Myanmar Travel Guide

by Kelly

Myanmar Travel Guide Contents

Useful InformationTrip PlanningBudget Breakdown
ItineraryWhere to stayWhat to do

WARNING – Myanmar is currently on the Do Not Travel list. Sadly the civil war has escalated and it is deemed unsafe for travel. This is beyond sad as it was one of our best and most cherished trips. Please exercise caution when planning your trips. This does not reflect the nature of the people, they are the kindest and nicest we have met on any trip. We hope the country can find peace.

Myanmar was closed off to the rest of the world for many years when finally in 2015 they opened their country for travel for the first time. It is a beautiful mysterious country and there is much to love about such a place. It was definitely a dream trip for us which lives on in our hearts. Myanmar has an intriguing culture and is full of natural beauty but their biggest asset is the people, the most friendly and genuine we have ever met. We had the absolute best time here, I would love to go back but I think that the magic is really in your first visit. This blog post outlines everything you need to know to have an incredible time in Myanmar.

Useful Myanmar Information

Currency – The currency is the Myanmar Kyat MMK (pronounced chat) however USD are also widely accepted and can be changed for kyat easily. The preference is for the notes to be in perfect condition and not damaged/folded/crumpled at all or they can be confused for fakes. I do not advise taking other currency with the hope of changing as we struggled in some towns when attempting to change AUD. It was possible but not everywhere and there were some areas where we were left waiting for our family to transfer money through Western Union! Read all about this adventure here. We also saw that Euro was accepted in most banks for exchange also.

Capital City – Naypyitaw which is located in central Myanmar. It is a planned city and was created in 2005, replacing Yangon as the capital. It is an interesting place as it is rarely visited by other travellers.

Visa – It is easy to obtain a visa for Myanmar, they last for 28 days at a cost of approximately $50. You can apply for a visa at the Myanmar embassy in your country or an e-visa, but it is advised to print it out to have on hand for arrival.

Language – The official language is Burmese however there are other languages spoken depending upon the region you are visiting. English was taught and spoken during British rule and some older people will still speak great English. Basic english will be spoken by tourism operators such as in hotels and some money changers, but in general there is not much. It will help you to have a phrase book, check out this blog on the key phrases that will help you get around (these are the only ones we used to get around). In general in the bigger tourism areas of Inle Lake and Bagan there will be more English understanding and other than that try to signal what you are talking about.

What to eat – We found the food to be delicious! We loved the rice and noodle dishes and the curries were always great. Don’t be afraid to try the local foods as you will be pleasantly surprised. Food was quite cheap in local or street side places. You can definitely go to fancier or more western style restaurants but we love to eat locally. Not only does your money go to the local owner but you’ll usually end up meeting locals and get the chance to chat and learn from them. Of course language can be a barrier but usually a few gestures will help with a simple conversation.

Beer is also cheap in these places. We found cheap draught beer in each town we visited and loved the experience of hanging with the people.

Festivals and Celebrations – There are many fun and interesting celebrations and if you are lucky enough to visit during one please attend and enjoy the experience. We were lucky enough to be able to attend the Tazaungdaing Festival (Festival of Lights) where fireworks are shot out of huge lanterns. It was an amazing night that was well worth the drive there.

Safety – (please see current safety advice) Honestly I am quite a timid person for a traveller, I am always wary of everyone and every circumstance. I can honestly say that I have never felt safer in our travels so far than in Myanmar. People are lovely and particularly in the south there are not a lot of travellers so you will be a novelty. Children will run down the street screaming ‘Hi’ and ‘Mingalaba’, others will stop you in the street to chat and want to know everything about you. As a female traveller I usually prefer to walk around together but here I felt quite confident and comfortable walking alone while Mike was off doing something else. While tourists usually are safe from petty crime here I wouldn’t put myself in any more danger than in any other country and always exercise caution. There are some areas of the country that are unsafe to visit. An exert from the Australian Travel Advice board states that there are conflicts in the Rakhine State, southern Chin State, northern Shan State and that armed groups operate along the borders with other countries including border crossings and that there are also unmarked landmines. Having said this we did cross into Myanmar at a little used land border crossing from Thailand and were fine…albeit a little confused about the process. If you are thinking of doing a land border crossing read this post which will help you understand what it is really like. There are mixed opinions on travel to Myanmar based on these conflicts, we can only base our opinion on that of the locals we met who wished we would spread the word of our time in Myanmar in the hope that more tourists would visit as it helps when the eyes of the world are able to see them. As always I would advise in investing in travel insurance that you can trust, such as World Nomads.

children playing  in Myanmar


Budget $10-$15

Mid-range $20-$30

Luxe $50+


Street food 75c-$2

Mid range $3-$5

Splurge $10+

Draught beer at local places we found was generally 67c


Flights vary but range around $50-$150

Mini bus/budget $10

VIP sleeper buses $25

Draught house in Dawei

Trip Planning

Best time to go – Travel to Myanmar is great anytime of the year as it is a tropical climate however during March-May it is extremely hot and during June-September it is the wet season so planning around these might help. We travelled during August-November and it was spectacular. In general the best time is during November-Feburary when the weather is not too hot nor to wet.

