Myanmar (Burma) — 10 Travel Tips for visiting Myanmar (Burma)

My top 10 travel tips for travelling to Myanmar (Burma) — well, thirteen tips

1. Do you need a visa?

It depends on your home country. As I am from the UK, I required a visa. However, check, as visa rules are constantly changing.

2. Have a surge protector for electronic gear

If you have electrical gear (phone, camera etc.) that requires charging or plugging in, use a surge protector. Electricity in Myanmar (Burma) was random, and power outages seemed common. Due to the outages, there are spikes in the current/voltage, and these can cause damage.

Photo by Author — a surge protector in Myanmar (Burma)
Photo by Author — a surge protector in Myanmar (Burma)

3. Take crisp US dollars bills

The local currency is the kyat, but some places will only take US dollar bills, so make sure you take a supply with you. The dollar bills must be crisp and wrinkle-free. The slightest hint of a blemish on the bill, and it won’t be accepted. Two handy tips: If you are staying somewhere with an iron, you may want to try ironing any bills that people won’t take. Second, I found that if someone didn’t take a bill, they would often accept it if I put it back in my wallet and then presented it again. Go figure!

4. Don’t accept damaged or torn US dollar bills in your change

Shops and hotels will try to give tourists damaged or torn US dollar bills they have accidentally accepted. They know that no local will take them. Don’t accept the bills, as you will be stuck with them.

5. Wear shoes that are easy to take off and put on

If you intend to visit local temples and shrines where you will have to take your shoes off, make sure you are wearing shoes that are easy to get on and off. Another thing to consider is taking a bag to put your shoes in, as, at some temples and shrines, you may leave by a different entrance to the one you entered.

6. Motorbikes

Watch out for them, particularly when crossing the road, as they will come at you from all directions. Don’t assume motorbikes will move in the same direction as cars. Motorbikes will often nip up the inside of traffic and catch you unawares as you are standing by the edge of the road waiting to cross. Moreover, don’t assume they will obey the traffic lights.

Photo by Author — the motorbikes of Myanmar
Photo by Author — the motorbikes of Myanmar

7. The steering wheel is on the wrong side

Why? I have no idea. I asked, and yet no one seemed to have an answer. In Myanmar (Burma), they drive on the right-hand side of the road. But, their steering wheels are also on the right; drivers have limited visibility. This means that they may not see you as you try to cross the road. Be careful. The import of righthand drive cars is now banned. Some coaches/buses have steering wheels on the right and passengers exiting into traffic, so if you use a local coach/bus, be careful.

8. Foreigners can't drive

When I visited, foreigners were not allowed to drive, so forget trying to hire a car.

9. No socks

Some places will insist that you take your shoes and socks off as you enter. Get used to it. Accept your feet will be killing you at the end of the day. Also, watch out for hot marble in temples and shrines, as it can burn your feet.

Photo by Author — no socks or shoes — Myanmar
Photo by Author — no socks or shoes — Myanmar

10. Get the taxi price before you get in — and haggle

Common sense while travelling. Taxis were not metered in Myanmar (Burma). Get the cost before the journey starts. Also, some taxis charge by time and not distance and may charge for an hour on a ten-minute journey.

11. Traffic is bad in Yangon (Rangoon)

Numerous jams and lots of traffic lights. Plan ahead. A journey that you think will take 20 minutes can often take 40 or more.

12. Count down at traffic lights

These are great. But, don’t assume the traffic will stop at 0. Also, watch out for motorbikes ignoring the traffic lights.

13. Prepare to be scanned as you go in and out of hotels and some public buildings

This was odd. I was scanned as I entered some buildings, and even when I triggered the alarm, I wasn’t searched. In some places, I didn’t set off the alarm, despite having a phone in my pocket.

OK, so that was 13 tips. I can’t count! It started as 15 tips.

I hope you found the above useful, and they are based on my trips to Myanmar (Burma) in 2015 and 2018.