As a Buddhist country, respect for temples and all that implies are important in Myanmar. All who enters a monastery ground or pagoda must remove their shoes and socks. When planning to visit pagodas and monasteries, it is a good idea to have easily removable footwear (such as flip-flops) to facilitate this custom. Footwear can be left at designated places, normally free of charge; however, it is customary for people to drop in any cash amount they can to the donation box when picking up their footwear.
Women are restricted from entering in some religious areas. When going to pagodas or monasteries, they should not wear shorts (slacks/trousers are acceptable) or revealing clothing (no string vests or halter tops, miniskirts, tight sweaters, etc.). Although many do not strictly enforce this, it is best to respect the local customs and values while being a guest in the country to avoid any incidents. Also, women are not allowed to touch a monk. If introduced to a monk, a bow of the head instead of a handshake is appropriate – for both men and women. When speaking to Buddhist monks or nuns, do not be direct or touch them.
Travel in Myanmar can be tricky as it is primarily a cash system. Only international hotels in Myanmar and very few up-scale restaurants take credit or debit card payments. Although exchange rates for other currencies, such as UK Pounds (£) or Euros (€), are posted, only US Dollars (US$) is widely accepted. Be sure to bring crisp new US dollar notes when you are coming into Myanmar, the higher the note, the better -- US$100 notes will give you better rate than the lower denominations. Any notes with folds in the middle, worn or even small stain or discolorations are not accepted at most sites including at the international hotels or the banks. There are a few ATMs in Yangon and other major cities where you can withdraw cash using international credit cards, the transaction charges are 5,000 kyats (about $5-$6) per withdrawal. The import and export of the Myanmar Kyat is forbidden and the export of foreign currency is limited to the amount declared upon entry.
Airport transfer from Yangon Mingalardon Airport to town can easily be arranged when you arrived at the airport. The airport transfer taxi desk charges fixed price per trip into town. Also at the taxi stand outside, fares are posted on LED board. The fares range from 3,000 Kyats or US$3 per trip to 7,000 Kyats or US$7 to Su Le Pagoda (downtown Yangon, near Trader’s hotel). Taxis are plentiful in Yangon, one can easily flag down for a taxi from anywhere in town. All taxis have a red number-plate as opposed to black plates for private cars. Most trips are about 2,000 – 5,000 kyats (US$2 to US$ 5), an hourly rate can be negotiated at 5,000 kyats (a little over US$5) per hour and daily rate can be negotiated for about US$50. You may have to ask hotel staff to arrange for taxis in other cities and towns. In Mandalay, getting a taxi can be a difficult mission. Most taxis are private cars parked in front of hotels and fares are very expensive compared to Yangon. Taxis in Nay Pyi Taw are also very expensive due to limited supply. Domestic flights can be purchased when you arrived in Yangon through travel agents, however, you will need to pay cash and pick up your airplane tickets from the agents. Domestic airlines also have offices in town where you can purchase your tickets and payment is only in cash. Some of the international airlines now take credit or debit cards payments for international flights.Travelling by trains in Myanmar can be unreliable; Yangon to Mandalay trip can take about 16 hours, assuming no delays. Most locals use coach services to travel and it can be done comfortably and cheaply. Yangon to Mandalay trip is 18,000 Kyats (about US$ 18-$19) for the night-buses which are often referred to as VIP or Express Bus. Tickets can be purchased in town from agents but be warned that the coach/bus station in both Yangon and Mandalay are quite far from the city and taxi rides to and from the bus stations into town can be almost the cost of the coach ride itself.
Getting online when you travel in Myanmar is not difficult; most hotels in Myanmar have WiFi and internet cafés are widely available in Yangon and most major cities. The prices vary depending on location, but roughly about 200 to 400 Kyats (US$ 0.20 to US$ 0.45) per hour. Most internet connections in Myanmar are slow. Restaurants and cafes in Yangon often offer free Wi-Fi to their customers and some of the shopping centres also provide free Wi-Fi inside. The cost of buying a sim-card for your mobile phone is very high in Myanmar compared to other countries in the region. There is a mobile phone and sim-card rental service at Yangon Airport which charges daily rental rate in addition to call charges. However, there are plenty of small shops/stalls with a home phone on a table (often with home-made sign of telephone icon hanging nearby) throughout most cities in Myanmar where you can make national calls cheaply. Most people in Myanmar make international phone calls at internet cafes using VOIP services.
A traditional Myanmar restaurant offers a range of cooked curry where you can point and order; rice is given free of charge and normally a free soup will also be included with your order of curries. The portions are not large but quite filling. Myanmar food outside Yangon, especially in the dry zone area such as Mandalay, can be quite oily as curries are covered with a layer of oil to keep from spoiling in hot climate. Chinese and Indian foods are also widely available in Yangon and most cities; one can easily get a plate of fried rice when travelling anywhere in Myanmar It is not safe to drink tap water in Myanmar. Sealed water bottles, “yay-thant” (meaning purified water), can be purchased almost everywhere and “yay-thant” ice is normally used in major restaurants in Yangon and touristy places. Draught and bottle local beers are widely available and they are of very good standards. A cold pint of Myanmar draught beer will set you back just US$ 0.60 can be purchased from ‘Beer Stations’ in most major cities. For those who want to make sure they get five a day, there are large supermarkets and small corner- shops that sell fresh fruits in most major cities. There are also plenty of streets vendors with baskets and carts selling fresh fruits. It is recommended to eat in reputable restaurants and if you want to be adventurous from smaller vendors, please stick to hot food, avoiding cold uncooked foods when travelling around Myanmar.
Government offices open at 09:30 till 16:30 Monday through Friday. Banking hours are from 10:00 to 14:00. Most private offices, including travel and tour business, open at 09:30 till 17:00, Monday through Friday and 09:30 till 12:00 on Saturday. Shopping centers and super markets open daily. The most famous Bogyoke (Scott’s) market is open daily from 10:00 to 16:00 except on Mondays and gazette Myanmar holidays. Banks open at 10:30 till 14:00, Monday through Friday.
Myanmar Time Zone is GMT + 6 hours 30 minutes. Voltage is 220V and use two pin plugs (often support both flat and rounds). A torch/flashlight is highly recommended in the event of power outages. Most medical doctors in Myanmar are able to communicate in English.
Inle Lake Shan Hills (TaungGyi) Heho
Ngwe Saung Beach
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