Are you planning to travel Myanmar in a low budget? Feeling like you need some time away from the crazy island parties (especially if you’re coming from Thailand)? Then, I suggest you give Myanmar a spin. Myanmar, with its culture centered on Buddhism, and with very simple lifestyle influencing the whole country, you will experience exotic food and culture, and will have some quiet time. Good if you’re looking at some down time from your continuous travels. Sound like something you want to do? Here’s a full guide on how to do travel cheaply in Myanmar.
Myanmar is the least visited country in South East Asia. For me, it is the most interesting place to visit in South East Asia. Tourism is growing every year. Due to a government change, Myanmar is opening its doors for travelers. Years ago, Myanmar was living a dictatory. If you want to travel Myanmar in a low budget, I will tell you my itineraries, things that you can’t miss like Bagan Temples, meeting local people and having tea with them.
You will read the essentials that you need before visiting Myanmar. After this I will tell you which places you can visit in Myanmar.
Before visiting Myanmar
Nowdays things are easier to visit Myanmar. You can get your visa online. Make sure that your passport validity must have at least (6) months. You will be allowed to visit Myanmar with a 28 day-visa in a single entry.
How to get there?
You can get to Myanmar by plane – this is the easiest and fastest way. There are cheap flight companies like Air Asia flying to Mandalay and Yangoon. If you are coming from Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Thailand (Bangkok) and Singapore, you can get good prices for your flight. If you want to book a flight ticket, I always recommend to use skyscanner. Why? Because the most of the times you can find the best fare and in the fastest and easiest way to book your flight.
You can also go overland from Thailand, which I highly recommend to you, it’s much more authentic. There are 4 open border crossings with Thailand. I crossed from Mae Sot (Thailand) to Myawaddy, the most popular one. I already got my visa before getting to Myanmar overland. Be careful! There is no visa on arrival. So make sure that you get your visa before crossing to Myanmar overland. If you want to know the other border crossings between Myanmar and Thailand, check here for more information.
If you are planning to visit Myanmar, it’s not obligatory to have vaccinations. Just the routine vaccinations before every trip like Hepatitis and Typhoid. You don’t need special vaccinations for Myanmar, just the same than the other countries in South East Asia. But, there are some vaccinations which are recommended like Malaria, Rabies and Yellow Fever.
When you are visiting Myanmar, you should know about the weather. The weather is really hot in Myanmar. There are two seasons in Myanmar for the weather, dry and wet season.
Dry season is from October to May, being November and December the coldest months in Myanmar.
And wet season from May to early October, being May and June the hottest months in Myanmar.
It means the best season to travel Myanmar is from October to February when the weather is nicer and not rainy.
Traveling in Myanmar is very safe, safety isn’t gonna be a problem at all. I traveled alone and I felt very safe during my three weeks in Myanmar. I met people traveling alone and they also felt save (girls included). Myanmar people are very religious (Buddhist) and you can trust them. I didn’t meet anyone who has any problems about safety in Myanmar. Like almost all the countries in Asia, you will feel safe, I would say that safer than in your own country.
The official currency in Myanmar is Kyat. The rate is $1 for 1 300 Kyats. It could be a variable the rate, check about the rate before traveling to Myanmar. You can withdraw money from the ATM, they will usually charge you commission. Traveling in Myanmar has changed this years and you will find ATMs almost everywhere, no worries about last years where you couldn’t withdraw money from the ATM. If you are bringing cash, USD are very common accepted in hostels and touristic places. Make sure that you bring new and neat bills. Burmese people are very picky when is coming to exchange your USD. Your bills, it should be in a perfect state when you want to exchange them. You can exchange money in banks, touristic places and in your hostel.
How to find wifi in Myanmar
Getting wifi in Myanmar is very hard. You can find wifi in your hostel but is working very slow. And it’s down the most of the time. Wifi signal is very weak, so don’t make a lot of plans with wifi in Myanmar. Maybe in expensive hotels, they will have better connection. But don’t expect connection like Thailand in Malaysia. Myanmar is less developed country than those countries.
After giving you some essentials that you should know before visiting Myanmar. I’m gonna tell you how can you travel Myanmar in a low budget.
During the trip
If you want to travel Myanmar in a low budget, this is gonna be your main problem, accommodation. If you are used to getting free sleeping options from websites and other organizations online (check for the complete list here). Myanmar is a very difficult place to find a host.The government charges high taxes for hotels and hostels to host foreigners. That’s why accommodation is more expensive than in the other countries in South East Asia. It’s not allowed to host tourists if you don’t pay taxes. So, communities like couchsurfing aren’t working good in Myanmar. You can find some locals who host visitors or foreigners who are living there and hosting people by couchsufing. In my trip there, I wasn’t able to find any host, not even for a meet up, to have coffee or going out for a beer.
