1. What is the best time to travel?
The best time to travel to Myanmar is from mid October to February when the country is green, dry and relatively cool. Yet the country is also good to travel to at other times.
With the exception of the extreme north Myanmar has a tropical monsoon climate. Myanmar has three seasons: a rainy season (May to October), cool season (November to February) and a hot season (March to April). During the rainy season there is a lot of water on the ground, especially in coastal areas and around the delta. In central Myanmar there is less rain (Bagan and Mandalay), but the humidity can be enormous. The rainy season has its own charm, but count on some roads being impassable and some views will be disappointing. Yangon has 2618 mm rain per year and 871 mm in Mandalay. Most rain falls in July and August. In the hot season the land is dry and dusty. The temperature rises in Yangon up to 40 ° C, and in Bagan it may be even higher. March and April are the hottest months. This is the least appropriate travel time, although the country in this period is particularly beautiful. In addition, every April the water festival takes place and this provides additional cooling!
2. Is a visa necessary for Myanmar?
Yes, a visa is required to visit Myanmar. A visa upon arrival is only available from select destinations. For example, British nationals should apply for a visa at the nearest Burmese embassy or Consulate well in advance of travelling.
Any queries on entry requirements should be directed to your nearest Burmese Embassy.
3. Can i pre-book extra nights and transfers?
Yes you can pre book transfers (on arrival) and extra nights with Shoestring.You can add these to your booking form.
4. Do i need vaccinations or malaria tablets for Myanmar?
Please click here for information regarding vaccinations recommended for Myanmar. You should then contact your GPor a specialised health clinic to make an appointment to get your injections and pills. Please make sure that you arrange this at least six weeks before departure so you have time to complete a full program of injections. Two weeks should suffice for people who already have had a few vaccinations. You are responsible for having the right protection when going on tour.
5. What is the recommended currency for Myanmar?
The local currency in Myanmar is the kyat. The rate changes very quickly. Traveller's cheques, credit and debit cards are not always useful. Any cash is best taken in dollars (recent undamaged notes). There are banks/exchange bureaus at the airport and in the city of Yangon. ATM withdrawals are possible in Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan but machines can be unreliable. It is advisable to take out extra insurance to minimise the loss in case of your cash being stolen.
6. What type of clothing/equipment should i take?
Myanmar is a tropical country. Therefore, take light clothes. For evening, a high-necked T-shirt with long sleeves or a thin cotton sweater is handy as protection against mosquitoes. For travel in the months of November to February take a warm sweater or jacket because in the Shan State (Kalaw and Inle Lake) it can be cool. Its better to take too little rather than too much. What you miss, you can easily buy there. If the sun is high in the sky a hat or umbrella is definitely recommended. It is wiser to spend these hours in the shade. A pair of good walking shoes and some sandals is all you require. Remember that for the shrines of the country (even though they can appear as a heap of stones, as sometimes is the case in Bagan) you should enter barefoot. Everyday there are opportunities to enter temples and if you have to remove your shoes and socks each time then it could eventually be very annoying. So slippers/sandals are a godsend. Do not dress in an 'exposed' fashion. Shorts for example, are not a good idea. Burmese see it as ridiculous for men and shameful for women.
Important items to take are: sunglasses, sunscreen (almost impossible to get in Burma), anti-mosquito pen, toiletries, towel, a first aid kit, a hat / canvas, photo or film equipment, spare batteries, flashlight, pocket knife (during flight stow in checked luggage), alarm clock, stationery, books, passport with visa, sufficient cash dollars, copies of passport and travel insurance, departure time letter, a card from the travel insurance that includes the emergency, calendar of important addresses, travel guide. Furthermore, possibly: toilet paper, tampons, reading light, universal plug.
7. How is the accommodation organised if i book alone?
If you book alone, we will pair you with a fellow traveller (same sex when possible) unless you pay the single supplement to ensure your own, single room.
8. How are communications in Myanmar?
International calls can be a difficult in Myanmar, but you can (sometimes) make calls from the Central Telephone office in Yangon. That is the cheapest way but it may take a long time before you are connected. The larger hotels in Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan have a direct connection with foreign countries but he rates are steep. The international country code for Myanmar is 0095. Calling to/from a mobile phone is not possible.
In Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan you can occasionally receive and send e-mails. Sometimes you must do it via the email address of the hotel or Internet cafe, sometimes using your own email address. The cost of this service is also high. Yahoo and Hotmail addresses are unusable in Myanmar. The government puts a lot of restrictions in place to limit the flow of information for the citizens in Myanmar.
9. Do I need a sleeping bag, sleeping mat and mosquito net with me?
A sleeping bag is not necessary. You will sleep every night in a hotel. It is also unnecessary to bring a mosquito net. Mosquitoes can not be totally avoided in Myanmar, but some measures can significantly reduce the nuisance anyway. The 'mosquito coil', (incense spirals) keep mosquitoes at bay for around eight hours at a time. (These are available everywhere in Myanmar). It also helps to wear long trousers and a good T-shirt with long sleeves and collar in the evenings. DEET or other insect repellents have some effect, but do not expect miracles.
10. What festivals are taking place in Myanmar?
There are many fine festivals in Myanmar, the main ones are listed below with the dates they take place in 2014:
-May 5th Kason Full Moon Festival (watering of sacred Bo Tree, Nationwide)
-August Warso Cane Ball Festival (Mahamuni Pagoda, Mandalay)
-August 5th-9th Taungpyone Nats (Spirit festival) - 30km north of Mandalay
-October Kyauktawgyi Pagoda Festival (Mandalay)
-October/November Kuthodaw Pagoda Festival (Mandalay)
-September 24 to October 11 Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda's Festival (Inle)
-October 25 & 26th Kyaukse Elephant Dance Festival
-October 26 Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda Festival (Golden Rock)
-November 19 to 24th Taunggyi Balloon festival
11. Is Myanmar safe as a travel destination?
Myanmar is one of the safest countries in Asia. Crime goes against the Buddhist culture and theft and robberies are rare. This is also because of the strict control of the military regime.
However, it is sensible to take simple measures to reduce the risk to a minimum. Money and important documents you can (as in other destinations) better wear on your body, such as pockets on the inside of your clothing or a purse. Divide money and documents to different places. Put a small amount of money in your wallet so you do not lose all your money if your pockets are picked. Do not leave money or valuables lying around loose in your hotel room. Carry photo and film equipment in a bag or backpack. Make copies of important travel documents such as passports, visas, airline tickets and insurance documents.
12. Is it OK if I go to Myanmar, given the political situation?
As you probably know, travelling to Myanmar is not uncontroversial. The Foreign office in the UK has no restrictions in place at present but you can check the current situation on their website. It is always worth to check the advice for travellers from your own country.
There are some important things to bear in mind when in Myanmar, regards the political environment. There is a restriction on the freedom of speech in public places. Please note that even in a teahouse there are always people listening out to what is being said. A few negative comments and these people are sent to prison. So be sure you listen carefully when people are alone, but do not tempt them in to making statements in public places. Try not to draw stories from people. The Burmese would rather not talk about their ideas about the regime for fear of their safety. Be careful with government officials. If you offend them, it might not immediately occur to you but it is quite possible that once you're out of sight, they then focus their anger on the small shopkeepers whose services you have used. If you see things that are a direct violation of human rights, then write it down and send your findings to Amnesty International.