Essential Country Information:

Myanmar flag

Myanmar


🌎Capital: Yangon

🌎Currency: Kyat (MMK)

🌎Time Zone: GMT +6.30h                

🌎Phone Code: +95

   

🌎Best time to visit: Dec - Feb

🌎Eat: Mohinga (noodle fish soup)

🌎Drink: Green Tea

🌎Don't miss: Shwedagon Pagoda
 
                  

Getting there and transportation:  
Since the Summer of 2012, now its possible to travel to Myanmar with less bureaucracy and applying with a very easy system online to obtain a visa before you arrive  to the country. (See below). This has made Myanmar another country in the Southeast Asia region, a hot spot to travel to, which soon will become a popular destination. 
However getting to the country is not straight forward, there are no direct links from Europe nor America. The only local international airlines operating out of the country are Myanmar National Airlines  and Myanmar Airways International, which offer a limited number of destinations around the Asian continent, with a focus on China and Thailand. Another relatively new airline to operate is also Golden Myanmar Airlines. If not taking any of these when already in Asia, and want to fly more directly to Myanmar, then you need to transit in some of the major hubs, for example Emirates  and Air China  provide regular flights. 
Transportation in Myanmar relies mostly on private cars, taxis, bikes and busses. It's still a developing country when it comes to public transport, so don't expect a major infrastructure. However, with the years going by now, the local governments are now implementing better bus systems with numbers in latin, as opposed to their own script. This helps to move around in some of the busses which provide a good link around the cities. 
Getting around the country is only possible by bus. You need to buy the tickets in the many agencies located in the major cities like Yangon or Mandalay. 
Attention! It's not possible to drive in Myanmar for tourists. No visiting tourist, even with international driving license, is allowed to rent any vehicles in Myanmar. At the moment this is in place to avoid accidents, since many of the roads are not safe enough and signage is only in Burmese script outside major cities.
yangon city
Yangon, as the whole country is still much underdeveloped, which makes it very appealing for visiting.

Visas and Arrival Requirements:  

Myanmar is a relatively “new” country for tourists. Its policy changed in 2012 when leader Aung San Suu Kyi opened up the tourism market policies. The softer law conditions and more open borders means that tourists are invited to this country, only paying an online visa fee of $50 dollars. This visa is compulsory for most western travellers; you can apply online at the official site evisa.moip.gov.mm and check your requirements to apply for the visa. They are issued quite fast within 3 days and are valid for 28 day maximum stay duration in a one time visit. Once the visa has been issued you have 90 days in which to use it.
 
It’s also possible to apply for business visas, meditation visas and other visas on the website, depending on your travel reasons, which offer longer stays.
 
We strongly advise that when travelling to Yangon, you book your return ticket and have proof of your itinerary, including hotel accommodation and enough funds to support your stay. Sometimes, immigration or the airline agents can ask to see this proof. If not in possession of it, you might be refused entry into Myanmar or not aloud to board your flight.
Climate and temperature: 

Myanmar's climate can be described as a tropical monsoon climate. It is characterised by strong monsoon influences, with a considerable amount of sun, a high rate of rainfall, and high humidity that makes it sometimes feel quite uncomfortable if you visit during certain times of the year. 
The annual average temperature ranges from 22°C to 35°C year-round. There are two distinguishable seasons, a drier period in the winter and a hot humid rainy period in the summer. However, it can still be hot year round with day temperatures reaching to 35
°C and night time around 24°C. 
The best time to go to Myanmar, is during its dry and cool season, which is November to February, with more pleasant temperatures of 28 C during the day and at night they drop to around 20-22 C. 
At the same time, you should avoid the hot and humid season  during May, June and July when its extremely hot (33-38 C day time). If you go, make sure to have plenty of water with you, sun cream, insect repellent and avoid long exposures outside. Also be aware of the monsoon season, June to September in the southwest of Myanmar and December to April in the northeast, as flooding may occur