My main expense in Myanmar was accommodation. I was sleeping in cheap hostels every time. My cheapest accommodation was $4 for sleeping in Yangoon. I was sharing a room with a very thin mattress and sleeping on the floor. The maximum that I paid traveling in Myanmar was $8, in Mandalay, the whole room for me. But, I was sharing the bathroom. If I compare prices with Thailand (especially North Thailand) accommodation is more expensive and the quality is worse. In North Myanmar, hostels usually include a huge breakfast, this is a good thing for starting your day. Breakfasts are really good.
Forgetting about prices, I have to say that Burmese people are very friendly. In Myanmar, staff in the hostels are very helpful and polite. They make their best to make your staying comfortable. They are always working with a big smile in their face
Staff in the hostels provided me a lot of information about transportation and places to visit. Sometimes, they told me how to avoid the payment in touristic places, because the payment from touristic places is going to the government. For houses that I stayed with, they didn’t agree with the government about tourist politics and high taxes for tourists. So, some of them were explaining to me how to avoid the payment in Golden Rock and Bago.
Transportation (when you travel Myanmar in a low budget)
Transportation is very cheap in Myanmar. So, if you travel Myanmar in a low budget, transportation isn’t gonna be an issue. Buses inside the city are very cheap, around $0.25 cents (200-300 Kyats). Prices for a night bus are from 8-12 USD, depending on how luxurious you want to travel. A great advice to travel Myanmar in a low budget is getting night buses. Paying the fare of the night bus, you will get transportation and free accommodation (2 for 1) for the same price. When you travel Myanmar in a low budget, that’s great!
For transportation in Myanmar, I was hitchhiking. So, I spent very little money in transportation. I paid just for a couple of night buses during my 3 weeks visiting Myanmar. Hitchhiking is working good in Myanmar. People can’t understand what are you doing, but, Burmese people are very friendly and helpful and they will help you to move around Myanmar.
I was coming from Thailand to Myanmar. I crossed overland the border. And I hitchhiked from the border until Yangoon, the whole way, stopping in different places. Hitchhiking was working good. From Yangoon to Chaungtha was the most difficult. From Yangoon to Mandalay and Bagan was really easy to hitchhike. From Bagan on the way to the South (Pha An) was very easy to hitchhike too. Roads are really good and Burmese people are usually driving you without problem. As you are a foreigner, Burmese people are happy to meet you.
I’m gonna give you some advice if you want to hitchhike in Myanmar:
As Burmese people aren’t very good in English language, it’s going to be very helpful if you ask someone to write for you in a paper what are you doing. So, they will understand easily when you are asking for a ride. Ask in your guest house or a local friend that you meet on the way for their help. A couple of sentences explaining about hitchhiking and you won’t have any problem hitchhiking in Myanmar.
I didn’t make a sign to hitchhike in Myanmar. I usually didn’t spend more than 15 minutes waiting for a ride. The main problem in some places was the traffic. Some places weren’t crowded with cars. Apart from that, cars are usually stopping soon to drive you.
Make sure when you are hitchhiking that you go outside the city to ask for a ride. You can get great information in hitchwiki about how to hitchhike in Myanmar. Try to ask for a ride far from local transportation,, so it will be easier for you. If there are locals waiting for local transportation cars won’t stop to pick you up. They are going to think that you are waiting for local transportation.
I got rides from different people in Myanmar. For short and long distances. They invited me for coffee, for lunch, to visit their family. The experience was great! I had great conversations with them about their country and how do they live there.
If you want to travel Myanmar in a low budget, you should try to hitchhike. Not only for your budget but also all the wonderful people that you are gonna meet everyday on the road. If you want to know more information about how to hitchhike, check this guide where I explain step by step how to hitchhike around the world.
You can also go around Myanmar by train in North Myanmar, I didn’t. But, I met travelers who recommended to go by train and meet local people who are traveling around Myanmar. Train is going very slow, so you will see the landscape and enjoy with the breeze of the wind in your face.
