Myanmar (Burma)

Myanmar is a country in the northwest of the Indochina peninsula. It is a typical country for the region, with many natural sights, historical monuments, and cultural traditions. A country where people come for its marvelous beaches, beautiful islands, high mountains, waterfalls, impenetrable jungles, and golden Buddhist stupas. A country where people live in a different way from other nations, but all of them are very open, friendly, and independent. Welcome to Myanmar; the country is waiting for you!

Myanmar on the Map

Myanmar (Burma) on the map

Geographical Location

The Republic of Myanmar is located in the north of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. The country is strongly stretched in the meridional direction from the spurs of the Himalayas to the Andaman Sea and the Malacca Peninsula.

The Indian Ocean washes the shores of the republic from the west—the Bay of Bengal in the north and the Andaman Sea in the south. The total length of the coastline is 2000 kilometers.

By land, Myanmar borders with Thailand in the south and east, with India and Bangladesh in the west, with China in the north and east, and with Laos in the east. The total length of land borders is almost 6 thousand kilometers.

The relief of the country is complex. In the south and in the central part of Myanmar, there are lowlands and hilly plains through which fully flowing rivers flow. In the east, west, and north are mountains, the nearest spurs of the Himalayas. There is the highest mountain in the country – Hkakabo Razi (5881 meters).

There are many rivers in the country, the largest of which are the Irrawaddy and the Salween. Both of these rivers originate in the mountains of northern Myanmar and flow almost strictly southwards, parallel to each other. They flow into the Indian Ocean.

The nature of Myanmar is rich and amazing, with a huge number of unique animals, plants, and fish.

Safety for Tourists

In the global index of peacefulness, which considers factors such as the tranquility of the situation and the attitude towards tourists, Myanmar is ranked 122nd, alongside the United States and Kenya. This ranking is attributed to the challenging political and economic conditions prevailing in the country.

Myanmar is a notably impoverished nation and effectively operates as a military dictatorship. Not too long ago, the country witnessed numerous and violent conflicts on interethnic grounds, including terrorist acts and military confrontations with neighboring countries, particularly Thailand. However, Myanmar is currently evolving into a more peaceful and attractive destination for tourism. The crime rate is low, with pickpocketing incidents primarily occurring in major cities, while theft is nearly non-existent in the provinces.

The authorities’ strict policies aimed at attracting tourists contribute significantly to the improved safety conditions. Laws are in place to address those who impede foreigners from enjoying their leisure.

Myanmar faces challenges in terms of traffic, with a lack of road signs and traffic lights, coupled with many roads in poor condition. The primary modes of transportation are scooters or bicycles.

Sanitary and hygienic conditions present difficulties due to the tropical climate, which is humid and hot, facilitating the spread of various infections and diseases such as measles, typhoid, and cholera. Tourists are advised to consume only bottled water and eat in reputable establishments.

The country’s nature poses its own risks, including encounters with large predators like bears and tigers, poisonous snakes and insects, and hazards in ocean waters such as sharks, jellyfish, and poisonous fish and mollusks. Travelers in Myanmar must prioritize their safety and adhere to hygiene guidelines.

Holidays in Myanmar

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Despite economic challenges, the people of Myanmar are known for their cheerful disposition and love for celebrations. The country observes 16 public holidays, categorized as secular and religious.

Secular holidays often commemorate significant dates in Myanmar’s history, including Independence Day, Trade Union Day, and Armed Forces Day.

Religious celebrations, especially those tied to Buddhism, the country’s official religion, are highly revered. National festivals like the Burmese New Year on April 1, the Festival of Pagodas in Tabaung, Vaso, Tadigyut, and others are celebrated with vibrant enthusiasm.

Christian holidays, such as the New Year, are officially recognized, reflecting Myanmar’s diverse religious landscape, which includes over 2 million Christians and Muslims. Eid al-Adha is also considered a bank holiday.

Additionally, the country observes various local Buddhist traditions, leading to the celebration of additional holidays throughout the year.

Fun Things to Do in Myanmar

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In recent years, Myanmar’s authorities have made significant efforts to revive the tourism industry, even though it still lags behind neighboring Thailand in terms of service quality. While luxury hotels and well-designed tourist areas are limited, Myanmar offers a unique and exotic experience for visitors.

Here are 10 popular and amazing activities typical of this country:

1. Beach Holidays: Despite the extensive coastline, Myanmar has a limited number of beaches, with developing tourist infrastructure. Ideal for a quiet holiday, relaxation, and meditation, some of the most popular beaches are in Ngapali.

2. Diving: Myanmar offers excellent conditions for diving with a shallow and calm sea, abundant coral reefs, and fascinating marine life. Although the infrastructure is still developing, Ngapali is considered an ideal place for diving.

