution while travelling to Myanmar. It’s always best to check the latest details before setting out on a trip. Certain parts of Myanmar should be avoided for the time being, particularly near the border with Bangladesh. There are risks associated with specific areas, and it is important to take these into consideration when planning your trip. But countries like Myanmar rely heavily on tourism, and refusing travel can be detrimental to a struggling economy. Stay apprised of government recommendations for Myanmar in order to be best prepared for your trip.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. Myanmar uses plugs in types C, D, F and G, and electricity runs at 230V/50Hz.
MMT, Myanmar’s time zone, is UTC + 6.3 hours. Myanmar has a single time zone, Central European Time. The nation does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping. So when you’re with the group you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you make sure you tip an appropriate amount for services, as is the case throughout much of Asia. While tips are not usually expected in Myanmar, many of the locals are on very low wages, so your generosity can go a long way. It’s especially appreciated if you tip porters, drivers, and cleaning staff.
You can expect to be able to access the internet and find wi-fi in big cities. It may be available in rural and remote areas, but is often slow and dependent on weather conditions. So don’t count on doing anything that requires significant downloading or uploading when travelling outside urban areas.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Myanmar. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for Myanmar
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although many locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of Burmese kyat in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.