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Before You Arrive

Currency in Myanmar and Money for Travelling
Credit Cards are only accepted at a few major hotels, airlines and some international shops and restaurants. We suggest you bring a sufficient amount of cash for personal expenses.

Banks are closed on Saturdays, Sundays and all public holidays but there are now a fair amount of ATMs in the larger cities such as Yangon, Mandalay, Mawlamyine and Taunggyi.

When in Myanmar, money exchange outlets are commonplace, and you can trust the outlets at the international airports. The currency in Myanmar is the Myanmar Kyat, MMK, (pronounced ‘chat’).

The exchange of traveler cheques can be problematic and time-consuming. We do not recommend bringing them.

Ensure that the dollars you have with you are principally 50s and 100s– higher value notes receive a better rate in exchange. Ensure your notes are as new and crisp as possible; notes with creases are liable to be rejected at banks, exchange outlets and even hotels and restaurants. Exchange of other foreign currencies such as Euros, Yuan and Pounds Sterling can be tricky; authorized currency exchange points throughout Myanmar will usually only accept US dollars.

Most hotels will expect to be paid in US dollars. It is also expected to pay for entrance fees to places such as Bagan and Inle Lake in dollars, however Myanmar Kyat will be accepted. When receiving change in dollars, unless you do not expect to use that money in the country, ensure that the notes are of good quality, otherwise they will be worthless to you in Myanmar. You are within your rights to refuse tatty change.

In local restaurants, markets and when paying for local transport, you will be expected to pay in Myanmar Kyat.

Most visitors to Myanmar do not reach these locations, but note that the local currency in Mong La is the Chinese Renminbi Yuan, and you will get more bang for your buck when paying for goods and services in Thai Baht when in Kawthaung, at the very south of the country.

Domestic Airlines and Flights
Most domestic flights are conducted by private airlines. For the majority there is a 20 Kilo limit for baggage per person and excess baggage fees may be charged. If flying in and out of Yangon and Mandalay, it is possible to leave excess baggage at your hotel, to be picked up upon your return. Please feel free to contact us for specifics.

Two bottles of liquor, two cartons of cigarettes or 100 cigars and half a litre of perfume are allowed per person. The Yangon International Airport departure terminall has a selection of duty free shops with a full range of items.

Please note that cigaretter lighters must be packed within checked-in luggage on all domestic flights.

Health and Vaccinations
All travellers to Myanmar should visit their local doctor or travel health clinic three month before departure, so to ensure that they are fully immunized.

Internet Network
The majority of the hotels, restaurants and bars for tourists will have wi-fi. However it will not be extremely fast. In places such as Kachin, Chin and Kayah State, wi-fi is particularly bad. Sampan Travel provide clients with a local sim card with 3G internet which is generally much quicker than wi-fi. If for whatever reason you are not borrowing a phone from Sampan Travel, it easy and cheap to buy a local sim card offering good data packages. 

Language
Speaking as much of the local language as possible when travelling not only fosters a greater understanding and appreciation of the culture, but will also endear the visitor to the locals and help them make a few friends along the way.

The official and most widespread language is Myanmar is Burmese. For those who do not know any Burmese but are keen to speak as much as possible when in Myanmar, we would recommend the Lonely Planet Burmese Phrasebook. For the rest, knowing that ‘hello’ is min-ga-la-bar and ‘thank you’ is jeh-zu-tin-ba-deh is a sufficient start.

In the big cities and tourists hubs you will be able to get by fairly easily with English. Though at times - and certainly in more rural areas - you will have to make do with sign language. Usually in times of muddled communication the Burmese simply fall into a fit of chuckles, so hopefully whenever something is lost in translation, it will not be a too unpleasant experience.

Over 100 languages and dialects are spoken in the country. Some of the languages spoken crossover the border. For example, the Chin speak a similar dialect to the Zo people in the Indian state of Mizoram, and travellers who have picked up either Thai or Laos will be able to have a basic conversation with the Tai people of Shan State.

Sampan Travel provide clients with a card of basic Burmese phrases to help them engage with the locals when travelling through the country.

LGBT
Same-sex sexual activity remains illegal in Myanmar. The colonial law Section 377 is rarely enforced, however it does render those in the LGBT community vulnerable to police harassment.

Though culturally sensitive, most people in Myanmar are accepting of homosexuality. Myanmar hosted its first gay pride festival in 2017, and the LGBT film festival &proud debuted in 2014 with 1, 500 attendees. It has only grown more popular since. There is a monthly LGBT club night in Yangon called FAB, as well as a smattering of bars and clubs known to be particularly gay-friendly.

Myanmar is still a conservative country. Sex is rarely discussed openly, and it should be remembered that public displays of affection, whether homosexual or heterosexual, are frowned upon.

Myanmar Time Zone
GMT / UTC +06:30

Myanmar Visa
All visitors are required to have a Myanmar visa. It is not possible to pick-up a tourist visa for Myanmar on arrival. Travellers should instead apply for a tourist visa for Myanmar online, available as an eVisa to the nationals of most countries. This is a simple - and often surprisingly speedy - process. For more information about the Myanmar eVisa, please contact one of our travel consultants.

Phones
Sampan Travel will provide our guests with a phone and topped-up local sim card upon their arrival in the country. Useful local phone numbers including our own and those of guides and hotels will be saved on the sim card. Coverage can be patchy if off the beaten track locations, but it is getting better every week.

Myanmar’s country code is +95.

Responsible Travel
Sampan Travel work closely with our suppliers and partners to ensure that our journeys are as sustainable as possible, aware of the great harm that irresponsible tourism can inflict upon the environment, economy, and society of a host country. Responsible travel is especially important in a country like Myanmar which is still developing and where tourism remains in its infancy.

There are many ways that tourists can try and ensure that they travel as responsibly as possible. We ask all our visitors to Myanmar to have a look at these simple Dos and Don’ts which help to avoid causing unintended faux pas. We also urge clients to read this article about shopping responsibly in Southeast Asia, and cast their eye over ABTA’s animal welfare guidelines so they are able to spot bad practice if and when they encounter it.

Tackling child exploitation is a challenge in which the tourism industry and tourists themselves can play a huge role. Sampan Travel are official supporters of the ChildSafe Movement, and we urge our clients to read the 7 Tips for Travellers helping you do your part in protecting children when in Myanmar.

You can find out more about how Sampan Travel is trying to be a sustainable tour operator here.

Tipping
There is no hard and fast rule or custom for tipping in Myanmar and therefore on the whole we say that clients should tip at their own discretion.

Many modern restaurants automatically include a service charge, no matter the number of guests dining. When service charge is not included, a tip will be welcome but not necessarily expected. When in very rural or remote destinations, a tip probably won’t be expected, and insisting on leaving one can lead to confusion and embarrassment. As in the West, leaving a very small tip in small denomination notes may be regarded as insulting.

Guides will likely expect a tip. Sampan Travel suggest a 5 US$ tip per day per guest for guides to be a good rule of thumb. If you do decide to tip the guide, please do also tip the driver (of car and / or boat) if you have one (suggest 2 US$ per day per guest). A tip of 1 000 Kyat for hotel porters is sufficient.

When lunch is not specified, guests can choose whether or not they wish to eat with their guide. Some guests do pay for the guide's lunch, however they are not obliged to do so.