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A Comprehensive Travel Guide for Myanmar and F.A.Q’s
Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 ethnic groups, bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand, and this Myanmar Travel Guide makes for a comprehensive travel resource that will help you plan your trip to Myanmar.
With the opening of the land border, a couple of years ago, and the ease of obtaining an E Visa, travelling to Myanmar from India has become quite easy and affordable.
I was lucky enough to have visited Myanmar for New Year’s with Debjani (The Vagabong), where we visited the Big 4 destinations, i.e. Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake and Yangon, which also forms the famous Golden Kite Itinerary of Myanmar.
Each of these destinations is unique in itself, and while, Yangon (formerly Rangoon), the country’s largest city, is home to bustling markets, numerous parks and lakes, and the towering, gilded Shwedagon Pagoda, which contains Buddhist relics and dates to the 6th century; Bagan on the other hand is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is home to countless temples and Pagodas, including the Shwezigon Pagoda.
The Itinerary that we followed for our Trip to Myanmar was :
Imphal (1 Day) – Moreh Border – Tamu – Mandalay (2 Days) – Bagan (3 Days) – Inle Lake (2 Days) – Yangon (1 Day) – Kolkata
It took us almost 24 hours to reach Mandalay from Imphal by road, which included an hour for all the India – Myanmar Border crossing formalities, around 2-3 hours for different meals throughout the journey.
The journey time between Mandalay and Bagan is 4-5 hours, whereas from Bagan to Inle Lake is 7-8 hours, and from Inle Lake to Yangon is 9-10 hours, which went by very comfortably in the VIP Semi Sleeper Bus that we took.
Our main mode of transport for the entire trip was the Bus.
Now that you’ve got a vague idea about Myanmar and our trip, its time to scroll down and know more about Myanmar, in this Myanmar Travel Guide as I’ve tried to answer most of the Frequently Asked Questions, a traveller has in their minds, before planning a Trip to Myanmar.
Q – Do I need a visa to travel to Myanmar?
Yes, you need a Visa to Travel to Myanmar. However, there are some nationalities that are exempt from Visa for 14 / 30 days, and some are applicable for Visa on Arrival or eVisa. Check here to see the eligibility of your passport for entry into Myanmar.
Q – How To apply for the Myanmar VISA?
The Myanmar VISA process simplified, in 9 steps below.
The cost of the Myanmar eVisa is 50 USD, and the whole process is very simple and straightforward.
Step 1 – Head to the official website – https://evisa.moip.gov.mm
Step 2 – Go to Apply VISA > New Application > Tourist VISA
Step 3 – Fill out your Passport Number | Nationality | Email address | Port of Entry and Proceed to the next page.
Step 4 – Fill out your Personal Information
Step 5 – Make the payment of 50 USD via Credit Card / Debit Card
Step 6 – You will get acknowledgement receipt via mail which will mention your Application Number, Passport Number and Payment Reference Number
Step 7 – If you have provided all necessary details as required, you will get another mail in a matter of hours or maximum 2 days, with the VISA Application Result. Print this and keep it along with your Passport
Step 8 – Get the VISA Letter stamped during Immigration and keep it safely, until you exit the country.
Step 9 – Enjoy Your Trip to Myanmar
Q – When should I apply for my visa?
Ideally, you should apply for it, anytime between 20-30 days, before your planned arrival in Myanmar, as the approval letter you get after applying for the eVisa is valid for 90 days, from the date of issue.
Q – Do I need insurance for this Trip to Myanmar?
Yes, it’s highly recommended to get Travel Insurance, before travelling to Myanmar. And I personally recommend you to go ahead with SafetyWings – The Travel Medical Insurance for Travellers.
Q – What is the best way to stay connected?
The most economical way of staying connected while Travelling in Myanmar, is to get a local Myanmar SIM Card !
As of now, you can choose between MPT, Ooredoo and Telenor. The average rate for the 5 GB data bundle pack with a validity of 30 days is around 5,000 Kyat.
