You want to go to Myanmar, but you don’t know what to expect? For someone like you, this Myanmar Travel Guide should be a big help! Ever since they opened their door to the tourism, I had always wanted to see Myanmar. Since 2012 tourism has continuously increased, and it is expected to hit 7.5 million tourists by 2020.
People always ask questions like, “Is it safe to go to Myanmar?” In my experience, the answer is yes. However, like any any other country there are many rules and cultural norms tourists should follow. If you are planning to explore this mysterious land in the near future, here is the Myanmar Travel Guide for you! I listed 10 things you should know before you visit Myanmar.
You will need a tourist visa before going to Myanmar (Some countries are exempt from this requirement). Getting a visa seems time-consuming and lots of paperwork, however it became a lot easier because you can apply for an e-Visa online since 2014. The only things you need to prepare to apply for the visa are ①passport, ②your picture, and ③credit card. You can apply through the website here. The application fee is $50 (USD). Once your application is acknowledged, you will get an authorization via email. Just keep in mind that e-Visa is only valid for a single entry. Re-entry will require a new visa.
Be mindful that you need to dress appropriately and modestly when you visit any of the Pagodas in Myanmar. Although a pagoda such as Shwedagon Pagoda has become a huge tourist attraction, it is the most important religious site in Myanmar. Men and women are both required to wear clothing that covers the knees. Also shoulders should not be exposed, and you want to avoid tight or revealing clothing as well. Dress modestly is the most important etiquette for visiting pagodas in Myanmar. It is easy to wear shorts for hot climates, but remember to show your respect. 🙂
If you want to learn more about Shwedagon Pagoda, check out the article here.
You think why? You are expected to be barefoot when entering pagodas in Myanmar. Many pagodas require you to remove your shoes, socks, and stockings at the entrance. It might be better to bring wet wipes so you can wipe your feet after exploring in bare feet. Some of the pagodas permit footwear though. If you do not know what to do, observe the locals. If they keep their footwear on, you may do so.
Thanaka is a cream colored organic paste, made from ground bark. The Burmese use thanaka to protect the skin from the sun, and they usually apply it to the face. In addition to protecting the skin, thanaka also cools the skin in hot weather. According to Wikipedia, the Burmese have used thanaka since the 14th century. That’s a long history, isn’t it! Not everyone applies thanaka, but you’ll see most females and many boys do while you stay in Myanmar. Since thanaka is also believed to lighten the skin and works against acne, it is recommended as your souvenir from Myanmar.
One of the best ways to get a taste of a city is through eating street food, don’t you agree? With influences from all its neighbors; India, China, and Thailand, the cuisine of the Burmese truly is diverse. Some of the street food you want to try are Mohinga (rice-noodle dish served in a fish broth), samosa salad, and tea leaf salad. I also found their stool seating so interesting. The table and chair are so tiny, and they are usually colorful. Eating on the side of the road, sitting on a micro plastic stool, is definitely a unique experience.
The dry season and the best time of year to visit Myanmar are between November and April. Between November and February, it is cold and dry, with average monthly temperatures between 20°C and 24°C. Between March and April, temperatures get between 30°C and 35°C. The rainy season of Myanmar is between May and October with average temperatures between 25°C and 30°C. My husband and I visited Myanmar in September. It rained most of the days while we stayed, so I recommend you avoid the rainy season.
Burmese are extremely particular about the quality of US dollars. A lot of them will not accept US dollars unless they are clean and crisp. Trust me, this happened to us even at one of the most famous sights, Shwedagon Pagoda. Since most of the places do not take credit cards, I recommend you exchange money at reputable places like the airport and hotels beforehand. When exchanging, the higher the denomination of your US Dollar, the better the exchange rate.
A longyi is around 2 meters long, and it’s worn around the waist, running to the feet. It looks like a bit of long skirt, but it is common for both men and women to wear in Myanmar. Myanmar is a conservative country and the locals prefer covering the skin, so longyi is a perfect item to wear. It actually also allows those who wear it to stay cool in the heat of the climate as well. If you want to try them on, I definitely recommend you check out the local market such as Bogyoke market in Yangon. There are plenty of choices. The picture is my husband wearing longyi at Shwedagon Pagoda.
Street dogs are everywhere in Myanmar. It is common to see street dogs in South East Asia, and I saw many while I traveled countries, such as Vietnam and Thailand. So it was not a surprise to see them everywhere in Myanmar, but… compared to the size of dogs in other SE Asian countries, the street dogs in Myanmar tend to be huge. They are usually sleeping and not aggressive at all, but you need to be mindful as a dog bite can be dangerous. I would suggest not carrying food while walking on the streets, and you want to avoid dark streets at night where you can be surrounded by street dogs. Also, watch your step so as not to stand on the tails of the dogs.
If you go to a city like Yangon, you will notice that a lot of buildings were heavily influenced by British architecture. There are unique touches of buildings in disrepair with moss and shrubs growing out of every nook and cranny. Colorful and chaotic, the buildings make it a feast for the senses. It is worth visiting their vibrant life that spills out of people’s homes and onto the streets. You will never get bored of the sights you will encounter, especially the crowds of people.
These 10 things are what I learned based on my experience, and I believe some of these make the country so unique and fascinating! I totally fell in love with Myanmar, and I hope to return in the future. I’m sure you will find something new and interesting while you stay in the country as well. If you are debating whether to go to Myanmar, why not!! I am sure you will have an amazing time. I hope this Myanmar Travel Guide will help you for your future travels.
In the meantime, if you want to know where to go and what to see in Yangon, check out the article here.
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