Food and drink: 
Burmese cuisine has an interesting mix somewhere between Indian and Southeast Asian cooking, but is actually different to both! Dishes feature abundant spices, but tend to include less chilli than in Thailand or India, with an emphasis on sour, bitter and salty flavours. Many dishes in Myanmar are topped with a layer of oil to keep out bugs, but not all dishes are as oily as people expect. Noodle soups and salads are very popular, and the local tofu – made from yellow split peas. 
Preserved vegetables crop up prominently in Burmese cooking, including pickled bamboo shoots and pickled tea leaves, a local delicacy. Chinese food and Indian food is also popular, particularly biryani, Indian spiced fried rice. 
Specialities one can find are: Lethok son, spicy vegetarian rice salad. Mohinga, burmese fish soup with noodles, the national dish for breakfast. Oh-no khauk swe, a soup of rice noodles, chicken and coconut milk.  Shan khauk swe, a dish predominately eaten by the Shan, but popular around the country, it consists of rice noodles either in broth or dry, usually with chicken. Athoke, various ‘salads’ served cold, made from noodles, ginger, tofu, chicken and other ingredients. Biryani, Indian-style fried rice with spices and chicken. Burmese curry, most meals feature some kind of curry dish, usually quite mildly spiced and oily, and traditionally accompanied by a selection of side dishes like ngapi (fish paste) as well as rice and soup. Lahpet, a tasty dish of fermented tea leaves, usually eaten as dessert and considered to be a key part of Myanmar’s culinary heritage. Htanyet, jaggery, unrefined palm sugar, eaten at the end of a meal. Peh-hin-ye, Indian-style dhal (lentil) soup.  Htamin, rice, the foundation of any Burmese meal.
As for drinks: Green tea, provided free in many restaurants. Black tea, drunk with milk and sugar in teahouses, which are important social hubs. Alcohol beverages are burmese beer  together with other popular brands from Thailand. 
 
Burmese Breakfast.
The Burmese Breakfast.
 
Myanmar food
Meats with different condiments and spices make up a typical meal in Myanmar.
 
myanmar food
Chinese influenced soups are very popular in Myanmar.

Author's Comment: 

Visiting Yangon and Myanmar has been up to know, one of the most interesting and insightful trips I have done so far. The country is still very underdeveloped, yet it is quite straightforward and tourists are felt welcomed in this “new” land. Yangon is a mix of old architecture from its British colonial times, together with rising empowering Buddhist temples, a few mosques and a few churches add to the cultural twist of believes. The city can seem chaotic at the beginning until you get used to it, be patient when getting public transport and understand that people here, still have very limited knowledge of English. However, that is slowly changing and more and more people and business are taking the opportunity of the democratic country which is opening up to the outside world. It won’t be long till it might convert into another Bangkok, but before that happens, make sure you come and explore by yourself this unique country which has so much to offer.
  It’s people are kind and friendly to tourists, that goes along way, despite sometimes their respect for nature is not always there. Still a lot of rubbish lying around and messy side roads which vehicles take priority over pedestrians! The tasty food is cheap and varied; lots of different flavours mix here with strong influences from India, Thailand and China.
 
To summarize it all, it’s definitely a recommended place to visit if you want to see bare, rural and underdeveloped infrastructure, but yet safe to visit for tourists. It’s the ideal country if you’re on a budget and like finding your way around on public transport! Don’t leave it too late, as there is much change over the horizon for Myanmar! 

(once visited)

 Yangon Tourism Information: 

Yangon Introduction: 

Yangon is Myanmar's capital and largest city, being the economic and cultural centre of Myanmar. The city was occupied by the British in 1852 when it became the centre of the Burmese Raj. The resulting influx of traders, diplomats and wealth transformed the city into a thriving regional hub. The legacy of this time is evident in the decaying though stately colonial buildings found along the Rangoon River and towards the centre of town. The city has some tourist attractions, most notably the famous Shwedagon Pagoda, is the country's most beloved landmark. There are also markets to explore, and Yangon is a glorious city for jewel shopping. 
Yangon is hot and humid, especially at midday when most of the population takes refuge indoors or in the shade of a temple. It is a noisy and chaotic place too, with congested traffic, orange robed monks, neon signs and golden temple spires clashing in a visual landscape of uniquely Asian contradictions. Yangon is also considered one of Asia's safest big cities as far as travellers are concerned, meaning that the bustling chaos can be explored with little fear of crime.
yangon railway station
Yangon, is one of the safest cities to visit in Asia. However, its infrastructure is still in early development.

