Tips for Visiting Myanmar
While other nations in Indochina have welcomed foreigners for some time, tourism is still a novelty in Myanmar. Even though the former country known as Burma is now welcoming outsiders to its doorstep, it remains relatively untouched by the Western world and significantly more conservative than its Asian counterparts. As such, there are a host of tips to consider when traveling to Myanmar:
Image: A temple in Bagan; Tom Godber, Flickr
Avoid the red puddles -- That’s not Kool-Aid on the sidewalk. The red juice that pools on the ground and down the sides of cars is made from chewing and spitting betel nuts much like chewing tobacco. Step aside!
Plan to visit in late fall through March -- This is the ideal time to travel to Myanmar because you can avoid both the monsoon season and the stifling heat of summer.
Prepare to disconnect -- Myanmar is lagging far behind when it comes to internet access and telecommunications. While some hotels do have WiFi, it is often quite slow and usually only available during certain times of the day. Honestly, it’s safe to assume your cell phone and laptop will be of little use to you here, so leave it behind and enjoy the reprieve.
Bring pristine bills -- Myanmar requires that you use crisp, uncreased, unmarked bills both to pay for goods and exchange for local kyat currency. Also, Myanmar does not accept bills that have been issued prior to 2009.
Bring different denominations -- Since there are almost no ATMs in the country, you’ll need to bring both higher denominations, since they yield a better exchange, as well as smaller bills for shopping and use in local establishments.
Don’t give anyone the “finger” -- It is considered rude to point at people or at religious objects. Instead, use an upturned palm to signal.
Don’t forget your meds -- Stock up on prescription medications and over-the-counter remedies since pharmacies are virtually non-existent. It’s also helpful to bring along basic first-aid necessities.
Extend both hands -- To avoid offending, always offer an item to a local person by placing it in both hands as an offering.
Lunchtime is best for street food -- Since refrigeration can be limited, it’s best to enjoy the delicious street curries at lunchtime while they are fresh, not at the dinner hour when the dishes have likely been sitting out in the heat.
Heads up -- Never touch a person on the head, or reach for something overtop of them.
Be photo-sensitive -- Photography of Buddha images is permitted unless there is a sign stating otherwise. Also, never take a photo of a person without getting their permission first. Finally, while there are certainly many fascinating images to capture and show to friends back home, resist the urge to see this world from behind the lens and, instead, interact with the locals and your surroundings.
Keep Quiet -- As people here are typically soft-spoken, loud behavior is unacceptable.
Kindness matters -- Finally, make very effort to be overly polite.
You can explore Myanmar on Travcoa’s Road to Mandalay luxury tour. The journey features luxury accommodations, world-class travel directors, and profound experiences. In fact, all of Travcoa’s journeys are so complete and well-thought-out that even gratuities are pre-paid, meaning you’ll never have to worry that the local staff is properly rewarded. This is just one of the many small-group Escorted Journeys, Private Tours and Custom Travel itineraries Travcoa offers in Asia and around the world. To learn more, call your travel agent or a Travcoa Journey Consultant at 1-800-992-2003, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.