Travel Guides ? Myanmar

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Myanmar

Myanmar, also known as Burma and fondly referred to as 'the Golden Land' because of the abundant use of gold leaf on its temples and buildings, is a country with a rich diversity of culture and people. Its impressive heritage spans over three millenia, reflected in some of Southeast Asia's most abundant and opulently adorned temples. The majesty of gold-plated Schwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, the astounding temple ruins of Bagan, and the mystique of Mandalay are just some of the unique drawcards that earn rave reviews and repeat visits from those that enter Myanmar's well guarded borders.

Myanmar is situated along the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea and its northern borders stretch all the way up to the Eastern Himalayan mountain range. It borders India to the west, China to the north, and Thailand and Laos to the east. One third of Burma's perimeter is uninterrupted and undeveloped coastline.

This beautifully scenic country has a rocky political past. It was a British Colony from 1885 until 1948, and for the past three decades has been ruled by a military dictatorship. Many argue that tourism can open the country up to the international community and therefore help bring democratic change to Burma. Visitors are certainly encouraged to stay at privately owned guesthouses and to avoid government-affiliated enterprises.

Burma has one of the lowest tourist crime rates in the world, so travellers can relax in the knowledge that their trip will be untroubled. It is only recently making an appearance on the international travel scene due to its internal politics, but Burma's unspoiled beaches, incredible historical attractions, snow-capped mountains and jungle wilderness are all fast becoming an irresistible draw for the avid traveller.

Climate

Burma has three seasons, the very hot summer from March to May, the wet and humid monsoon from May to October and the cold, dry winter from November to February. Typhoons occasionally occur in Burma between April and October. Average daily temperatures usually reach around 86F (30C) while the evenings are slightly cooler. During the winter season, average temperatures are around 77F (25C) with evenings dropping to 59F (15C). Coastal areas are usually much more humid, but slightly cooler overall.

Money

The official currency is the Kyat (MMK) pronounced 'Chat'. The best currency to travel on in Myanmar is the US Dollar. The Foreign Exchange Certificate (FEC) is a legal currency for visiting tourists that is usable in government shops and hotels. It is no longer a requirement to convert US$200 into FEC upon arrival in Myanmar. One FEC is equivalent to one US Dollar. It is recommended to use US Dollars. It is difficult to cash American Express travellers cheques in certain cities, such as Mandalay, and even when it is possible the commission can be as high as 10 percent. US Dollar notes will not be accepted if they are damaged or torn in any way, or have pen marks on them. There is a big difference between the official and unofficial exchange rates; street moneychangers offer favourable rates at hotels and Scott Market. As a rough guide, the black market rate is in the region of US$1 = MMK 1000 - a dramatic difference when compared to the official government rate. Very few major hotels, airlines, shops and restaurants accept credit cards and ATM cards can rarely, if ever, be used. It is advisable to carry cash. Banks are closed on weekends.

Passport Visa

All foreign passengers to Myanmar must hold confirmed return/onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. They will also require a tourist visa, which is valid for 28 days. Note that applications for visa extensions are not possible once in Myanmar; however, a fine of USD 3 per day overstayed, can be paid at Immigration upon departure. Foreign passengers are only allowed to travel to/from Myanmar by air or sea, and will be required to convert a minimum of USD 200 into local currency upon their arrival in the country. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Myanmar, if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry Requirements

  • US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of their arrival in Myanmar. A visa is required.
  • British citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of their arrival in Myanmar. A visa is required.
  • Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of their arrival in Myanmar. A visa is required.
  • Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of their arrival in Myanmar. A visa is required.
  • South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of their arrival in Myanmar. A visa is required.
  • Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of their arrival in Myanmar. A visa is required.
  • New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of their arrival in Myanmar. A visa is required.

Health

Malaria and dengue fever are common in Myanmar, especially during the rainy season (May to October). Cyclone Nargis, which hit in May 2008, has increased the risk of cholera so visitors should drink only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice drinks. A few cases of avian influenza (bird flu) have been reported, and although there is little risk for travellers, contact with live poultry should be avoided. There are basic medical facilities in Rangoon and Mandalay, for serious medical cases, evacuation is recommended. Payment in cash is usually required before any treatment. Comprehensive medical insurance is advised. Travellers from yellow fever infected areas require a vaccination certificate to enter Myanmar. MSG (monosodiumglutomate) is added liberally to many dishes and travellers sensitive to this ingredient should specify "no Ajinomoto" when ordering.

Embassy Consulates

  • Embassy of Myanmar, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 3329044.
  • Embassy of Myanmar, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 (0) 20 7499 4340.
  • Embassy of Myanmar, Ontario, Canada: +1 613 232 6434.
  • Embassy of Myanmar, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 (0)2 6273 3811, 6273 3751.
  • Embassy of Myanmar, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 341 2557/2556.

Foreign Embassies

  • United States Embassy, Yangon (Rangoon): +95 1 379 880/1.
  • British Embassy, Yangon (Rangoon): +95 1 370 863.
  • Canadian Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand (also responsible for Myanmar): +66 (0)2 636 0540.
  • Australian Embassy, Yangon (Rangoon): +95 1 251 810.
  • South African Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand (also responsible for Myanmar): +66 (0)2 250 9012/14.
  • New Zealand Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand (also responsible for Myanmar): +66 (0)2 254 2530.