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Burma/Myanmar essential info

Years of isolation have kept Burma an unspoiled gem, with creaking teak monasteries and temples of stone, gracefully ageing in a cycle-paced society

Travel in Burma vital stats

  • Capital of Burma: Naypyidaw (since 2005)
  • Population of Burma: 55 million
  • Languages in Burma: Burmese, around 100 tribal languages and dialects. Some English is spoken in towns and tourist sites.
  • Time in Burma: GMT+6.5
  • International dialling code for Burma: +95
  • Voltage in Burma: 230V 50Hz AC
  • Visas for Burma: Burmese visas are required by UK nationals.
  • Money in Burma: Kyat (MMK). US dollars cash are widely accepted (and usually required by hotels). They must be in pristine condition, without tears, pen-marks etc. There used to be a huge discrepancy – a factor of around 150 – between official exchange rates and actual exchange rates (what you got changing US$ for kyat with hotels and money-changers), but this changed at the end of 2011, and the two are now very similar. Higher denomination notes tend to be exchanged at a higher rate. Currency exchange counters have now opened at most of the airports.ATMs have now been introduced (early 2013) in major centres but credit/debit cards are still rarely accepted.
  • Burma travel advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • When to go to Burma

    Winter (November-February) is the dry season, when temperatures and rainfall are lowest; it’s also the prime tourist season. March-May is the most oppressively hot period, followed by the monsoon (late May or June to September or October).
    Festivals, many connected with Buddhist traditions and timed according to the lunar calendar, are generously scattered throughout the year and across Burma. Thingyan, the Water Festival (mid April), is the Burmese New Year, a three-day event involving much throwing of water.

    International airports

    Yangon International Airport (RGN) is 15km north of the city. Mandalay Airport (MDL) is 45km south of the city.  

    Getting around in Burma

    Domestic airlines serve Burma’s main tourist centres (Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Heho for Inle Lake). Relatively comfortable buses serve the main destinations, though road conditions are variable – potholes are common – and journey times can be long. Hiring a car and driver is a popular alternative, particularly for exploring countryside around cities or delving off the beaten track. Most railway services are operated by the government, though a few private services run; the most popular route is between Yangon and Mandalay. Ferries and boats ply the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) and Chindwin Rivers.

    Burma accommodation

    In Burma’s main tourist destinations, accommodation options range from budget guesthouses to upmarket hotels. Off the beaten track, options for luxury stays are more limited, though a few colonial heritage hotels are dotted around.

    Burma food & drink

    Burma’s cuisine shares influences with India, Thailand, China and Malaysia, but is truly distinctive. Fish, tamarind, chilli and dried shrimp are key ingredients; a typical breakfast dish is mohinga, a spicy fish noodle soup, and curries are common mainstays. Muslim Chinese restaurants are frequently found. Strawberries are superb around Pyin U Lwin, while Inle Lake is known for avocados. Myanmar Beer is a tasty brew - though their idea of 'draught' means served from a jerrycan. Sweet milk tea and Chinese tea are the most common drinks.

    Health & safety in Burma

    Burma is a very safe destination. Consult your GP or travel clinic for the latest advice on vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis. Avoid mosquito bites, especially during the day: dengue fever is a problem. Don’t drink untreated tap water.

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