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Mysterious Myanmar

Recently opened borders have made an exploratory journey through this gilded region possible. Think cobbled laneways decorated with paper lanterns, intricate Buddhist temples, ancient pagodas amidst lush jungles, colonial-era urban architecture, happy locals swathed in colourful fabrics, and a calm way of life that seems unchanged by the sands of time.

Still in its tourism infancy but getting to grips with modern life quickly. Glass skyscrapers are cropping up next to the crumbling grandeur of its colonial past. You can’t help but feel an exciting energy as the city buzzes into the 21st century. Visit the Shwedagon Pagoda, a Burmese temple covered with 60 tonnes of burnished gold.

Enter the waterways of the Intha people and see how these devout Buddhists approach their floating lives in a collection of stilted villages. Explore watery streets with veg patches, gardens in bloom, religious sites, and witness craftspeople at work, from hammering blacksmiths to unique lotus silk weaving.

Learn about the Buddhist civilisations that thrived along the Ayeyarwady River in the 11th and 12th century while exploring a dense forest of temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins. Take in a rooftop sunrise or sunset to marvel at the scale of this ancient skyline amidst leafy landscapes sun kissed by rose-tinted skies.

Travel up the Ayeyarwady by boat to the commercial centre of Myanmar. The city shares trade and culture with China and India. Discover marvellous crafts and sights like Phayagyi, Shwenandaw Monastery and panoramic views from Mandalay Hill.

Enter the Shan State of Northern Myanmar to the colonial hill station of Pyin Oo Lwin – once a summer respite for British officers, today horse drawn carts trot around town. Relax amongst English gardens then take an exhilarating train journey – as you chug uphill alongside breathtaking gorges, you’ll be thanking the skill of British engineers for keeping you on the tracks.

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Capital city: Naypyidaw

Population:  53.9 million

Language: Burmese

Currency:  Burmese Kyat (MMK)

Time zones: GMT+06:30

Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin), Type G (Irish/British 3-pin), Type F (German 2-pin, side clip)

Dialing code: +95

Visas are required for all nationalities travelling to Myanmar. For those entering Myanmar via Yangon International Airport you may be able to apply for an e-visa online refer to the official website for further information.

Tourist visas are valid for a stay of up to 28 days and are valid for entry into the country within 90-days from the date of issue. Visa applications should be submitted to the embassy at least 4 weeks prior to travel.

Please check the appropriate consulate website for specific information on the cost and method of payment. Cash is generally not accepted and often payment will need to be arranged before you apply with the embassy/consulate. The actual application process will vary depending on your nationality and the consulate/embassy at which you will be applying. Please check the appropriate consulate website for specific information.

Travel Insurance is mandatory for all group journeys and Sundowners Overland strongly recommends travel insurance for all other journeys. You must ensure that your insurance policy covers you for the entire duration of your journey, for all activities you will be participating in and that you have purchased the highest level of cover available to you for medical emergencies (including repatriation/evacuation cover) which are relevant to ALL the destinations that you will be visiting. Contact us for further information and quotes.

If you are taking special medication, it is a good idea to carry a letter from your doctor to show authorities if necessary.

Since some medications can also be affected by changes in temperature or require special care, we recommend you discuss this with your doctor before departure.

The most popular time to visit Myanmar is November through to February when it’s dry season – the skies are clear and the days are mild. The heat of summer arrives in March and continues until monsoon season commences (May to October), however the central plains only receive a fraction of the rain that hits the coast and the Ayeyarwady delta.

Myanmar is a land of festivals: a festival for every month of the year. The dates of the festivals and special events usually fall on the full moon day of the month.

The local currency is the Burmese Kyat. ATM’s can be found in major cities however they can be unreliable. We recommend you bring some cash to exchange. Credit card use is limited. Myanmar is still very much a cash-based society.

In Yangon:

  • 2 course meal & a drink in a decent restaurant USD$8-$15
  • Sugarcane Juice USD$0.60
  • Basic lunch from a street vendor USD$0.50
  • Short taxi ride USD$1.50
  • Litre bottle of water USD$0.30

In Mandalay:

  • Fried noodles with vegetables USD$1.50
  • Large bottle of beer USD2.00
  • Litre bottle of water USD$0.40
  • International postcard stamp USD$0.40

*Prices are approximate average costs based on prices at 11/03/17 and are based on the equivalent amount of local currency.

Due to the sensitive political situation in some border regions, entry and exit via land borders is restricted; there are four Thailand border points that do not need permission for crossings, but China and India require special permits.

The China-Myanmar border crossing is currently totally closed for foreigners.

  • Respect and manners go a long way in any culture.  Learning a little of the language, reading as much about the history and culture of the region and observing local gatherings is a great way to start.
  • Avoid touching another person’s head in Myanmar as it is considered the most sacred part of the body. Always use your right hand when shaking hands or passing something to someone. Feet are considered unclean so don’t point your feet at anyone when sitting.
  • In Myanmar don’t get offended when locals make a kissing noise…this is in no way a derogatory sound aimed at you, but the Myanmar way of calling attention. Give it a try we bet you can’t do it as loudly as them!
  • Revealing clothing is sometimes frowned upon, although it is increasingly common amongst Myanmar women. At religious sites, legs and shoulders should always be covered.
  • Shoes and socks should be removed before entering any shrine, pagoda or monastery. It is also customary to remove shoes before entering private homes and many offices.
  • Couples should avoid public displays of affection.
  • Haggling for prices is big in Myanmar - establish a rapport with the vendor, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's not a price war… it’s meant to be fun!
  • Life in Myanmar exists at a very different pace than it does in most developed countries. People are usually in much less of a hurry and more likely to stop and help. It also means that things generally take longer – a sign of impatience will not be taken well.
  • As in many parts of Asia, saving face is very important to people in Myanmar. This means raised voices or aggression are not taken well. It also means that if you ask someone a question (for example, directions or the price of an item), they will often give you an answer – even if they have no idea. This comes out of a wish to be helpful, but it is important to bear in mind.
  • To western eyes, perhaps one of the less appealing Myanmar traits is betel-chewing. This mild intoxicant is used by many males in Myanmar, and results in a reddening and rotting of the teeth and plenty of spitting, resulting in the frequent sight of red blotches on the streets of Myanmar.