What you need to know before going to Myanmar

So first of all, where is Myanmar? Located in Southeast Asia, Myanmar has its border with Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. Preparing for a travel adventure in an unknown land can be stressful, mainly because sometimes, the information that we need is not available on the internet. Continue reading to find more about what you need to know before traveling to Myanmar, because it seems some people need to be aware of certain aspects, especially cultural differences, when going to a place that’s different than theirs.

Facing pollution in Monywa

Educate yourself before going

Take care of your health

There are several serious diseases still happening in Southeast Asia, in general, therefore it’s very important to vaccinate yourself before traveling to Myanmar. Some of the vaccines need a certain number of shots and a certain period between the shots, so make sure to contact your doctor in advance and check with them what are the shots you need.

You can also get a prescription for some wide range antibiotics, malaria meds, pills for all types of aches, etc. But the medicine you will need the most is anti-vomiting and anti-diarrhea pills. Good luck!

Get your e-Visa

Obtaining your e-Visa for Myanmar is very simple and it’s delivered the next day in your inbox.

Find the way that suits you to get to Myanmar

There are only a few points to cross the border of Myanmar. On Go Myanmar website you can find useful information about air transportation or land border crossing.

Plan your itinerary

Depending on where you enter and leave Myanmar, you can make an optimized itinerary for visiting Myanmar.

Plan a budget

Depending on your travel style, the places you want to visit and the length of your stay, prepare the money you will need, plus an emergency cushion.

Travels of Plushy in Yangon, at the Shwedagon Pagoda

What to bring with you

My backpack for 3 weeks trip to Myanmar

Travel light

The lighter your travel bag, the more you enjoy the mobility and freedom.

But take all you need

Good trekking shoes, raincoat, warm sweater, swimsuit, flip-flops, hat, shades and sunscreen, mosquitoes repellent, etc.

Limit the number of gadgets you take with you

The internet in Myanmar is so slow and poor quality, that even in a high standard hotel we were not able to do anything more than sending an email. It took forever to upload 2 photos on Facebook, so I gave up immediately on the idea of sharing them while in Myanmar. That being said, you won’t even need your laptop.

A PDF reader? Put the PDFs on your smartphone. Tablet, for what? I don’t know if the phone coverage works, but I didn’t need that either.

If I were to chose again what gadgets to leave home, I won’t take my laptop and my external drive. Instead I’d take only the smartphone and some extra SD cards.

  • You can read more about my camera gear I carry around.

The dress code in Myanmar

Cover yourself when visiting religious places

I also think we should educate ourselves about that country’s culture, in general, before visiting it. Myanmar is Buddhist country, and during this trip I have seen many girl tourists who would visit a temple dressed in a short skirt, or heavy revealing tops, at the limit of the decency. If your outfit is tolerated in your country, don’t wear it blindly everywhere! Buddhist people are just too kind towards tourists to come tell you to cover yourself. So cover yourself up!

Leave your shoes out when stepping in a religious place

In Buddha’s home, you have to be clean, that’s why ALL temples and religious places require you to take your shoes off. But another important rule which for Myanmar people is common sense, so you won’t see it written, is to leave your shoes at the entry. Whether it’s on the shoe rack or on the steps of the temple, leave them arranged in a place. Even if you have flip-flops that fit your backpack’s pockets, you are not allowed to carry them around.

Visiting Shwemawdaw Pagoda in Bago

Trekking in Myanmar

Trek with a guide

Because they are affordable and you learn a lot during your journey. You are not allowed to camp or stay in village without letting the authorities know. You can get in trouble, they might consider you a spy. Well-known trekking guides are registered and they are communicating all the needed information to the authorities.

Always listen to the guide and do what they say.

  • I will write soon about our trekking experience between Kalaw and Inle Lake.

Stay on track when trekking

However, if you cannot afford the hike with a guide (I don’t even know if you’re allowed to be alone), you MUST stay on track. In certain areas there are still some hidden land mines. Our trekking guide told us that sometimes tourists (and even locals, for that matter) are stepping on them when they go off the trekking path.

Respect the locals and their customs

Please learn how to say Hello and Thank you to those people and greet them if they greet you or even if they don’t. Smile for them and for the kids you meet while trekking through their villages.

Taking pictures

Please, ask for their permission if you want to take their pictures. Tell your guide you would like some pictures with the people, ask them if it’s OK. If they let you take their picture, show it to them. If you have a Polaroid, you can leave them an original present.

Sleeping and eating in their homes

When stepping in people’s homes, take off your shoes. It’s the same as for the religious places; now you’re not in Buddha’s home, you’re in people’s home.

Another important rule is to never sleep with your feet towards the Buddha statue. It shows disrespect towards their religion and their homes.

Scenic view of a village in Myanmar, while trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake

More good-to-know things

Always drink bottled water. And make sure it’s sealed when you buy it.

Ask the price of the cab before taking it. Negotiate the first price!

Talking of transportation: the country is very polluted due to the transportation. When renting a motor-bike have something to cover your mouth and nose, and a pair of glasses/screen. Pack some eye drops too.

Buy longgyi. If you don’t have proper outfit for the temples, you can purchase a longgyi. A longgyi is a traditional piece of clothing that resembles to a long skirt, and is worn by both men and women in Myanmar (slight difference between men and women’s longgyi).

  • In a different post I will talk about the cost of living in Myanmar and analyse our expenses during the 3 weeks trip.

As a girl/woman, make sure you never touch a monk. Also, as a person, in general, make sure you never step on their shadow; it’s the same as touching them.

Monk feeding the birds on the U Bein bridge in Amarapura

I think this concludes my series for preparing a trip to Myanmar. Next time I’ll be posting about the places we have visited during our 3 weeks.

Are your planning to go to Myanmar? Did you find this information useful? Have you been to Myanmar and needed something extra? Please share your advice in the comments section!
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14 thoughts on “What you need to know before going to Myanmar”

  1. One of the most detailed and useful post on Myanmar I’ve read so far. This gem will help anyone traveling to Myanmar to budget for their destination.
    Thanks for sharing these details with us, the other travelers.

  2. I have not had the privilege of traveling abroad yet but I hope to be able to do it soon. Myanmar looks like a very interesting and beautiful place to travel!

  3. It was indeed very informative! I’ve also wrote an article about Myanmar wherein they offer free visa for Singaporean tourists. Am a Filipino so we are included to the visa exemption.

  4. I keep hearing about Myanmar being the travel destination of 2017 so it’s nice to actually see some photos of what it looks like. I can see why everyone wants to go there, it looks stunning, cultural and very different to other places. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Thank for such an informative and great post! Such useful and important information. I agree that it is so important to educate yourself on a countries culture and customs before visiting it! Myanmar is definitely getting more attention these days, seems to be where everyone is going so this article is definitely needed!

  6. Great Post! It is really detailed and explanatory. I am planning to visit again South East Asia. I have been only to Thailand and Sri Lanka and I can say some serious codex of behaviour are applicable even there like in Myanmar. It is good to know and well prepare before the trip.
    Thank you for sharing this article. Now i will know better how to have more relaxed trip to Myanmar.

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