Helpful tips for all first-time travellers: Myanmar Helpful Tips

 

Etiquette

In a formal setting “U” should be used in front of a name when addressing a man and “Daw” when addressing a woman, roughly translating to Mr and Lady. It is common practice to remove your footwear before entering someone’s workplace or home, but not always required. Removing shoes before entering a pagoda or temple is a must. A handshake is usually the first introduction in a business setting and is used in greeting and as a farewell. When handing over something such as a business card it is polite to touch your right elbow with your left hand, or vice-versa. While foreigners are not expected to wear traditional clothing, it is seen as a sign of respect to wear a longyi.

Language & Ethnic Groups

There are more than 100 languages spoken across Myanmar by 135 ethnic groups. The Burman, or Bamar, is the biggest group accounting for 68% of the population, followed by the Shan (9%), then Karen (7%), Rakhine (3.5%), Chinese (2.5%), Mon (2%), Kachin (1.5%), Indian (1.25%) and Kayah (0.75%). The remaining 4.5% is made up of Wa, Naga, Lahu, Lisu and Palaung ethnic groups.

The most commonly spoken language is Myanmar (formerly known as Burmese), which is the primary language of instruction at schools. Other major vernaculars include Shan, Karen, Kachin, Chin, Mon and Rakhine. English was widely taught at schools until the early 1960s when General Ne Win decided to abandon the language. English was readopted in the late 1980s and is now generally spoken by the older generation and the expanding urban elites and middle class.

Climate

Myanmar has a subtropical climate with three seasons. Summer runs from March until mid-May, with temperatures soaring past 40°C in central parts of the country. April is the hottest month. The rainy or monsoon season follows and lasts until late October. July is the wettest month of the year, with an average of 582 mm of rainfall. The cold season starts in November and ends in late February. January is the coldest month (18-23°C) and driest, with average rainfall of 3mm.

Visa

It is possible to attain a visa on arrival, but it is best to contact your in-country embassy before visiting Myanmar to ensure that you meet the requirements to do so. It is also important to ensure you have all the relevant documents needed for a visa on arrival or you will be sent back on the same flight.

A visa can also be applied for in advance through your local embassy or through an online application process. Both tourist and business visas can be applied for online. A tourist visa is valid for 28 days and takes no more than three days to get approved. A business visa is available for 70 days and costs $70. Business visa applicants are required to submit a colour passport photo, a letter of invitation and company registration documents. All visitors must have a valid passport with at least six months remaining validity to enter Myanmar.

Currency

The kyat is the local currency of Myanmar, although dollars are commonly accepted. However, it is important to keep dollars crease free or they will not be accepted. Notes are available in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5000 and 10,000. Coins come in 5, 10, 50 and 100 kyat.

As of late December 2016, the exchange rate is around $1:MMK1341. ATMs have sprouted up around the country, making it easier to access local currency, but it is advisable to carry cash at all times.

Tipping

While tipping is popular in the Western world, it is not common practice in Myanmar. In fact, in some cases a tip will be refused. That said, waiters, porters and tour guides generally appreciate a small gesture; around MMK1000 ($0.81) will suffice. When visiting a religious temple or monastery it is a good idea to have some small notes available to leave as a donation.

Electricity

Power shortages occur on a daily basis, and many hotels, apartments and businesses have a generator for backup power. Electrical outlets are generally 220 Hz AC type, or C or F, the same two-pin system as Europe. Brining an adaptor when you travel is recommended as they can be difficult to track down.

 

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