Traveling to offbeat and less touristy places gives you a sense of freedom and peace like no other place. The calm, less populated surroundings can be perfect for introspection and give you space to think. One of the best offbeat locations is Burma or Myanmar. It is one of the least explored southeast Asian countries. So, if you’re planning to explore this mysterious country and you are nervous. Because you don’t know the best places to visit in Myanmar then don’t you worry, I got your back, go on read further into my travel guide to Myanmar.
Why visit Myanmar?
Only since 2013, Myanmar has officially been focused on encouraging tourism and opening its door to the world. So, it is still standing as one of the less touristy places in southeast Asia. It’s a very pure, raw and extremely friendly and warm place. Burmese people are among the nicest people you can ever meet. In Myanmar, you can still see a lot of local customs well maintained and people are seen wearing their local traditional attires. You are sure to have some unforgettable experience and also meet some great people.
In this article, I have put together the places you need to visit in Myanmar and the things you need to know about the place.
- Street food like the local pancakes in the markets cost around 10 cents or so, which is cheap. Food in hotels is the standard price as you would expect anywhere.
- Always negotiate while buying stuff from the street vendors.
- Trust the local people to guide you in the right direction, sometimes you can explore hidden gems through their help.
- You won’t find many clean toilets while you’re on the road. Some restaurants and hotels do have clean toilets so make sure you’re on the lookout for a clean one!
- Internet connectivity isn’t great, but it is manageable, you can buy a local SIM that supports up to 8gb data for less than $10.
- Driving in Myanmar – Steering wheel in any vehicle is to the right side and you also are driving to the right side of the road. You will see and experience the countryside bumpy roads quite often.
- Carry some cash – Many places don’t accept credit cards and not every ATM is really in working condition. Carry at least 100,000 Kyat in cash. I suggest you not to pay in dollars as you’ll end up paying more than what you would have in Kyat.
- Try to hire a tour guide, take the help of your hotel staff to find a tour guide, they aren’t expensive. You could find one under $25 which will include a whole trip with food and sightseeing.
- You can also travel to Myanmar for $10 or so on a bus from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
- From Mesa to the stunning landscapes of Hpa-An takes about 4 hours by car. You can hire a driver and a car in $10.
- Do not hitchhike in border towns as it’s not safe. However, it’s ok to do it in Yangon and Mandalay.
- Certain parts of the country are restricted to tourism. Places open for tourism are completely safe to travel.
- The best time to visit Myanmar is from November till March which is during the summer season and there is less rainfall during the time. It rains a lot more during the rest of the year.
- Myanmar visa – please do apply ahead of time, it may cost you around $50 when applied online. Carry two copies of your passport and visa each.
- The only real expense is accommodation (you can find a hostel for as less as $18) everything else is super cheap. Taxis, buses, and two-wheelers are cheap (around $2 across the city in a taxi). Food can cost as less as a dollar.
- Myanmar or Burma is a very religious country, you will come across a lot of Buddhas and pagodas. Because of the religious vibe women are expected to have their shoulders and knees covered without which you can’t enter the pagodas.
- Not many speak English, some can and some can’t.
- Visit one or two beaches – many are not crowded; in summer the water is nice and warm and you can see some nice sunsets on these beaches.
- The airport is in Mandalay, Myanmar.
- You can convert other national currencies to Kyat in cities like Mandalay and Yangon.
- From what I have read online I believe drones aren’t allowed through customs in the Mandalay airport, but I cannot confirm this piece of information.
- You will see a lot of dogs on the street, don’t be scared. It’s pretty normal to see stray dogs on the streets and they are mostly friendly.
- Be prepared to face mosquitoes, there are a lot of them.
Best places to visit in Myanmar
1) Hpa-An, Kayin State
While you are in Hpa-An, you must visit Kyauk Kalap Pagoda which is very beautiful.
Mount Zwegabin is the giant mountain that overlooks Hpa-An. As daunting as it may sound, you can climb this huge mountain and enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets on the earth. You can find the start of this hiking trail amongst thousands of beautiful Buddha statues, so go ahead and take it all in before you start the climb to the top of the mountain.
The pagoda at the summit is 2005 years old and the view from there is just breathtaking. Watching the sunset from here is incredible.