Transport:  
When arriving at Yangon International Airport, you have numerous ways in getting to the city centre. The cheapest way is by public bus, for only 500 Kyat.($0.33 USD). Outside the terminal building of T1 (main terminal) you will find the red busses which display (Airport - Sule). This service runs every 20 minutes with comfortable air-con busses, taking you to the city centre passing the main railway station and the Sule Pagoda. 
If you take a Grab taxi (booked from the app) it will cost around 7000 Kyat. ($4-5 USD). Other taxis from the airport can charge you up to $10 (USD) if don't negotiate. 

Once in Yangon city, you will notice there is big fleet of public busses. The city is investing in its public transport, the Yangon Bus Service (YBS) system only started in February 2016.  New Chinese-made ones are slowly replacing the old wrecks, but busses do get extremely crowded. Routes are little confusing as there is little or no English, spoken or written. The old busses, only have the numbers in Burmese script, but the main routes have both english and burmese. The fare within central Yangon is only 200 Kyat. (use exact fare as drivers don’t give change). (The money is put directly into a box, if you don't have exact change, try putting less money into the box discreetly and quickly, drivers won't even realise). 

To navigate yourself around Yangon using public transport, ask for a map at your hotel, which displays several routes taking you to the main sites. There is also an APP, but it only works for national phones. As well, there is no clear online map to help understand the routes. The easiest way to check the routes, is by using the map (at hotels) or the website of Ygnbuses.com. Below, we have put the Burmese number script, so you can become familiar with them.

Trains operate around Yangon, both to other regions and locally. The most "famous" ride is the circular train, (more info below), which provides a 3.5 hour trip around Yangon, from the city centre to the more isolated villages in the outskirts. The fare is only 200 Kyat for any ride. However, times are unreliable, uncomfortable seating and non air conditioning. 

burmese numbers
The Busses in Yangon, still display the numbers in Burmese Script.
 
Yangon busses
One of the new busses now operating in Yangon.
 
Yangon busses
The Airport Bus runs every 20 min for only 500 Kyat.
 
Yangon trains
The Yangon trains are slow and full of sellers on board!
What to see and do? 
At a first insight, there might not seem to be much to do or see in Yangon, but that soon changes when you read a little information or even start walking around the city centre. There are many temples to explore and all are very friendly to tourists. However, be considerate when visiting, a dress code must respected, and many of them will now charge foreigners an admission price. Other major attractions include, a Little India and a Chinatown area although they might not be clearly visible with the mix of street stands and shops. To locate the city centre in Yangon, search for the Sule Pagoda📍, this is the downtown area. From here major transport options depart and is the main area where you can find most hotels.
The city has seen a big increase in tourists recently, and infrastructure is improving to accommodate visitors, but one hopes Yangon won't lose its charm and off-the-beaten track appeal as it becomes more popular. It is a very safe and exciting city to explore. When walking in Yangon, paths are not maintained and are used by parking cars and shop stands which invide the space making people walk on the streets. It's also difficult to cross the streets with little or no respect for pedestrians. At times, you just need to dare the traffic and make cars stop in order to cross the street! 
Another interesting feature about Yangon, is its operating hours. Unlike other big Asian cities, restaurants and other shops will close around 20H (8 pm) which means there is no nightlife or night markets. 
Planning your itinerary in Yangon can be done via your hotel to arrange bookings. Although most tours are operated individually and upon request. There is not an official tourist bus yet in Yangon but things are slowly starting to change. In the city centre area, you can walk or take busses or taxis to the main tourist attractions. There are always taxis waiting outside so this is not a problem if you plan the sightseeing by yourself. 
Below are the main attractions to see in Yangon:

Sule Pagoda and inner city centre:  The big roundabout in the centre of the city is where the emblematic Sule Pagoda stands, making it the highlight of the city centre. The pagoda, is surrounded by busy streets, a market and colonial era buildings like the Supreme court building, Yangon city hall  and the Mahar Bandula Park.According to legend the pagoda was built during the lifetime of the Gautama Buddha, about 2,500 years ago. The pagoda was much smaller at the time. It has been renovated and enlarged several times by later Kings. The entrance to the Pagoda is 5.000 Kyat. But be aware that some sellers might give you flowers and candles at the entrance before you go in, if you accept them, they cost 3.000 Kyat. After going inside, that's where the ticket stands is. Also, inside the pagoda, some locals might want to show you around, like a guide service. They will then expect a tip, but you can refuse by saying you will give a donation instead to the temple.