How to get there – There are international airports at Mandalay, Naypitaw and Yangon and this is how most visitors arrive. You can also do a land border crossing at certain points but this can also be risky. We arrived over a land border I would strongly suggest you heed the safety information regarding this and also read our blog here to find out how we went…it was eventful to say the least!

Transportation – We found it easy to get around Myanmar using the bus system. They generally go everywhere and can range from very very basic (our 6 hour trip in an old mini van with no air-conditioning comes to mind) to very comfortable. The large buses called VIP have lazy boy style seats, TVs in headrests, charging ports and music jacks. If you can afford the upgrade (it isn’t much) it’s worth it. You’ll arrive much more rested and able to get exploring with less down time. In general it is how everyone gets around while travelling in Myanmar. There are some places that are more challenging to get to. Flying within the country is an option, we very much wanted to go to Ngapali Beach but it was a very long and difficult bus ride which we didn’t have time for or a flight which was expensive.

Budget – Although Myanmar is affordable it is not as cheap as travel in neighbouring countries such as Thailand. A rough budget would be around $35 per day, as a couple we spent approximately $50 per day. See our tips at the end of this article to see a rough budget.

What to pack – Myanmar is still a very new country to outside influences, Buddhism is the main religion and it is deeply respected. As such it is not respectful to wear revealing clothing, even shorts or sleeveless tops aren’t recommended particularly at religious sites. At these sites make sure to cover your shoulders (upper arms) and at least to the knee. You should also remove your shoes and socks. It is a predominately warm climate so packing items that are covering but cool are key such as those made from quick dry materials, light linen etc. Check out our Myanmar packing guide for all the essentials you will definitely need.

climbing mountains in Myanmar


We loved this country so much and there are so many places that we have to go back to visit and some we would love to return to. Here you will find our itinerary and a rough idea of how many days to spend in each town. Our trip was for 4 weeks but I honestly I could have stayed much longer if possible and would definitely return. This itinerary includes all the places we visited and includes how we travelled between the towns. These are some of our favourites and definitely ones we would not miss, if you want the details of each place and what you must do in each then please click on the name and it will take you to its blog detailing all the must dos. In general most people get around on the buses which we found to be really well run and if you get the big buses, quite comfortable. If you prefer not to have to do the long bus rides you can fly between the bigger towns, there are airports near most major areas and flights are booked on Flyma

We entered via a land border crossing from Thailand. It can be slightly risky as there have been reports of militia groups and unexploded land mines at land border crossings. We didn’t run into any of these problems however there were some other tips that would have been very helpful to know before going this way, read this blog to help if you are considering the same crossing. (land border crossings are closed due to corona virus at this current time) Most people enter Myanmar via flights into either Yangon or Mandalay.

You could follow this itinerary if you fly into Yangon and go to Hpa An by bus and carry on from there, alternatively start at the end and go in reverse ending at Hpa An and flying back out of Yangon.

Day 1 – Enter Myanmar via Kanchumburri (see this post for details) and make your way to Dawei by taxi.

Day 2 & 3 – Dawei – 2 days – Spend time exploring this beautiful area. There are beaches and if you want to travel south from here there are beautiful islands to explore, however we didn’t have the time and will definitely return to do this. The town has some great places to eat, incredibly sweet locals, a vegetable market and a beautiful flower market to wander through.

Dawei Beaches

Day 4 – Travel to Hpa An – We purchased tickets for a mini bus transfer to Hpa An from our accommodation. There was a transport place where you can buy tickets from but it was the same price and we wanted to support our hotel owner so bought from there. Be careful as they will all sell tickets to Hpa An but the ticket actually only gets you to the bigger town nearby, Mawlamyine, which is just over an hour away. Firstly the mini bus trip is really, really long approximately 7 hours, our driver would not use the air conditioner and it was HOT. After arriving at Mawlamyine and being told we had to find our own way to Hpa An we were not very happy. They saw our tickets had Hpa An written on them and shoved us into a big bus which was worse than the mini bus and took us the rest of the way. After this trip you’ll just want to head to your hotel and find food.

