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Let us send you tips for travelling through Myanmar and stories from the road …
Credit and debit cards are accepted at major hotels, airlines and some large shops and restaurants. Cards from Revolut and Monzo can also be used in Myanmar. However we still 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 lot of ATMs throughout the countries. Money exchange outlets are commonplace in Myanmar and you can trust the outlets at the 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 exchange rate than lower denominations. Ensure your notes are as crisp and clean as possible; notes with creases or marks 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 as when 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.
This is a tricky one to answer. Below we have listed some everyday prices which might help you estimate how much you think you will need:
For hearty, local fare (such as a curry with rice) you are looking at something like 3000 – 6000 Myanmar Kyat per dish. Snacks, salads, and noodles dishes will be cheaper. Fancier food, international cuisine, and anything served in a hotel or one of the international airports will be significantly more expensive, maybe 5000 – 15, 000 MMK per dish.
A fresh fruit juice will probably be around 4000 MMK; a local beer around 1000 MMK. International beer will be around 3000 – 5000 MMK; a proper coffee around 2500-4000 MMK; cocktails around 5000 – 7000 MMK; and a glass of wine at a similar price. A bottle of water is 300 MMK; and a pack of cigarettes 1000 – 2000 MMK.
… And if you’re wondering, a carton of milk is about 2000 MMK.
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 taken 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 travelling 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. If you need to purchase these while in Myanmar, we recommend “Royal D”. You should seek medical advice 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 your body as soon as possible.
Throughout your time in Myanmar, your hotel, guides, and Sampan travel consultant will be able to offer you advise and if need be direct you to the nearest medical facilities.
Probably. It depends upon you nationality. Most visitors are required to obtain a tourist visa before arrival in Myanmar. A handful of nationalities are exempt, and some are able to pick-up a tourist visa on arrival. Please speak to your Sampan travel consultant to verify what is required of you.
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.
Note that it is not possible to check-in online prior to your flight.
Please note that lighters must be packed within checked-in luggage on all domestic flights.
The majority of the hotels, restaurants and bars for tourists will have wi-fi. In places such as Kachin, Chin and on the islands of the Mergui Archipelago, wi-fi will be particularly bad. Sampan Travel can provide clients with a local SIM card with 3G internet which is generally much quicker than wi-fi.
If receiving a phone from Sampan Travel, we will have inserted useful local phone numbers including our own and those of guides and hotels. Coverage can be patchy in off the beaten track locations, but it is getting better every week.
It is also easy and cheap to buy your own local SIM card offering good data packages.
Myanmar’s country code is +95.
A variety of plugs are used in Myanmar and many of the sockets can take all of them. An unexpected pleasure! When you get stuck, even the more basic hotels and restaurants will be able to find an adapter for you.
See below the plugs used in Myanmar (courtesy of Lonely Planet.)
The electricity supply is 230V, 50 Hz AC.
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 urge our guests to cast their eye over ABTA’s animal welfare guidelines so they are able to spot bad practice if and when they encounter it. If you are visiting an elephant camp, Sampan Travel can send you our specific set of guidelines.
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.
Sampan does not commonly arrange volunteering placements and we urge travellers to make donations prudently. However we understand that many people wish to give back in some way while they are here. Here is a list of “Green Heroes” – organizations in Myanmar that we know to be doing great work. Let us know if you would like an introduction.
You can find out more about how Sampan Travel is trying to be a sustainable tour operator here: https://www.sampantravel.com/about-us/responsible-travel
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. As in the Europe and the States, leaving a very small tip in small denomination notes may be regarded as insulting. 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.
Guides will 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 your meal has not been covered by Sampan, you can choose whether or not you wish to eat with their guide. If you invite the guide to eat with you it is considered polite to then pay for their meal.
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.
You can read more about Myanmar’s LGBT community here.