Mini Travel Guide: Myanmar

Looking for a travel guide to Myanmar or Burma? Click through for Myanmar travel tips form a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel Burma cheaply, safely, and respectfully!
Looking for a travel guide to Myanmar or Burma? They’re the same place and though it’s a gorgeous country, it’s not widely traveled. Today, I brought in a local to share her best Myanmar travel tips – where to go, what to do, and how to travel Burma safely, cheaply, and respectfully!

Hi, I’m Laura! I’ve been working with Burmese refugees in Thailand for two  years and will be making the move to Burma soon.
Every time I’ve hopped over the border to neighboring Myanmar, I’m rewarded through encounters with kind-hearted people and a chance to enjoy a slower pace of life.
Yes, things can be a bit haphazard and modern amenities are lacking, but people care for one another and are happy to see tourists.
Looking for a travel guide to Myanmar or Burma? Click through for Myanmar travel tips form a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel Burma cheaply, safely, and respectfully!

Must go in Myanmar

Shwedagon pagoda

It is said that inside the golden stupor are hairs from Buddha himself! It’s the most famous pagoda in the country.  When you visit it, you’ll see real Burmese life happening all around you – families catching up or couples meeting for a slow walk and lingering conversation (public displays of affection are a no-no)!

Bagan

Bagan is a stunning array of temples, as far as the eye can see. It’s a magical place that makes you feel as if you have found a forgotten kingdom.
Climb to the top of one of the bigger pagodas at sunrise or take a balloon ride at sunset to truly feel the magic of this place! Top tip: the horse drawn carriage drivers know the best spots to visit, so let them guide you!

Lake Inle

Take a boat out on Lake Inle to see traditional fishermen, floating gardens, and riverside life. You can easily spend a whole day stopping at villages along the banks of this giant lake.
Looking for a travel guide to Myanmar or Burma? Click through for Myanmar travel tips form a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel Burma cheaply, safely, and respectfully!

Must do in Myanmar

Visit a market

Myanmar’s markets are amazing! You’ll find beautiful antiques, colorful spices, and food you’ve never seen before. Every time I go, I see a new find of vegetable!
Buy spices, tea, traditional longyis (skirts) or wooden umbrellas to take home as souvenirs. The tacky I ‘heart’ country t-shirts and key rings are not yet popular, so you can buy some truly unique gifts here.

Talk to Myanmar locals

Whether wandering around downtown Yangon or sitting in a teashop, in Mandalay you will likely be approached by someone wanting to practice their English. Due to former British occupation you will find many older people with great English (and British accents to match!).

Chatting with people is a great way to discovering what life was like under military rule and how they are affected the recent changes in their country.

Looking for a travel guide to Myanmar or Burma? Click through for Myanmar travel tips form a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel Burma cheaply, safely, and respectfully!

Must eat in Myanmar

Tea leaf salad 

Myanmar has a surprising array of salads – tomato, pennyworth, ginger, cucumber – but the most famous one is Tea leaf salad (La-phet–toe). This dish is made from pickled tea leaves, roasted peanuts, broad beans and sesame seeds, garlic, tomato and sometimes small dried shrimps.
Eaten as a snack or main meal, it’s delicious and available all day long (but don’t forget tea leaves have caffeine so don’t eat it for dinner if you want to sleep early!)

Breakfast and tea

Myanmar is famous for its teashops with small stools, lighters hanging from the ceiling and over sweetened tasty drink concoctions. Some are open all day, but I have always found the best food to be served in the early morning and the most popular places run out by 10am.

Try a cup of milk tea, naan bread and chickpea curry or opt for the more traditional Mohingha soup, a noodle soup dish that is popular for breakfast. If there is no English menu just take a look at the other customers and point, or order one of everything, tea shops are cheap and delicious!

Looking for a travel guide to Myanmar or Burma? Click through for Myanmar travel tips form a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel Burma cheaply, safely, and respectfully!

Cultural tips for travel in Myanmar

Be aware that tourism is still new to people so don’t be shocked if they stare, just smile as they will always return an even bigger smile. Conservative and breathable clothing is advised.
Traditionally, Burmese women cover their shoulders and knees so I wouldn’t recommend short skirts or vest tops. Longyis (traditional Burmese skirts) are a great way of staying cool whilst covering up.

On the whole, Burmese people are very welcoming and open people. They rarely try to rip you off and will go out of their way to help you. Haggling in markets is usually done for fun, but remember the average monthly wage is about $50 so haggling over the odd dollar is bad etiquette.

