A couple weeks ago, I took several days of leave and traveled to Myanmar for the weekend. I was SO scared (first solo trip, holla) but it turned out to be an absolutely amazing trip and Myanmar was incredibly beautiful. More on that later but first, here is my budget from the trip (and my basic itinerary, I guess):
Part of the reason why I was so scared for the trip (besides for never having been to Myanmar, making my first solo trip, and not knowing anything about the language) was because a lot of the information I came across on the Internet was super outdated. I also found that most of the travelers/backpackers I met in Myanmar were shocked at how expensive Myanmar was in comparison to other countries in SE Asia (you can make a comparison to costs in Thailand when I get around to writing that post).
All that being said, I was extremely happy that I made the trip and can’t suggest Myanmar enough as your next place to go. Because the country is just recently opened to travel, there are still not that many tourists (in comparison to other places) and you are really able to get an authentic feel for the country when you visit. Some travel tips and advice for you:
- When you arrive at Yangon airport, make sure to exchange your money (**remember that you’re bringing CRISP USD bills or SGD/Euros! 100 dollar bills get the best exchange rate but as long as your money doesn’t have lines or creases or markings or folds, it’ll be okay) AT THE AIRPORT. Who cares about rates and such– it’ll be very difficult for you to money exchange elsewhere and the rates in the airport aren’t too terrible. You also don’t want to be scammed if you try to exchange in town.
- Yangon looks all nice and orderly on Google Maps but it is literally the OPPOSITE of nice and orderly. Either download offline Google Maps before you leave or get some old-school paper maps. Traffic is terrible, street signs are very limited, and some streets don’t have any signs at all– or you could totally just get lost, up to you.
- Taxis are expensive (much more expensive than in Thailand or other SE Asia countries that are not Singapore). Taxis are NOT metered so settle on a taxi price before you get into the vehicle. Haggle haggle haggle!
- Expect to pay a “foreigner” fee at all the pagodas (Sule, Schwedagon, etc.).
- I highly recommend 999 Shan Noodles for food– THE FOOD WAS SO GOOD. But it’s a little difficult to find so I totally don’t blame you if you can’t find it.
- Be conservative in your dress (this will apply to all of Myanmar that you go to)– you won’t be able to enter any temples with shorts or tanks. Shoulders and knees need to be covered and… well, you’ll feel really stupid if you are dressed in minimal clothing because no one else around you is gonna look like you.
- It’s rainy season in Yangon so go with an umbrella!
- Bagan is so freaking beautiful. And if you go during low season, like I did, there will be minimal tourists, which will make your shots (if you do photography) really great.
- When you arrive by overnight bus, you will literally be SWARMED with people trying to convince you to go with them– it will be a tad overwhelming but just pick one person and negotiate the price. I ended up taking a horse cart but you can take a truck, or a taxi, or whatever you want.
- Again, dress conservatively or else you won’t be able to go anywhere or explore any temples.
- You will be approached by a ton of locals trying to sell you things (worse than Thailand, for sure). If you want, buy from them or just say “chesube” (which means no, thank you) and wave them off.
- Electric bike is literally THE mode of transportation there– you can get a bike for 3000 kyat at certain places (for half a day) so make sure to utilize that.
- Do NOT ride your electric bike at night after the sun sets– you will literally feel like you’re gonna get run over by everyone. Myanmar traffic means that there are no lanes and everyone just kinda does whatever they want, lol.
- I highly recommend offline Google Maps for Bagan, especially because it is SUPER easy to get lost, haha. I was lucky enough to be traveling with someone who had Maps on his phone and could get me home after a full day of exploring.
- OVER BUDGET. Getting cash in Myanmar, especially in Bagan, is going to be really difficult so make sure you have all the money you’ll need with you when you enter the country. (second reminder: bring all your money in USD dollars or SGD or Euros, not Thai baht or other currency!)
- Main expensive costs are transportation and accommodation (especially if you don’t book beforehand!). Everything else (food, attractions, etc.) should be relatively cheaper.
- Haggle for prices (transportation, souvenirs, etc.). My general rule was halve the asking price and then negotiate from there.
- The locals are SUPER friendly– smile at them, say “mengalaba” and they will likely smile at you and be really friendly.
I was lucky enough to meet different people on every leg of my journey (the life of a solo traveler, eh?) or else my experience in Myanmar would have been very different. By the way, if you’ve heard that Myanmar is “the safest place to travel,” that’s probably an over-exaggeration but traveling alone as a woman wasn’t too bad. No incidents to report– of course, just be sure to use common sense and everything should be okay.
If you’re thinking about going to Myanmar (and you should!), here are some pictures and brief descriptions about how I spent my four days there to convince you some more–
First day in Yangon: (arrived at Yangon International Airport around noon-time, left for the highway bus station to Bagan at 8PM)
Overnight bus to Bagan (JJ express- I booked through their Facebook page!):
First half day in Bagan (arrived around 6 am, too late for sunrise):
Second half day in Bagan (met a friend in my hostel and we rented electric bikes to go explore and see sunset!):
Overnighted at the Mya Thida Hostel (read reviews of the hostel here and on Agoda). VERY basic, very backpacker-esque so if you’re not into that kind of living, I would suggest looking elsewhere. A tad expensive for a backpacker dorm room (USD15) but definitely still doable. Don’t expect any wi-fi though! Breakfast included but the location is pretty far from everything.
Second day in Bagan (woke up at 5AM to go see the sunrise! and then saw sunset by the Ayeyarwady River later in the day):
Then I took another overnight bus back home (JJ Express also!) and arrived in Yangon just in time for breakfast and my flight back to Singapore. Wonderful trip, wonderful friends, wonderful people. I know that information online about Myanmar is scarce so if you have any questions, feel free to post below and I’ll try my best to answer them!