Located in southeast Asia, Myanmar stole my interest in late 2015. During an entire year, I made research on what to visit, what to prepare, how much money will I need, etc. When planing for our Myanmar travel, I was overwhelmed by the lack of information about certain subjects, like documents, money and attractions to visit, so I decided I should cover them myself in a post.
Today I present some of these aspects, so here’s what you need to prepare for your Myanmar travel.
1. Obtain the Visa
For obtaining the visa, you can either go to the Myanmar embassy if you have one near you, but probably it’s not the case, or you can make a demand for an e-visa.
In order to boost tourism, the government of Myanmar made the e-visa available, easy to obtain, and delivered even faster that the traditional one, for the same price.
The Myanmar visa permits you a stay of maximum 28 days inside the country, and it expires in 3 months after its delivery date. So the best time to make a demand is one-two months before you departure date.
Tip 1: Don’t buy your airplane tickets without the confirmation letter that you have received the e-visa.
Tip 2: To apply for the e-visa, you will need to book at least the first night of your arrival, because you will have to provide this information in the visa application form. The tourist e-visa costs 50$ and is delivered the next day by e-mail. Easy!
2. Decide your itinerary
For a three weeks long trip to Myanmar we have chosen the essentials. In a previous article I mention the highlights of our trip as a bucketlist for your Myanmar travel. You can start from there.
Our itinerary was a circuit starting and finishing in Yangon. The trip goes like this:
- Yangon (1 day) – enjoy a calm afternoon in the Downtown and see sunrise at the Shwedagon Pagoda
- Bago (2 days) – visit Bago for the Royal Palace, the four giant Buddhas looking towards each cardinal point, the two long lying Buddhas, day trip to Kyaikhtiyo (Golden Rock)
- Mandalay (4 days) – visit of Royal Palace and the Mandalay Hill in the city, day trip to Mingun by boat, rent a motorbike for Amarapura (to see the U-Bein Bridge) and for Inwa, and visit Sagaing
- Monywa (2 days) – visit the Phowintaung caves with Buddhas and monkeys, and the country’s biggest standing Buddha
- Bagan (3 days) – visit around the plain of temples and admire them during a sunrise or a sunset
- Kalaw to Inle Lake (3 days) – trekking through Shan State, discovering villages, people and the Myanmar nature
- Inle Lake (3 days) – take the boat to visit around the lake and discover its people and their traditions
- Yangon (1 day) – buy souvenirs
Add another 2-3-4 days for round-trip flying between your country and Myanmar.
3. Currencies for Myanmar
The currency used in Myanmar is Kyat (pronounced “chat”), and only USD dollars, Singapore dollars and Euro can be converted into Kyat. Some other Asian currencies are also accepted, but if you’re travelling from an Asian country into Myanmar, you’ll have to check for yourself if your currency is accepted in Myanmar.
The exchange rate were more interesting than what I found on some recent blog posts on Myanmar travel, so this information is subject to rapid changes. I found that the exchange rate found online was pretty accurate.
- 1 EUR € = 1400 – 1500 Myanmar Kyat
- 1 USD $ = 1200 – 1400 Myanmar Kyat
Money in USD
If you already use USD, make sure you have big (>50 USD) and very new looking bills. There is a decreasing exchange rate for smaller bills:
- best exchange rate: 50$, 100$, etc
- less interesting rate: 10$, 20$
- worst rate: 1$, 2$, 5$
However, some hotels or bus companies still have their prices in USD, so it’s best to have some USD for these cases. Often when asking the equivalent in Kyat, the price converted by the company or the hotel was less interesting than in a bank or exchange office. So smaller $USD bills (but clean and crisp) are still useful in these cases.
Money in EUR
In the recent years Myanmar began to accept Euro € bills too, so if your currency is already in EUR, you have a slight advantage. For the bills, they have the same requirements (clean, new looking, crisp bills), but not all exchange offices apply a decreasing exchange rate for smaller bills.
At the Yangon airport we found the same rate for all EUR bills, but at some banks in the cities, we’d find that for smaller bills they applied less interesting conversion rates.
The best strategy
As some of the prices in Myanmar are still in USD, the best is to keep some small bills of USD for those payments, and have big bills (of EUR or USD) for exchanging them into Kyat.
Our currency is already EUR, so we had mostly EUR bills and some bills in USD. But some of our USD bills were refused all the time for little folding marks or some invisible-for-our-eyes defaults.
Tip: Please, do be careful when exchanging money before leaving. Make sure ALL of your bills are neat.