Travel Itinerary from South to North Myanmar (3 weeks)
My first destination in Myanmar was Kinpun (where you can find accommodation before getting Kyaiktiyo). Kyaiktiyo is the place where you can visit the Golden Rock. From Kinpun, I went to Bago where you can visit the sleeping Budha and 4 sitting Budhas statues. From Bago, I went to Yangoon, the largest city in Myanmar. From Yangoon to Chaunghta (the beach) by bus and I went back hitchhiking to Yangoon. From Yangoon, I went to Mandalay and after that I visited Bagan. From Bagan, I went to Hpa-An which was my last destination in Myanmar before coming back to Thailand overland.
Destinations that you can’t miss in Myanmar
Kyaiktiyo (The Golden Rock)
It was one of my favorite destiantion in Myanmar. I slept in Kinpun and from there I walked a few hours to get the Golden Rock. The way was really nice. I was walking between thousands of local people. At that time was one of the most famous holiday in Myanmar and the way was full of people. It’s a pilgrimage way. Burmese people were happy and curious to meet you and they were telling me Mingalaba (hello). You can find during the way different places to drink water, juice or buy food on your way to the Golden Rock. Once you finished your walked, you will see a huge Golden Rock where Burmese people are praying. You can go and touch the Golden Rock but only if you are a man. Women aren’t allow to go inside the Golden Rock. After spending time in the Pagoda, I went back walking to Kinpun.
If you don’t want to do the pilgrimage way. There are trucks which are bringing people up to the Golden Rock and down to Kinpun. When I was leaving the Golden Rock, there was a long queue of people waiting for the trucks because of the special date.
I can recommend to you a short staying in Bago on the way to Yangoon. There are interesting things to see like Sleeping Buddha and Kyaik Pun Pagoda where you can see 4 sitting buddhas statues. These attraction is outside the city of Bago. Just a few kilometers from city center. From Bago is easy getting by bicycle to the Buddhas attraction. You need to pay a day ticket to see all the touristic places. It was $10 at that time. The staff of my hotel told me how to avoid the payment which I did successfully. If you want to visit Bago, you can rent a bicycle to move around or if you don’t like going by bicycle just go by taxi.
It’s the largest city in Myanmar. I had great time there. In Yangoon you can find the most sacred Pagoda in Myanmar: Shwedagon Pagoda. It’s really big and it’s full of gold everywhere. I can recommend to you to visit at day and at night time. At night is great the view with the lights. I think, it’s worthy spend time inside the Pagoda and try to meet a monk. I was having tea with them and we ahd an interesting talk.
Visiting Yangoon, you can’t miss street markets during the day and at night time. There is a huge market in Chiantown where you can find Burmese food, fruits and even insects to eat. Prices are really cheap,. You can find food for less than a dollar. There are beer stations where Burmese people go for a beer. Prices are from 1-3 USD.
If you have time during your visit to Myanmar, I can recommend Chaungtha as off beat place in Myanmar. It’s full of local people (especially in the weekends) and not many foreigners. It’s very quiet place, don’t expect a party place here as some places in South East Asia. You can rent a motorbike to go around the beaches or just relaxing in the beach.
It’s the most touristic place in Myanmar. Almost all the people who visit Myanmar take go to Bagan. It’s amazing place! Bagan is one of the best places that you can find in South East Asia like Angkor Temples in Cambodia. There are hundred of Buddhist temples around the amazing landscape in Bagan. You can rent a bicycle or a motorbike, it depends on what you prefer to go around. If you have the chance to spend two days in Bagan, it’s gonna be great. You need to see the sunrise and the sunset from the top of one of the temples. You need to go up barefoot and enjoy the views. You will take hundred of pictures. The entrance is $15 for all the temples and it last for a few days. They usually ask for the ticket once you get Bagan by bus. As I got Bagan hitchhiking nobody asked me for a ticket and I avoided the payment. The most of the temples don’t ask for the ticket to go inside, just a few of them.
It’s the second largest city in Myanmar. There are plans to do in Mandalay. You can visit the King Palace and the markets during the day. At night, there are many places to go for a beer and restaurants. There is an amazing sunset view in Amarapura bridge just a few kilometers outside Mandalay. You can go by bus or by bicycle. If I need to choose between Yangoon and Mandalay, I definitely will choose Yangoon.
It’s one of the most touristic places in Myanmar, you can get there from Kalaw in a 3-day trekking. You can hire a guide, prices are very cheap around $10-15 per day and it’s included accommodation and food. You can rent a boat and going around the lake. You can also walk around the lake. The place is really nice for resting and relaxing, especially if you are coming from the trekking.
