Right, in my earlier posts I hope I have given you all a flavour of what to expect… I have come up with a list below of some tips and guides which may help you through your planning process and hopefully making it easier for you to visit. They are in no particular order.
– A tourists Visa is required. You should get this at the Myanmar Embassy in your home country. As far as I know, a visa on arrival is only for business and I imagine even if you could get a tourist one, it would be a waste of time.
– For Singaporeans, it costs $45 (website still says $35). Go to the online website and apply online. Turn up on appointment day and go inside the building. There are no English signs so just go into the building on your right once you enter the gate. Basically the Q system does not work so just line-up on a first come first served basis. Pick-up of visa is on the same day. There is a photocopying machine in the room which you can use, but double check that you have everything that’s required.
– Bring Crisp USD bills. You can’t get the local currency outside of the country. At the international arrival hall where you collect your luggage there are about 5 money changers.. All with similar rates but you walk around and compare. They will only take CRISP bills. If you have a tear in your bill or some creases, most will not accept, seriously
– Taxi to the city is about 10,000 kyat takes about 45mins with traffic (on a good day). If you arrive after 9pm in the night, traffic is pretty good.
– Booking of internal flights.. I booked an Air Mandalay plane tix to Bagan and back. All done online before I arrived in Yangon. The website is quite primitive, but it works. You basically select the day and destination and flight time. You DO NOT pay online. They will send a confirmation email to you and you will need to collect the tix and pay in cash at the domestic airport (if you choose to buy online). Despite the process it still worked, and everything worked out fine. I had a few email exchanges with them and they were very prompt and their English was very good. If you are doing what I did then it’s probably best to collect your tickets the day you arrive. This will save you time and effort.
– Costs….In general food and transportation is cheap, compared to other cities, but because of that if you are not careful, it can rack up since you end up taking taxis everywhere. Not saying it’s gonna break your bank depending on what budget you are on, but I was having trouble accounting for my cash. That said, the hotels are generally on the expensive side for what you get and relative to other cities. There are also a limited number of decent hotels and they all book out early especially in peak season (Nov – Jan / Feb).
– Food – I’m no expert in Burmese cuisine so not much to say here. Fortunately I didn’t get ill, but at the same time I ate at restaurants (not posh ones) and didn’t eat any street food except for a road side coffee which was dam good for 50 cents
– Perhaps some information which may not be obvious, but I find important – when do you use USDs vs kyat. Basically you will pay in the local currency. Almost all restaurants / taxis / buying stuff will all be done in kyats. However, some hotels (especially the up-market ones) will bill / quote in USD. You can pay in kyat, but the rate is often unfavourable.
– How much to change? This is a difficult question. An average meal I would say per pax is about kyt 5000-8000 (this is probably slightly above the average) you can obviously go much higher and arguably slightly lower. I probably spent around kyt 10,000-15,000 a day on taxis but I was in and out a lot. For example 1 trip in the morning to roam then back to hotel, and then 1 or 2 in the afternoons and evening (it all adds up). Current exchange rate is around 1USD / 970 kyat (approximate)
– Although you may have a map and the distances may seem walkable, IMHO the distances are way further than shown on maps. Having said that, walking around say china town and the Muslim area is by far the best way to see the local life.
That’s about it I think, If you have any questions – Please leave a reply.