Yangon, Myanmar (Burma): Important Travel Information Guide

5788880660 02772dc335 b Yangon, Myanmar (Burma): Important Travel Information Guide

Yangon Travel Information Guide

Arrival at Yangon International Airport

You will most likely arrive at Yangon International Airport, a pleasant cool and clean airport. Since everyone has their Myanmar visas already, customs shouldn’t take long.

Unlike other major cities in the world where taxi drivers will rush on you as soon as you exit the airport door, Yangon is different. A few calm and friendly taxi drivers approached me, all charging the same official rate ($10) into Yangon city center.

NEVER exchange dollars to kyats at the international airport in Yangon. The rate is horrendous, similar to giving away your money. The government controls the rate at the airport and banks on those who don’t know otherwise.

Don’t worry, taxi drivers accept USD from the airport to the city center ($10), so you won’t need any kyats until later.

Guest Houses in Yangon

In a city the size of Yangon, there really are not as many guest house budget accommodation options to choose from as one might think.

If you are just visiting Yangon for a few days, it’s nice to stay near the central Sule Paya Pagoda.

Expect to pay $5 – $8 for a dorm bed and $10 – $20 for a double room in Yangon.

  • Golden Smile Inn – My entire visit to Yangon, I stayed at the Golden Smiles Inn (recommended by Legal Nomads). The beds were decent, the staff was great, and the location is quite convenient. Prices do fluctuate, but don’t expect low Southeast Asian room costs. I paid $12 per night for a double room / 2. They also offer a pretty decent money exchange.
  • Okinawa Guest House
  • Garden Guest House
  • Tokyo Guest House
  • YMCA Yangon

It can be a good idea to either message one of the above guest houses or make a booking online before arriving in Yangon.

Click here to see more hotel options.

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Myanmar Kyats

Money in Myanmar (Burma)

Money is possibly the most important subject to plan ahead for when venturing on a trip to Yangon, Burma (Myanmar). Though the country utilizes the local “kyats,” US Dollars are the king of currency.

The exchange rate is highly volatile, there seems to be a new street rate every week. When I was there (March 2011) I got around 840 kyats to 1 USD.

You will need both currencies in Yangon and throughout the duration of your travel in Myanmar (Burma). Straight dollars can be used to pay for accommodation, entrance to tourist attractions, and a few other official things. Kyats are used for day to day living, like purchasing water, food, local buses, and buying things from vendors.

Update (March 2014): There are now plenty of ATM’s available throughout Yangon, so you don’t need to be nearly as concerned about US dollar bills as you needed to be previously.

However, it still might might be a good idea to carry a few clean and new $100 and $50 bills with you when you visit.

US Dollar Complications (Important)

  • Dollar bills need to be crisp, clean, with zero line creases or corner bends in the bills
  • Need to be from the year 2006 or newer
  • Without CB in the serial number on the bill

Consider keeping your dollar bills in a hard case where there is no possibility of them being bent up, it does get frustrating.

Where to Exchange US Dollars to Kyats

Again, never exchange dollars to Myanmar kyats at the Yangon Airport, wait until you reach a guest house or the market in the center of town.

Once you are in Yangon there are a number of choices of where to exchange money.

Money can be absurdly dirty and difficult to count; Always make sure you have time and a place to count the amount of money you get in exchange for your dollars.

Always be aware of touts offering to exchange money at “great” rates – there’s probably a catch, and might cheat you of the real amount, rushing you without letting you count. I would recommend not even bothering to exchange money with touts on the side of the street unless you are completely strapped for immediate cash.

1. Ask at your guest house: Golden Smiles Inn offered a very decent rate for my dollars in a very safe setting. The rate was always better for $50 and $100 bills.

2. Bogyoke Aung San Market: There are plenty of money traders towards the back of the large central Bogyoke Aung San market. The money exchangers are calm and allow you the time you need to count the bills and contemplate the exchange. As with everywhere, they are picky about the bills they will take and give better rates for larger US Dollar bills.

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Eating in Yangon, Myanmar

Eating in Yangon

Food is plentiful, delicious, and of great value around the city of Yangon. Local Burmese food specialties include a selection of  salads like laphet thouk (tea leaf salad), mohinga (noodle fish soup, national dish of Burma), and a breathtaking selection of grilled delights in Chinatown.

Click here to see my full Burmese food photo guide!

Food in Yangon can be considered so cheap, that it’s almost impossible to resist sampling everything.

  • Street salads: 300 – 500 kyats per plate
  • Rice and Burmese curry: 500 – 1000 kyats
  • Whole grilled fish in Chinatown: 2500 kyats
  • Bottle of water: 250 – 300 kyats

Don’t miss the fresh fruit on the streets. Watermelon, papaya, mangoes, and other fresh tropical fruit are served in giant portions for about 300 kyats.

If you like Indian food, don’t miss the dosas (250 kyats each) or a rice Thali curry feast (about 1000 – 2000 kyats per meal).

