25 things to know before visiting Myanmar (Burma)

Myanmar is a fascinating country filled with a rich culture, long-standing religious traditions, and a diverse natural landscape.

Since Myanmar re-opened its borders to foreigners, tourists have been flocking north of Thailand to experience something a little different.

And Myanmar definitely delivers.

That's why we've compiled a list of the things you need to know before visiting Myanmar.

Myanmar's famous one leg fisherman

1. There's a strict visa process

Most tourists heading to Myanmar will need to apply for a tourist visa. Visas take 3 days to process and you'll need to provide various personal background information to the embassy. It is possible to pay more for a same-day visa in Bangkok.

Tourist visas last 28 days from arrival. You can view eligibility, visa requirements and restrictions here.

2. Locals are very friendly to foreigners

Burmese people are extremely welcoming and friendly when it comes to tourists. Locals will go out of their way to help you and expect nothing in return. At first, your scam sense might trigger, but more often than not they are simply curious and wanting to help.

3. You'll see a lot of painted faces

The paint is actually a traditional Burmese cosmetic called Thanaka and is used mostly by women and children for beauty purposes.

myanmar paint on faces

4. Let's chat about Kyat

Myanmar’s currency is called Kyat, but it’s pronounced “chat”. While the US dollar can be used in the country, it is no longer as sought after, and almost everything can be paid for with local Kyat. However, Kyat cannot be bought or sold outside of the country, so you’ll need to use the ATMs or exchange at the airport when you arrive.

5. The wifi sucks

Digital nomads and remote workers in Myanmar might struggle outside of the capital, Yangon. While wifi is generally available throughout Myanmar, the strength is often weak, which makes for a challenge if you have a lot of work to get done.

6. Explore with electric scooters

In tourist towns like Bagan, foreigners aren't allowed to rent motorbikes. Instead, we're left with electric scooters. While these are better for the environment, something tells me the government is more interested in keeping tourists from wandering too far.

7. Temple fatigue is normal

Myanmar has a lot of temples. Bagan alone has 10,000 temples within a 40 square-mile radius. That's a whole lot of temples. While this is one of the most beautiful places on earth, it's wise to pace yourself as you may feel temple-fatigue kick in.

vegan traveler in bagan, myanmar

8. You will feel like a celebrity at times

Sometimes it can feel like you're being followed by the paparazzi in Myanmar. Locals are so curious and interested, and everyone wants a photo. Some will ask politely, but if their English is great, they'll likely just follow snapping photos of you.

9. The Government keeps track of your movement

When traveling around Myanmar you'll likely experience numerous ID checks, so keep your passport handy.

10. The Rohingya conflict

There is ongoing tension between the Buddhist majority and Muslim minorities which has resulted in a pretty serious humanitarian crisis in Myanmar. While you're unlikely to be personally affected, it's important to read up on the Rohingya crisis to understand the political position the country is in.

11. You'll be served a lot of peanuts

Peanuts are everywhere in Myanmar. Unfortunately, peanut butter isn't a thing in Myanmar, but you won't go long without finding peanuts on your plate.

A lot of restaurants serve bowls of peanuts as free starters, which is a nice touch.

Myanmar peanuts and beer

12. The local beer is good

The country's most popular drink is Myanmar beer - and it's quite good!

13. Vegans remember the word "THATALO"

Meat is common in Myanmar. However, the Burmese word: "Thatalo" translates to "no living things" and can save a lot of hassle when ordering food.

14. The west coast is an undiscovered paradise

While you may not think of Myanmar as a tropical beach destination, the western coast offers exactly that. Areas like Ngapali beach are relatively undiscovered and accommodation tends to be on the higher end.

Businesses close down here during monsoon season (May to October).

beautiful beaches in myanmar

15. You'll see a lot of men wearing skirts

While it may seem different to you at first, it's normal for both women and men to wear a sheet cloth called a Longyi, around their waists.

16. A lot of locals have stained red teeth

You'll likely notice the number of locals with stained red teeth and similarly red stains on the floor. This is from chewing and spitting out Betel quids, which gives a person a small buzz, but is addictive and is said to cause cancer.

Despite that, it's extremely common in Myanmar, especially with men.

17. Take off your shoes

As in a lot of Buddhist countries, removing your shoes before entering a home or religious building is a show of respect.

18. Burmese Avocado salads are incredible

If you like avocados, don't miss Burmese avo salads.

19. Get off-the-beaten-track easily

Myanmar is way behind other Southeast Asian countries when it comes to tourist numbers, meaning its a lot easier to get away from the crowds. Whether its a hike to a mountain monastery or getting lost in Mandalay, Myanmar has a completely unique feel.

zwegabin sunrise myanmar
Sunrise at Zwegabin Mountain, Myanmar.

20. "Hello" in Burmese is the best

Burmese for hello is "Mingalaba", pronounced Ming-ga-la-ba. And it's one of my favorite greetings of all time.

21. Caged "luck birds" is a cruel trade

The idea behind the caged birds, often found close to temples is that the person who pays and sets them free receives good karma. However, catch and release trades like this do raise ethical concerns for the birds captured.

22. you can Sleep in a boom box

A hostel in Inle Lake is designed as a giant boom box. The hostel named Song of Travel was my favorite hostel in Myanmar and it's a must-stay when you're in Inle.

song of travel boom box hostel

23. Dress appropriately at religious sites

The Burmese are quite conservative and even more so when it comes to their temples. Both men and women are required to cover up before entering religious areas. Larger sites are often monitored with longyis for rent nearby should you forget.

24. Accommodation is more expensive than neighboring countries

If you've traveled around Southeast Asia, you're probably used to booking cheap rooms. But in Myanmar, you'll need to shift your expectations as accommodation can be quite high. Bartering isn't as common here, either, so I recommend booking ahead of time via bookings.com to secure a deal.

25. Buses are the most common form of transportation

There are many ways to get around Myanmar, however, buses are the most affordable and accessible means of transportation.

Just remember to give yourself more time than you need. A 12-hour bus ride can easily turn into 20 hours in Myanmar - trust me.

No one likes to think about it, but traveling in countries like Myanmar can have risks. By covering yourself with the right travel insurance, you can enjoy the world without worries.

I recommend World Nomads as my favorite travel insurance provider.


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