 
Sule pagoda
The Sule Pagoda serves also now as a roundabout in the city centre!
 
Yangon City Hall
The Yangon City Hall
 
Yangon High Courts.
The Yangon High Courts

Shwedagon Pagoda:  is Myanmar's most famous sight. The stupa is covered in gold plates weighing an estimated 52 metric tons and topped with a 76 carat diamond, as well as being covered by many other jewels. The temple was built between the 6th and 10th centuries, although the location of Singuttara Hill has been considered holy for over 2,500 years.
Also known as the Golden Temple, Shwedagon is the most sacred site for Burmese Buddhists, and is a daily focus for worship. Relics of the Buddha are said to be housed in the stupa, along with many other historical artefacts and great treasures. There are stairways at the north, south, east, and west and you can ascend using any of these, or the elevator if you want to skip the climb. The southern entrance is the most used because it rises out of the city; and the eastern stairway, is popular because it leads down to the bazaars, making it a good exit point for prospective shopping opportunities fr souvenirs or other handcraft.
Shwedagon is a place of worship, prayer and meditation, and it is important to act with respect and keep noise levels down. Dress conservatively, with long pants and sleeves, and remove your shoes/socks when entering the complex. Be discreet when using your camera. Sunset and sunrise are the most powerful times to visit the stupa. Admission price is 10.000 Kyat  (€6 approx). To reach there you can take a grab taxi or take bus 21/37  from the city centre and then walk about 10 min to the entrance.

 
 
Shwedagon Pagoda
The main view of the Shwedagon Pagoda
 
Shwedagon Pagoda
For your birthday week day, you can wish for luck.
 
 
Shwedagon Pagoda
Around the area, you have plenty of buddha's to pray to or admire.
 
Shwedagon Pagoda
The Pagoda top is heavily ornamented with gold and other precious stones.

Bogyoke Aung San Market:  is a perfect place for tourists to start their visit to Myanmar, not only because it is the best place in town to convert foreign currency, but because it gives an idea of what the country has in store.
The official exchange rates of the Myanmar kyat is kept artificially strong by the government set rates. This has created a large black market trade in the currency at a much better price for tourists. The best place to change currency is in the central jewellery section of the market; most of the shops provide the service and money exchanging hawkers line the area waiting for tourists. To maximize the rates it is best to ask several different vendors and bargain hard. Exchanging currency on the black market is risky, but many travellers go this route.
Once you have converted money the market is a great place to buy handcraft, souvenir items, art work, jewellery, clothes or antiques. Popular souvenirs include Burmese cigars, and old Burmese currency. Bogyoke Aung San Market is open daily from about 9am to 5pm and is located in downtown Yangon, at about 15 min walk from the Sule Pagoda.

 
Bogyoke Aung San Market
The building of the Bogyoke Aung San Market.
 
Bogyoke Aung San Market
The main entrance to Bogyoke Aung San Market
 
Bogyoke Aung San Market
Inside you can find paintings, clothes, jewelry, crafts and souvenirs!

Circular train: This is a the public train which completes a circular route around Yangon city to the outskirts,  taking around 3.5 hours in completing the whole circle trip. The infamous  train ride can be a love it or hate it experience! It all depends mostly on the luck of your trip, getting a train which is not so crowded, with good weather conditions and seeing locals getting on with their daily lives. For the beginning, getting the ticket and waiting at the correct platform, already can be a challenge. There is little signage in English, but helpful employees of the railway company are always on hand to assist tourists. Otherwise, asking younger people can also help.
 
Be advised that sometimes the train tracks can be under renovation or repairs, which limits the hours of operation or cuts the circular train in two. Which means you will have to get off at one station to return again the same way, without completing the circular ride.
 