3. Snorkelling: Clean and transparent waters along the Myanmar coast make snorkelling possible almost everywhere, allowing visitors to observe the captivating life of sea creatures.

4. Kayaking: Kayaking is available on Ngapali beaches and the country’s largest lake, Inle, featuring picturesque houses on stilts and floating vegetable gardens.

5. Hot Air Ballooning: This unique activity is currently limited to the Bagan area, one of Burma’s ancient capitals. From the heights, visitors can admire the majestic temples.

6. Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride: Explore picturesque monasteries and temples by riding past them on a traditional local horse-drawn carriage or opt for a bicycle ride.

7. Gastronomic Tour: Myanmar cuisine, a fusion of Indian, Chinese, and Thai traditions, is known for its freshness and originality. A memorable experience can be had by visiting a floating restaurant in Yangon.

8. Burmese Theatre: With a centuries-old tradition of puppet shows, Myanmar’s puppetry is symbolic of the country. Attending a performance by local craftsmen is a must.

9. Pagodas and Temples: Myanmar is often referred to as the country of golden pagodas. Almost every temple is adorned with gold leaf, creating a majestic sight. The Shwedagon Pagoda, housing the Buddha’s tooth, is particularly renowned.

10. Mysterious Places: Myanmar is home to mysterious locations, such as the Chaittiyo Pagoda atop a rock overhanging a chasm. Despite tourists attempting to move the stone, Buddhists believe it is held up by a hair of the Buddha, surviving even numerous earthquakes.

What to Know About Myanmar

If you are planning to visit this state, here are some of the most important things to know:

Language

The official language of the country is Burmese, also known as Myanmar. It is the language of the largest national group. However, about 100 minority languages spoken in the country have not been given official status.

Population

Currently, the country is home to just over 53 million people. Most of them are Burmese, constituting almost 70% of the population. There are also many representatives of the Shan and Karen tribes, as well as a significant number of Chinese, Indians, and individuals from other nationalities.

  • More interesting facts about Myanmar’s people, their character, and local color can be found in this article.

Currency

The national currency is the kyat, divided into 100 pya. There are currently banknotes of various denominations (1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 200, 500, 1000, 5000, 10000 kyats) and coins (1, 5, 10, 50, 100 kyats) in circulation. The pya is not commonly used as a unit of exchange. American dollars have almost free circulation in the country. It is advisable for tourists to carry dollars, preferably in denominations of 50 and 100, as they offer a more favorable exchange rate. Currency exchange can be done in any bank or hotel. However, currencies of neighboring countries or euros are not widely accepted, and the exchange rate for them can be disadvantageous.

Religion

Most of the country’s population practices Buddhism, accounting for about 90%. There are also minorities of Muslims and Christians. Some tribes in Myanmar still adhere to animism, the traditional religion of their ancestors. Despite Buddhism’s peaceful doctrine, religious conflicts have historically disrupted the lives of ordinary Burmese. At one time, Muslims were persecuted, leading to their forced migration to neighboring countries.

Climate

The country’s territory lies within the tropical and subequatorial climatic zones, characterized by a slight variation in average annual temperature and three distinct seasons. These include very rainy summers, dry and cooler winters, and unusually hot springs. Winter temperatures average around 30 degrees Celsius, spring temperatures reach 35 degrees Celsius, and during the rainy season, the temperature drops to 28 degrees Celsius. The best time to visit Myanmar is typically during winter, from November to February.

The northern mountains of Myanmar feature an altitudinal belt, where temperatures are cool and even cold throughout the year at altitudes exceeding 3,000 meters.

Sea Water Temperature

The average sea water temperature off the coast of Myanmar remains relatively stable throughout the year. The ideal time for beach and sea tourism is from December to February when there is less rain, and the water temperature remains high.

  • Water temperature in winter (December to February): Ranges from +28 to +30 degrees Celsius, with the maximum in February.
  • Water temperature in spring (March to May): Ranges from +29 in March to +30 degrees in May.
  • Water temperature in summer (June to July): Ranges from +27 to +29 degrees Celsius.
  • Water temperature in autumn (September to November): Ranges from +28 to +29 degrees in November.

Natural Disasters

Myanmar faces the main natural hazard of floods during the rainy season, peaking in late summer and early autumn. Landslides, sometimes reaching catastrophic force, are not uncommon during floods, causing significant damage and casualties.

Tropical cyclones, occurring twice a year in May and November, affect the country’s coast with squally winds. Although not as destructive as in some neighboring countries, strong cyclones can strike Myanmar, as witnessed in 2008 when Cyclone Nargis claimed about 100,000 lives.

