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Questions on Burma/Myanmar

Some questions on Burma (Myanmar)
7 years ago, December 23rd 2011 No: 1 Msg: #149261  
B Posts: 41
So with 8 days left till I hop on a plane to Bangkok, there have been some thoughts going through my mind with regard to traveling in Myanmar. I plan to fly there after a week in Bangkok after getting my visa. I'm trying to figure out how much time to allow myself with the intention of really just hitting the key sites (Inle Lake, Bagan, Mt Popa, Golden Rock, Shwedagon Padoga, and a couple of things in bewtween). Do I buy a round-trip ticket and hope I make it back to Yangon on time for my flight out? Also, if I were to be there for 2 weeks, how much cash should I be bringing? Would you recommend more time?

I've been reading through the Lonely Planet Burma, but still its tough to estimate everything when you know you won't be able to get more cash from an ATM.

Any advice from those people who have traveled through Burma would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!! Reply to this

7 years ago, December 24th 2011 No: 2 Msg: #149298  
Hey Nate

From memory I think we spent about $600 in a month (2 people sharing) so probably safe to take around $400 with you!? Don't forget to take large bills (crisp hundreds if you can) as you'll get a better rate. Go to the markets in Yangon and wander until someone offers you an exchange - the guys out on the street offer better rates but we heard several stories of travellers being ripped off that way.

We spent 28 days in the country and only visited Yangon, Mandelay, Bagan, Kalaw and Inle, spending a fair bit of time at each. Travel is usually pretty slow and IMO doing all that in 2 weeks would be pushing it a bit, but maybe that's more your style anyway. Personally, if booking a return ticket I'd make my stay a bit longer (if possible). It's an amazing country to visit.

Hope that helps a bit
Ben Reply to this

7 years ago, January 2nd 2012 No: 3 Msg: #149708  
Depending on how you are going to travel, you should think about around $600 for a month, that is $20 dollars a day. At least that was more or less what I spent in 28 days, so that was for 1 person and I was in Myanmar about 1 month ago, so pretty up to date on that part.

In two weeks you can visit those sights, but it won't be fun, as you will be spending most of your time on busses and less at the sights. As Ben said, travel is slow, think 15 hour busses for not much distance. I would go for 3 weeks minimum if you want to do all those places and want to spend a little time at each, really 28 days would be the best amount of time.

You don't need to change money with the guys on the street anymore, Myanmar has opened up its banking system and the exchange rates at the banks or even at the airport are the same or sometimes even better then on the the streets, added bonus you don't have to be scared to be ripped off. Take more money with you than you think you will spend, you can always change them back when your return to Thailand. Better too much then too little!

Bills need to be clean, no tears, and preferably without creases, also post 2002, big heads, and none with the serial number CB if I remember correctly. CB's won't be accepted at all, non clean, with tears and a lot of creases might be accepted but at bad rates, same with older bills. Though it will be harder for you to find somebody willing to change those bills even at a bad rate. Rate a month ago was swinging between 760 and 800 per dollar.

So my suggestion, take 600 dollars for the 2 weeks, which is way too much, but as I said you can change back when you return. Of those 600 dollars, take 400 in big 100 dollar bills, and the rest in smaller denominations, 20's are not bad as they are neither too big, nor too small, a few 10's and 5's and maybe 10 dollars in 1 dollar notes. You want the 20's and other smaller notes for hotels which mostly ask for payment in dollars, and for entrance fees and such.

You don't need to change all your money in Yangon, though you get the best rates there. This however might have changed by now as it things were moving so fast now, that I heard for instance that at the airport at Inle Lake they were giving exchange rates of 800 as well, so who knows?

Also when you get change in dollars (for instance at hotels or buying an entrance ticket), be sure to be as critical as the locals about the dollar bills they give, scrutinize the bills, check for tears, creases, dirt, the serial numbers and the dates, because sometimes they try to offload bad bills on unsuspecting tourists. Don't be afraid to refuse a bill that isn't good, or you will not be able to offload it yourself later on.

