by Nicola Lessing
Having just returned from a stupendously wonderful Travelbay Tour of Myanmar, I thought I would put together a few travelling tips and let you know of some of the services we provide on our Travelbay Myanmar Tours.
All the hotels I stayed in had internet access but the speed and reliability varied. The hotel I stayed at in Yangon had such good internet access that I could even whoosh upload a video almost instantly. In fact, that was the fastest speed I have ever experienced and made Australia look like a third world country.
In Bagan, the access was much slower and occasionally dropped out but I had a SIM card and was able to tether with my mobile phone.
I always like to purchase a local SIM card for my phone and find that very helpful as a backup and it also gives me access anywhere. These cards worked really well in the places I visited and were relatively inexpensive.
Money and ATMS
I was told that many banks in Myanmar only accept US dollars and Euro and not Australian dollars. Therefore, it is best to have either a debit or credit card or US dollars.
There were lots of ATMs everywhere I went. It seems pretty much anyone can set one up, but it is regulated and they all charge the same very small fee.
At the time that I visited in March 2017, the minimum amount you could withdraw from an ATM was 5,000 Kyat (local currency) and the maximum per transaction was 300,000. However, you could have up to 3 transactions a day totalling $900,000. I withdrew 300,000 Kyat which at the time was around AUD $290. Of course all these amounts can change as does the exchange rate.
Hotel and Holiday Cost
Our Myanmar holidays are a little more expensive than our Vietnam holidays. This is because in Myanmar there are government taxes for flights and hotel bookings and they also have a minimum wage. This is already all covered in your tour cost.
Meet, Greet and Welcome Kit
You will be met on arrival by both your personal tour guide at the airport as well as your driver. Your tour guide will have prepared a welcome kit for you that contains all your domestic flight tickets, travel itinerary and a small gift. Depending on the time of your arrival they will give it to you at the airport or it will be there for you at the hotel. If your plane arrives late in the day they prefer to leave it at the hotel as you might be a little tired.
Guides and Drivers and the little touches
Your guides and drivers are all local and very experienced. The driver keeps a supply of sealed bottled water in the vehicle and in my experience always had both cold water in a cooler in the boot and also room temperature water for those who prefer it not so cold.
Usually when you visit a temple you need to take your shoes and socks off. Each vehicle I travelled in had little packets of wet wipes and every time I went to put my shoes back on the tour guide handed me one so I could first clean my feet.
Their level of care was very beautiful and touching.
Passport and Visa
It is always a great plan to take a photocopy of your passport and visa with you when you travel. On these holiday if you give the copy of your passport to your personal tour guide they will take care of checking in for you at the hotels and airport. I found this very supportive and it also meant I didn’t have to keep taking my passport in and out of my bag so I was less likely to misplace it.
The tourism industry in Myanmar is relatively new and awesome – the hotels I stayed in were fantastic and exceeded my expectations. The countries main revenue comes from their natural resources of semi-precious stones such as gold, jade sapphire, rubies, emeralds and a few diamonds. They are also huge in agriculture – growing products such as peanuts, rice, butter beans, chick peas, fruit and exporting both rubber and teak from the local trees.
Travelbay provides group, private and custom tours to Myanmar. It is a gorgeous place to visit and we work with a very professional and caring team of locals there.