Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a stunning and historic country that has remained relatively untouched by the rest of the world. The country only opened to tourism in the mid-1990s, but it’s still not a place that many people would choose to visit.
This Southeast Asian country has had a complex political history that is still continuing until today. We’ll talk about that in the safety section of this guide. Its instability is a real shame because Myanmar is home to so much history, culture and hospitality.
Thousands of ancient temples dot its land which has remained relatively undisturbed from modern development. Nature is thriving, from the pristine beaches of Ngapali to the majestic Inle Lake with its floating gardens and stilt villages.
If you’re somebody who loves authentic experiences and off-the-beaten-track adventures then you will love Myanmar.
We’ve created this ultimate guide to Myanmar to share with you everything that this unique country has to offer.
Is Myanmar safe?
A lot of travellers want to know whether Myanmar is safe to visit right now. The answer is that some areas of Myanmar are safe to visit. These include Bagan, Yangon and Mandalay.
However, a lot of the country is still unsafe to visit, or you’re not even allowed there as a tourist. You can find the areas that are off-limits on the Myanmar government website.
What is happening in Myanmar?
After gaining independence from the British in 1948, Myanmar has experienced periods of military rule and political unrest.
Since then, there has been an ongoing ethnic civil war, the persecution of Rohingya Muslims, landmines, bandits and a huge opium trade. In 2021, a military coup took place which overturned the democratically elected government, leading to protests and civil unrest.
If you do choose to travel to Myanmar right now check whether your government is advising against travel there and whether your travel insurance covers a visit there.
Is Myanmar worth visiting?
If Myanmar wasn’t experiencing such troublesome times, we think that Myanmar would be one of the hottest places to visit in Southeast Asia right now.
Myanmar is where you’ll find the ancient city of Bagan, home to over 2,200 awe-inspiring temples, making it one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in Southeast Asia.
You’ll also get to experience a culture and society that hasn’t been diluted by outside influences as much as other countries. Treks through Myanmar’s countryside will introduce you to remote tribal villages whilst walking down the streets of Yangon will show you the incredible hospitality that Myanmar has to offer.
And when you’re not exploring, you can be enjoying Myanmar’s culinary delights. Its cuisine is a delightful blend of flavours influenced by neighbouring countries such as India, China, and Thailand.
Myanmar might not be a country worth visiting right now for everyone, but once peace falls upon the country, it’s going to be a treasure trove of unforgettable experiences.
Best destinations in Myanmar
Top 3 places to visit in Myanmar
A lot of the country is still off-limits to tourists, so picking our top 3 places to visit in Myanmar was relatively easy:
Bagan — an ancient city with over 10,000 temples
Bagan is an ancient city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s believed that over 10,000 temples, pagodas, and monasteries once stood in this ancient city built between the 9th and 13th centuries. Now, around 2,200 temples remain.
One of the best ways to explore Bagan is by hopping in a hot air balloon and taking to the skies during sunrise. Bagan is like nothing you will have seen before, especially as the warm golden glow lights up the temples nestled amongst the trees below.
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 how to get from Yangon to Bagan.
Inle Lake — floating gardens, fishermen and local villages
Inle Lake offers you a chance to delve into Myanmar’s countryside and witness spectacular beauty, floating gardens and a unique way of life. The lake is home to several ethnic groups who have built their homes on and around the lake.
Visiting these villages, you can learn about the fisherman’s distinctive technique that involves rowing balancing on one leg and using the other leg to fish with a conical net. That’s not the only genius you’ll get to see. The local farms have created floating gardens on the lake that look magnificent but also provide food for the local community.
Yangon — the form capital city of Myanmar
Yangon is a bustling city that is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. It’s home to many different communities including Bamar, Indian, Chinese and a mix of ethnic minorities. This diversity is reflected in the city’s cuisine, religious practices and festivals.
You’ll also see traces of British rule through Yangon’s unique blend of architectural styles that sit right next to incredible Buddhist temples and pagodas. The Shwedagon Pagoda is one not to miss!
When is the best time to visit Myanmar?
Like much of South-East Asia, Myanmar’s dry season runs from October through to May, and the wet season from May/June through to early October.
The best time to visit Myanmar is between November and February when there is no rain and the temperatures are warm, but not too hot. In March, temperatures begin to soar, reaching 40°C.
How to get around Myanmar
Tourism hasn’t boomed in Myanmar, so unlike other Southeast Asian countries it didn’t have to rapidly improve its transport infrastructure to meet the needs of tourists.
This means that moving around Myanmar isn’t the best, but it is doable, and part of the adventure.
Here are the best ways to get around Myanmar:
Buses are the best way to get around Myanmar. They’re often both cheaper and faster than trains.
There are plenty of bus companies to choose from, most of which are privately owned. If you want to travel in a more comfortable condition, we suggest paying a few extra dollars for a VIP bus which is more of a modern coach.
If you’re travelling on an overnight bus, be sure to bring a few layers as they crank up the air conditioning and it can get pretty cold.
Travelling overland can take a while, so if you’re short on time, taking a flight might be the best option. There are several airlines operating in Myanmar such as Myanma Airways, Air KBZ, Air Mandalay, Air Bagan, Asian Wings and more.
Planes work a little differently than ones you’ve probably experienced. They can make stops along the way, picking up passengers and letting others off as they go.
Trains are a more expensive, uncomfortable and slower way to get around Myanmar, but we recommend getting one at least once during your time in the country. You’re probably wondering ‘why?’ after we just listed all of those negatives.
The scenery is incredible!
You’ll find train routes between Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake and Mandalay, and most have various classes available, from ordinary wooden seats to special sleeper compartments. Long-distance trains even have restaurant cars, or food vendors will hop on and off to make sure you don’t get too hungry.
