It’s a new era for this extraordinary and complex land, where the landscape is scattered with gilded pagodas and the traditional ways of Asia endure.
Everyone needs a visa to enter Myanmar. For most nationalities, a 28-day single-entry tourist visa is easily available online for $50 from the Ministry of Immigration and Population website (evisa.moip.gov.mm). Allow three days to process, although it can take as little as a few hours. It is not extendable and entry is only allowed at Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw, and Mandalay International Airports. Technically, you can get a visa on arrival, but this is highly unreliable and airlines may not let you board without a visa in your passport. You’ll need a passport that’s valid for six months from the date of your arrival in Myanmar.
Make two photocopies of the data and visa page of your passport (one for someone at home and another for you, carried separately from your passport). If you lose your passport, promptly call the nearest embassy or consulate and the local police.
Several vaccinations are advised before traveling to Indochina; consult your GP or travel clinic six to eight weeks before departure to ensure you have time to complete all the series of injections.
Malaria is also present, so you will need to bring anti-malarial medication. Be aware that some malaria strains here resistant to some forms of medication, so be sure to bring the appropriate type. Wearing long sleeves and trousers is also advised, as well as an insect repellent – which also serve to protect against other insect-borne illnesses such as dengue fever. Remember, malaria can develop up to a year after exposure, so keep an eye on any symptoms.
The quality of hospitals varies greatly from region to region– ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance which covers emergency medical evacuation as you may not be able to be treated locally. In general, Thailand’s private hospitals are excellent, while Vietnam’s cities provide decent basic healthcare. If traveling in Cambodia or Laos, or in any rural area, health services are extremely limited.
Bring any prescription medicines with you, along with a basic medical kit, particularly if you are visiting rural areas. As well as first aid items, consider bringing medicines for stomach upsets, rehydration sachets, and painkillers.
Tap water is unsafe to drink- also be wary of ice in drinks and unpeeled fruit and vegetables.
Schistosomiasis – also known as bilharzia – is a disease which can be caught in freshwater. It is present in Cambodia, so avoid swimming or bathing in lakes and rivers. Symptoms may not occur until after you return home; be sure to visit your GP if you are unwell.
The most common health hazard in Indochina is waterborne stomach infections and diarrhea, usually in a mild form, but uncomfortable given the lack of developed bathroom facilities. In both instances, get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, and replace lost salts with rehydration sachets.
Rice wine is part of the culture in Vietnam – but avoid the homebrew, and opt for recognized brand names.Super-strength rice wine can contain lethal levels of methanol.
Don’t underestimate the strength of the sun across Indochina, especially when traveling on the water. Temperature and humidity can take time to adjust to, so apply sunscreen regularly, wear loose clothing and drink lots of water.
Obviously take the normal precautions you would when traveling abroad – especially if you are carrying around a couple thousand dollars in cash, as you’re likely to given the restrictions on ATM’s and credit cards – but for the most part, you should find Myanmar to be quite safe and easy to navigate, especially compared to many other Southeast Asian countries. People are friendly and helpful, and the crime rate in tourist-frequented areas is very low.
Myanmar can get quite hot and humid, which may encourage some Westerners to bring out their tanks and shorts. However, it is important to remember that Myanmar is a Buddhist country that is quite conservative when it comes to clothing.
This is especially true when visiting temples. Men should also dress respectfully by wearing long pants that cover the knees. Women should pack clothing that will cover their shoulders, chests, and knees. Balancing modesty with the heat may be difficult, but dressing conservatively will show respect for local norms. Rainy season is from May through October, so bring an umbrella or raincoat if visiting during those months.
Traveling with electronics can be difficult, as powering up and keeping your electronics safe will be important considerations. Although rural areas may not have an electric supply for you to use, most city hotels and guest houses will have a place for you to power up.
Do remember to bring a plug adapter for your electronics. Most sockets will use the typical European shape (two rectangular-shaped holes horizontal to each other) and carry 220-240 volts. Remember that plug adapters do not change the voltage.
The kyat (pronounced ‘chat’) is the official currency of Myanmar, abbreviated as ‘K‘ or ‘MMK’ and usually placed before the numerical value (i.e. K500). Kyat comes in notes (no coins) of value K50, K100, K200, K500, K1000, K5000 and K10,000.
The US dollar, however, is widely used as an alternative currency, particularly for larger purchases: foreigners are sometimes expected to pay in dollars for hotels, high-end restaurants, flights and access to historical sites. If payment is made in kyat for these transactions, it may sometimes be at a worse rate. When paying in dollars, change will often be given in kyat. Smaller purchases, such as taxi rides, buses and cheaper to mid-range meals are quoted and are almost always paid for in kyat.
Tipping is not customary in Myanmar, but a small contribution may be expected for hotel staff and guides. The country does have a custom of ‘tea money’, which is given for volunteered services, such as a local showing you around a market or gaining you entrance to a locked temple. These contributions should usually be around K200 to K500.
Our suggestions for daily tipping are the following:
Drivers: $ 2.00 to $ 5.00
Tour Guide: $ 10.00 to $ 20.00
House Keepers: $ 2.00
Porters: $ 2.00