As off beat destination you can’t miss in Myanmar. It’s a quite place where you can enjoy the local market. You can rent a bicycle or a motorbike and going around Hpa-An. There are not much tourists here. So, it’s gonna be a perfect place to meet local people in Myanmar. A perfect place to meet local people is drinking tea with them. there are many local tea-shops around the market.
Eating and Drinking
When you travel Myanmar in a low budget, this is the best part. Food is very cheap. Burmese cuisine has influence from Chinese, Thailand and Indian gastronomy. Due to they share many kilometers of borders. There are many street markets in Myanmar. You can visit them during the day and at night. My favorite one was night market in Yangoon. I also really liked the local market in Hpa-An.
You can find shan noodles (rice noodles with chicken, peanuts and chilli flakes) for half dollar in the street. The cheapest that I found was 300 kyat. It was included a small soup and Chinese tea, obviously was street food. Shan noodles was my favorite dish in Myanmar!
Burmese people have for brekfast: Mohinga which is a rice noodle and fish soup. Prices are around 1 USD.
You can find samosas as Indian influence which I love.
You can find barbecue like Chinese influence.
You can find salads in Myanmar. Green papaya salad, they add peanuts, tomatoes, and fried soya beans. It’s really spicy!
There are many local places which offer free tea while you are eating in Myanmar. Prices are going from 1-2 USD.
I enjoyed drinking juices in Yangoon. You can find juices in the street markets starting from $0.25 cents. My favorite one was watermelon juice. There are variety of fruits in Myanmar.
There are many places where you can enjoy a beer. These places are called Beer station. It’s full of local people. Beer prices in Myanmar are going from 1-2 USD.
You should see in Myanmar
Alms giving to monks
First thing in the morning, monks are asking for alms barefoot around the streets. They are going door by door. People usually give them food or money. They are carrying a vasin where they put the food getting from the people. It’s something that you can’t miss while visiting Myanmar.
Burmese people can’t host foreigners
It’s not allowed to host foreigners from government. Local people can invite you to their home. But, it’s not allowed to you staying at their home over 9 pm.
In Myanmar, 90% of the population are Buddhist. You can find Pagodas everywhere. Pagoda is the place where Burmese people go for praying. They are cover for gold and they are very clean. You need to go barefoot inside the pagoda. The most sacred is Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangoon. It’s a great experience to talk with the monks inside the Pagoda. They will teach you about Buddhist while they are practicing their English.
You can tell when you walk around Myanmar that Burmese people are chewing something. Yeah! This is betel nut. You need to chew and it tastes bitter. Be careful! Your teeth will become red. The areca nut is wrapped in betel leaves and mixed with calcium hydroxide. They can include more spices to get extra flavor. Betelnut is also eaten in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The effect is stimulant. Bus drivers, truck driver and taxi drivers are usually eating betel because of the stimulant effect.
Monks are also hitchhiking in Myanmar
When I was hitchhiking in Myanmar, I found monks hitchhiking. It wasn’t my first time, I saw also in Thailand. Monks not only get the free ride but also they usually ask for money. Every time that I was doing hitchhiking or just riding local transportation. When a monk was going inside the vehicle, someone was giving money to them.
Burmese people wear a long skirt! What’s that? It’s called longyi. It’s a sheet cloth that Burmese people are wearing. They wear around their waist. You can see also people wearing longyi in South India and Sri Lanka.
While you are walking around Myanmar, you can find water station where you can get water for free. There is a glass holded from a string. You need to get the glass and fill up water from the vasin and when you are done, put it back. If you want to act like a local, follow them in the water stations.
Burmese people love drinking tea. This is the best chance to interact with local people. There are short chairs in the street around the table. That’s it! Burmese people drink tea around the streets. It’s perfect to get close to them and try to have a conversation with them. You will make new friends! By the way I love Burmese tea.
It’s a yellow paste that Burmese people spread in their faces and arms. Children and woman are using thanaka. It’s used as cosmetic beauty in their face. It’s believed that helps to get smooth skin. And also it’s used to protect against the sunburn.
Chiloneball is the most famous sport in Myanmar. They play in a circle, a team of 6 people. They pass the ball with their feet, knees and heads between them. One player going to the center and he is dancing while kicking the ball. That’s the game they pass the ball until the ball touches the ground. So, the game is starting again. This game is also played in different countries in South East Asia as Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines.
I hope that this was a helpful guide if you want to travel Myanmar in a low budget. I traveled Myanmar in less than $15 per day. The most of my budget was from food and accommodation. A few beers and some money in transportation.
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Happy Travels my dear friends!