The route between Yangon and Mandalay is one of the more popular routes as it has better trains that are cleaner with better air conditioning.
Entry requirements and visa for Myanmar
The majority of travellers will need to apply for a visa to enter Myanmar, but luckily they’ve made this a relatively easy task. A large number of countries can apply online for the e-visa.
These include all EU countries, the UK, the US, Australia, Canada and many more. You can check whether your country can apply for an e-visa here.
The e-visa gives you a single entry stay of up to 28 days and costs $50. You’ll need to have a printed copy of your Myanmar e-visa approval letter when entering the country.
We also recommend keeping this printed copy on you during your time in Myanmar.
Entry and exit of Myanmar
The e-visa can only be used at these ports of entry:
- Yangon International Airport
- Mandalay International Airport
- Nay Pyi Taw International Airport
- Kawthaung Land Border Checkpoint
When entering Myanmar you may be asked for proof of onward travel.
If you’re not sure when you want to leave Myanmar, you can ‘rent’ a plane ticket for $12. Best Onward Travel book a real plane ticket for you that is valid for 48 hours. It’s 100% legal and safe.
Must-try Burmese food
Burmese food hasn’t exploded onto the international food scene as much as its neighbourhoods, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Food from Myanmar is a unique blend of flavours from India, China, and Thailand.
Here are some foods that you can’t leave Myanmar without trying:
- Mohinga — is considered to be Myanmar’s national dish. It’s a flavorful fish soup served with rice vermicelli noodles, boiled eggs, banana stem, and an array of herbs and spices that is commonly eaten for breakfast or as a snack.
- Shan Noodles — a speciality of the Shan state in Myanmar. They consist of flat rice noodles tossed in a savoury sauce made from soybean paste, garlic oil, and chilli, topped with your choice of meat (chicken, pork, or beef) and garnished with cilantro and crispy fried onions.
- Tea Leaf Salad (Laphet Thoke) — is a unique and popular Burmese salad made from fermented tea leaves mixed with roasted peanuts, fried garlic, sesame seeds, tomatoes, and various crunchy ingredients. It’s a burst of flavours and textures in every bite.
- Burmese Curry — known as “hin” in Burmese, curries from Myanmar are rich and aromatic. They are often made with chicken, pork, beef, or fish, cooked in a flavorful blend of spices, including turmeric, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass. The curries are typically accompanied by rice or bread.
Essential travel tips for Myanmar
Here is a selection of the best tips and pieces of information to make your trip to Myanmar that little bit easier:
Paying with Myanmar Kyat in Myanmar
Myanmar uses the Myanmar Kyat.
The majority of the country is still cash-based, so make sure you always have cash on you rather than relying on paying by card. You’ll need cash for markets, transportation, local restaurant and most accommodation.
US Dollars are also very commonly used in Myanmar, especially for tourist items such as hotels and activities They need to be in perfect condition, otherwise they won’t accept them.
ATMs and exchanging money
There are no free ATMs in Myanmar. They charge around $5-6 per withdrawal and the maximum withdrawal is around 300,000 kyat.
ATMs also aren’t the most reliable. You’ll sometimes find that they have just stopped working.
You can also exchange money at airports, banks and official money exchanges. There are unofficial money exchangers that can be found on the street, but we don’t recommend them as they’re known for scamming tourists.
You can exchange currencies like US Dollars, Euros and Singapore Dollars.
Buying a sim card in Myanmar
While a lot of cafes, restaurants and hotels offer free Wi-Fi, it’s likely that you’re going to want internet whilst out and about. We recommend getting a local sim card.
The 3 main mobile providers in Myanmar are Ooredoo, MPT, and Mytel. You’ll be able to buy a sim card from one of these providers at some airports in Myanmar or at a mobile provider’s store.
Data is cheap. You can get a 30-day sim and 10 GB for $10.
You’ll need to make sure that your phone is ‘unlocked’ which means that you can put any sim card in your phone, rather than being locked to a specific provider.
You also may need your passport when buying the sim card.
Myanmar’s language cheat sheet
The language spoken in Myanmar is Burmese.
It’s always good to know a few essential words before travelling to a place, so here are a few to get you started:
- Hello – Mingalaba
- Thank you – Kyay Zuu
- Please – Kyeizu pyu yue
- Sorry – Wun neh ba deh
The perfect packing list for Myanmar
Myanmar is a warm country all year round and can get pretty humid as the rainy season approaches.
It’s best to bring loose-fitting, cool clothes and if you’re heading there during the rainy season, a rain jacket is a must.
Aside from the essential travel gear, here are some that have become permanent fixtures on our packing list:
- Reusable water bottle – they’re better for the environment and can save you money on water.
- A portable charger – there’s probably going to be a time when your phone’s battery is on red, at a time that you desperately need it.
- An adaptor – Myanmar uses type C, E and F plugs. A universal travel adaptor is a great buy if you’re travelling between different continents.
Check out our full packing list for Southeast Asia.
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.
- Surrounded by nature
- Electric bike rentals available
- Breakfast included
- Friendly staff
Private rooms start at $14 per night
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.
- Extremely clean
- Breakfast included
- Free bicycle rentals
- Friendly and helpful staff
Private rooms start at $19 per night
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.
- Great location
- Extremely clean
- Comfortable beds
- Friendly staff
Rooms start at $38 per night
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Kate is a writer, (ex)Management Consultant and avid traveller. She recently returned from a 2-year career break exploring the world and decided corporate life wasn’t for her. She’ll soon be testing life as a digital nomad. She’s visited over 40 countries and fell in love with Latin America in particular. Her travelling has inspired a passion for yoga, salsa, hiking and Spanish.