Myanmar or Burma is located in Southeast Asia. Myanmar, along
with Laos, is the least visited country in Southeast Asia, losing in
the fight for tourists to neighboring Thailand, Vietnam and even
Cambodia, although there are many interesting places here, and the
country is no less interesting.
Myanmar is located in the western part of the Indochina peninsula. It borders Bangladesh and India to the west, China to the north, Laos and Thailand to the south. In the southwest, it has a long coastline washed by the waters of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.
Administratively, Myanmar is divided into 7 regions and 7 states:
Areas: Ayeyarwady, Pegu, Magway, Mandalay, Sikain, Taninthayi, Rangoon
States: Chin, Kachin, Kaya, Karen, Mon, Rakhine, Shan
It is more convenient to represent the regions of the country as follows:
Yangon (Rangoon) - the former capital of Burma, the largest city in the country.
Mandalay is the "northern capital", a chaotic metropolis on the way to the ancient cities of Upper Burma.
Mawlamyine is the historic city sung by Kipling and the capital of Mon State.
Naypyidaw is the capital of the country.
Pyin-U-Lwin (Memyo) is a pleasant colonial town in the mountains with a cool climate.
Pegu (Bago) is the fourth largest city in the country, the ancient capital of the Mon state.
Pagan (Bagan) is the capital of the ancient kingdom, from which hundreds of pagodas remain.
Mrau-U is the ancient capital of the Arakan kingdom, located in the state of Rakhine.
Chaittiyo is a pagoda and the Golden Rock, a major pilgrimage site.
Ngapali - a beach resort on the Bay of Bengal
Ngwe Saung - a beach resort on the Bay of Bengal
How to get there
To enter Myanmar, you need a visa, which can be obtained at the embassy or via the Internet. The visa fee is 40 USD at the embassy and 50 USD for an e-visa. The visa is valid for 28 days, you can enter the country within 90 days after receiving it.
Upon arrival at the airport, you can only get a business visa, not a tourist visa.
For foreigners, four border points on the border with Thailand are open: Kotown (Kawthaung) in the extreme south, Htee Kee in the Tavoy region, Myawaddy near Mawlamyine and Golden Rock, Tachileik in Shan State. Through all these points, except for Thika, you can enter with an e-visa; to travel from Tachilei inland, you need to get a permit or use an airplane.
A permit is required to enter India. The border with Bangladesh is closed.
Myanmar has three international airports. Most flights are in Yangon, from where you can fly to Southeast Asia, to China or Japan. There are also flights to the Middle East, but there are no direct flights to Europe. Pretty decent choice of routes in Mandalay, mostly from there fly to Thailand, Singapore, China and Hong Kong. There are very few flights to Naypyidaw - only to Bangkok and sometimes to Kunming and Singapore. The Burmese press reports flights from Myeik to Bangkok, but their existence has not been confirmed. Air Asia (from Bangkok to Yangon and Mandalay, from Kuala Lumpur to Yangon) and Nok Air (from Bangkok to Yangon) fly from low-cost airlines.
There is no movement across the border. You can take a bus from Thika on the Thai border to Dawei in the south of the country, where there is a railway.
An additional permit is required to enter with your own car.
For the most part, transport is cheap, but in comparison with other countries in Asia, it is extremely slow, and transport that is any fast is expensive. Finding a compromise between speed and price is not easy.
Among all modes of transport in Myanmar, only the plane cannot be called slow. In addition, planes are much more punctual than trains and buses, but also noticeably more expensive. The flight usually costs 80-120 USD, foreigners pay in dollars.
The state airline Myanmar National Airlines is considered not entirely safe, but on some exotic routes there are no alternatives to it - for example, no one else flies to Mawlamyine. If your route is not so specific, you can use some private carrier. There are several of them in the country, and they are almost identical in all respects. Air KBZ has the largest fleet, Golden Myanmar and Mann Yadanarpon have smaller aircraft. All these companies sell tickets through their websites, but you should not rely on the schedules published there, they are almost always outdated. You can search for flights for all carriers at once on the site https://oway.com.mm/, but you should not buy tickets there: the company has an ambiguous reputation, it is safer to buy a ticket on the website of the carrier itself.
