Tips for planning a trip to Myanmar: when to go, the places not to miss, how to get around
Myanmar is a truly fascinating country, an incredible mix of glittering pagodas, monasteries, ancient temples, spirituality, ethnicities and fantastic rural landscapes. Although it has become one of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia in recent years, Myanmar has preserved its customs and traditions while remaining an authentic country. It is a journey where time seems to stand still, which struck us not only for the beauty of its archaeological sites and the strong link with the Buddhist religion but also the hospitality of its warm inhabitants.
When to go
The best time to visit Myanmar is from November to the end of February, when the sky is always sunny and the temperatures are more bearable. The hottest months are March and April, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees, while the rainy season runs from June to October and mostly affects the coastal area.
What to pack: mainly summer clothes and a sweatshirt for the evening and for means of transport where AC is usually kept at a low temperature. Bring a pair of sandals for everyday walking and comfortable shoes, especially if you plan to trek in the Kalaw area. If you visit Myanmar during the dry season (November – February), also bring a heavier jacket because, in the Shan State (Kalaw, Inle Lake, Pindaya, etc ..), temperatures could be very low during the evening and early morning.
Notice: don’t forget that it’s not allowed to leave knees and shoulders uncovered in Buddhist places of worship, and access is only barefoot.
Before booking the flight, you must check if you are entitled to a Visa exemption, a Visa on arrival or if you need to apply in person at the Myanmar Embassy in your country.
How to get to Myanmar
The country’s main hub is Yangon International Airport. From here, you can take a domestic flight to your final destination or reach Yangon and travel by train or bus. The airport is located 20 km north of the city centre. It hosts two international (Terminal 1 and 2) and one domestic (Terminal 3). A shuttle bus connects the three terminals, while you need to take a taxi to reach the city centre (ride is about 11000 kyat).
How to choose the itinerary
The country’s must-see destinations are Yangon, Mandalay and its surroundings, Bagan and Inle Lake. Another very fascinating place, although usually excluded from classic tours, is the Golden Rock, a sacred golden rock that is located about 200 km east of Yangon. For hiking lovers, the mountain area of Kalaw can be included in the itinerary. It is also well known for being the starting point of the trekking that leads to Inle Lake. Myanmar is interesting for its archaeological sites and pagodas and boasts white and untouched beaches in Ngapali, a tiny coastal town in the northwest of the country.
The classic tour of the country is about 2 weeks, which can be reduced to 10 days by taking domestic flights if you really don’t have time. Three weeks are perfect for visiting the best attractions and relaxing by the sea in Ngapali. For the more adventurous, in the south of the country are the Mergui islands, an archipelago still wild and untouched by tourism.
- Click here to see our itinerary in Myanmar.
- Click here to read our articles about Myanmar destinations.
How to get around
Planning a trip always takes time that not everyone has. Therefore, you can also rely on a local tour operator to make it easier.
- Local means of transport
Night buses are the fastest and most efficient means of transport to reach the main destinations. They have comfortable reclining seats and are quite cheap. The air conditioning is often kept at full throttle, and it gets freezing on board.
Trains are very cheap and charming; it really seems to travel back in time. The downside is its slowness, and it takes “a life” to reach your destination. For example, the Yangon – Mandalay route is about 15 hours, while by bus, it is 9 hours.
If you are in Bagan and want to reach Mandalay (or vice versa), you can catch the ferryboat along the Irrawaddy River. There are two options: a fast boat (about 12 hours – option for tourists) or a slow boat, an old-fashioned ferry that load locals and their goods stopping at many riverside villages.
Once you reach the main cities, you can move around by taxi, jeep or the famous tuk-tuk. It is also possible to haggle with a taxi driver to hire a taxi for the whole day or ask your hotel to arrange a private car with a driver. Alternatively, you can rely on the various local agencies or book guided tours directly with the web platforms GetYourGuide.com and Viator.com, where the operators advertise their activities. In some cities like Bagan, renting electric scooters and bicycles is also possible.
If you decide to backpack yourself catching the local transports, it’s useful to plan the trip through Omio.com and 12go.Asia (one of the best websites to move around Asia). The search only shows the means of transport within 7/10 days.
Where to sleep
The main destinations in Myanmar offer an excellent choice of accommodation ranging from hostels to more luxurious hotels. We booked our hotels through the booking.com website. For more information, check our posts about Myanmar.
The local cuisine is very delicious and includes a variety of dishes like noodles, soups, snacks and salads. The cuisine is heavily influenced by neighbouring countries such as Thailand, China and India. One of the main national dishes is Mohinga, a fresh fish soup with noodles typically eaten for breakfast. The soup is usually composed of garlic, onions, rice, lemongrass, ginger, fish sauce, catfish, chickpea flour and served with rice vermicelli. It is garnished with toasted garlic, coriander, chopped spring onions and lime. In short, an exceptional dish! Another very popular dish among the locals is the pork skewers. They are made with every cut of pork such as liver, intestine, ear, tongue, heart, skin, and brain. Basically, nothing is wasted! Another great dish is Lahpet Thoke, a salad made with a mixture of pickled tea leaves, cabbage, onion, tomatoes, garlic, oil, salt, lime and a mix of roasted beans and peanuts. Also not to be missed are the Shan State noodles, the meat barbecue and the Falooda, a sweet-iced drink made with rose syrup, vermicelli, basil seeds, pieces of jelly, tapioca pearls – mixed with water, milk and ice cream.
Language and Time Zone
The official language is Burmese, but we found many people speaking English, especially in the tourism industry. Myanmar Time (MMT) is 6.30 hours ahead of GMT.
The electricity supply is 230 V with a frequency of 50 Hz. The plugs used are mainly three-pole (English) and 2-pole (European); therefore, it’s useful to have a universal adapter.
The local currency is the Kyat (MMk). The USD is the best currency to exchange. 1 USD is about 1770 kyats (Jan 2022). Your currency can be exchanged at Yangon International airport or in a money shop in the main cities, where you also find ATMs (they charge a small amount of 5000 kyats for each withdrawal). Credit cards are mainly accepted in hotels and upscale restaurants.
Generally, main Myanmar’s tourist destinations are safe, and we never felt any danger during our trip. Other areas of the country, especially the borders, are strongly discouraged. Crime is relatively low, but be aware of petty theft and always use common sense. Remember that security conditions change every day worldwide; always do your research through the official websites and contact the embassy of your country in Myanmar.
Warning: at the moment, we do not recommend any trip to Myanmar due to the country’s internal political situation as the army has taken power and declared a state of emergency.
The health situation is good, but as in many other countries, the most common tropical diseases are present. Dengue fever and malaria are endemic, particularly in the rainy season (May-October). Remember to take measures to protect yourself above all at night by applying mosquito repellent containing at least 30% DEET. We suggest drinking only bottled water and avoiding ice in your drinks to prevent gastrointestinal disorders often accompanied by diarrhoea and fever. Health services/public hospitals are not on par with western standards, and if you need medical attention, it’s better to call on a private hospital/clinic. The medical expenses could be very high; therefore, don’t forget to take out travel insurance. We always made it with Worldnomads.com.