Myanmar, although just as beautiful and idyllic as a lot of Asia, is still considered one of the most undiscovered destinations in the world even with the crazy amount of explorers these days! This fact, as well as it’s intriguing history and traditions, is what made me add this stunning country to my list of ‘next destinations.’ If you’re planning on making Myanmar your next place to visit as well or haven’t even considered it yet, hopefully this guide will inspire you and help start to plan your trip.
Visas in Myanmar: What You Need to Know
A visa is needed for entry into Myanmar, unless you are from one of the 7 exempt countries (Thailand (by air), Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brunei, Indonesia, Laos) and only traveling for up to 14 days. If you’re not from these countries or are traveling for longer periods, you will need to apply for a visa ahead of time as you won’t be able to apply for a tourist visa on arrival! Only business visas are available on arrival or the odd tourist visa on very specific flights and airports. It’s really not worth the risk, especially since there is now an eVisa system in place. An eVisa allows a single entry up to 28 days where you must arrive via specific airports. However the cool thing is is that they can be issued within 5 working days (includes a fee) and are valid for 3 months from the date of issuance.
An important point to remember when applying for a visa is to always research ahead of time! That way you can make sure your passport is valid for the right length of time (6 months for Myanmar) and check if your nationality is eligible for the visa you want. It also gives you enough time to correct any of these issues without problem and to make sure your visa arrives on time!
Price: Tourist Visa $50
Getting Around Myanmar
Myanmar is renowned for being difficult to travel around once you are there. With much of its infrastructure still currently being built and many regions being restricted to foreign travellers, getting around by bus, train or car is excruciatingly long and unpredictable (if you don’t know the regions that are prohibited to you you may find yourself at a military checkpoint-Awkward!). Although the bus is a less expensive way to travel if you have the time flexibility, internal flights are the safest, quickest and most reliable option. Just make sure you do your research and go with a reliable company, as many other airlines take part in ‘dual pricing’ where foreigners end up paying significantly more than locals.
Insider Tip: How do you know what makes a reliable airline company? Whatever your priority, be it the cheapest flights or guided tour packages, the airline website and what they offer could tell you a lot about them. For example, with Flymya.com, they offer many acclaimed tour packages but for completely affordable prices, unlike the rip-off tour prices we are used to. These tours are also run by local tour agencies who are not able to reach a global audience on their own, which normally means that they are more genuine. Nothing beats mixing with the locals!
Where to go in Myanmar
Popular Routes and What to See
Travelers flock to this city mainly due to the amazing experience that is Inle Lake. The large shallow lake is largely occupied by floating villages and the Intha people who live there. Local fisherman will be out most of the early morning with the sole purpose of posing for a classic fisherman snapshot (warning they will expect a ‘tip’). In the same time, you will get to witness the local tribes people going about their business. Boat rides are plentiful here and vary in price. You can pay 20.000 Kyat ($17) for a decent 8 hour day tour from your tour agent or hotel but your best bet is to hire a boat at the pier. They are often around 10.000 – 12.000 Kyat ($8-10) for a half a day tour including a visit to the floating market which is apparently rare. The shops around this village are purely tourist traps so always barter down prices by 60-70%! Surrounding areas such as Sankar village and the nearby Thanking pagoda are also spots to see as hiking is popular around this area.
Price: Tourist Tax 12.500 Kyat ($11)
You want temples? Go to Bagan. This city is full of the largest Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in their thousands. An archaeological zone, the shape and construction of each temple has a spiritual meaning which is very significant in Buddhism. As each temple is sacred to the Burmese don’t forget to dress modestly and respectfully, that is no shoes and making sure your knees and shoulders are covered.
Price: Tourist Tax 25.000 Kyat ($22)
Read: Where to Stay in Bagan
Kawthaung is a beach town right at the southern tip of Myanmar know for being like Thailand without actually being there. This is a top spot for different crowds as it is a base for traveling to smaller islands. For scuba diving and other sea activities, Kayin Kwa, Myauk Ni and Salone Islands are very natural and untouched spots. For something a bit different, Maiwun Village has a small waterfall and hot springs to cleanse your inner soul and have a little splash about. Weirdly, Thahtay Kyun Island is probably the most well known and visited island, purely because of the Andaman Club Resort Hotel, the only international gambling casino in Myanmar.
Other Popular Spots in Myanmar:
- ‘The Golden Triangle’ – Kengtung found between Mong La, on the border of China, and Tachileik, on the border of Thailand, is the spot for trekking and getting up close and personal with the Ann (black teeth people) and Akha tribes.
- Hpa-An – the Kayin State capital has bustling markets and is full of outdoor enthusiasts of to hike in the mountains and nearby caves.
- Mount Popa – an extinct volcano high above the hot plains, perfect for hiking.
- Ngwe Saung – Paradise. Or a never-ending stretch of white sand and clear blue water.
- Pyin U Lwin – a town that was once a British colonial hill station.
So there you have it! Hopefully this guide would shed some light on the different things to do in this extremely underrated destination. My brother Tom loved his time in Myanmar and said his trip there was like going back in time as everything was still unspoiled by tourism.
Do you have anymore advice on planning a trip around Myanmar? Check out our other tips
- Reasons Why Not to Visit Myanmar
- 10 Things You Should Know Before Traveling to Myanmar
- 10 Things You Shouldn’t Miss Doing While in Myanmar