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Before You Arrive

Currency in Myanmar and Money for Travelling
Credit Cards are accepted at major hotels, airlines and some large shops and restaurants. We suggest you bring a sufficient amount of cash (US$ is best) to exchange for personal expenses.

Banks are closed on Saturdays, Sundays and all public holidays but there are now a fair amount of ATMs, especially in the larger cities such as Yangon, Mandalay, Mawlamyine, and Taunggyi, as well as in tourist hot spots such as Bagan, Inle Lake, and Ngapali. 

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’.

We recommend that the dollars you bring with you are principally 50s and 100s – as these receive a better rate in exchange than lower denominations. 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 outside of Yangon.

It is possible to pay in US$ cash at most international hotels and international bars and restaurants, as well if paying for entrance fees. When receiving change in US$, unless you do not expect to use that money in the country, ensure that the notes are of good quality, otherwise they may 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 terminal has a selection of duty free shops with a full range of items.

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

Health and Vaccinations
Sampan Travel stresses the importance of taking out travel insurance that covers medical care and emergency evacuation, as in the most serious cases you may need to be moved to Thailand or Singapore. Furthermore, we urge visitors to speak to their local doctor so to receive accurate and up-to-date information on what precautions to take before and during travels in Myanmar.

It is usually recommended that all travellers to Myanmar be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Those who are most cautious may also wish to take immunization from Hepatitis B, Cholera, Japanese Encephalitis, and Rabies.

It is rare for travellers to catch Malaria, however some may wish to take prophylaxis as the disease is present outside of Yangon, Mandalay, and areas below 1000 metres elevation. All travellers in Myanmar should take care to avoid being bitten by mosquitos by using mosquito-specific repellent and covering exposed skin from dusk-to-dawn if outside. Early symptoms of malaria are fever, sweats, body pains, and chills. Symptoms of severe malaria include looking pale, yellow eyes and skin, seizures and difficulty breathing. Attention from a medical professional should be sought if exhibiting these symptoms.  

The most common ailment that afflicts visitors is diarrhea that lasts only a day or so. It is recommended to bring some oral rehydration salts with you. You should seek medical advise if diarrhea continues for more than three days. If there is blood or mucus in your stool, you may have dysentery and should go see a doctor.

Some mosquitoes in Myanmar carry Dengue Fever for which there is no vaccination or cure from the high fever and headache. Take rest and, if you require it, paracetamol, but not aspirin. You should also seek medical attention. The Dengue Mosquito bites during the day time and at anytime of year. It is important to do your best to avoid all mosquito bites.

The heat of Myanmar can always be a risk to travellers not used to these temperatures. Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion with symptoms of weakness, nausea, and a rapid pulse. If showing signs of dehydration or heat exhaustion, remove yourself from the heat, rehydrate yourself, and rest with your feet elevated. Heatstroke is more serious, with symptoms of confusion and loss of co-ordination. Seek medical attention immediately if showing signs of this. Wet and cold clothes or ice should be applied to the patients body as soon as possible.

Throughout your time in Myanmar, your hotel and Sampan Travel consultant will be able to offer you advise and if need be direct you to the nearest medical facilities.

Internet Network
The majority of the hotels, restaurants and bars for tourists will have wi-fi. In places such as Kachin, Chin and Kayah State, wi-fi will be 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. 

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.

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. Sampan Travel provides clients with a card of basic Burmese phrases. As a taster, hello’ is min-ga-la-bar and ‘thank you’ is jeh-zu-tin-ba-deh. We also provide our guests with a phrase card of basic Jingphaw (Kachin), Poe (Karen / Kayin), Shan, and Pa'O, for those travelling to parts of the country where these languages are spoken. 

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.

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. The "Darkness Law" - also from the colonial era - is often used by Myanmar police to penalise trans people for "acting suspicious" or being "in disguise." 

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, will cause discomfort. 

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 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.

Responsible Travel
Sampan Travel works 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 committing unintended faux pas. We also urge clients to 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 must 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.

Safety & Security
Myanmar is generally a safe place for tourists to visit. Sampan Travel follows the advise both from the UK Foreign Office, and that which we can ascertain from the Myanmar authorities. It is vital that visitors to Myanmar do not enter regions that they are not supposed to. We encourage visitors to travel with licensed guides, such as those that Sampan Travel work with. When travelling alone, we ask visitors to exercise reasonable caution and sense, as one would when visiting any other country. Be wary of taking transport (taxi or motorbike taxi) with individuals that are not licensed, unverifiable, or have not been recommended by a hotel or other reputable tourist service provider.

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 in Sampan's itinerary, 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.