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Burma - Travel Information

I found Burma to be the most interesting country in the Far East. Burma?s unique culture has been well preserved since it was closed to the West. Only lately it is slowly starting to open.

Burma?s population is very religious (Buddhist) and friendly. The many temples scattered around the country are nurtured and full of believers.

Burma is under the current military reign since 1988, and then its name changed to its current name- Myanmar. The military reign is oppressing the population, and human rights are not being kept. The opposition in Burma is lead by Nobel Prize?s winner ? Aung San Suu Kyi that spent most of the last years under house arrest.

Burma?s military reign treats strangers suspiciously. In one hand they need their money but on the other hand they want to prevent any external influence on the country. Thus, e-mails are being censored and there is no free access to the internet. Phone calls are very expensive and the citizens are not allowed to leave the country.

Should we go to a totalitarian country that oppresses its population? On one hand it is a sort of support in the reign and on the other hand in this way the sprit of the West is brought to Burma?s population. This self criticism will be done by each traveler prior to the decision whether to arrive to Burma or not. If you have decided to come, try to avoid as much as possible to pass money to the authorities.

Burma's Geography

Burma?s land size is 671,000 sq km and its population is about 45 million inhabitants.

When to travel to Burma

There are 3 seasons in Burma. The recommended season to travel is November- February when there are no monsoon rains and the temperature are still bearable.

March- June is the hot season when the heat becomes unbearable. June- September is the rainy season.

In and Out

The entrance to Burma is possible only by flight (unless the entrance is for one day). Burma requires a pre-issued visa and the easiest place to do it is in Bangkok, where visa?s price is about 1100 Baht (about $27) for 28 days. It is almost impossible to extend the visa or issue a visa for a longer period.

Most of the flights to Burma leaves from Bangkok (Thailand) and lands in Yangoon, Burma?s capital. There are flights from Chang Mai (Thailand) to Mandalay in north Burma. There are few airlines that fly Bangkok-Yangoon line and the cheapest among them is Bangladesh airline. The only problem with this airline is that they operate only 2 flights a week. Other airlines operate daily flights and even more, but their cost is higher.

Travel costs in Burma

Burma?s local currency is called Kyat. The rates change a lot as a result to the dollars? offer in the country. When there are many tourists then you will get less Kyat for every dollar.

It is not possible to use travel checks or credit cards in Burma because of the sanctions that was put by the West countries. You need to bring cash money with you. On the other hand, today?s tourists are not obliged to purchase the FEC as it was in the past (that is how the government used to force the tourists to pass them dollars).

The most useful money in Burma is American dollar. It is recommended to take small bills, because the dollar is almost the main currency in the country (is used for accommodation). Yet, it is recommended to take also $100 bills- the exchange rate for these bills are higher for an unknown reason?

The local money is used for food and transportation.

We spent around $100 per person in local money and $200 per person in dollars in 28 days.

It is recommended to change money in Yangoon where the exchange rate is significantly higher then in other places in Burma. Don?t change money in hotels or in the airport, but in the Scot Market that is situated within a walking distance from city center.

A recommended tour for 28 days

The track that I offer is suitable for 28 days of stay in Burma (the allotted time in the entrance visa):

Day 1-2: land in Yangoon at evening. Next morning exchange money in the Scot market. Visit at Shewdagon Temple and other temples.
Days 3-5: visit the (golden rock temple). Next day spend the day at the temple. Next morning go back to Bago city. Take a short tour in the city. Take a night bus north to Inle Lake.
Days 6-7: A relaxed day near the lake. Next day cruise on the lake.
Days 8-9: A ride to Pindia. Next morning visit at Pindia?s caves and a ride to Kalaw city.
Days 10-11: a day tour that leaves from Kalaw to the ethnic villages in the area. Next day tour in Clao itself.
Day 12: A ride to Mandalay.
Days 13-15: A tour in Mandalay. Next morning a day tour in Mingun. Next day a tour in the ancient capital cities.
Days 16-17: A ride to Hasipaw. Next day a tour with Mr. Charls. A conversation with Mr. Donald. Next day a ride to Pyin U Lwin.
Days 18-19: a ride in a carriage to the botanical gardens. Next day a hike to the waterfalls.
Days 20-21: Back to Mandalay. Next day ride to Bagan.
Days 22-24: 2 days visit in Bagan. A day trip to Mount Popa.
Days 25-26: A drive to Pey. Next day a tour to the Buddha with the sunglasses and to the nearby village.
Days 27-28: Drive to Yangoon. A flight back.

(Last update: June 2004)