In most cases, you need to be prepared for an adventure! Trains do often get very crowded, specially at Yangon main Railway station, where it’s best to begin the journey and guarantee yourself a seat. To complete the whole circle, it takes 3.5 hours over nearly 50 Km of tracks. The seats onboard are not exactly comfortable. Facing sideways, means that when the train is busy you can only see other people’s bodies and this can be quite uncomfortable if you want to twist your head all the time to look out the window. Another problem is the lack of air-con inside the train. Take a fan or leaflet to fan yourself as this will be essential to remain a little cooler!
 
Another thing to pay attention is the constant sellers onboard the train. They come and go all the time, selling water, snacks, ice cream, dinner dishes, fruit, desserts, electronic goods and anything really people can manage to sell! They shout and pass very often making the trip somewhat annoying at the end, though at the beginning it is very curious to watch!
 
The good news is that the train ticket only costs 200 Kyat ($0.15 USD). Now you will understand why it is such a popular ride amongst the locals! If you are able to make the whole circular train, it is not without the challenge! But definitely a very interesting way of sharing the daily life with the people of Yangon! Sometimes, can even share a few pictures or chats with the locals, who are always curious to see a foreigner on the train!
 
Note that, there are no official timetables; trains depart more or less every hour from 6.10 am. It is best to ride the train from 10am to 2pm to avoid the crowds. 

 
Circular train yangon
Take the Circular train from the main railway station.
 
Circular train yangon
Get on the train early to grab a seat! They get extremely busy!
 
Circular train yangon
The trains are in fact older Japanese models (JR).

Chauk Htat Kyi Pagoda and Ngar Htat Gyi Pagoda:  These two temples are unique in their own way as they host two very different Buddhas in a lying and sitting down position. To get to both temples, take bus 20 from the downtown.
The Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda is famous for its huge image of a Reclining Buddha. Built in 1966 replacing the old image built in 1907, which was damaged due to climate over the years. In 1957 it was demolished and rebuilt to the current structure in 1966. It measures 65 meters and is housed in an iron structure which protects it from the elements. The entrance is free, but need to respect the clothing custom and a donation is expected for the temple. 
The other temple, is just across the road. Ngar Htat Gyi Pagoda is a sitting Buddha image. It is housed in a pavilion of iron structure. The abbot's monastery is also in close proximity of the pagoda which is nice to see by its fine Chinese design. Entrance to this temple is also free. 
TIP:  Behind the Ngar Htat Gyi Pagoda you will find some of the colonial british buildings which are still standing, despite they are in some of a dilapidated or disrepair stage. 

 
Chauk Htat Kyi Pagoda
The lying Buddha at Chauk Htat Kyi Pagoda
 
Ngar Htat Gyi Pagoda
The sitting Budha at Ngar Htat Gyi Pagoda
 
Colonial houses yangon
Some of the colonial British houses are in disrepair now.

Kandawgyi Lake: Also known as Royal Lake, this artificial lake built by the British as a reservoir. The boardwalk, which runs mainly along the lake's southern and western sides (and which is free to wander), is also an ideal place for an early-morning jog or stroll. The highlight of the area is the floating Karaweik Palace, which is actually a restaurant, its form is a replica of a royal barge. 
There are plenty of lakeside cafes here that are good spots for a drink at sunset. On the lake's north side, the quirky Utopia Tower is a giant pile of artificial rocks housing bars, karaoke, a massage parlour and, on the 5th floor, a viewing deck. Also here is the new Myanmar Aquarium which opened at the end of 2019.
TIP, visit the Yangon Zoo: With a collection of nearly 200 species and 1100 animals, the Zoo is a cheap few hours walking around the area which houses some great animals to the area, like the elephants, the tigers, white tiger, ryno's and hippopotamus amongst many more interesting species. There is cafes and restaurants, as well as other activities like zip wire or lake rowing. Admission to the Zoo is 3.000 Kyat. ($2 USD).

 
Karaweik Palace
The Karaweik Palace is luxury Restaurant.
 
Kandawgyi Lake
You can walk along the lakeside via purpose built path way over the lake.
 
