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Published: December 26th 2016
Getting to Yangon was probably more difficult than getting into Yangon. First, a little background:
Up until the elections held in Myanmar in December 2015, when the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, won in a landslide, the United States had placed sanctions on Myanmar for human rights violations. The US lifted the restrictions on certain financial transactions in May of 2016, and lifted all sanctions in October. I waited until The NLD took office in April 2016 before booking this trip, because, you know, human rights violations and sanctions.
Pretty much everyone needs a visa to enter Myanmar, except citizens of ASEAN countries. (Curiously, Indonesia, though an ASEAN country, does not qualify for a visa waiver.) The good news is that you can get your visa online, and the government of Myanmar happily accepts Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.
Getting to Singapore was pretty easy, though it’s a long flight from the US. The next bit was a little more difficult. No major airline flies into Myanmar. Do not be misled by seeing an Eitihad or Quantas flight listed as landing in Yangon. Those are codeshare flights with Jetstar Asia, a
low-cost carrier (LCC) airline.
Flying a low-cost carrier takes a certain amount of patience and good humor. You will pay extra for absolutely everything, including a drink of water and checking in, though check in only costs you time. Even though I was connecting from an international flight to another international flight, I still had to pass through customs and immigration to reach the check in counter because Jetstar does not want to pay extra to have a counter on the airside of the terminal.
Now, I pride myself in never checking luggage. I carefully check dimensions before I buy any new travel bag, and I have to be able to lift anything I bring, so I’m pretty good at packing light. Jetstar, however not only checks size but weight as well. You are allowed only seven kilos total
, for both your carryon and briefcase or purse. I came in at 23 kilos. Fortunately I had purchased some additional perks – like a bottle of water - with my admittedly very cheap fare, so I was able to check my bag for free. And don’t try to skip this step; they do check and you will get sent
Money changers want clean crisp new bills from you. In return, you get some of the most tattered and filthy money imaginable.
back. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)
Because Changi Airport is a marvel of efficiency and gracious style, even its LCC concourse is bright and pleasant. As I was waiting in the gate area, Singaporean police escorted three young men onto the plane. While these guys weren’t in handcuffs, it was pretty obvious they were not leaving Singapore by choice. I can only guess they were being deported. They boarded before anyone else, and I didn’t see them again.
Yangon airport is fairly new, and is built in a very distinctive Burmese style. It boasts of having passenger traffic of over four million a year – compared with 101 million passengers through Atlanta – but it seemed pretty empty. I was waived over into the immigration line for Diplomats – I must have looked appropriately distinguished, or maybe just tired. The officer looked at my visa, stamped my passport, and handed my passport back to me. I practiced my first phrase in Burmese; “Chay tzu tin bar te” (Thank you.) At which she actually cracked a smile, and said, in English, “Very nice!” Possibly useful information:
* Apply for an eVisa online. I’m
hearing conflicting information about whether tourists are still eligible for a Visa on Arrival. The eVisa is easier and appears to require less paperwork.
* After baggage claim but before customs, the money change booths are to your left, as are the ATMs. All the major Burmese banks have counters here, and their exchange rates are comparable with the Foreign Exchange Market rates. It appears that they do not charge a commission or fee.
* Right after you exit customs, there is a taxi starter stand. You tell them where you want to go, and they will arrange it with the driver, as well as settle on a price. The airport is quite a ways out of town and the traffic is horrendous. I paid 7,000 kyat, or about US$5.15, and the ride took about 45 minutes.
Tot: 2.831s; Tpl: 0.074s; cc: 37; qc: 140; dbt: 0.1054s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.7mb