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Drinking Tea in Yangon

Note about drinking tea

Pots of Chinese tea are served everywhere and come free of charge. My first night in Yangon I only wanted to sit, observe and drink the Chinese tea, telling the vendor that I didn’t want to order anything. After 2 hours of drinking tea, we asked for the bill and to our surprise he told us we owed nothing.

It was then that I realized that most people order a milk tea or a coffee (unfortunately instant packs) for 300 kyats and then can sit and enjoy the Chinese tea for as long as possible. Out of courtesy, make sure to order something, even if you only want the Chinese tea.

Internet in Yangon

There are internet cafes located throughout the city of Yangon, however their ability to provide adequate internet should never be relied upon.

The internet functioned for a total of 1 day out of the 10 that I stayed in Yangon. Internet shop owners were very sympathetic, saying “sorry the internet is too slow to work today.”

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Local Yangon Transportation

Transportation in Yangon

Taxi: As I said before, the official rate from Yangon International Airport to the center of the city is $10, though we were able to bargain a fare of $8.

I took another taxi from Yangon city center to Thiri Mingalar market, about 10 km away for only 2000 kyats

There are no taxi meters, so I would recommend asking a friendly local what they would pay for the ride, before you ever flag down the taxi.

Bus (cost: 200 kyats): City buses are giant clunkers that are highly overworked and appear as though they could break down or simply fall apart on the next Yangon pothole. Buses are often jam packed and only come to rolling halts at bus stops. The entertaining rides only cost 200 kyats. Routes aren’t too hard to figure out, and most local Yangon residents are happy to assist you in finding your way.

Note: If you need to get out of the bus at the stop, make sure you make your way to the door of the bus, it will NOT wait for you to take your time getting out.

Back of Truck (cost: 200 kyats): Possibly even more worn out and close to falling apart are the local songthaew back of the truck forms of Yangon transportation. You will be crammed into the back of the truck with a crowd of other people, you might even be lucky enough to get a random person sitting on your lap!

The drivers are usually quite friendly, always remember a landmark near the destination you are wanting to go and ask the driver if they will pass by.

Safety Tips

In comparison with major cities throughout the world, Yangon is extremely safe by way of crime. However, be careful of vehicles while walking on roadways and walking on collapsing sidewalk tiles.

Our host at our guest house emphasized that many businessmen giant carry plastic bags full of cash down dark streets at night, and never have any problems.

There are plenty of unlit streets during the night in Yangon. I walked around day and night, never feeling the slightest bit of threat anywhere. The city really is quite safe, but it’s not an excuse to not be cautious.

Take normal precautions, things like avoid dressing ostentatiously. Wads of local Kyats can get big so I would recommend having two separate wads of cash: 1 for immediate use and 1 stash.

Daily travel budget

I spent $10 – $15 per day including all accommodation, food, and expenses while in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma).

From what I hear now, prices have severely increased, especially by way of accommodation.

Conclusion

Yangon, Myanmar (Burma), is a wonderful place to visit, however, it does require quite a bit of travel planning. Taking the time to review and go over important travel information before arriving, is of utmost importance. If you can prepare and remember just a few things (like money), you will have an amazing trip to Yangon!

Other Myanmar (Burma) useful travel information

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Comments

  1. says

    Very informative article about Myanmar. This is very useful for those travelers in Myanmar. I just wish I can get to this beautiful country. Thanks for posting. :-)

  2. Grace says

    As always excellent job on putting together this guide. I think I would be overdosing on tea if I were to stay there.

  3. says

    Great blog on Myanmar. Lots of information on money exchange, safety, hotels and ofcourse food. I love the pictures..great photography.

  4. says

    i have a SERIOUSLY long list of places that i want to go, but myanmar is right at the top. some sound words of advice mark, love the tip on the money exchanging! its something i try to keep on top of, but often don’t. $10 – $15 dollards a day and endless free tea sounds right up my alley too!

    • says

      Thanks Jamie! I think for Myanmar it’s necessary to do a bit more pre-planning than other countries, so glad this guide could useful. Right about the $10 and tea, we both could chill for a long time!

  5. says

    Haven’t been to Myanmar yet, but it’s in the plans. Thanks for this handy, comprehensive guide. Must have been taken some work that.

  6. Don says

    Very informative post Mark. I would also recommend the White House Hotel in central Yangon for a good, clean place to stay. They put on a great breakfast there which is included in the price of the room. They will also exchange money too. But of course the best exchange rates can be had at Bogyoke Aung San Market. I would recommend exchanging enough money to get you through your travels on to other parts of the country as this will likely be the best exchange rate anywhere in Myanmar. Good advise indeed about bringing clean, crisp $100 bills. I’ve seen them reject money with no apparent flaws in any way, shape or form. My advise: Bring at least a couple of extra $100 bills with you just in case they reject some of your money.