Getting a local SIM Card in Myanmar, turns out to be extremely helpful, especially when you are planning your walking tour in Mandalay, or while navigating through Bagan on your E Bike.
Q – How easy is it to get money exchanged in Myanmar?
There are plenty of places where you can get money exchanged in all the major cities in Myanmar. However, if you are entering Myanmar, via road crossing the border from India, it’s highly recommended to exchange your Indian Currency into Kyat in Tamu, before starting the journey to Mandalay.
You can still convert Indian Currency in Bagan, but it’s a tough nut to crack in Mandalay !
The best option is to either carry USD’s which can easily be exchanged anywhere, or withdraw from ATM’s which are found in plenty, everywhere.
Q – Can I make payments via Credit Card / Debit Card in Myanmar?
Yes, at most of the resorts / hotels / hostels / restaurants, you can pay via Credit Card or Debit Card, however, it’s better to have Kyat on you, as it becomes easier, when you are shopping or eating out.
Also note that the businesses might charge a surcharge when paying by card, and the exchange rate might not be the best.
Q – Is it safe to travel in Myanmar as a Solo Traveller?
To be honest, Myanmar while still underdeveloped as compared to other South-East-Asian nations like Thailand, Vietnam or Indonesia, is perfectly safe for Solo Travellers of both the sexes.
Myanmar is one of the safest countries in Asia. Crime goes against the Buddhist culture and theft and robberies are rare.
The hostels, which already exist in major tourist hotspots like Mandalay, Bagan Inle Lake and Yangon, provide a safe haven for solo travellers, and provide ample opportunities to interact with other travellers as well.
Q – What is the best time to travel to Myanmar?
The best time to travel to Myanmar is in the winters from mid October/November to February/March when the country is green, dry and relatively cool.
April to May is the worst time to visit as the temperatures can go as high up as 40 deg C.
Q – How many days are required to explore Myanmar?
Anywhere between 7 – 14 days is ideal for travelling in Myanmar. If you are short on days, then check out this detailed 7 Day Myanmar Road Trip Itinerary, with recommendations to make the most out of your trip to Myanmar.
Q – Are there any hefty fees that I should be aware of ?
Yes, be advised that you have to pay 25, 000 Kyat, when you enter Bagan, as the Bagan Architectural Fee, which is valid for a duration of 7-8 days, and another 15, 000 Kyat as the Inle Lake Development Fee on your arrival in Inle Lake.
Q – What to Do in Myanmar?
Follow this Ideal Best of Myanmar in One Week – A Road Trip Itinerary which forms the backbone of this Myanmar Travel Guide.
Day 1 – Explore Mandalay on Foot – Mandalay Hill | Kyauktawgyi Pagoda | Sandamuni Pagoda | Mahamuni Buddha Temple
Day 2 – Discover the flavours of Mandalay – Go on a food tour | Mingun | U Bein Bridge
Day 3 – Mandalay to Bagan | Mt Popa Sunset Tour
Day 4 – Catch Sunrise Near Suleimani Temple | Bagan Day Tour – Ananda Phaya | Shwezigon Pagoda | Dhamayagi | Lacquer Workshop | Sunset boat ride on Ayeyarwaddy River – Overnight Bus to Inle Lake
Day 5 – Full Day Inle Lake Tour – Click the famous fishermen of Inle Lake | Visit Lotus Stem Weaving Factory | Cigar Making Factory | Boat Making Factory | Interact with the long-necked women tribe (Kayan tribe)
Day 6 – Visit the In Dein Market | Get a Spa Treatment | Visit the Red Mountain Winery – Overnight Bus to Yangon
Day 7 – Shwedagon Pagoda | Sule Pagoda | Walk around the colonial area of Yangon | Cycle/Trishaw experience in Dala | Yangon Circular Train (if time permits) | Explore the Night Markets of Yangon.
Q – What to Do in Mandalay?
