Whitney Warstler has prepared a little packing and tips guide for travelers heading to Myanmar. See all packing list posts here.
Myanmar. It’s one of those places that seem so far away. So different. The kind of place I’d read about in National Geographic. I had to go there.
The things that make Myanmar irresistible to travelers like myself are also the things that make it difficult to travel to. There are virtually no overseas banking systems or online booking software. Being a lady that relies heavily on Google, Kayak, and hotels.com, Myanmar held its challenges.
I’m not certain if this piece is to be considered an advice article or a cautionary tale, but I’ll try my best to cover both.
Our Travel Plans:
I was planning on staying in Myanmar for 28 days. My travel partner and I both brought $1200 thinking that would be plenty of money, especially considering we were sharing accommodation. We ended up leaving early after 18 days. Some of the places we wanted to travel to were banning foreigners, and we ran out of cash much quicker than expected.
Things to Pack:
Baby wipes. Nothing’s worse than smearing on sunblock and bug spray over sweaty skin already slathered with sunblock and bug spray.
A mosquito net and tidbits to hang it – most hotels didn’t have them.
A few pairs of longer shorts (short shorts do not bode well for long, sticky, public transport trips).
Tampons or pads if you need them. I’m pretty sure tampons don’t exist in Myanmar. Pads were not particularly easy to find. (We always recommend the Diva Cup for places like this!)
Lots of memory cards for your camera and extra batteries
A headlamp. Streets are dark at night and if you want to ride a bike to see the sunrise in Bagan (trust me, you do) a headlamp will come in handy.
Layers. Even in the “cool” season, it’s pretty freakin hot, but for times like early morning bike rides and trips on Inle Lake it’s nice to have your arms and legs covered because it can be cool before the sunrises.
I always pack ziplock bags and find a use for them.
I always pack protein bars and at some point thank myself for it.
A variety of over the counter medicine would be advised or a mini first aid kit.
Little packets of tissues to use as toilet paper. You should have these if you travel anywhere in SE Asia.
I like to pack powdered sports drink to add to water. Myanmar is an extra sweaty place.
A sarong or towel. I like to pack a large, lightweight scarf and use it as both.
On a trek we were told we should buy some sweets to give to children in the villages we passed through.
A few other thoughts…
Internet and Computers:
As you’ve probably heard, Internet is hard there. I brought a laptop but found wifi unbearably slow and the computers at Internet cafes much faster. If you don’t need your laptop, don’t bring it.
Accommodation is tricky. Because there’s no online system or way to pay beforehand, people often don’t keep their bookings. This results in a lot of running around and checking back to see if a room is available. I generally paid between $25-50 a night for a room. They were on par to rooms that are $10-25 in Vietnam and Laos.
Myanmar is under equipped to handle the tourist boom it’s having. I talked to lots of people who couldn’t find any accommodation and had to pay to sleep on the floor of monasteries. They said there were 20-30 other people (unconditioned and sharing one toilet). One day I was ill and the only room I could find was over $100. I paid for it because I was sick, but it took a day out of my budget.
Money needs to be in perfect condition. No folds, tears, creases, ect. Get this before you leave home. It’s a freakin mission to try to do in Bangkok. Be careful where you exchange it. I had $90 stolen trying to exchange illegally on the streets. BUT I talked to two different people that had this happen to them as well. They both went to the police and both got their money back.
Getting laundry done wasn’t very cheap. If you’re going to need it done, I would estimate at least $10 a load, as you are charged per article of clothing.
I used to stick up my nose to tourists that traveled on tours in large groups, but honestly, after going to Myanmar and having such struggles with accommodation and bookings, I see the appeal. Regardless, I have no regrets and would advice any interested in going to take the plunge. And pack carefully.
Book a Viator Tour for Your Trip to Myanmar
One Bagan Sightseeing Tour ↗
Enjoy exploring the amazing sights of Bagan with an experienced, licensed guide who knows the best locations for sunset, sunrise, avoiding the crowds and maximising your time in Bagan.
Amarapura,Sagaing,Mingun,Ava or Innwa ↗
With a personal driver to whisk you between sites in a climate-controlled vehicle, you’ll cover even more historic places, pagodas, and temples.