To get you started, average hotel prices are 8 dollars a day including breakfast (so sometimes it is more, sometimes less), that might or might not include a private bathroom. If you want to be sure of always having a private bathroom, think more in the 10 to 15 dollar range. Meals are on average between 1000 and 1500 kyat (1.5 to 3 dollars), a beer on tap in a 'beer station' between 500 and 600 kyat, busses between 10 to 25 dollars for a 15 hour trip (you pay in kyat, so that is between 8000 and 22000) depending on the bus and the route. Entrance fee at Bagan is 10 dollars, I would suggest skipping the Mandalay ticket, but if you want it, it is 10 dollars as well. Entrance fee at Inle was I think also 10 dollars, but maybe it was less, I can't remember anymore. A taxi from the airport in Yangon to Sule Paya where the budget accommodation is centered should be 5 dollars if you bargain hard! Reply to this

7 years ago, January 2nd 2012 No: 4 Msg: #149712  
I wish to add to the excellent advice above, as I returned from Myanmar a couple of days ago.

Transport - In two weeks, you will spend most of your time on buses or trains if you wish to visit all of those sites. As an example, to get between Bagan and Mandalay is only about 200km, but the train ride took 8 hours. The bus is about the same amount of time and the boat is 12 hours. I rate the transport infrastructure in Myanmar on a par with Ethiopia. What looks like a short distance on the map always takes a very long time. If you have the cash, seriously consider some plane flights, as it cuts down significantly on your transport times, but your costs will increase significantly.

Visa - Dropped my application off on a Friday morning in Bangkok, collected it on Tuesday afternoon. The staff did not wish to see any flight or hotel confirmation, so I believe it is easy to obtain visas at present. I had already bought my return ticket with Air Asia to Yangon, but you may not need to do this.

Money - I'm not a budget traveller, so my expenses were significantly more than $600 dollars per month, mainly due to three internal flights, staying in luxury accommodation on Inle Lake and a week at the beach on Ngwe Saung beach between Christmas and New Year (when rates are much higher). As for changing money, try to do it in Yangon, but if that fails, I found that the airport in Bagan to have very good rates. Also, Inle Lake Entrance tickets are now $5 per person. My advice would be to take more money with you than you think you need. I was struck down (and still have) a nasty virus, and trying to get it diagnosed from several visits to good medical services easily ate $100 out of my budget.

Itinerary - If you only have two weeks, I'd stick to the major areas of Bagan, Inle Lake (3-4 days at each) and take a visit to Golden Rock (overnight)t. Add in some time in Yangon, plus transport times, and your two weeks will be filled. Myanmar is an amazing country, you'll love it there! Reply to this

7 years ago, January 18th 2012 No: 5 Msg: #150565  
B Posts: 13
You already have great advice from the responses above. I can only agree that really - take more than you think you will need. We realised on the plane over that the 1000 dollars we had between the two of us, was actually not enough for the type of trip we had planned (we managed to get stuff paid to the travel agent by our family at home). We did our trip like this, Yangon (2 days) Ancient cities/mandalay (2 days), boat between Mandalay & bagan (1 day), Bagan, 1,5 days, Inle Lake (2 days), kalaw (2 days) and obviously travel time in between those places. Kind of too short but amazing nonetheless. Next time I'll go for the max. amount of days on my visa.

If you think you'll do everything by bus it will be fine, but after one bus trip my mom who I was traveling with for the first time decided that was the last so we took 3 flights and yes that's a lot more money. BUT so glad we did as we were able to enjoy the time at the sights rather than spent getting there.

Also even if you're not usually the type to buy souvenirs, like me, I ended up buying some things which I had not planned for. So consider that too. Plus the other unforeseen stuff like medical issues, expensive tours....I wish I'd had more because I saw an amazing artist and would have loved to buy one of his paintings for my new apartment. Alas, next time.

Reply to this

7 years ago, January 18th 2012 No: 6 Msg: #150594  

...we were able to enjoy the time at the sights rather than spent getting there.

Yes, that is the same point I was trying to make, but you said it far more eloquently. I was in the country for 27 days and the itinerary was Yangon-Golden Rock-Bagan-Mandalay-Inle Lake for 20 days (with Ngwe Saung for relaxation at the end) and even with three flights, this itinerary was a full one. If I had not taken those three flights, it would have added dozens of more hours of travel. Also, one must calculate the recovery time from a 40 minute flight as opposed to an 12 hour bus journey, and so for anyone on a tight time frame, flights make a lot of sense (budget permitting). Reply to this

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