Tips for Traveling in Myanmar

November 20, 2017
In October, Tara and I traveled in Myanmar for seven days. We wished we had more time, but tried our best to make our trip worthwhile. Below, I'll be sharing where we stayed, some information on overnight buses, and some general tips. I hope you find this useful if you plan on visiting Myanmar some day.


Accommodation

**I'll list the prices we paid, but please note that the prices will vary depending on whether you travel during the low/high season.

I would stay at all three of these places again and do recommend them. 

Yangon- Chan Myae Guesthouse $34/night

Thoughts: Chan Myae is located close to Sule Pagoda and the city center. The rooms are simple and very basic but clean. I do have to say that the staff is friendly. We were given some juice as soon as we checked in and the workers helped us carry our bags to our rooms, which was much appreciated since we had to go up about 6 flights of stairs. There is no elevator, but the staff members will help you with your luggage if you right the bell at the bottom of the steps. We were also able to arrange transportation to the airport through the guesthouse. Oh, and there's free breakfast.



Bagan- Royal Bagan Hotel $55/2 nights 

Thoughts: Tara found a deal on this, so I don't think the rooms are usually this cheap. The hotel seemed fully booked and was very busy so we couldn't check in early.  However, were allowed to leave our bags in the lobby. The staff was helpful and booked a temple tour for us as well as a taxi to the bus station. The rooms were nice with a large shower. The hotel also has a swimming pool, but we didn't try it out since we didn't have bathing suits with us. Free breakfast is offered and it's buffet style. There is someone in the back cooking eggs that will be brought to you as well. We were quite pleased with our room and thought it was a great value for the money.

Inle Lake- Hotel Brilliant $54/night

Thoughts: While this hotel was about twice as much as the Bagan Royal Hotel, we were blown away by the service. The staff went out of their way to help us enjoy our stay there. We arrived very early in the morning, tired from a long journey on an overnight bus. They let us check in right away and even upgraded us to a nicer room at no extra cost. They drove us to the bus station and wouldn't accept our money when we offered to pay. They let us shower after we were out on the lake all day and after we had checked out. On top of that, we were given tea and snacks for free before we left to go to the bus station. The location is not right in the center of town, but that was a blessing in disguise as the city center is loud and chaotic. If you want a peaceful stay, Hotel Brilliant is where it's at.



Recommended Bus Companies

Famous Traveler Express

JJ Express-Below are some pictures of what to expect on a JJ Express overnight bus. I searched the internet and couldn't find much about the seats. Because of my back problems, I wanted to know whether or not the seats reclined all the way, but they do not. I was able to get some sleep on the bus anyway.  




We booked all of our bus tickets before we traveled to Myanmar using the site Myanmar Bus Ticket, operated by Green Travel. 

With both JJ Express and Famous Traveler Express, the buses left on time and we felt safe for the entire journey. The buses from both companies had air conditioning and we were provided with blankets, a pillow, a bottle of water, and some snacks. I will say that the seats on the Famous Traveler Express bus reclined more, so that was a major plus for me because I was able to sleep better. The JJ Express overnight buses all had TVs on the back of the seats though, so it was nice to watch a movie before I tried to sleep. 

Tip: Go to the bathroom at every stop. On one JJ Express overnight trip, there was only one stop early on and then no stops for over five hours (until I asked).  

Tip: Bring headphones in order to enjoy the entertainment offered. JJ Express did provide me with some headphones once I asked, but I could hardly hear anything out of them. Tara brought her own earbuds and didn't have this issue.

Our Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Yangon. Overnight bus from Yangon-Bagan.
Day 2: Bagan
Day 3: Bagan
Day 4: Morning bus from Bagan-Mandalay. Day tour of Mandalay. Overnight bus from Mandalay-Inle Lake.
Day 4: Inle Lake
Day 5: Inle Lake. Overnight bus to Yangon.
Day 6: Yangon
Day 7: Depart Yangon in AM. 

Tips

*Check and make sure your vaccinations are up to date. This seems like a no-brainer, but when Tara mentioned this to me, I realized that I wasn't protected against typhoid! At one point in my adult life, I got the booster for this but the oral vaccine is only good for 5 years. I can't believe I dropped the ball on this when I'm usually pretty responsible about this sort of thing. 

* Bring a rain poncho. We both brought one instead of umbrellas. I found it much more convenient for staying dry.

* Put some cash aside for the visitors passes you are required to buy in Inle Lake, Bagan, and Mandalay.

* Make sure your USD is in good condition. They are very picky about which bills they accept. I saw the man working in the currency exchange eye one of my $20 bills suspiciously because the corner was slightly bent. 

* Book your overnight bus tickets ahead of time. Every overnight bus we took was full and we didn't even travel during the peak tourist season. Booking an overnight bus ticket can also save you money on accommodation!

* Reapply bug spray often. We didn't want to take malaria pills, so we just tried as best as we could to prevent getting bitten. 

* Bring an extra layer of clothes, especially for the overnight buses because they blast the A/C.

* Do you have any makeup that you don't use? Or some you've tried but it just doesn't look right on you? Consider bringing some on your trip. Yes, I realize that seems weird, but hear me out. I got stopped by Burmese women around five times, and they commented on my lipstick asking me if they could have it. "You make me gift of that lipstick," is what they would say. They knew it was used because I was wearing it, but they still seemed to really want it. I wish I would have known this since I have so much lightly used makeup just sitting here in Shanghai. This was the first place I'd been to where the women asked me for my makeup so often. If you want to make friends with the locals or just make someone's day, bring some makeup with you. 

* Book well in advance for Balloons Over Bagan. When we looked into taking a hot air balloon over Bagan, every time slot was booked for the entire week we were in Myanmar. We were okay with that because it was pricier than we thought. The cost currently ranges from $340-$450 (that's USD) for a 45 minute flight. I would have considered paying it, but the decision was made for us since there were no openings. 

* Apply for an e-Visa and make sure you print off confirmation of this so you can move swiftly through immigration.

* Dress modestly and bring pants that go past your knees, especially on days when you plan on doing some temple hopping. I also suggest wearing shoes or sandals that just slide on. In Bagan, you will likely visit temple after temple all day long, so it's just easier to not have to bother with tying your shoes.

* If you're short on time, try to squeeze Mandalay in on a day trip like we did. Seriously, one of the best experiences on the whole trip was watching the sunset from U Bein Bridge!

Although we had a hectic schedule some days, I feel that we maximized our time in Myanmar and saw as much as we could in the time that we had. How do you feel about overnight travel? Do you have any of your own tips to add?
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