FOOD AND DRINKS

Burmese cuisine builds up around rice. Rice is served with a variety of dishes that characterize Burmese cuisine, a unique blend of Burmese, Mon, Indian and Chinese influences. These dishes use a variety of local, largely plant- and seafood-based ingredients, and as with other Southeast Asian cuisines, an effort is made to balance the four primary flavors: sour, salty, spicy and bitter.

Some recommended dishes when you visit Myanmar:

  • Mohinga (Burmese fish noodle soup) ...
  • Buthi Kyaw (gourd fritter) ...
  • Thoke (salad) ...
  • Mandalay Mee Shay (rice noodles with pork) ...
  • Shan Tohu (Shan style tofu)

 

WEATHER

Myanmar has a monsoon climate with three main seasons. The hottest period is between February and May, when there is little or no rain and temperatures can rise above 40°C (104°F). The rainy season is generally from May to October, giving way to dry, cooler weather from October to February.

The coast and the mountains see significantly more rainfall than the arid central plains, which include Mandalay and Bagan, and roads can become impassable during the rainy season in those areas.

Overall, the best months to visit are from November to February. The only notable downside (other than the fact that places are busy with other tourists) is that river travel can be slow as water levels are low, meaning that boats have to travel more slowly; this is partilularly notable on long journeys as ferries cannot travel overnight for fear of being grounded on sandbanks.

If you come to Myanmar in the rainy season, bringing a raincoat or an umbrella is a good idea; warm clothes are reccomended when visiting hilly areas or taking on long distance buses.

TRAFFIC

Before 1948, Myanmar applied traffic laws of England – moving in the left side of the path. After independence, Myanmar apply the law of the common world – moving in the right side of the path. However, both vehicles with steering wheel in the left and right are permitted to circulate in Myanmar.

Myanmar has prohibited motorbikes since 2009 to reduce congestion but the Burmese still witness cars lining along the road every day.

Many pavement stalls or street vendors on roads and randomly parking cars make the streets more crowded. Although these images can be considered as a picture of hustle and bustle life, it leads to trouble for everyone. The lack of zebra crossings means that pedestrians have to cross the road by their instinct.

CURRENCY

The kyat is the currency of Myanmar. It is often abbreviated as "K" or "Ks", which is placed before or after the numerical value, depending on author preference. Note nominations are K100, K50, K500, K5000, K5, K10, 

K20, K200, K1000, K10000. While in 2013 and 2014 a lot of places would only accept USD, this has changed in 2015 as the value of the local currency (kyat) has dropped 25% and the government doesn't want the locals using USD.

While in the country, you'll want to use a mix of US dollars and Burmese kyat.  Most hotels, domestic airfares train tickets, and entrance fees will be in USD, while everything else (food, souvenirs, buses etc) will be in kyat.  The best places to exchange are at the airport (during regular hours) and the banks. They offer the best rates and the security that you'll get what you should be getting.

Exchange rate between kyat and USD is K1,455.

PHONE AND INTERNET

Country code of Myanmar is +95

To purchase a SIM card, foreigners need to have photocopies of their passport photo page and Myanmar visa page, as well as one passport photo. SIM cards are 3G mobile data enabled and standard SIM and micro SIM cards are available.

International roaming with an increasing number of foreign mobile networks is now possible in Myanmar; the situation is changing fast, so it is best to check with your operator. You may encounter a block on data usage or SMS text messaging even if you are able to make and receive calls, and if this is the case you should go to a licensed Telenor, Ooredoo or MPT shop for advice (there are many in the downtown areas of larger cities).

Note that mobile network access is often patchy or non-existent in rural areas, but usually works well in towns.

Given the lack of development in Myanmar, the availability of internet access is surprisingly widespread: you can find an internet café or hotel with wifi even in remote locations. However, internet speeds can be slow, especially in rural areas. Prices at internet cafes are usually around K500 per hour, although they may be higher outside cities. You can find free wifi at many restaurants and bars.

PASSPORT AND VISA

It is compulsory for visitors from eligible countries traveling to Myanmar, previously known as Burma, to present a visa at the port of entry. As of 1st September 2014, travelers from qualifying countries with valid passports may apply online for the Myanmar electronic visa, or eVisa Approval Letter, which authorizes travel to the country for tourism or business purposes.

Both the Tourist and Business eVisas for Myanmar require the applicant to hold a valid passport from one of the eligible countries.

Also, both visas are single-entry visas which allow the bearer to enter the country just once. If the eVisa holder wishes to leave the country and later return it is necessary to apply for another eVisa.

The Myanmar eVisa is valid for ninety (90) days from the date of issue.

Children over 7 years old or those who already have an individual passport, the parent must apply separately for an eVisa. Check with your operator if you travel with children.

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