Mawlamyine did look like an interesting town to check out and I would have stayed a day here to see it.

Farmer in Hpa An Myanmar

Day 5 to 8 – Hpa An – This town was a highlight for us there was so much to see and it was possible to rent scooters (which is not possible everywhere in Myanmar, places like Inle Lake we were only allowed to hire bicycles) to explore the countryside. There are lots of temples and natural interests such as mountain hikes to do. Check out the information on our detailed Hpa An blog.

View from The Serenity Inle Lake Hotel Myanmar

Day 9 – Travel to Inle Lake on the big buses. We booked the bus at our hotel again, they were really lovely and helpful when we had some trouble with a bank ATM not giving us money but taking it out of our account. The manager came with us to help try and sort it out and through his broken English tried to translate what the bank manager was saying. Eventually it was sorted but they were so kind even extending us credit until the bank organised the money. This bus left at night so we were able to use the day to explore, return the scooter and have a meal before leaving. You can read all about that adventure here!

Day 10 to 13 – Explore Inle Lake. We originally planned to go to Ngapali Beach instead of Inle Lake however while on the road we were unable to get a buses there due to a road closure and the flight was too expensive so we changed plans and headed for Inle Lake and I am so glad we did. It is truly a beautiful place with tons to check out.

Day 14 – Travel to Mandalay – we booked with a tourist booking agent in town who was really helpful. We booked the VIP bus and is definitely worth it. The extra space and comfort on these long trips really helps.

Day 15 to 18 – Mandalay is a huge surprise. There are loads of great temples to see around the city and there are great little towns nearby to see incredible sights. We explored ancient sites like Indiana Jones, sailed to a beautiful temple and wandered the town meeting locals and watching the young guys play their national game Chinlone. I’ve written all the details up of our time here our Mandalay blog.

Day 19 – Travel to Bagan – 4 hour bus trip, we got the earliest bus we could find so that we had the extra time in Bagan.

Day 20 – 25 – Explore Bagan! This is truly a dream location and if I could have spent longer here I would have. Read about all our Bagan adventures, find out the best temples, where to eat and stay in this detailed blog.

sunrise balloons at Bagan Myanmar

Day 26 – Travel to Yangon – We took a big bus to Yangon. It took 9 hours which really makes the VIP bus a benefit. We would have flown out of Mandalay however we had already booked our flights so a long bus trip it was.

Day 27 – Explore Yangon – There are some great places to visit in Yangon, however for me Mandalay was the winner between the two big cities.

Day 28 – Fly out 

What to do in Myanmar

There are so many things I would recommend to do in Myanmar, it really is a country that doesn’t disappoint. This is my top ten things I wouldn’t leave without doing…I’m planning on going back so will update as I continue to travel here.

sunrise balloons at Bagan Myanmar

1. Bagan – I know listing a whole town as a must do seems mad but it really was the highlight of my trip. If you can afford doing the hot air balloons there then definitely do it. We couldn’t but I would make it a priority next trip. If you can’t afford it you will still fall in love with the town, hire e-bikes and explore every temple for perfect sunrises!

Inwa temples that are accessed from Mandalay

2. Inwa – This was an absolute unexpected surprise and it was almost equal to my Bagan experience. However you decide to get there it is a must do if you love exploring temples and feeling like Indiana Jones.

Indein temples that are accessed from Mandalay

3. Indein – My time at the temples of Indein made the trip to Inle Lake even more memorable. If you love wandering thousands of temples and getting lost in history it is for you, Inle Lake is also a cool little town.

Taunggyi balloon festival

4. Taunggyi Balloon Festival – if you are lucky enough to be visiting at this time then don’t miss out (or on any festival and celebration in any country anywhere!) It is always amazing to celebrate with locals anywhere and this was one huge celebration. Huge balloons made of candles and fireworks floating above you and the people of Myanmar celebrating and dancing everywhere! The image above was right before this balloon exploded in the sky.

Hsinbyume Pagoda Myanmar

5. Hsinbyume Pagoda in Mingun. I had seen pictures and it is absolutely better in real life. A huge white pagoda with curved designs, it was expansive and regal.

The view from Taung Wine Hike in Myanmar

6. Taung Wine – Just outside of Hpa An is the mountain Taung Wine, it can be a little confusing to find and a bit of a hike up but it is gorgeous from the top. Meeting locals at the top was also a great experience.

Wine tasting at Red Mountain Winery Myanmar
photo courtesy of Red Mountain Winery

7. Wine tasting at Red Mountain Winery near Inle Lake. We hired bikes and rode there, it poured rain on the way and the wine tasted all the better for it! (photo courtesy of Red Mountain Winery)

the serenity Inle Lake Hotel

8. Staying at The Serenity Inle Lake, this hotel was a splurge that didn’t disappoint! Sunset on the lake, walking along the little wooden paths to our over water room was magical.

Kyauk Ka Lat Pagoda on a hill Myanmar

9. Kyauk Ka Lat Pagoda was a beautiful serene spot. Built on top of a limestone rock formation in the middle of a lake.

Sunset from Mandalay Hill

10. Climb Mandalay Hill…and I mean climb. You can take a taxi to the top but really just get the experience of walking up all those stairs, sit at the top, wander the temple and watch the sunset. If you are lucky a monk will strike up a conversation, we stayed for hours chatting with a lovely young monk, definitely something to remember.

Where to stay

We found some really great places to stay in Myanmar, while it isn’t as cheap as some other countries you can still find value accommodation. The following are where we stayed  in each town and our honest opinions of them.

Disclaimer, we do use affiliate links which give us a small commission at no cost to you when you click through and purchase from them. You don’t have to purchase the particular item or accommodation that we suggest and it is much appreciated by us! We usually book with Agoda, especially in Asia as they have a bigger range of accommodation choices. We also use and willl alternate between the two platforms. I have linked here in the platform we found the best pricing on for the location.

Dawei – Best House Guest House. It was pretty good and I would stay there again. It was about $20 per night for both of us and had shared bathrooms and toilets that were clean. You’ll walk up the stairs and the floor may feel a little rickety but it was find for the few nights we stayed there. It is really central to most things so if you want to walk you’ll be able to get around however we also hired a scooter from them. We bought our bus tickets here and overall they were very helpful. The staff sleep on a cot in the entrance and so are on hand if you should need something but try to come back at a reasonable hour so you don’t disturb them!

Hpa An –  Golden Palace Hotel. This was one of our favourite places to stay in Myanmar, the staff were so lovely, they went out of their way to help us when the ATM at a bank didn’t give us our money, it was clean and had great air conditioning! The breakfast was great and it was really centrally located. We paid $20 per night and it was definitely worth every cent.

Inle Lake – We tried a few places here! Originally we went and stayed at the very cheap Bright Hotel. Honestly it was fine for an extremely budget option. The room had a private bathroom which was nice but it isn’t the cleanest of places and their is a fair bit of mould on the roof. We’ve stayed plenty of places like this, they’re fine for a night but if we can find a better option we will. Having said that the breakfast on the deck in the morning is excellent and it really is the best part of staying there.

The second day we moved to The Golden Lotus Hotel and it was much better! Clean rooms and bathrooms, air conditioning and a good breakfast. The staff are great, they organised a truck to take us to the Taunggyi Balloon Festival and some of the young staff members came with us to celebrate with us! They have free bikes to use to get around town which is great as it is a little out of the main town. We used them to ride in to town, we rode to areas outside the town such as Red Mountain Winery and Maing Thouk Wooden Bridge.

We also stayed at The Serenity Inle Resort. This was a definite splurge for us at $70 per night for the deluxe water view bungalow. This was such a beautiful and peaceful evening. Watching the sun set over the lake was spectacular, wandering across the wooden paths that criss-crossed the water from our room to the main house and eating breakfast over looking the lotus flower filled lake was just perfect.

I would also recommend Osetllo Bello Hotel, this is where a friend we met stayed and it was clean and well organised. A great place to meet people and definitely popular with travellers with their roof top hang out area. 

Mandalay – Royal Yardabon – This was a great hotel. The rooms were basic and nothing spectacular but it was clean and as we arrived at about 2am they were kind enough to let us sleep in a dorm until our room was ready. We hired a scooter through them and they were really helpful in directing us to places we were looking for. Breakfast was great and they were able to accommodate us in booking tickets and serving us an early breakfast as we left before 6.30am.

Bagan – We stayed at the Sky View Hotel, the cheapest rooms were around $25 and were of a fine standard, clean and airconditioned. The view from the rooftop restaurant was lovely, you could see some temples in the distance and sunset and sunrise were pretty and the food was good. Honestly next time I would stay elsewhere, closer to Thi Ri Pyitsaya 4 street where there are plenty of food and accommodation options.

Yangon – The White House Hotel is great for around $15. It is clean and comfortable and the people were nice.

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