That takes us up to day 21 on the itinerary which is your final day in Myanmar. We hope you have found this guide helpful, you can easily stretch this out into a more leisurely 3 week itinerary if you have the time.
Things To Note:
What with the troubles in the north western part of the country in the Rakhine state, many embassies have advised against all travel to several parts of the country. The tourist areas of Ngapali beach and Hsipaw are still reachable for tourists, but it’s best to check in advance the conditions of visiting from your government embassy website. For example, it is possible to travel to Hsipaw by train from Mandalay, but we believe it is not possible to do any trekking in this area at the moment. Places such as Ngapali beach are under military supervision and so it is necessary to expect passport checks are several points during your journey there. From our experience of visiting Myanmar during this time, there is nothing to worry about as a tourist. This is one of the safest countries we have ever visited and the people are some of the friendliest and most peaceful we have met. (Written January 2018)
Time Of Year
We went in January and it was a great, because the earlier crowds visiting in the dry season had dispersed and you got to enjoy lots of the sights with fewer people. It felt very quiet at times around the touristy restaurant areas in Bagan and Inle Lake, there are obviously quite a lot of travellers but apparently nothing compared to what it is like in November/ December time. The weather is very pleasant in the day and can get a bit nippy at night times in the countryside, but as long as you take some warm layers there is nothing to worry about. We didn’t have any problems finding accommodation, in previous years we read that there hasn’t been enough for the number of tourists, but because of the ongoing political situation we believe there are fewer people visiting at the moment.
Animals And Insects
There can be quite a few mosquitos in the cities during the dry season and we have heard that there are a lot more during the wet season, in the countryside also. Check your embassy for advice on Malaria and other mosquito-born diseases. At the time of visiting, there was a low risk of Malaria in most places in the countryside and none in the cities. We were take a lot of care not to get bitten, and this time Ali decided to take anti-malarial drugs because she is prone to getting bitten regardless!
We were told by a trekking guide that there are a lot of snakes in the countryside in the Kalaw area during the months of March and April and that some can be aggressive when near fires. Local people like to burn their crops and when that happens the snakes make a slithering escape! So if you are trekking in the countryside at this time your guide should be able to advice whether it is safe to trek that particular route or if you need to take another one.
There are many stray dogs across the whole of Myanmar, and sadly it looks like a lot of them have had a very hard life. Be careful walking around small streets at nighttime when dogs can become scared and territorial, we carried a stick around with us just in case! Also there are some cases of Rabies in Myanmar so make sure you check your embassy website for travel advice and get vaccinated.
Myanmar is a very traditional country where nearly all of the women dress conservatively, wearing Longyi’s (mid calf length wrap skirts) and they cover their shoulders. As a tourist we think it’s only fair to dress appropriately and follow suit, particularly in the villages. The only place Ali had her shoulders and knees out was at the beach in Ngapali, and even then the locals were completely covered up, swimming in the sea fully clothed!
Food And Drink
Some of the tastiest food we have eaten in Myanmar has come from the local restaurants and tea shops. Although we wouldn’t necessarily advice eating things like meat from the street vendors, we ate lots of the breaded and fried goods and didn’t have any problems at all. If the locals are eating there then you are probably fine! Some of our favourite dishes were Shan noodles, green papaya salad, tea leaf salad, curries, chapattis, avocado salad, churros and papaya. You can find food as cheap as 400 kyat (22p) for noodles in a tea shop. A good price for a draught Myanmar beer in a local tea shop is 800 kyat (43p), and 2000 kyat (£1.07) for a large bottle.
It is incredibly easy to organise your travel in Myanmar. Most hostels can book onward coach journeys for you and you can always pick up a tuk tuk or cab at a bus station. The journeys by coach can be long and laborious though, the roads can be long and winding in places and the drivers love to play their dance tunes all night long on the loud speakers. If you are prone to travel sickness then be as prepared as you can be with travel sickness or sleeping pills. The train is a really nice way to travel, very cheap, but it takes a lot of time compared to the bus. From our experience, traveling in Myanmar was always to schedule, well organised and straight forward. You can just arrange it all when you get there unless you want to fly. When getting a cab or a tuk tuk, you will need to negotiate hard to get a good price, or try to get your hostel to book it for you.
You will need a visa to enter Myanmar and, due to the political state, there are current restrictions as to where and how you can enter the country. In January 2018, the only way to enter is to fly into the cities of Yangon, Nyi Pyi Taw or Mandalay, or to cross the border by land at Tachileik, Myawaddy or Kawthaung. We believe you have to exit the country the same way that you entered and flying is more straight forward than a land border crossing. Make sure that you research the most up-to-date information on the government embassy website, because the situation may change quickly. An e-visa cost us $50 USD each and was for 28 days access to the country.
We hope you find our guide helpful, we would love to hear from anyone who followed it.