Off to Bangkok: Preparing for Myanmar

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.

Siem Reap in Cambodia across the Poipet border to Bangkok in Thailand

Siem Reap in Cambodia across the Poipet border to Bangkok in Thailand

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!

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “Off to Bangkok: Preparing for Myanmar

    • Thanks for your comment, pinkybinks. Likewise, I spent 8 months in Asia as well and Myanmar was by far the most fascinating (and intense) leg of my journey. We followed the classic tourist trail with a few deviations: Yangon, Mandalay, Pyin U Lwin (I’m never sure how to spell this place, as everywhere spells it differently!), Bagan, Inle Lake, Chuang Tha and another town before Inle Lake but I can’t seem to remember the name. How about you?!

      (By the way, I noticed you’ve subscribed to my blog. Thank you very much! I checked out your blog as well – I particularly liked your photos from Inle Lake. I can’t say I took anything quite so beautiful when I was there. Well done.).

      • Do you have any plans for another visit? I loved it! I think the country will be full of tourists soon, hopefully not as many a Thailand!!!!

      • I hope not either. It was a remarkable experience. I recently saw an article saying AirAsia was hoping to create more routes into Myanmar. I’m sure other airlines will follow suit. With the amount of media coverage Myanmar and Aang San Suu Kyi are getting lately, I won’t be surprised if Myanmar is inundated with tourists. What will be interesting to see is whether locals will react to tourism in a similar fashion to how the Thais have reacted. I completely agree with you, and hope that it never becomes as ‘tourist-dense’ as in Thailand.

        I am keen to go again, yes! I’d be curious to go in a couple of years to see how it will have changed. I’m also keen to go at a different time of year, as we were unbelievably hot. Did you say you visited in Jan/Feb? What was the weather like then?

        Thanks for your comments, Pinkybinks! Always a pleasure!

      • I was there in November – quite chilly in the Shan state, but warm in Yangon. January was much warmer. I hope good things happen for Burma and the Burmese. Its going to interesting to see the change.

      • Hi, again pinkybinks. Sorry for my delayed reply. I share your sentiments and hopes for Burma, and feel quite protective of the Burmese. With all of the media hype about change and foreign direct investment, I hope the quest for profit doesn’t mess with the people and the Burmese culture. Thanks again for your comment. We do love Burma, don’t we? 🙂

  1. linou mou,

    very informative as always 🙂 I just got your post card from Burma!

    where are you now? are your posts backdated?

    when will you be in london! miss you xxx

    • Hey gorgeous – thanks for this. You’re a cutie. I always love hearing from you through my blog. In many ways, I felt as though you were travelling with me. Pleased to hear you got my postcard from Burma (also pleased I got a chance to see it over Skype the other day – don’t worry, I’ll send you more … but from France!).

      Answers to your questions: France, Yes, Don’t know.

      Miss you, too (as always). 🙂

      Love,
      Me

  2. Funny how they want ‘clean U.S. Dollars’ in Burma. Can’t even find those in the States unless you request them specifically from a bank. All money tends to get beat-up and funky while being circulated.

    • I know, right? When we were advised to get clean, US dollars, I wasn’t sure if I had heard correctly. First, it was the question of: why is Burma using US dollars? And then, where will I find clean, freshly printed dollars in Bangkok, a day before I’m scheduled to fly?

      It seemed pretty random, at the time. But, having been there now, it is VERY true… and VERY useful and practical advice. We could have run into a few problems in Myanmar otherwise.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s