We had a lush last few days in Siem Reap in Cambodia, staying in a Belgian-owned boutique hotel called Shanti Villa with a marvellously cooling plunge pool. As we hopped from temple to temple within the heat of the Angkor temple complex…and as we were driven by our personal tuk-tuk driver to the Cambodian Landmine Museum some 25 kilometres away, we started to devise a mental plan of the next – and almost final – leg of our journey: Myanmar.
Where will we sleep upon arrival? Ocean’s Pearl Inn, Yangon. After meeting a French couple who had advised us to pre-book accommodation in Myanmar, we knew we couldn’t just arrive at the airport with the expectation we could find a cheap hotel on the spot. This place was basic, but comfortable, with air-con and hot water at $25 for a double room. The cost also includes free airport pick-up!
How do we apply for our Burmese Visa? Visa questions were certainly on our minds. There’s a lot of hype on various internet forums about the ‘difficulties’ of getting a Burmese Visa. I must say, we had a very smooth and easy experience at the Embassy of Myanmar in Bangkok.
For future visa applicants, make sure to go at least an hour early (if not earlier), as the queue is quite long (this tip applies both to visa applications and visa collections).
Opposite the embassy, there’s a sign promoting a little restaurant 200 meters or so down the road that sells Myanmar Tourist Visa application forms for 5 baht. We bought and completed these, and we were fine. We needed 2 passport photos, our flight tickets, our passports and our completed application forms. We supplied these with 810 Baht for normal processing time, and an extra 225 Baht to speed up the process to 2 days rather than 3. We had no problems, no questions, no fuss, no delays. A fabulously smooth experience, contrary to what I’ve read on the net!
To apply for your own Burmese visa, go to: 132 Sathorn Nua Rd, Bangrak, Bangkok, Thailand 10500.
How much money do we need? You need what?! Freshly-printed and clean US dollar bills?! Where will I find that in Bangkok!?!
A few people we met on our trip who had been to Myanmar couldn’t overstate how important CLEAN US dollar bills were. Aline mentioned that she had a perfect $100 note that had a hardly visible smudge on it from the printing press: no one would accept it!
As, at the time of visiting, there were no ATMs in Myanmar. It was essential to properly plan our finances well enough in advance to ensure we had enough money during our 28 day stay. Not only did we need enough money, but we also needed to ensure officials, hotels, tourist attractions, etc would accept the currency we brought with us.
We changed £500 each into Dollars to last us 21 days. Upon arrival in Yangon, we changed half of our money into Burmese Kyatt (the local currency), and kept the rest in Dollars. Most hotels and transport only accepted payment in Dollars, therefore, it was important to have both currencies available.
Where will we find clean, US Dollar bills in Bangkok!? Bangkok Bank. Nico and I must have visited about 5 banks before we found one that could supply enough new, high quality notes for our stay in Myanmar. You need to visit the largest one, which is walking distance from Khao San Road. They were helpful, and we managed to get a combined £1000 of Myanmar-friendly US Dollar notes for our time in ATM-less Myanmar.
For future visitors to Myanmar: Enjoy! It’s completely worth the effort!