Myanmar has three seasons: summer, monsoon and winter.
Winter, between November and February, is considered the best time to visit with cooler climates across the country. Temperatures range from mild in Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Ngapali to cool in Shan State, which includes Inle Lake, Kalaw and Pindaya. You will have sunny days with virtually no rain in the winter season.
In March the temperatures start to climb leading up to the rainy season at the end of May. During this summer season, temperatures between March and May can be very hot reaching over 35C in Bagan and Mandalay.
The southwest monsoon starts at the end of May or beginning of June and lasts until the end of September. This season brings frequent and heavy downpours of rain, mainly in the afternoon and evening especially in Yangon, though the rest of the country is dryer. In the rainy season the weather is more humid and can make travelling less comfortable.
September, although still considered part of the monsoon, is a particularly nice time to visit as the subsiding rains turn the countryside a vibrant green. October straddles the monsoon and winter season with sporadic afternoon showers in Yangon and Inle.
Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Air Asia and Batik Air offer excellent connections to Yangon from several of the big cities in India. Yangon is the main international airport. Due to the notorious delays in domestic carriers, its best to provide a night in Yangon on your way out of the country. Most travellers make Yangon their first halt before they move on.
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS & MONEY
After years of development, Myanmar’s e-visa online system is now available. The cost is US $70 non-refundable and is paid during application submission online. The visa is valid for 28 days in the country, single-entry. Travelers must arrive in Myanmar within 90 days of issue date. An approval letter will be sent within five working days. This letter needs to be printed to allow boarding of your international flight. Upon arrival in Yangon, please go straight to the immigration counter. No passport photo needed. Applications can be submitted at http://evisa.moip.gov.mm/.
The currency in Myanmar is the kyat (pronounced 'chat') and comes in notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5,000 and 10,000 kyat. 1 US$ converts to 1350 kyat approximately. As in many countries of the area, the US dollar is the most useful currency to carry but we recommend for travelers to exchange some money into kyat. In many local restaurants and shops, kyat is the only method of payment allowed.
In the past, US dollars were widely accepted throughout the country. In an attempt to limit inflation, the Myanmar Government passed a law in November 2015 that no longer allows businesses to accept US dollars as payment. Hotels will also no longer be allowed to exchange currency. US dollars can still be exchanged in Myanmar, but only at approved money changers.
US dollars are the best currency for exchanging and the Euro is becoming more popular, especially in Yangon. The exchange rate in Yangon is generally better than upcountry and the larger the bill, the better the rate (100 US$ notes receive 2% more kyat compared to 50 US$ notes). Notes should be in pristine condition and not torn, dirty or washed as these will not be accepted in Myanmar. Sometimes, bills will be rejected just because they are creased.
The most convenient place to change money is upon arrival at the airport – these exchanges are operated by domestic banks, selling kyat at the daily exchange rate. Outside of the airports your guide can assist to direct you to any of these places- there are several in Scott Market and in the downtown vicinity- which are open daily from 09.30 – 20.00. All locations accept US dollars, euros and Singapore dollars.
Many restaurants, hotels and shops do accept credit cards (surcharge of 3-8%), but it is not recommended to rely on this service as the Internet often shuts down during the day making payment by card impossible.
MasterCard and Visa are accepted at ATMs throughout the country. ATMs available in Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake), Kalaw, and Thandwe (Ngapali). They are open 24 hours. You will be charged 5,000 kyats (US$ 3 approx) per transaction.
HEALTH & SAFETY IN MYANMAR
No vaccinations are required except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present. However visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio. Malaria is present in Myanmar and it is advisable to take precautions especially if traveling off the beaten track. Please consult with your usual doctor or a doctor specialized in tropical countries before traveling.
Medical facilities are rather limited in Myanmar (Yangon has the best facilities) and it is essential to take out a good medical insurance policy before traveling. Such an insurance should cover the cost of an evacuation flight out of Myanmar (most of the time to Bangkok) which are sometimes necessary.
Very few foreign tourists are victims of crime in Myanmar, possibly because the penalties for stealing from tourists are severe. There are, however, occasional reports of opportunistic theft such as of cameras left charging on ferries while the owners wander the decks.
Although the government is engaged in conflict with ethnic resistance groups in several parts of the country, if there’s any danger in an area then it will be closed to foreigners both for their protection and to keep the violence hidden away from international attention. No resistance groups have been known to target tourists. Myanmar is still far from being a place where freedom of speech can be taken for granted and violence is still regularly used against dissenters and protesters. It is still therefore wise to avoid raising political topics in conversation, as local people can be nervous about finding themselves in trouble; let them take the lead, and be discreet. Also think twice before taking photographs of bridges, police stations and anywhere else where doing so might be considered a security risk.
WHILE YOU ARE THERE
Time Difference | Myanmar is 6h 30 min ahead of GMT in winter and 5h 30min in summer: 1500H GMT = 2130H in Myanmar (winter). Myanmar is 1 hour ahead of India time: 1500 hrs in India = 1400 hrs in Myanmar.
Electricity | Myanmar uses 220V, and a mixture of flat 2-pin, round 2-pin or 3 pin plugs. Though many new hotels are fitted with universal plugs, it is still recommended to bring a universal adaptor. Power outages are quite common but most hotels have their own generator.
Water | It is not advisable to drink tap water. Bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. All hotels provide a complimentary bottle of local mineral water per person in the room. Ice cubes in drinks are generally OK in good standard hotels and restaurants, but it is best to avoid it at street stalls or in country areas. Some minor stomach problems are always possible when travelling in exotic countries. Bring a supply of your usual anti-diarrhoea medicine.
Shops | There are many fantastic local products in Myanmar that make excellent souvenirs and memories from your trip. Traditional crafts include lacquerware, especially in Bagan, woodcarvings, stone carvings, bronze work, rattan, silver jewellery, silk longyis and hand-woven textiles.
Internet | Internet access is still in its development stages and not reliable - the connections can be extremely slow at times so patience is required!. Most of the hotels now have Wi-Fi in cities like Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake) and Ngapali. You will also find small internet cafés in most destinations.
Mobile Communications | Some international SIM cards will work in Myanmar as Myanmar, including Thailand (AIS), Singapore (M1,Singtel, Starhub) and Vietnam (Viettel). Local SIM cards are available throughout the country from three network providers: Myanmar Post & Telecommunications, Ooredoo and Telenor. Typically these cost 1,500 kyat (USD $1.50) with top-up cards in allotments of 5,000 (USD $5.00) and 10,000 (USD $10.00). SIM cards are also available at Yangon Airport and Mandalay Airport.
Food | The staples of Burmese cuisine are rice, rice noodles, and curries. The main ingredient of the meal is usually rice and the curries tend to be not as spicy as those from India or Thailand. A clear soup called hingyo accompanies most meals and a fermented fish sauce or paste called ngapiye is usually served to add to the flavor. Chinese, Indian and European food is served in restaurants at most tourist places.