I never truly understood the quote by Rudyard Kipling: “This is Burma” until I spent some time in the country formerly known as Burma, Myanmar. Since recently opening its borders to other countries in 2010 its continuously changing and improving, so here our some tips that you’ll find helpful when exploring the country.
- Give yourself about a month in advance to get visas and your proper travel documents if your getting it via mail, or a quicker option is to obtain an E-Visa online.
- Get the appropriate shots and vaccines that you need before you go as you wouldn’t want to come home with an unwanted souvenir.
- Plan ahead with your money. Exchange what you think you’ll spend at the airport or have ample crisp 2006 or newer USDollars with you. ATM machines aren’t as frequent as other countries.
- Dress modestly, as Myanmar is a very conservative country. I’m talking no skin showing up from the knees and elbows. I would recommend buying a local longyi (a long skirt that wraps around and ties) to put on over your shorts/yoga pants when entering the temples and Buddhist monasteries.
- Wear slip on shoes or slippers when planning a day of temple hopping as no shoes or socks are allowed to be worn when inside the temples. Slip on shoes or slippers make the process much more convenient.
- Bring an umbrella or rain jacket with you when you are out and about (especially during monsoon season) as when it rains, it pours.
- Always negotiate cab fare before you get into the cab as most taxis don’t have meters and you don’t want to get ripped off. Also make sure the driver is sure on the destination he/she is taking you. Believe me, the language barrier is real and there has been some communication issues.
- Plan out your buses and trains ahead of time, especially for trains as they need at least 3 days in advance.
- As I mentioned above, plan transportation in advance but also plan on that transportation not following the time schedule. Traveling via land is like playing the game “The Oregon Trail”, you may break an axle, loose a wheel, or get the measles. It may take you a lot longer to get somewhere than anticipated.
- If you are traveling on an overnight bus WEAR WARM CLOTHES as they blast the A/C making it impossible to sleep in between shivers. For real the coldest I’ve ever been and I’ve lived in the middle of the Rocky Mountains!
- Don’t give money to begging children as it doesn’t teach them anything positive. The Myanmar people work hard and earn their living.
- Interact with the people! The people of Myanmar are friendly, eager, and want to learn about the world. Joe and I were approached by 2 teenage girls to attend there English class so the class could practice their English and learn about where we were from. We ended up staying all afternoon and it has been one of the best experiences of our lives.
- Finally, shit happens and remember life is the greatest journey of them all!