    • says

      Hey Don,
      Thanks so much for the added input. I even experienced getting a few dollar bills rejected from being exchanged, and it’s a real let-down. I like your idea of bringing a couple extra $100 bills just in case. You never know how picky or hard they will treat the exchange and it’s not worth the risk to end up with zero money.
      Thanks again for the suggestions Don.

  7. Renee says

    One can never underestimate how important it is to know a particular country’s monetary policy. Ignorance of it can certainly cause you to lose more of it. You given some great tips on what to expect to pay for various commodities, Mark…it’s always good to know these things beforehand.

    • says

      Great to hear that Renee, thanks for sharing. I think that traveling to Burma even takes a little more planning than usual as there are no ATM’s in the country so it’s necessary to plan a complete relative budget before going.

  8. says

    FABULOUS post.
    I am dead keen to get to Myanmar next year. I’m just a bit worried I won’t get a visa because of my professional background. Fingers crossed it won’t be a problem though!
    Thanks Mark.

  9. Siska says

    Hi Mark..
    Me Siska.. I plan to visit Yangoon on end of Sept. this year.. thanks god i found out your blog and read it.. really valuable info for me..
    As i will only stay for 2 days at Yangoon, then back to my country, would you kindly suggest me, how much dollar i have to bring for safety, to avoid lack of money during the trip.
    I will travel by myself, and only visit Yangoon City for this time.
    Thank youuuuuuuuuu…

    • says

      For 2 days I recommend you carry at least $100 – just in case. If you are uncomfortable and have a little more, it would not hurt to bring more money. Yangon is a very safe city, so there’s rarely any problem with carrying around cash.
      Thanks for the question and hope you have a great time in Yangon.

      • says

        Hi Mark,

        it seams that you loged recently at Yangon’s “Golden Smiles Inn”
        The Lonely’s Planet mentioned Email-address myathiri@mptmail.net.mm doesn’t work.
        Do you have a more recent one?

        By the way loved your blog, vivid gallery and video as well. This makes me keen on travellin there. Thanks!

        bye
        china-Klaus from Germany

        • says

          Hey Klaus,
          I’m sorry I don’t have an updated e-mail for Golden Smiles. When I went, I just showed up without any pre-arrangement. Communication is not that good in Yangon, and I know there was no internet at the Golden Smiles, so they might not have updated themselves if that e-mail is malfunctioning. I think you’ll probably be alright if you just show up.
          Good luck with your travels,
          Mark

  10. Bama says

    I will definitely go back to read this post again and again because in January 2012 I’m going to Yangon. Therefore I believe the information in this post will be extremely useful. Thanks for all the tips!

    • says

      Cool Bama! Thanks for checking this article out and glad that you have a chance to visit Yangon soon! Hope this can help, I know you’ll have a great time there!

  11. Shan says

    Hi. I am traveling to Yangon in 3 weeks time. This is my first trip there. Is it advisable to engage a tour guide or i can do my my own sight seeing. Do suggest places that is a must visit there. I am only there for 3 days so i have very limited time.

    Thank you

  12. Fui says

    Wow! This is something needed, useful and experience writting for a very good insight.

    I am going on Oct 26, 2011, next wednesday. This really helps.

    Submitted to your newsletter, will add you in facebook too. I think it is really good to exchange travel information vice versa.

    Fui

  13. Awng says

    Hey, Mark

    Thank you so much for your info about our country Myanmar. if you have a chance i would like to recommend you to travel around Myanmar. You will see so many amazing foods and places. ^^ so many different culture, different language.

    I believe that you will come again to my Country.. when you come next time pls don’t spend your time only in Yangon. the more you out from Yangon, the more you will see the different. Oh i almost forget to recommend you. Please,try Myanmar Ethnic people’s food. more fresh, more delicious :D

    Thank you Mark,

    • says

      No problem Awng – and thanks so much for your great advice! I wish I could have spent more time in Myanmar the last time I was there, but this time I was only able to stay in Yangon. I really enjoyed my time, and next time I will definitely see more of your beautiful country! Thanks so much for checking this out and hope you have a great day!

  14. Rashmi says

    Hi Mark,
    Thanks for this post. We are traveling to Yangon this week and were totally clueless about this currency issue. Thanks to you, we feel much better prepared!

    Regards,
    Rashmi

  15. Aung says

    As a Burmese born in Burma, I would say it’s a great article. I recommend you to visit Bagan if you ever get a chance to visit Myanmar again.

  16. says

    I will visit Myanmar in January 2014 ( backpacker style ) . I heard that the guest houses have doubled their prices, and often full ! )-: – Bernard ( Canada )

    • says

      Hey Bernard, yes I think the prices have risen now due to high demand but I think it’s still possible to show up and find decent accommodation at some places. Have a good trip!

  17. Iftekhar says

    hi,
    I am from Bangladesh, you are giving so much information, thanks for that. I want to visit your country (Myanmar) with in December,2013. Can you give a information that how can i go to Yangon by road from Bangladesh and is there any problem in Rakhain State?

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