Apply for a Visa before you go
I had wanted to visit Yangon and Myanmar for some time and since I needed to leave Thailand in order to attain my Non-B Visa, it was easy to make the call and book flights to Yangon. DO notice though, that you need to get an e-visa before you travel. It should take 1-3 working days. I submitted mine around 4pm and got it back the following morning already. But it’s not high season now so that might explain it.
The visa fee is a bit of a rip-off, in my opinion, 50 USD. You can apply for one beforehand from an embassy as well if there happens to be one where you are staying. Bangkok has one and it is much cheaper this way, around 2000 baht. On the Internet, it misleadingly talks about visa on arrival but there is no such thing. Visa on arrival requires that you have contacted the embassy beforehand and made arrangements already.
Money issues and taxi fares
Anyway, once you get there it is all good. If you are coming from Thailand or Europe you don’t need to exchange the money into USD. Most/many places seemed to accept Baht and Euros. They like to have clean and crisp bills so make sure your notes are neatly inside a book for example.
At the airport, you need to get a taxi as there is no public transport. It is 8000 kyats to the city centre. The taxi ride takes maybe around 45 minutes. Always negotiate the price before getting into the cab as there are no meters in the taxis.
My favourite topic, FOOD! I think Burmese cuisine has everything it takes to become the next hit in the global food scene that is always looking for fresh ideas. The local joints are inexpensive, eg. noodle dishes on the street cost about 500 kyats and they were always very tasty. I wish they had Burmese restaurants in Thailand as well. I would recommend the local tea leaf salad which reminds me a bit of spicy Thai salads. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for mohinga which is a typical breakfast dish; rice and fish.
They have various deep fried snacks which cost 3-500 kyats in about every corner in the city centre. They are yummy but after a while, you start craving for salads and fruits. There are fruit vendors around but not as many as in Thailand nor with such variety. It might be a good idea to have a knife with you as they don’t sell everything in small portions as in Thailand.
One savory dish that I really liked was salty pancakes, topped with coriander and chickpeas. Really tasty! If you see a vendor selling them anywhere, please grab one (or more) as soon as possible!
If you are a caffeine addict…
Grabbing a cup of coffee on the street in Yangon is about 4-500 kyats. It is nothing like Illy or quality Italian espresso but it is cheap. Typically it consists of instant coffee with condensed milk so if you don’t like sweet… well, too bad! Remember that at the street restaurants they also serve you a pot of tea free of charge, so you are able to see the world go by even though you have finished your coffee.
However, if your espresso ache is getting unbearable there are some nice, Western cafes around but you might be paying even ten times more!! I think the cheapest cappuccino was about 3300 and cafe mochas etc started from 4000, big portions almost close to 5000 kyats. These western places might also charge tax and service charge separately, so bear that in mind. However, most of these places seem to have decent wifi and aircon so sometimes it might be worth the splurge.
Next time in Yangon
All in all, Yangon is quite dirty and after 3 days I was happy to go back to Thailand. The monsoon season was well on its way which doesn’t make it any more drier nor cleaner. But I would definitely recommend Yangon.
Next time I would stay here a bit longer so I could explore other cities as well. I think the locals are happy to see foreigners and, in my opinion, it’s good that the country has finally started to open to tourism. Perhaps this is the next top backpacker destination in SE Asia. So off you go!
Edit, 24.9.17. At the moment the Rohingya situation is not looking good. From the resources that I have gathered, to me it seems that Myanmar is violating human rights of the Rohingya people, big time. I find it hard to recommend visiting a country that doesn’t respect such basic rights. Let’s hope Myanmar will make the right choice and stop persecuting these people who have been living in a plight far too long.
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