Kandawgyi Lake
There are many Hotels around the lake, being the more upmarket area of Yangon.

Yangon Zoo Photoshow

Suggestion, take a trip to the Golden Rock: 
The day return trip to the Golden Rock near Kyaikhtiyo is one of the most sought pilgrimage sites for Myanmar Buddhists. The gold leaf-covered rock is said to maintain its balance thanks to a single hair of the Buddha being enshrined inside the pagoda. From the pagoda, you can observe the pilgrims devout in prayers or applying gold leaf to the rock, while enjoying a spectacular view of the valley below.In order to get there, you need to get a bus from Yangon to Kin Pun Sakhan village, for 6.000 Kyat. After you need to change from your vehicle to a truck which brings you up on a steep road to the top of the mountain. The truck ride takes approximately 45 minutes and costs 2.000 Kyat. To access the Golden Rock you will need to pay a "foreigner fee" of 10.000 Kyat.  
After you visit the Golden Rock, you can head towards the Kyaik Htee Yoe Waterfall which can be accessed by walking down the Waterfall lane which takes you to the other side of the mountain.Taking the trip by yourself as well as a tour, involves the whole day. So leave early in the morning as the trip can take 4 hours each way. Tours cost $50 per person including all fees and entrances. Ask at your hotel for the companies which organise these tours. One of them is Radianttraveltour  or Goldenrockmyanmar.
 
 
Golden Rock
Going up to the Golden Rock requires to travel in a tight fit open truck for 45 minutes!
 
Golden Rock Myanmar
The impressive Golden Rock, covered in Golden leave.
 
 
Golden Rock
One of the welcome signs to the area next to a viewing platform.
 
Waterfall lane golden rock
Walking down the Waterfall lane you will reach the other side of the mountain and the waterfall!
Shopping: 
Yangon is not widely known for shopping opportunities in the west. Unlike its neighbouring city, Bangkok. However, it is a heaven for shoppers who love to explore street markets and local produce. Yangon’s city centre is a mass of side streets, which fill with stands selling food to antiques. Depending on each street you can find different kind of products.  Be advised that, shops, markets and street stands close around 19.30-20h Pm which is rather early. In Yangon there is not the night atmosphere, present in other Southeast Asian cities.
For souvenir shopping, clothes, jewellery, hand craft and others, head to the Bogyoke Aung San market. It’s a 15 minute walk from the city centre or you can take a taxi for under $3. Another interesting fact to consider when in Yangon (and Myanmar), tax is added to your purchases.
Bogyoke Aung San market
The Bogyoke Aung San market is the best place to exchange money and for all kind of shopping!
Accommodation: 
For backpackers, budget travellers and money conscious people, Yangon offers the base you need to stay overnight and get cheap accommodation, without braking the bank! That doesn’t mean you need to stay in basic hostels and bad quality hotels, there are plenty of types of accommodations which offer good service and facilities with a reasonable price, including breakfast and private rooms from only €15 per night! That is even in the city centre! There are good quality hotels as well which are spread throughout the city but the cost of transportation to see the sights might not be worth it.
The best idea is to stay 5-20 min walk from the Sule Pagoda, where the city centre is. From here you can easily get tours, or public transport to all the major sights. Last minute bookings are not a problem in the city; however, to guarantee a preferred spot in the city, always book in advance.
Staying in private accommodation, like Airbnb, is not generally used in Myanmar. But in the coming years, this option might become more available as houses and flats are renovated and adapted for tourists. 
Recommended stay duration:  
For a first time visit to Yangon, one should plan a comfortable week. Since most travellers will need to pay the visa cost ($50), it’s worth it to extend your stay a little more and see as much as possible. Also, because of the heat and humidity, there is only so much you can do during the day, maybe one or two sights which take time also because of public transport or traffic conditions. Tours are yet not so widely advertised in the city (unless you book before hand online or from agency), therefore expect to do a more “hands on” approach when visiting Yangon. During the week visit you will have time to explore and see most of the city, together with some unique experiences like taking the circular train, the public boats, walking along the many market streets and visiting some of the impressive Buddhist temples around Yangon!

Yangon Photo Gallery 📷: