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YEAR :

The following information was obtained from various sources including a tourist visit throughout Myanmar in October 2001.

Visas

To visit Myanmar a visa is required. They can only be issued by the Myanmar government.

Tourist Visa

Booking through a travel agent in Chiang Mai was quick and easy. You do have to complete the application for the visa and an arrival form and then they are submitted along with your passport and two photos to the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok by the travel agent. From Chiang Mai the process took three days.

The visa is valid for 30 days and allows for one visit with a stay of up to 4 weeks. The visa can be extended for a further 30 days while you are in Myanmar by going to the Immigration Department in Yangon with a letter explaining why you want the extension and additional passport photos. They will want to see proof (receipt) that you have exchanged U.S. dollars for Foreign Exchange Credits (FEC’s) and will require a fee for the extension.

Technically your passport must be valid for a further six months but this has not been a problem in cases seen so far, depending upon the issuing county. What is critical is that you have the ability to enter the country that your flight out of Myanmar is to. For instance, if your flight is back to Thailand a re-entry permit in your passport could avoid any potential problems or delays in processing.

Business Visa

Currency  The currency of Myanmar is the kyat (pronounced ‘chaht’) and has a current unofficial exchange value of anywhere from 650 to 700 kyats to the U.S. dollar.

On entering Myanmar you are required to exchange $200 U.S. into Foreign Exchange Credits (FEC’s) that can then be used as currency while in Myanmar. They can be used to pay for hotels, transportation, etc. and any other places where you would use U.S. dollars. The requirement is that you purchase $200 per person but couples and families have been known to negotiate to get around this and purchase only $200 in total but this may require a ‘present’ to the official. This outdated policy was copied from the Chinese who wisely dropped it years ago in the interest of promoting tourism. This requirement to exchange for FEC’s is waived if you are part of an official tour group. FEC’s are not redeemable on leaving the country.

Most local restaurants and purchases are made in kyats. Hotels will usually quote their price in U.S. $ and that is the currency that you will use.

There is almost no way to exchange currency other than U.S. dollars. It appears that the only ATM’s are a few in Yangon that only accept credit cards issued in Myanmar. Therefore, you MUST take all of the money that you need with you, preferably in cash in U.S. currency, preferably in $20 bills or smaller.Credit cards appear to be accepted ONLY at the larger tourist hotels and a few high-end tourist gift shops.

Airports

On arrival at the airport go to the counter of the airline of your next flight and confirm your flight. They will manually check your name of the manifest for that flight. (Note: In Heho they actually took the flight coupon for the flight at that time)

On a recent trip to Myanmar on a combination of Air Mandalay and Yangon Airways involving six separate flights, all were exactly on time departing and arriving with one exception, which had everyone aboard and actually left 5 minutes early.

At some airports there are not security x-ray machines so you can expect to have your luggage checked manually. At Heho, there are no metal detecting wands and you will enter a small private room where you will be manually patted down.

Times From Airport

bulletYangon……………….30 minutes
bulletBagan…………………20 minutes
bulletMandalay……………..1 hour
bulletHeho (Inle Lake)……..20 minutes to Heho, 1 hour to Nyaungshwe or Taunggy

Fees: Facilities are fairly developed in the tourist areas of Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake. However, there are many small fees that will be required, some of which are: per person

  • Shwedagon Pagoda (Yangon) $ 5                     Lake Inle tourist area $ 3
  • Mandalay Hill $ 3                                            Shan State Museum (Inle Lake) $ 2
  • Golden Palace (Mandalay) $ 5                         Bagan $ 10
  • In addition, while the entry to most temples is free you can expect to pay a small fee in kyats to take a camera in.

    Internet / Email  There is an absence of internet cafes in Myanmar. Access to email can be obtained at the larger hotels but it, like international telephone calls, is extremely expensive.

    Mail  Letters mailed from Yangon have reasonable time frames for delivery internationally (three days to Chiang Mai). From elsewhere in the country the time can be much, much longer (from Mandalay took 17 days to Chiang Mai).

    General  While there is much written about the political environment if you are in the main tourist areas you will see little evidence of the police or the military. There is a definite attitude of treating tourists well and there is historically almost no crime involving tourists in the main tourist regions, making this one of the safest places to visit. Travel outside of Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake may still be subject to restrictions of one degree or another.

    When booking a hotel ensure that they have a power generator. Throughout the country the power supply is not reliable and frequently goes out at night. In Mandalay it is generally shut off from 11 pm until 7 am. Almost all hotels will have their own generators to provide uninterrupted power.

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