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.
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.
- Read more about what you need to prepare when traveling to Myanmar.
Find the way that suits you to get to Myanmar
Plan your itinerary
Depending on where you enter and leave Myanmar, you can make an optimized itinerary for visiting Myanmar.
- Read here what are the highlights of Myanmar for a quick inspiration.
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.
What to bring with you
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.