Airlines fly on several major routes. Firstly, this is the obvious Yangon-Mandalay, which has direct flights every day, both in the morning and in the evening. Secondly, this is a circular route through the four main attractions of the country, Yangon - Nyaung-U (Pagan) - Mandalay - Heho (Inle Lake) - Yangon. There are also flights in the opposite direction. Thirdly, there are Yangon-Tandue flights with an intermediate stop, for example, in Nyaung-U. They are convenient to use to get from anywhere to Situe without returning to Yangon, although you will need a stop at the Ngapali resort. Finally, there are radial flights from Yangon or Mandalay towards the outskirts of the country with several intermediate stops, for example, Yangon - Thandue - Situe, Yangon - Tavoy - Myi - Kotaun, Mandalay - Myitkyina - Putao.
All of the above applies to the winter season (October to April). In summer, there are much fewer tourists, and the flight schedule changes according to the needs of local residents.
Railways cover most of the places of interest to the traveler, except those in Rakhine State.
Train tickets are cheaper than any other transport: for example, a trip from Yangon to Mandalay in a sleeping car costs 12,750 MMK (less than 10 USD) for almost 600 km of travel, a first class ticket from Yangon to Mawlamyine costs 5,500 MMK (about 6 USD) for 300 km. This is where the advantages of Burmese trains generally end. Many lines have not seen reconstruction since colonial times, so the trains are slow and shaking a lot. The same 300 km to Molamyine are covered in 10 hours according to the schedule. In fact, the trip is likely to be longer, as the railways are not very punctual. On the main Yangon-Mandalay line, the train may well be an hour late, and on secondary lines, delays are sometimes measured in tens of hours. Nevertheless, once or twice a ride on the train is worth at least for the sake of sensations.
It is usually not necessary to buy tickets in advance. The exception is sleeping cars, for which there may no longer be tickets on the day of departure, and if demand is low, then the car itself can be canceled at the last moment.
It is most pleasant to travel by train between Yangon and Mandalay. This route is served by a comfortable night train with a sleeping car, departing at 17:00; it can hardly be called comfortable, but those who traveled in post-Soviet compartment cars (especially not in branded trains) will not be shocked. The line itself is in good condition for Myanmar; although after Pegu the train starts to shake noticeably (stronger than in Thailand), it will not throw you into the air. A new Chinese-made train with air cushioning runs on the same route, but it has only sit-down cars, although it spends most of the night on the road (departure at 15:00, arrival around 5 am). The trip from Yangon to Mandalay takes 14-15 hours, to Naypyidaw 8.5-9 hours, to Pegu (where you can transfer to trains towards Mawlamyine) a little less than 2 hours.
The railway from Mandalay to Shan State passes through the Goteik Viaduct, built in 1899, which offers a very spectacular view.
On the ship
There is quite a lot of passenger river transport in Myanmar, especially on the main Ayeyarwady River. Local residents use cheap ships of the state agency Inland Water Transport. Popular tourist routes are served by private "fast" boats, which are sometimes twice as fast as usual, but, as always in Myanmar, are disproportionately more expensive. However, even they will not be faster than the bus.
IWT tickets must be purchased no later than the day before departure, private traders may have other conditions. The hotel can help with both.
The official language of the country is Burmese. It is written in its own alphabet, unlike other Asian ones - knowing, for example, the Thai or Lao alphabet will not help you understand Burmese. The numbers are also their own, but they are most often duplicated by international numbers, so it is hardly necessary to learn them.
In big cities it is not difficult to communicate in English.
The country's currency is the Myanmar chat, or kyat (MMK).
For expenses, you will need both chats and dollars. Most hotels will accept both chats and dollars, the price in dollars is often more favorable. Air tickets within the country are sold for dollars, everything else - as a rule, for chats. It is also better to buy chats for dollars. Banknotes for exchange must look as good as possible, otherwise the bank may not accept them.
In expensive hotels and restaurants oriented towards foreigners, you can pay by card, in other places only cash is accepted. ATMs are easy to find in major cities and in Bagan. On the outskirts, you should not count on them; it may turn out that there are only one or two ATMs in the whole city, and those without communication. For withdrawing money from a foreign card, a commission is charged, usually 5000 chat, CB Bank charges 6500 chat.
There are three major mobile operators in Myanmar: the state-owned MPT and the privately owned Telenor and Ooredoo. MPT is a former monopolist and still has slightly higher prices than its competitors, but it also has wider coverage. The difference is noticeable on the outskirts of the country, in the central regions all operators have good communication even in the fields. Large cities have 4G networks. 10 GB of Internet costs 13-18 thousand MMK (2018).