Myanmar Makes Great Strides in its Tourism Infrastructure
Myanmar is working hard to gear up its infrastructure to address the needs of tourism and they’re making great strides in rolling out the welcome mat.
But, there are still some things you should be aware of before you plan and book your holiday in Myanmar. This information is designed to spare you of any surprises that may cause a snag in your travel plans.
Getting Your Myanmar Tourist Visa
Every tourist needs to have a visa in order to enter Myanmar. But, before you make plans to track down the Myanmar embassy in your country and pay them a visit, spend a couple of minutes online.
The Myanmar government has set up a website where you can apply for your visa online and your visa will be mailed to you by post. The service to search for on the net is the ‘Myanmar evisa’ and it could save you all kinds of time and effort.
They accept payment for a 28-day tourist visa by credit and debit card as well as PayPal, so it’s definitely easier than visiting the embassy.
Currency Expectations in Myanmar
Before you plan to pay everything by credit card and carry only a small amount of money on you, please note that in Myanmar, cash is still king. Although the major hotels will accept payment by credit card, a lot of the smaller hotels and guesthouses, especially those in more remote areas, will not.
Luckily, more and more ATMS are being installed all around Myanmar. They accept major credit and debit cards and they’re on the Cirrus and Plus networks. They charge 5,000 Kyats (about US $3.70 when this article was written) per transaction on top of whatever your bank charges, so be prepared for that.
For day-to-day transactions, like food and transportation purchases, you should definitely rely on cash instead of credit cards.
Ground Transportation in Myanmar
Once you arrive in Myanmar, you may be disappointed to learn that you won’t be able to rent a car on a tourist visa. The government requires all drivers to be residents of the country in order to drive.
The good news is that you can rent a car with a driver for sometimes less than you would pay for a rental car in other countries. This allows you the freedom to plan your own itinerary without having to adhere to the schedules of public transport companies. It’s an attractive option for those traveling in a small group and those wanting to visit more sites that are off the beaten track.
Public busses are the most popular, and certainly the cheapest, option for tourists. They are reliable, quick and comfortable. They go to all the major tourist attractions. They offer both standard services and VVIP services for those who want a little more comfort in their journey.
Staying Safe in Myanmar
People in Myanmar welcome the growth in tourism as it brings much-needed foreign capital and investment to the country. They want you to stay safe and enjoy your visit.
In the restaurants, hotels and bars throughout the country, the water and ice are purified and perfectly safe for you to drink. As in other developing countries, the tap water can be somewhat ‘iffy’ and you should stick to drinking bottled water which is sold in every market and convenience store.
If you suffer an accident or ailment, hospitals are open 24 hours and they accept foreign health insurance plans.
Malaria is still a concern in the northern reaches of Myanmar, especially in the mining areas where pools of stagnant water are present. If you go to these areas, be sure to use an effective insect repellent at all times.
Myanmar is a primarily Buddhist country and learning and respecting the Buddhist codes of conduct will serve you well. Don’t touch people’s heads, don’t point the soles of your feet towards people, don’t engage in public displays of affection and be generally respectful of people’s privacy when taking photographs.
‘Mingalar Ba!’ is the greeting you should learn, it means both ‘Hello’ and ‘Auspiciousness to you all’. But, a surprising amount of people in Myanmar also understand some English and they’re generally very happy to exercise their ability to speak it with foreigners.