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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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!
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.
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?