Everyone knows about Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and so on. But have you heard about Myanmar? Honestly, I didn’t know about it before checking google maps for travel destinations around Southeast Asia. In order to help more pe0ple to explore this beautiful country easily, I decided to write this Myanmar budget travel guide. I hope you find it useful.
Why you should visit Myanmar NOW?
It‘s just few years ago since the Burmese government opened their borders for tourism after being almost completely isolated for decades. It’s a good news for travelers which who prefer to travel off the beaten path, because tourism is still in its infancy. But watch out – the amount of tourists is increasing rapidly! So don‘t waste your time, get your backpack ready and explore Myanmar. It’s probably one of Southeast Asia’s last secret places.
Where is Myanmar?
Myanmar is surrounded by India and Bangladesh in the west, China and Lao in the very north and of course Thailand, which is marking the eastward border. It‘s also having a huge waterside with the Andaman sea in the south, which is a bit difficult to travel though. Same about the very north like Myitkyina, because sometimes you need to have special permissions to go there. But no worry, there’s still plenty to see!
There are couple opportunities to get to Myanmar. You can either take a flight from India, Singapore, Thailand, or crossing the border overland. The flight from Bangkok to Yangon should be about one hour and no more than 100$. However I chose to cross the border overland coming from Thailand as it seemed more exciting for me. Quick tip – take an overnight bus to Mae Sot. You’ll have enough time to walk up to the border, which opens at 6 am in the morning. Make some friends and share a taxi to Hpa-An or Mawlamyaing.
When is the best time to go?
The best time to go to Myanmar might be from November to February since it’s the dry season. During these months, there’s little rain and moderate heat.
What to see?
There already are some quite touristic places like Inle Lake, the breathtaking Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon or the even more famous ancient kingdom of Bagan with an countless amount of overwhelming architecture. These places are must-see for everyone traveling to Myanamar for the first time!
For those who are interested in architecture influenced by the British, I also recommend to go to Mawlamyaing. From there you can either go to Bago by train or take a boat to Hpa-An to discover the beautiful landscape along the Thanlyin River. If you’re more interested in experiencing Burmese culture, you just have to dive into the daily street-life.
One of my favorite places is a small town called Hpa-An, a less crowded and restless city than Mandalay or Yangon. If you’re planning to cross the Thai border towards Mae Sot, it’s worth to stop in Hpa-An for at least a day! The next bigger and more well-known city is Mawlamyaing. You can easily go there by boat, since the Thanlyin River connects both cities. Normally, they use long-tail boats to ferry travelers. And believe me, your ears are going to hurt after spending seven hours on the water. However the landscape is beyond description, especially in the late afternoon when the sun is slowly starting to set below horizon.
How much it costs?
Compared to its neighboring Thailand and India, traveling in Myanmar is much more expensive! But there are always some tricks to save some dollars. Since you will hardly find hostels, you’ll have to look for guest houses or even hotels. To lower your travel expenses, it could be useful to share a double room with another traveler, though you can get a single room for 10$ after some research!
It‘s possible to travel with 25$ or less a day. But it’s more fun if you’re not that tight on budget. It won‘t be a problem to get your cash via credit card in citys like Mandalay, Yangon, Mawlamyaing. But bear in mind that sometimes ATM’s can run out of money. So it’s always wise to have some dollar notes and euros with you. For me, 50€ notes worked best because I got the best exchange rate. But rates can vary. The permission fees for Bagan ($15) and Inle Lake ($10) have to be paid in dollars! Well, you can insist on paying in kyats, but they will charge you more!
Do you have to know Burmese language?
Well, it’s useful to at least know how to say “Hello”, “Thank you”, “Good bye” and of course the numbers from zero up to ten. Aside from that, English is sufficient. Of course, sometimes you’ll need your hands to express yourself. That in my opinion, makes the conversation even more interesting!
As you can see, traveling in Myanmar can sometimes be really exhausting and stressful, but this country is blessed with such an amazing landscape and lovely people that you can easily forget about the bad things. Since traveling is about facing new challenges and gaining unforgettable experience, Myanmar is definitely worth your visit. Being one of Southeast Asia’s last secret places, Myanmar offers you endless possibility to experience great culture and untouched beauty. By the way, the Burmese food is just amazing. I’m pretty sure it won’t take long before you find yourself falling in love with the diversified and delicious cuisine!
Final thoughts form Chloe
Myanmar is getting so much more attention from people around the world in recent years, since the country opened itself after decades of isolation. Like Felix Heller mentioned, it’s probably the last secret place in Southeast Asia. If you enjoy off-beaten track and love to explore the untouched beauty, pack up your luggage and go!