About the Author: Whitney likes to explore and take pictures. She shares some travel tips on her site: The Blonde Godzilla.
Book a Viator Tour Before You Go
Rural Myanmar and Pottery Tour from Yangon – $77.00*
Leave Yangon on a 5- to 6-hour tour that takes you to the potter artisans of Twante and the Shwesandaw Pagoda and provides a taste of rural Myanmar along the way. With a knowledgeable guide, catch the ferry from the city and travel along the Twante Canal. Stop at traditional pottery workshops and try your hand at working with clay, and then walk up to Shwesandaw Pagoda to soak in breathtaking views. Relax over lunch at a local restaurant, and browse the local market before hopping back on the ferry.
Lauren Meshkin says
How funny! I literally just got done talking with my friend who returned from teaching in Myanmar this summer. Too bad she didn’t see this before the trip.
Great post 🙂
Did she enjoy teaching there? I’m thinking of doing this too!
With which organisation did she go?
Gabriela Bohm says
Thank you for this great post! I am leaving for SEA for 3 months and have been looking for details like these ones to organize myself as well as I can before leaving.
Just a tip about money – just around the corner from the Myanmar consulate in Bangkok, all of the banks provide brand new American dollars. They always keep it in stock because they know many people will need it. I exchanged a ton of baht and didn’t have to worry about illegally exchanging anything or getting ripped off.
I couldn’t find much about Myanmar online before I went, so this is a really useful article!
Thanks for this – I’m leaving for Myanmar on Wednesday and this is useful.
I’ve travelled extensively in SE Asia previously, but Burma just feels different – it’ll be an interesting experience I’m sure.
FWIW – After much searching I found a travel agent in Rangoon that would put together some flights and hotels (not really a package tour as such, just flights and accom) and are licensed to accept credit cards – so that part of the trip is paid and booked before we even arrive – trying to reduce the amount of cash we have to carry on us, and avoid the drama of turning up to a non-existant accom booking.
One question – did you shop at all? I want to buy some longyi while I’m there.
Thanks again for this post – super helpful.
Vanessa (@Turnipseeds) says
Thanks for the advice – the baby wipes are packed in anticipation for our trip in a few weeks! We’ll be there for 5 days, 4 nights (yep, a teeny trip), and we’ve been able to book our accommodations in advance, as the hotels/guesthouses requested payment by Western Union (and one was paid for in advance by booking on Agoda.com). I’m not sure how standard this is – and I had never used WU before! – but we’re happy to have things taken care of ahead of time.
I wish I had some of these tips before I went to Myanmar the first time. I spend 3 months every year there and thought I might ad that learning a bit of the language beforehand can help with accommodations. Many places say they refuse foreigners because they are afraid (the country really only started opening up a few years ago, and it used to get people in a lot of trouble if they let foreigners stay unless the government had approved). However, talking with them a little usually helps (I had a friend recently test how many places he could stay in Yangon and found that many that initially said no reconsidered and he found extremely inexpensive accommodations). Here is a free Burmese language lesson guide designed for travelers. Although it is little outdated, I have also sent this to some of my friends that teach in Yangon and they have found it very helpful.
Also, about attire, I am sure most people using travel sites such as theses already are careful to be culturally sensitive, but the attire in Myanmar is still very conservative, even in Yangon. So make sure to always have your shoulders covered and where pants or skirts that go down to your knees. You may see some local women wearing more provocative clothing, but there is a double standard for local women and foreign women and it is highly disrespectful to wear anything more revealing. My Burmese language instructor in Yangon made sure to stress that point with the other students and myself when we first arrived, but it is not something that seems to be spoken about much among travelers, so I thought bringing it up couldn’t hurt.
I live in Myanmar, and accommodations at several of the touristy locations (Inle, Bagan, Ngapoli, Yangon), can be booked through agoda.com.
I recommend avoiding street food if you’re on a short visit (the name Burma Belly exists for a reason, and it wouldn’t be fun to be sick for four days of a ten day trip), but most tea shop food is delicious, cheap, and not painful on the stomach.
Thanks for an informative article. Yes, we too like to thumb our noses at group tours, but it looks like this one place where one would benefit from taking one.
Thanks for sharing these tips. I hope i can visit Myanmar in the near future! It looks like an incredible country!