Looking for a travel guide to Myanmar or Burma? Click through for Myanmar travel tips form a local - what to do, where to go, and how to travel Burma cheaply, safely, and respectfully!

Cheap travel tips for Myanmar

Myanmar is a very cheap country (except when it comes to hotels) – I would recommend booking accommodation before you go so you are not left stranded and have to pay for expensive rooms.
Internal flights are expensive and most of the airlines are tainted with ties to the former military government. Buses are fast and cheap but their air conditioning is usually very cold so take a jacket or prepare to freeze!
Thanks so much for sharing, Laura!  Have any of you guys been to Myanmar? Any Myanmar travel tips to share?
Photos by Capturing the human heart. // Julien de Salaberry // Isaiah Rustad // Julian Hanslmaier // Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash

8 Comments

Anonymous

These are all awesome suggestions, and all of these places are wonderful and important to visit…but they've also been nicknamed "the big three" because they are the places where everyone goes…which is great, but people tend to forget about all the other wonderful places they can visit. The beaches are gorgeous, peaceful and not overly crowded. My friend cycled through the country and fell in love with the small towns south of Yangon. Visiting the Golden Rock in Kyaiktiyo was one of my favorite parts of my trip…partly because it is much more of a destination for Burmese, Thai and other SE Asian tourists because it is an important Buddhist holy place. The other thing that's important to remember while traveling in Myanmar is to, as much as possible, travel responsibly and with knowledge about how your presence there is impacting the country, and who you are supporting. Burma is more "open" now but real change happens over time. Some amazing people I knew in Chiang Mai have an organization called Tourism Transparency to help future travelers visit Myanmar responsibly – http://www.tourismtransparency.org/

Reply
Laura Gibbs

Yes Tourism Transparency is a great org.!
And there are lots of beautiful places to visit, but for first timers I would recommend the above (seasoned travellers going off the beaten track prepare for more bumpy and old buses, less aircon and some food poisoning but you will be rewarded with stunning scenery and wonderful people).

Reply
Kate the Unicorn Wrangler

This is the second or third time I've seen 'the buses are very cold so be prepared with a jacket so you don't freeze!'

I love the advice, because it's just the absolute LAST thing I ever would think of!

Reply
Monica McCarthy

Burma is one of my favorite places I've ever been to, specifically Bagan and Inle Lake. (I didn't personally care for Mandalay but I'm sure the food poisoning had something to do with it!) The people were so lovely and open. I travelled within the country via bus as to avoid supporting the flights, which as stated in the article, have ties to the military government. Same goes for most of the hotels, so I opted to stay in the guest houses- not glamorous but in Inle the breakfasts were delicious! Be forewarned, the bus rides can be brutal–> http://www.showandtellstories.com/2012/04/19/the-best-of-times-the-worst-of-times-a-bus-ride-in-myanmar/

Reply
Girliest Nerd

I went in 2005. This is a great guide! I would add that I was advised not to discuss politics with locals to avoid getting them into any trouble. Not sure if that still holds but it's probably for the best.

Monica, the bus ride story was great! I was travelling alone on the bus and there was also a man from China and a couple from Israel. I guess they tend to put the foreigners in the back (or they did when I went). All was OK until it started to rain and then I was literally sitting in the only seat with a leaky window. I mean the rain was actually pelting me in the head and forming a small river from the window down to the seat. I had to move to a broken seat in the very back of the bus that was almost leaning forward. Because of that and the really poor roads I got very, very sick – like vomiting for hours sick. People were so kind to me though and I ended up being "allowed" to sit right at the front of the bus for the duration. I liked seeing how they have two people driving the bus, one drives and the other navigates and keeps the driver awake. It was overnight so it was clearly for safety. We don't even have that here!

The people of Myanmar were so lovely. They are not jaded about tourists because it's still a hidden gem – really one of the last places like it. Everyone should go if they get the chance. Just be smart about not giving money to the junta and try to directly support the small businesses there.

Also, Aung San Suu Kyi is my hero forever. An amazing woman that everyone should know about 🙂

Reply
Laura Gibbs

Oh, that sounds like a Burma bus!!
And the people are so lovely! You can start to talk to them more now about their views and the reforms, just use a little restraint – don't publicly condemn the Government as who knows what problems you will bring to the locals, but most local people are still quite unaware of the full extent of change happening, so as before: talk to them and show them pictures or give them newspapers from abroad (English levels are quite high).
I would have loved to have visited in 2005 and can't wait to experience it in 5 years time and see the changes! There is some great NGO work happening now!!

Reply

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