Saddan Cave is a beautiful yet spooky-looking cave from the outside, which has amazing sculptures and is very different from other caves in the inside. As you come out of the cave you can pay a few bucks for a small boat ride through the water route to head back to the beginning where you have parked your car. Don’t miss taking this ride as it takes you under beautiful rock structures.
You can take a night bus ride to Yangon from Hpa-An. You can find very nice comfortable buses with a/c, charging points, etc.
Once you arrive in the bustling city of Yangon, you can explore some of the undiscovered suburbs and eat the local cuisine.
Here you can find a hostel called ‘Once in Yangon’ which is one of the cleanest and good-looking hostels and it will cost about $12 per person per night. It has a nice common area with bean bag chairs and a really good breakfast.
Places of interest in Yangon
You must visit the Big Buddha and the beautiful parks in the city.
There’s a train in Yangon that goes in a big circle around the whole city. You can get a round trip ride on the train and experience the local culture. This will cost less than a dollar for 2 tickets. Another way to experience the local culture and the environment is through food and in Myanmar the food is as cheap as 2 dollars for 6 portions of Indian / Burmese food.
The Shwedagon Pagoda – After a day out on the train and eating all the local food and meeting some awesome local people you can enjoy the rest of the evening surrounded by the golden glow from the Shwedagon Pagoda before calling it a night.
The dragon restaurant is another must-see place, but the food here could be a bit on the expensive side.
Mandalay is a flat city and its streets are laid out in a grid, making it easy to explore by a bicycle.
Places of interest in Mandalay:
The Mahamuni Buddha temple is a very popular and important pilgrimage places in Myanmar. It has 6 bronze Khmer figures which are originally from Angkor Wat, Cambodia which the locals believe them to have healing powers.
At the Mandalay Royal Palace you could climb up the clock tower (150 steps) and once you go all the way to the top you get a view of the entire palace.
Sandamuni Paya and Kuthodaw pagoda are right in front of one another. Sandamuni Paya has 1774 white stupas surrounding a centrally placed pagoda. It is one among the best places to visit in Mandalay and is very picturesque.
Kyauk Tan Gyi is a pagoda that has one of the biggest marble Buddha statues in the country and is worth visiting at night because it gets colorfully lit up.
You can take a boat ride from Mandalay to reach Mingun. Here you must visit the beautiful white pagoda, Hsinbyume. It is also called the Taj Mahal of Myanmar. If you can also go see the huge unfinished pagoda called the Mingun Pahtodangyi and the Mingun Bell.
The Ma Soe Yein Monastery is the biggest monastery in Mandalay which is worth a visit.
Another one of my suggestions is the Shwenandaw monastery, which was built in 1878 out of teak wood in traditional Burmese style.
Mandalay hill has about 1720 steps. From the summit you can see for miles and the sunset view is just stunning from the pagoda from here.
Make some time to go see the U Bein Bridge which is at least 200 years old (the longest teakwood bridge in the world), it is about 1.2kms long.
You can take a boat ride from Mandalay to Bagan. This ride includes a scenic view and a short excursion of a local village tour.
You can easily spend 3 days in Bagan, there are a lot of ancient temples and pagodas. You will have to pay 25,000 Kyats for a small pass to visit all the pagodas in the region.
Do not miss a chance to do a hot air balloon ride while you’re in Bagan, although it’s expensive (close to $350) the view is worth it! You will not experience anything like it anywhere else in the world. The company I recommend for Hot air ballooning is Balloons over Bagan if you would like to see the sunrise as they are the only ones who start early.
Another interesting place is Mount Popa, you need to climb 777 steps to reach the beautiful temple at the top.
Inle lake is also a beautiful must-see spot.
My recommendation for a restaurant in Bagan is the moon, a vegetarian place, and really nice quality food.
Is Myanmar a cheap and safe tourist destination?
Myanmar is a very beautiful and a very safe country. The people are very friendly and helpful, you will find the locals go out of their way to help you and they are very honest. Although most people don’t speak English, it is still easy to explore the land and culture. Most of your travel experience will cost you very little money. For example, a boat ride for 2 people for an hour might cost you $10. Visit Myanmar before it becomes very touristy and overcrowded. If you want to explore the country properly and at ease, then I suggest you spend more than a week in Myanmar.
I want to end this article on a word of advice, travel (not just to Myanmar but anywhere around the globe) when you’re young. You work all your life, and maybe retire at 50 or 60 with a hope to travel, but you won’t be able to climb mountains and hike in places like this at that age. Happy travels!