Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a beautiful, historic country west of Thailand. The country has been fairly untouched by western culture and only opened up for tourism in the mid-1990s. Myanmar is a traditional country filled with rich history, culture and thousands of stunning sights.
While it may not be the easiest country to travel to, it is definitely worth the visit. Be prepared for long overnight bus rides between cities and towns, a lack of modern infrastructure, and unreliable wifi/internet connections. Often referred to as “How Southeast Asia used to be” this country will provide you with an experience unlike any other.
The majority of travellers fly into Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon. This city was the Capital City of Myanmar until 2006 and is still one of the most visited places in the country. Yangon is home to the famous Shwedagon Paya, a huge, shimmering pagoda sitting in the city centre.
Myanmar is home to many annual festivals and if you’re lucky enough to be there when one is happening, you will not regret it. The Thingyan festival which is held in mid-April is widely referred to as “The Water Festival”. If you are in Myanmar during this time, be prepared to get wet and have a great time with locals and tourists alike. You will not be able to walk outside of your hotel without someone spraying you with a water gun or a hose.
While there is still some unrest with the government, this country is generally safe to travel and you will be welcomed with warm smiles. The people of Myanmar are known to be extremely friendly, the food is delicious and the prices are fair for travellers on any budget.
Be aware that you are expected to dress somewhat conservatively in this country, particularly when visiting historic or religious sights. Myanmar is not as liberated as many other countries throughout Asia.
To provide some extra help with planning your trip, I have written about my top 3 favourite destinations in Myanmar; Bagan, Inle Lake and Yangon. Below, I will explain why I’ve chosen these three destinations as my top 3 in Myanmar:
1. Bagan is my number one pick for Myanmar. Bagan is an ancient city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city holds nearly 4,000 temples, pagodas, and monasteries built between the 9th and 13th centuries. Wake up early to catch the sunrise coming up over the ancient city or hop in a hot air balloon to take in the stunning sights from above. Bagan is like nothing you’ve seen before and a must-see when visiting Myanmar. Check the route of Yangon to Bagan to find your best travel options.
2. When you’re ready to experience the countryside of Myanmar, head to Inle Lake. Here you will see how the locals truly live and experience the lakeside fishing villages firsthand. Take in the culture, enjoy shopping at the markets, explore the floating gardens, or simply sit back and enjoy the beautiful sights. There are also plenty of Pagodas and Temples in the area to visit as well. See our route on Bagan to Inle Lake to view the best travel options.
3. Visiting the former Capital City of Yangon is not to be missed when travelling Myanmar. The Shwedagon, Sule, and Botataung Pagoda are absolutely beautiful and filled with rich Burmese culture. There are countless markets and even a couple of small lakes with beautiful views to take in while in Yangon. Read Inle Lake to Yangon to find your best travel options.
Another great destination in Myanmar is Mandalay, this city should not be missed. Be sure to visit the Kuthodaw Pagoda, home to the world’s largest book, which is made up of 729 standing stone “pages” with individual stupas. Another amazing site is the U-Bein Bridge, this bridge is the longest teak footbridge in the world and spans approximately 1300 yards long across Taungthaman Lake. To travel here, read How to travel from Yangon to Mandalay to find your best options.
When to travel to Myanmar
Due to its tropical climate, you can visit Myanmar all year round. We do, however, suggest avoiding the months from July to September as this is the wet season. Generally, anytime from September to June, you will find great weather and warm temperatures throughout the country.
The most popular time to visit Myanmar is from November to February when the temperatures are warm but bearable and the evenings often provide a cool breeze. In March, the “hot” season begins and temperatures easily reach 40+ degrees, particularly in places such as Bagan and Mandalay. This season lasts until May.
How to get around Myanmar
Depending on the price of flights, we recommend flying long distances in Myanmar because the bus rides can be quite lengthy. If you prefer to take a bus, we suggest taking a night bus for the majority of your travels when possible. This will save you time and money on accommodations for the night.
Unfortunately, the buses in Myanmar can get quite full with some local passengers even sitting on the floor in the aisles. You will rarely find a bus with an on-board toilet, so the bus will make a bathroom break every few hours. If you are hoping for a good night’s rest, this may not be an ideal situation.
Train travel is another option for certain routes throughout Myanmar. The train ride will definitely provide you with some amazing views and is known to be a fairly comfortable journey. If taking the train for a long-distance trip, we suggest booking a sleeper unit for added comfort. Unfortunately, there is no official website for the Myanmar Railway but you may find some helpful information here: Ministry of Rail Transportation.
Getting a tourist visa for Myanmar is quite simple as most travellers will be able to apply online through the government website. Simply enter your personal information, pay the $50 USD fee and receive the visa within three business days. This option is available to travellers from 100 countries. If you are not eligible to apply online, you will need to attend the nearest Myanmar embassy to apply in person.
The tourist visa is valid for 90 days, meaning you can enter the country anytime with the 90 days permitted but you must leave before the 90 days are up. You can stay in the country for a duration of 28 days within the visa validity. If you plan to leave Myanmar and return again, you will need to apply for a new visa.
You can also apply for an express visa which will be prepared within 24 hours and will cost $56 USD.
Be sure to print out the visa and have it with you when you arrive in Myanmar. With your tourist visa, you are eligible to arrive at 8 different international entry points, 3 airports and 5 land crossings.
How to make sure you packed everything you will need for your trip? Short answer: Impossible. There is no such thing as a perfect packing list.
Luckily there are two little steps that we can share with you to become an awesome packer:
Step 1: Put all the clothes you want to take with you on your bed.
Step 2: Pack half of them.
If you follow the steps above, you will be one of the top 1% packers in the world. Packing around heavy bags is not enjoyable when travelling so we suggest packing a lot less than you think you will need.
Often, after a few days of travel, you will realize you have too much stuff and begin to throw things away that you are not using daily. Also, keep in mind that shopping is cheap in Myanmar, and almost all amenities can be bought as needed.
I do suggest packing sunblock as it can be quite expensive in Myanmar.
To see the complete packing list visit our page in which we share our ideal packing list.
Set in a beautiful garden surrounding, this guesthouse is a great place to stay in Bagan. The staff are known to be extremely welcoming and will go out of their way to make your stay as comfortable as possible. Electric bikes are available for rent and breakfast is included with your stay.
This hotel is known to be extremely clean and offers huge guest rooms with lovely views of the town. Delicious breakfast including fresh fruit smoothies is included each morning with your stay. Enjoy the free bicycle rentals during the day and relax with a drink at the onsite bar in the evening. Staff are friendly and offer travel services for local tours and onward destinations.
If you’re looking for a little more comfort and an ideal location, the Thanlwin Guesthouse is a great option. The hotel is within walking distance of many sights, such as Inya Lake, as well as Yankin Centre Shopping Mall. An excellent breakfast is included with your stay. The rooms are large, the beds are comfortable, and the hotel is extremely clean. The staff is known to extremely helpful and friendly.