Our guide to Burma (Myanmar)
Burma otherwise known as Myanmar is a unique and beautiful country which has a very special character different to its neighboring more developed countries due to the fact that it has been cut off from the west for so long. With the feeling that you have stepped back in time, there is so much to enjoy here including the beauty of the varying landscapes, the richness of the culture and the warm welcome of the people.
Should I call the country Myanmar or Burma?
Myanmar is the new name for Burma, as from 1989 when the ruling military junta changed it to reflect the country’s historical name before British Rule. The change in the country’s name came a year after thousands were killed in the suppression of a popular uprising. Burma’s democracy movement prefers the name Burma as they don’t recognise the military regime as legitimate. Internationally both names are recognised, and since the opening up of the country politically the linguistic lines have blurred on the county’s name. Today Myanmar and Burma are used widely.
When is the best time to visit?
The best time to visit Burma is from November - March when the temperatures will be pleasantly warm in the day and crisp at night, especially in the higher areas of the country like Inle Lake Lake. This time of year also sees less rain than other periods making it perfect for sightseeing. Late April through May are the hottest months with the monsoon season lasting from May to September. October is a good time to visit as there should be less traveling at this time of year but it is in the shoulder season so some rain should be expected.
How do you get into Burma?
The route with the most access is through Yangon (formerly Rangoon) using a transfer hub such as Bangkok, Singapore or Dubai.
Is it hard to get a visa for Burma?
In a bid to increase the number of guests visiting Burma, the government has made the visa process even easier than before with an online visa being offered. The visa normally takes about 5 working days to come through but we would always suggest that you leave plenty of time before travel to obtain one.
So where is everything in Burma?All the highlights in Burma are located within easy distance but the only way to each each area is to fly either with Air Bagan or Yangon Airways, which are the main airlines in the country. Each flight is roughly about an hour and follows the same route making stops at Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Heho (Inle Lake) and Ngapli Beach. As such it is important to order your trip in the most efficient way so that you can take direct flights between each stop.
What are the main highlights of Burma?
One of the most iconic views of Burma is the temple covered plains which stretch as far as the eye can see with over 2000 temples in Bagan. Then there is Inle Lake which is located 900 meters above sea level in the Shan state. The lake is known for its beautiful setting, villages on stilts and unique one legged rowing technique of the lake’s fishermen. Yangon (Rangoon) is also a must visit destination being the former capital until 2005 there is a huge about of culture here including the stunning remnants of the colonial period in the form of crumbling architecture and of course the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda. If there is time, then a trip to Mandalay as one of the main religious centers for monastical learning and Ngapali Beach on the west coast is a lovely area to end a trip with largely untouched white sand beaches. For those who have even more time and like to travel at a slower pace take a live aboard boat trip along the Ayeyarwaddy River (Irrawaddy River) from Bagan to Mandalay or vice versa.
Do I have to book my trip hugely far in advance?
When Burma first properly opened up to the west for tourism the influx of foreign visitors and limited numbers of hotel rooms meant that unless you booked your trip roughly a year in advance it would be impossible to find availability. However with the development of the tourism industry and increase in hotels this is no longer the case but for the high season from November - March you should still look to book your visit at least 6 months in advance to make sure you get the hotels that you want!
What currency do I need in Burma?
US Dollars are widely accepted in Burma and are the preferred method of payment in all hotels. You must bring pristine crisp notes that have not been folded or torn and they must have been issued recently (in the last couple of years). The local Burmese currency of Kyat is also used and is preferred by street vendors for food and souvenirs. ATMs were introduced into the country in 2012 so it is now possible to take out money in the county but we would suggest that you do take all the money that you need during your stay in the country as these are unreliable. At some larger hotels, there is the possibility of using a credit card to pay but these machines use the internet which is shaky at times so again not to be relied on!
Luxury hotels in Burma
There is a good range of five star hotels in Burma which offer clean and comfortable accommodation and charming service. However in comparison to other Asian countries the level of luxury and service of 5 star hotels in Burma measure to about 3-4 star hotels in other Asian countries. The top properties in Burma have to be The Governor’s Residence and Inle Princess Resort.
We always 100% tailor our itineraries but we have included a number on our website to give you an idea on the type of trips that are able to create for you. They all include the highlights of Yangon, Bagan and Inle Lake whilst for those who have longer to spare and love the beach we would suggest including Ngapali Beach. For those who like the slower pace in life enjoy a live aboard cruise up the Ayeyarwaddy River to see the country from a whole new angle.
Who should travel to Burma?
Burma is a fantastic destination for couples and families (with older children) alike. For families we would suggest that guests travel with children over the age of 10 as the trips are normally very busy with early starts for all internal flights which can make the trips tiring for younger guests. In each destination, your guide will show you the highlights of the region with the chance to get off the beaten track with visits to monasteries to see school lessons taking places, cycle rides and horse and cart rides through the temples of Bagan and trips along the river in Mandalay to keep younger guests entertained. Burma is also a fantastic destination for couples with a beautiful romantic atmosphere and for honeymooners with the sense of adventure it is a great destination but the level of luxury does not live up to other areas in Asia if that is what you are most after.
Combinations with other countries
Burma/Myanmar is a brilliant country to twin with somewhere relaxing like the beach in Thailand or Langkawi in Malaysia which are easy to reach with short connecting flights. After jam-packed culturally rich itineraries some time to completely relax with a high level of luxury is a lovely way to end the trip.