While earthquakes occur in Myanmar, their strength is typically low. Notable exceptions include the 2004 earthquake near Sumatra, whose reverberations were felt in Myanmar’s Cocos Islands, causing nearly 800 casualties.

Forest fires, though occurring, are not considered particularly dangerous. Overall, the situation with natural disasters in the country is deemed satisfactory, with potential dangers falling within average regional values.

  • For more details on the most devastating disasters in Myanmar’s history, refer to this article.

Political Structure

Myanmar is a presidential republic, though power is predominantly controlled by the military. The most recent military coup occurred in 2021. Administratively, the country is divided into 7 states, 7 administrative regions, and 6 self-governing zones. Naypyidaw serves as the capital.

Major Cities and Resorts

Yangon: The former capital and largest city, founded in 1028, is home to over 7 million people. Yangon boasts colonial architecture, Buddhist temples, and is a major tourist attraction.

Mandalay: The second most populous city, with over 1 million residents, is a historical and cultural center. It is a popular destination for tourists, hosting some of Myanmar’s most famous sights.

Naypyidaw: The new capital, established in 2005, is situated 300 kilometers from Yangon. Despite its recent establishment, Naypyidaw’s population is approaching 1 million. The capital features modern architectural masterpieces, including the Uppatasanti golden pagoda.

Ngapali: Recognized as Myanmar’s premier seaside resort along the Bay of Bengal, Ngapali is a small town celebrated for its 12-kilometer-long white-sand beaches.

Symbols of Myanmar

Green Peacock: Symbolizing royalty, the green peacock is the national symbol of the state and was historically featured on the country’s coins.

Chhinte (Golden Lion): Representing state power, the golden lion is another prominent symbol often seen on banknotes.

White Elephant: An essential symbol in Buddhism, the main religion of Myanmar.

Saung: The Burmese harp, a traditional folk instrument.

Pitaw: A beautiful evergreen tree with bright yellow flowers, serving as a plant symbol of the country.

How to Get to Myanmar

To reach Myanmar, European or Australian tourists typically rely on air travel as it is the primary mode of transportation. Residents of neighboring countries, particularly China and India, have the option to cross the border by car, although Myanmar lacks railway connections with its neighboring nations.

The country’s main international airport is located in Yangon, receiving approximately 3 million passengers annually. Airliners from neighboring countries such as Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Delhi, and Doha operate flights to Yangon. Myanmar also has two more international airports, one in the capital city of Naypyidaw and the other in Mandalay. Mandalay sees the arrival of up to 2 million tourists annually.

Sea travel is another means of reaching Myanmar, with ferries arriving from India and Malaysia. The primary seaport is in Yangon, although this mode of transportation is not as suitable for European tourists. Overall, air travel remains the most common and convenient way for international visitors to access Myanmar.

Cost of Holidays in Myanmar

The cost of holidays in Myanmar can vary widely, depending on whether you choose independent travel or opt for the services of a travel company with trusted guides.

Myanmar’s location in Southeast Asia makes it a distant destination for European tourists, resulting in relatively higher airfare. For example, a round-trip ticket from Paris to Yangon can cost at least $600-700, depending on the season.

Inexpensive tours to Myanmar start from $500 to $1000 for a 7-day package, excluding flights, making it an attractive option for budget travelers.

In Myanmar, tourists can expect the following costs:

Food: Prices are significantly lower than in Europe. Lunch in an average restaurant costs $30-40 for two people, while a meal in a local snack bar can be as low as $3. Specific items like a cheeseburger cost around $2, and a cup of cappuccino is about $1.5.

Accommodation: The average price for a double room in a three-star hotel is $45-50, while hostels offer rooms for as little as $10. More comfortable hotels with additional amenities may charge around $100 or more.

Visiting Attractions: Many historic buildings and temples have free entry, while museums may have an entrance fee. Themed tours can range from $50 to $200. For example, a guided sightseeing or gastronomic trip around Yangon costs $100 for two people, and a one-day tour to Inle Lake is around $120 per person.

Souvenirs: Costs for souvenirs vary, with popular items including clothing made of local fabrics, jewelry made of stones like rubies, and souvenirs crafted from crocodile teeth or ivory. Food items like tea, spices, and exotic durian jam are also sought after.

Transport: Public transport like buses and shuttle buses offer a cost-effective way to navigate cities, with tickets ranging from 20 to 80 cents. Taxis typically charge $1.5 for boarding and an average of $1 per kilometer thereafter.

Considering unforeseen expenses, a holiday for two people in Myanmar for 7 days, including flights, can range from $1000 to $2500. The maximum expenditure for a holiday can go even higher.

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If you’ve visited Myanmar, please share your impressions in the comments. Your recommendations, favorite moments, and memorable experiences will be greatly appreciated by fellow travelers.

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