Tracing back its origin in 1857, Mandalay is now the second largest city in Myanmar. It is found in the upper part of the nation, situated on the east bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. Mandalay is the place, which was home to the Royal Palace of the Konbaung Dynasty, which was the last government and free realm of Burma.
Be that as it may, Mandalay was bombed in WWII and the palace vanished, alongside much else. The royal residence was revamped during the 1990s, and from that point forward Mandalay has experienced a heedless development blast that was never about aesthetics.
The first place we explored was the Kyauktawgyi Pagoda which is located near the southern entry gate to reach Mandalay Hill.
The Kyauktawgyi Pagoda was built by King Mindon in 1853 on the model of the Ananda Temple at Pagan. The pagoda was completed during 1878. The highlight of the Kyauktawgyi Paya is the huge seated Buddha figure sculpted from a single block of pale green marble from the Sagyin quarry twelve miles north of Mandalay. It is believed that about Ten Thousand men took about 2 weeks to transport the stone block from the Ayeyarwaddy River to the site where it is today.
Next, we started climbing the stairs up to Mandalay Hill which took us around 30 odd minutes. We primarily went for the views. And it didn’t disappoint us at all 😜
While we were up there the multiple white stupas caught our attention, and that is where we headed to after climbing down the stairs.
The multiple white stupas with slabs inscribed with Buddhist teachings along with the large golden zedi is known as the Sandamuni Pagoda.
As the large golden zedi was under restoration, we weren’t able to see the largest iron Buddha statue in Burma. However, the multiple white stupas made for an amazing setting as the sun decided to give us a little peek a boo before going down.
On our 2nd day in Mandalay, we explored the different foods and items in the by lanes of Mandalay with Beyond Boundaries Myanmar, and it gave the kick-start to our Myanmar Trip that we needed.
Post our food adventure, we made our way to the jetty, where we crossed the Ayeyarwady river, to reach Mingun, where the highlight was the Hsinbyume Paya, apart from Mingun Pahtodawgyi which is a monumental uncompleted stupa and then finally headed to U Bein Bridge, our last attraction in Mandalay, to witness the sunset. But all we saw were human heads. U Bein Bridge during sunsets is a typical case of the attraction losing its charm owing to overtourism.
Q – What to Eat and Drink in Myanmar?
So, in case you are wondering What to Eat and Drink in Mandalay, we got your back 😎
📸 1 Tempura and Sticky Rice (White and Brown)
📸 2 Mohingar – Essentially a rice noodle soup with fish/chicken/vegetables, usually consumed during breakfast. It is also dubbed to be the national dish of Myanmar.
📸 3 Fried Stuffed Sweet Potato and Fried Bananas
📸4 Rice Cakes
📸5 Khao Soi / Khao Suey – Served widely in Myanmar, but modified versions of Khao Soi can be found in Laos and Northern Thailand as well. Traditionally, the dough for the rice noodles is spread out on a cloth stretched over boiling water. After steaming the large sheet noodle is then rolled and cut with scissors, cooked in coconut milk and served with a variety of contrasting condiments.
📸6 Fresh Fruit Juices / Smoothies
📸7 Burmese Tea Leaf Salad / Lahpet thoke –Lahpet means “green tea,” and thoke, meaning “salad,” is an eclectic mix of flavours and textures that includes soft, pickled tea leaves, crisp, roasted peanuts and other crunchy beans, toasted sesame seeds, fried garlic.
And last but not the least
Q – Tips and Recommendations for Mandalay?
If possible, visit U Bein Bridge during sunrise, and go directly under the bridge. And if that’s not an option, making the sunset the only time, plan to reach U Bein Bridge an hour earlier, and head straight under the bridge, and find your vantage point to capture the sun going down, behind the stilts.
However, if you have more time in Mandalay, I would highly recommend you check out these Top Things To Do in Mandalay and add the following experiences in your trip to Mandalay!
