Based on our own experiences, here is a list of general tips that we thought might be useful for travellers to Myanmar…
A valid tourist visa is required. In Singapore, the visa processing duration is half day, i.e. same day collection. You will need to apply online for a queue number for the date that you want (take note that the calendar opens only about one week in advance). Complete the relevant forms that they email to you, get ready 2 recent photos, prepare photocopies of your passport and identification card, and appear on the date of appointment. The total cost for the visa is SGD$45 (SGD$35 for the visa and SGD$10 for administrative fee).
Crisp new US dollar notes are required in Myanmar. Shop owners, money changers, railway ticket masters etc. will not accept any US notes that are slightly torn, bent, folded or marked/stained in any way.
The local currency, kyat (pronounced as ‘chat’) is used for majority of transactions – shopping at local markets, eating at local shops, eating at local restaurants, renting of bicycles, hiring of guides, landry service etc. During our planning, we had read that the US dollar is main currency for transactions, but our experience said otherwise. The US dollar was only used for hotel room payment, train/plane/boat tickets, and one meal at a high-end restaurant. That being said, if you run out of local currency, you can enquire shopkeepers if they would accept US dollar. The rate is not as good, of course. Continue reading Traveller tips for Myanmar→
We started our 2 weeks Myanmar adventure at Yangon. It was not difficult to decide which city to enter and depart from, since the airlines that fly to Myanmar from Singapore mostly covers Yangon only.
When we were planning our holidays, we were torn between Myanmar and Australia (self-drive holiday). Then we decided that since Myanmar had just opened up her doors to tourism, it would be a great opportunity to visit before she inevitably change and modernise. Given another 10 years time, we are also pretty sure we will still be game enough to do a self-drive tour of Australia!
Arrival in Yangon
Jetstar flight from Singapore Changi Airport to Yangon International Airport (0910/1040 local time, duration of 3 hr) – SGD$285/pax
Changed US$500 to local currency, Kyat (pronounced as ‘chat’) at a rate of US$1 = 968K
There were a few money changers at the luggage collection area. All had the same exchange rate.
We were previously informed that the exchange rate at the airport is the best. But during our stay in Yangon, we found a better rate (US$1 = 978K) at a money changer in Bogyoke Aung San Market.
Took a taxi from the airport to Chinatown where we already had made reservations with a hotel – US$10
Taxis in Myanmar do not operate by the meter, so it is always necessary to agree on the price before boarding the taxi.
Collected a map from the lady at the taxi service counter as well.
Chit Sayar Hotel
For the standard of rooms, hotels in Myanmar are way too expensive. This is due to the booming number in tourists and lack of accommodations country-wide.
Checked in at Chit Sayar Hotel (646,Mahabandoola Road (between 21st & 22nd Streets),Latha Township). We had previously booked this from Agoda.
Standard double room (incl. breakfast) – US$62/night
Operated by a Chinese boss. Some of the staff were also proficient in Mandarin, and communicated confidently (and eagerly) with guests. We also observed quite a number of Mandarin speaking guests at the hotel during our 2 nights stay.
A restaurant operates on the ground floor, where the hotel lobby is situated. The food smell in the lobby was slightly overpowering.
Room was like what was shown on the Agoda website. Note: the windows do not open to the streets. Instead, they open up to the common corridor of the building. Bathroom was very basic, and YM’s sensitive nose detected rust smell from the tap water. Hence we purchased more bottled water for brushing of teeth (we kept up this habit throughout our trip).
Walking tour of Downtown Yangon
The Downtown area follows a Victorian grid-like system. It was relatively easy to navigate. We wanted to walk straight down the Mahabandoola Road that will lead us to the Sule Pagoda. But we decided to be a bit adventurous and turned into the side streets lining the Mahabandoola Road. The atmosphere in these streets were mostly sizzling, with hawkers selling their wares, people carrying their goods and going about their daily activities, and with upbeat music blaring from public loudspeakers. As we walked on, we made our way to the Sule Pagoda, and from there continued on to the City Hall and Old High Court Building.
So we were lazing at the cafe of the magnificent Strand Hotel in Yangon on a lazy afternoon. CL with his latte, me with my tea. “What shall we name our travel blog?” I’ve brought up this brilliant plan (I have this THING about brilliant plans, CL understands) a couple of days earlier for us to share our adventures with people who might be interested, and also for us to record our travels (age has caught up and I’ve began to forget highlights of our previous trips).
“of flies and lizards”, CL replied in his usual curt manner. We both knew the name was awesome! To the point. And indeed, flies and lizards had, and will continue to plague us.
Travelling the world to see the flies and lizards … and much more!