Myanmar Updates for 2015

Myanmar     Destinations
The Shwedagon Pagoda was truly jaw-dropping amazing.
The Shwedagon Pagoda was truly jaw-dropping amazing.
Since the Myanmar guidebooks seem to become outdated as soon as they are printed due to the rapid changes throughout the country, here are a few updates for late 2015.

TRANSPORTATION

You can get almost anywhere from anywhere now and the roads are not nearly as bad as are stated in some guides. They were being repaired, rebuilt, or repaved everywhere we went. The buses run quickly but some places are just plain far away from each other so there are many buses on the normal tourist track that will take around 10 hours.

MONEY / ATMS

ATMs are everywhere BUT you need a card with a chip! My friend did not have a smart chip on her card and was not able to use any of the ATMs in Myanmar. I got about the same exchange rate at the ATM as I did exchanging US $100 bills at a bank in Yangon so both are good options. You do get a significantly worse exchange rate if exchanging smaller denomination bills.

We did bring quite a few US dollars. Yes, they do still need to be absolutely pristine. Some of our hand-selected perfect bills were denied by both banks and hotels. We didn't NEED them much, but some hotels preferred dollars so we used them from time to time to save ATM fees. There were a few souvenir hawkers around major sites that asked for dollars but as I only had kyat, that was fine with them.

INTERNET

It's not actually that bad! From everything I had read about the existence / quality of WiFi in Myanmar, I prepped my family that I might not be in touch at all while I was there. Most hotels provide WiFi at varying degrees of signal strength. It can be somewhat frustrating, but I was able to post photos and get email almost every night. Sometimes it will cut out for a few hours or a day (supposedly the fault of the government). Alternatively you can buy a cheap SIM card (3,000 kyat) and use data for your internet use. I did not buy one but talked to many travelers who said it was a godsend.

FOOD / VEGETARIANISM

I was not thrilled with Myanmar food, but I can say that it is inexpensive. It certainly wasn't awful and we did get some great Indian food! Most of the food is very greasy and most of the food you can buy in the stores is all sweets.

It was pleasantly easy to be vegetarian in Myanmar! Learn the phrase Thet That Loot (Thet like Bet, That like Bat, Loot like Loot, silent Ts so more like The Tha Loo) and you're good to go. Not only did everyone seem to understand it, they got a kick out of me using the Myanmar term, AND I did not get an upset stomach once from eating out which is rare for me travelling!

WHAT TO WEAR

Please people, do some research before you go and dress appropriately! Inle Lake has by far the worst offenders. Westerners everywhere are in short shorts and spaghetti strap tank tops. It seems to be more accepted there since the place is one big tourist trap. But elsewhere, it's just plain disrespectful to dress like that. It's not a big deal to cover up. Save the skimpy wear for the Thailand beaches!

The great shoe dilemma. I went back and forth over whether or not to bring close toed shoes. They take up so much room and I can't stand wearing shoes, but blogs, trekking sites, etc. all say that they are pretty much required throughout the country. Not so! All I brought were my Teva sandals and a pair of flip flops. I wore my Tevas trekking and on various hikes and I was just fine. There was one waterfall hike that was wet and steep and I felt a bit unstable, but this is also partially due to my particular choice of Tevas; I gave up some function for a cuter sandal. LOL

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