- Climb up Yankin Hill
- Visit Mahamuni Paya
- Go shopping at the Jade Market
- Admire the 75 feet high Skinny Buddha
- Visit a Gold Rose Workshop
- Read the World’s Largest Book at Kuthodaw Pagoda
- See a Puppet Show at Mandalay Marrionettes Theatre
- Hike up to the Dat Taw Gyaint Waterfall
Q – What to Do in Bagan?
Day 1 – Arrive in Bagan from Mandalay
Day 2 – Explore Bagan at own Pace | Mt Popa Sunset Tour
Day 3 – Bagan Full Day Tour with Beyond Boundaries Myanmar | Overnight Bus to Inle Lake
After spending three days in Bagan, we rounded up these 5 destinations, that should figure on your Bagan To Do List No Matter what:
#1 Shwe Zigon Pagoda
#2 Ananda Phaya
#3 Dhammayangyi Temple
#4 The small hillock near Sulamani Temple for Sunrise
#5 Lacquer Workshop
As we had an amazing time with Beyond Boundaries Myanmar in Mandalay, we decided to explore Bagan on the last day of 2019 with these guys, and what a day it turned out to be!
We visited the 5 places, mentioned above, and then headed for lunch in a local house in a village, after which we took a Boat Ride over River Ayeyarwady and witnessed the last Sunset of 2019.
However, if you have more time in Bagan, I would highly recommend you check out these Top Things To Do in Bagan and add the following experiences in your trip to Bagan !
- Experience Bagan from the skies by Riding the Hot Air Balloons.
- Visit the Archeological Museum.
- Take out time and visit a Monk Monastery.
- Visit the Mani Sithu Market.
- See the sunset from the ‘Nan Myint Tower‘.
- Visit the Dhammayazika Pagoda
- Go on an early morning Cycling Tour.
Q – Tips and Recommendations for Bagan.
- Everything is scattered in Bagan making E Bike the best option to travel.
- The best location for choosing accommodation is on Nyuang U – Bagan Road, closer to the river.
- Bagan is expensive – Be prepared 😔
- There isn’t much to do here. So, keep that book you wanted to read with you, but didn’t find time for it. 😉
- Everything closes at 9-10 PM.
- When you catch Sunrise and some local approach and tell you that they’ll take you to a good spot – Go for it. 😎
- ATM’s everywhere but if you want to exchange Indian currency, there’s one currency exchange near India Hut restaurant.
- No Grabs in Bagan. And Tuk Tuk are expensive, so HAGGLE!
- Go to Mt Popa but during the Afternoon, so, you can catch the Sunset from the top.
- Get pampered after a long day of exploring. It’s cheap – 5 USD for an hour-long foot massage / 8 USD for 1 hour full body traditional massage. 😎
Q – What to Do in Inle Lake and Where to Stay?
After witnessing the first sunrise of 2020 in Bagan, we found ourselves in a Minivan, headed towards Inle Lake in the Shan State of Myanmar.
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First day of 2020 First Sunrise of 2020 Couldn't find a better picture to share than this, as the first one of 2020 and to kickoff #ETLRTravelDiaries2020 😍 . After all it's not an everyday affair to start the day with views like these 😎 . Bagan turned out to be the best place we could be in to usher 2020 in a way that will remain etched in our memories forever. No late parties. No getting drunk. No loud music. . Making it an easy task to wake up at 5 in the morning and rush to catch the sunrise. . Here's wishing my entire social media FAM a very Happy and Adventurous 2020, and may you travel more and travel often to places you always desired to 😊 . . . . . . . . . . . #EatTravelLiveRepeat #ETLRWithArnav #baganmyanmar #Experience_Myanmar #myanmartravel #TravelDiaries2020 #oldbagan #templesofbagan #indiantravelblogger #igmyanmar #myanmarburma #happynewyear2020 #snapseededit #googlelocalguide #SonyHX400V #sonyphotography #ig_myshot #ig_landscape #ig_sunrise #ig_sunriseshots #photographers_of_india #outlooktraveller #lonelyplanetindia #BeyondBoundariesMyanmar #instasunrise #destinationunknown #destinationunlocked #discoverit #wanderon
After a full day of travelling we found ourselves at ViewPoint Eco Lodge and were delighted to be spending the first few nights of 2020, in the lap of luxury, and being pampered by the hospitable staff here.
