WELCOME TO MYANMAR
Myanmar is South East Asia’s largest continental country, covering around twice the size of Vietnam. Inside its border it contains both South East Asia’s highest peak, the Hkakabo Razi, part of the Himalayas and reaching a height of 5’881 meters, as well as some of Asia’s most pristine and untouched beaches. Around 135 different ethnic groups live inside the country, making it one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world.
After over 34 years of nearly complete isolation tourism started anew in 1996, when visa regulations where changed and tourist visa were issued with more ease. Though the numbers of tourists increase the country remains one of Asia’s last mysterious and unknown destinations. The infrastructure on which tourist can count on has improved much ever since but is still not really up to international standards at all levels and a spirit of adaptation and tolerance is sometimes necessary to visit Myanmar.
VISA REQUIREMENTS AND CUSTOMS FORMALITIES
All travelers to Myanmar require a visa. There are two ways to obtain a Myanmar Visa.
A. Myanmar Embassy or Consulate
Apply for a tourist visa at any Myanmar Embassy or Consulate. Tourist visas are issued for a duration of 28 days at all Myanmar Embassies or Consulates. The EVT Package Tour visas have been abolished. Any tourist whether travelling on a package tour or individually will receive the same type of tourist visa. The compulsory exchange into FECs (Foreign Exchange Certificates) was abolished in 2003. EVT Package Visa exception letters are not required anymore.
B. Pre-Arrangement Visa on Arrival
Pre-arranged visas on arrival can be arranged through local travel agency for travelers arriving at Yangon International Airport. In general visas on arrival can only be organized for guests coming from countries where no Myanmar embassy is present. IDEAINDOCHINA Travel requires passengers’ passport details including name as spelled in passport, nationality, passport number and occupation latest 4 weeks prior to arrival in Myanmar. IDEAINDOCHINA Travel will apply for tourist visas and E-mail a visa confirmation letter issued by the Myanmar authorities to the travel agency or traveler as an attachment. Travelers will need to show this visa confirmation letter to the airline in order to board the international flight to Yangon. Upon arrival at Yangon International Airport the travelers need to contact the Visa on Arrival counter, show their visa confirmation letter, hand over 2 passport photos and pay the visa fee of US$ 30.- per person (subject to changes without prior notice). Asian Trails charges a handling fee for all visas on arrival of US$ 10.-- per person.
CUSTOMS AND FORMALITIES ON ARRIVAL
All items of jewelry, cameras and foreign currency in excess of USD 2,000.- must be declared upon arrival on the currency declaration forms. Travelers should have completed these forms during the flight to Yangon and should submit them upon arrival. No Myanmar currency may be imported or exported.
An IDEAINDOCHINA travel representative will join travelers on arrival after immigration and customs control points have been passed. The representative will display an ‘IDEAINDOCHINA’ sign for easy recognition. Duty free allowance is 200 cigarettes and one liter of wine or spirit. Export of Buddha images, gemstones and antiques without an official receipt is prohibited.
Departure tax for international flights is USD 10.-- payable in US dollars. Passenger Service Charge for domestic airport is Kyat 1,000.-- per person per sector. Subject to change without prior notice.
Tropical, generally hot and humid. Cooler in mountain areas.
Coolest months: November-February (average temperatures 15-24 C; in mountainous regions such as Kalaw, Pindaya and the Inle Lake area, as well
Hottest months: March-May (average temperatures 30-45 C)
Monsoon, rainy months: May-September (although in central areas the weather is much drier than on the coast)
The official language is ‘Myanmar/Burmese’ with numerous regional languages and dialects. English is spoken at all major hotels. In the Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake area travelers will always find someone who will at least understand a few words of English. IDEAINDOCHINA Travel provides guiding services in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Russian.
Myanmar cuisine mainly consists of rice, noodles and a side dish. These dishes vary from Indian style curries with meat or fish to vegetables and regional salads and soups. Chilli is popular in Myanmar and is often used in spicy dishes such as curries; however the meal itself is more often not as hot as the Thai cuisine. Myanmar can boast with a broad range of cuisine with Chinese, Thai and Indian restaurants sprinkled around the major cities. Western food can be found in a few French or Italian restaurants in Yangon as well as at major international hotels in Yangon and Mandalay.
Shopping is plentiful in most areas of Myanmar with colorful markets and stalls adoring most streets. Most popular buys include antiques, embroidery, gems, lacquer ware, mother-of-pearl, hand-woven silk longish, traditional woodcarvings, customary puppets and tribal crafts. Jewelry should be purchased through an authorized dealer who will issue a receipt so that the items can be exported. Bargaining is an elemental part of Myanmar life in small shops and markets. Major hotels and restaurants usually add 10 % service charge to bills. Where it is not included a tip of up to 10 % of the bill would be appropriate if the service is satisfactory. Porters should be tipped at Kyat 500 per bag.
CURRENCY AND EXCHANGE
The official Myanmar currency is Kyat (pronounced ‘Chat’). The official exchange rate is 6 Kyat to USD 1-. The unofficial or market rate (at the time of printing) is as high as 750.-- Kyat to the dollar. There are several authorized money changers in Yangon who will exchange USD into FECs (Foreign Exchange Certificates) and Kyat. Travelers are also advised not to change any money at airports both in Yangon and Mandalay as the exchange rates are unfavorable. It is recommended to change USD cash at local money changers, our guides and staff will brief travelers accordingly upon arrival in Myanmar.
Officially it is not permitted to bring mobile phones into the country: however, this regulation has not been enforced for many years.