While our time at ViewPoint Eco Lodge was spent either trying out different food items from the Shan cuisine, getting pampered at the SPA or just appreciating the beauty of the moment, sitting by the water side and listening to the sounds of nature.
We managed to explore the beauty of Lake Inle when we stepped out of ViewPoint Ecolodge, in our private speed boat.
Yes we saw the famous fisherman of Inle Lake, strike a pose for the tourists with their traditional bamboo nets.
We also visited the Lotus Stem weaving factory and the Cigar Making factory and interacting with the long necked women – Kayan Tribe was the highlight.
One of the experiences, during our stay at ViewPoint Eco Lodge which stood out was having our lunch on a boat in the middle of the lake, being prepared by the cooks on another boat, and being brought to us on yet another boat.
The whole experience of trying out the unique Shan Cuisine coupled with the fantastic wine, was too good to be true, and we managed to gulp down the entire bottle by the end of our meal.
We also visited the Red Mountain Winery, which provides an awesome panoramic view of Inle Lake and the surrounding mountains, making it the perfect spot to chase the sunset.
Q – Tips and Recommendations for Inle Lake.
As we had limited time on hand, we had to skip out on the 2-day hike from Kalaw to Inle Lake, but this is a popular choice with many backpackers and travellers, and something that we’ll recommend in this Myanmar Travel Guide, for you to check out for yourself.
Q – What to do in Yangon and Where to Stay?
Yangon was our last destination in our Myanmar Itinerary, and as we were short on time, we could only spend a day in Yangon.
But we managed to do quite a bit in one day, thanks to Beyond Boundaries Myanmar, such as visiting both the Sule Pagoda and the famous Shwedagon Pagoda, exploring the old colonial area on foot, and the village of Dala across the river in a Trishaw.
We were lucky that the hotel where we decided to stay in Yangon –Esperado Lake View Hotel, had a rooftop dining area and a bar, from where we enjoyed panoramic views of the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Yangon Skyline during our Breakfast and Dinner there.
Q – Tips and Recommendations for Yangon.
If your hotel doesn’t have a rooftop area, I would highly recommend you go to any of the Rooftop Bars and Restaurants for one of the meals.
However, if you have more time in Yangon, I would highly recommend you check out these Top Things To Do in Yangon and add the following experiences in your trip to Yangon.
- Experience the essence of Yangon by taking the Circular Train.
- A food walk on the 19th Street.
- Explore the different Night Markets of Yangon
- Visit the Taukkyan War Cemetery.
- Take a stroll around Inya Lake and Kandawgyi Lake.
- Visit Kyauk Taw Gyi Temple.
- Admire the 65-metre-long reclining Buddha at Chauk Htet Kyi Pagoda.
- Visit Bahadur Shah Zafar’s grave.
- Explore Yangon’s Chinatown.
- Visit the Maha Wizaya Pagoda and Kaba Aye Pagoda.
Q – What are the common phrases in Myanmar that I should know?
Here are some basic phrases, I recommend in this Myanmar Travel Guide, that every traveller travelling to Myanmar should know :
Hello – Min ga la ba
Thank you – Je zu tin ba deh
Yes – Ho de
No – Ma ho bu
Goodbye – Ta ta!
How are you? – Neh kaun la?
I’m well – Neh kaun ba deh
Where is the restroom? – Toilet beh ma lay?
Hope you guys enjoyed reading this Myanmar Travel Guide. If you want to read more of my Myanmar articles, check out these articles :
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Disclaimer: No compensation was received for this article, however ViewPoint Eco Lodge in Inle Lake, and Esperado Lake View Hotel in Yangon offered our stay complimentary, and Beyond Boundaries Myanmar, offered us complimentary tours in Mandalay, Bagan and Yangon. As always, the opinions on theETLRblog.com are (and always will be) my own!