Population : 52.89 Million
Capital City : Naypyidaw
People : 68% Bamar, 9% Shan, 7% Karen, 4% Rakhine, 2% Mon, and 10% others
Language : Burmese
Currency : Kyat (MMK)
Time Zone : GMT +6:30 Hours
International Dialing Code : +95
Passport and visa
Passports must be valid for six months beyond the date of departure.
An e-visa is vastly required for travel within Myanmar for the majority of nationalities. Please check here for visa requirements. Nationals not referred in the list are advised to check with their Myanmar embassy for more details regarding visa requirements.
People, Culture & Customs
Part of traveling to another part of the world is to experience differences in culture and customs. Trying to adapt to local customs is part of being a good guest. The Myanmar people are typically easy going and quite forgiving when travelers are not intimately familiar with their customs.
Pay attention to:
- Try not to show annoyance or anger by shouting or becoming abusive. It is considered extremely impolite and is unlikely to achieve a positive outcome. In Myanmar people always try to be considerate towards others feelings before taking an action and will always try to avoid making others ‘lose face’.
- Avoid touching a person’s head or feet, and do not point with your feet to items or people, as it is considered extremely rude.
- It is customary to take of your shoes and socks before entering a person’s home, temples and various buildings. If you are unsure, look to see if there are any shoes outside of the door!
- Displays of affection are not common in Myanmar, please remain discreet while in public.
- If looking to get someone's attention in a city like Yangon, you'll often hear a kissing sound at a restaurant or cafe, this is just the common way people call for service.
- Myanmar people dress very conservatively and topless or nude sunbathing is not acceptable at any time.
- Myanmar people normally greet each other with “where are you going”, however the more formal “mingalabar” is widely used by foreigners and appreciated
Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country and foreigners are always welcome in pagodas and monasteries. However, it is important that a few simple rules of etiquette are followed:
- Dress appropriately and act with the utmost respect when visiting pagodas or monasteries.
- Do not wear shorts or tank tops. Men and women should make sure their shoulders and knees are covered.
- Remove your hat and leave your shoes at the entrance of any pagoda or monastery grounds.
- When sitting in front of a Buddha, make sure your feet are placed to the side, rather than cross legged.
- Never point your finger or the soles of your feet towards any image of Buddha.
- A woman may accept something from a monk but should never touch or sit next to a monk.
- Giving of alms is deeply rooted tradition and should be done with the utmost respect. Do not give money or cigarettes and be discreet when taking photographs of monks or nuns.
- Show respect and turn off mobile phones, remove headphones, lower your voice and avoid inappropriate conversation
Myanmar has a tropical Monsoon climate with three seasons: hot, rainy and cool. The hot season begins in March with temperatures climbing up to 36 °C plus humidex. This weather is perfect for a beach break along the southern coast, as well as a good time to venture to cooler northern regions
June ushers in the rainy season, which cools down temperatures slightly, but it is unadvisable to travel to Ngapali Beach as many resorts and hotels close during this period. Instead, head to the central areas which are the driest - Mandalay is a great destination during this season.
In terms of exploring Myanmar, the best time to visit is usually from November until February when the cool season begins. Temperatures are milder and more pleasant, although a bit further north in areas like Mandalay, it can reach as low as 10 °C. This season is perfect for discovering the temple-dotted plains of Bagan!
Please note: The weather can be unpredictable in Asia and we suggest you carry an umbrella or raincoat with you no matter which season you choose to travel.
Festivals and National Holidays
Myanmar has a large number of festivals and public holidays, either religious or politically significant. Many festivals are based upon the lunar calendar, and therefore, the date changes each year. Thingyan is the largest festival, preceding the Myanmar New Year. This five-day new years’ celebration begins in mid April, and is also known as the Water Festival. Water symbolises the cleansing of the past year’s sins, and is traditionally practiced by sprinkling it upon others. Nowadays, it’s become more of a water fight, as fire hoses, buckets, water balloons and water pistols shower the crowds!
Thadingyut, or the Festival of Lights, takes place towards the end of October and is the second biggest festival of the year. Held at the end of Buddhist lent, locals light up their homes with lanterns and candles to symbolically welcome Buddha’s descent from heaven. For three days, the streets fill with food stalls and performances of dance and music. Some regions set off fire crackers and balloons as well.
A second festival of lights occurs in November to celebrate the end of the rainy season, Tazaungdaing. This day is celebrated at major temples where robe weaving competitions are common, as makers work through the night creating specialty yellow robes. While being a country-wide festival, in certain regions like Inle Lake and the Shan state, hot air balloons filled with candles are released into the air to drive away evil spirits.
Other important holidays include:
- Independence Day, 4 January
- Union Day, 12 February
- Magha Puja, 27 March
Located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, Bagan was once a bustling capital city in the heart of the ancient Silk Road trading route between India and China. At its height the Kingdom of Pagan was one of Asia's most illustrious cities, a fact that's still apparent by some 2,200 religious structures, dating from the 9th to 13th centuries, that dot the horizon. Famous for its other-worldly sunrises and sunsets, Bagan is widely regarded to be one of the best places in Asia for both historical exploration and fantastic photo opportunities.
Sitting at about 900 metres above sea level, Inle Lake offers welcome respite from the stifling heat of lower areas in Myanmar. It's also the second largest lake in the country. Aside from the breathtaking mountain scenery, one of the most compelling reasons to visit Inle Lake is the unique culture and abundance of colourful ethnic communities living there. The largest ethnic group, the Intha people, are best known for their unique style of rowing. Inle Lake is said to be the only place in the world where this practice is done, and it is a large contributing factor to Inle Lake's reputation as being one of Asia's most photogenic places.
Myanmar’s second largest city, Mandalay was established in the upper part of the country on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River in 1857. As the base of the last independent kingdom of Burma, the city was named Mandalay after conquest by British colonial forces. At its height, during the Konbaung Dynasty, the city served as a shining example of the splendour of the “Golden Age” of Burma. Despite having been heavily damaged during the Second World War, the city remains one of Myanmar’s most prominent cultural centres. It’s home to some of the country’s most exquisite and important temples, as well as the world's largest book and longest teak bridge.
In a country more well known for its sleepy rural landscapes than its cities, Yangon offers a unique perspective into the urban life of Myanmar. Its fading colonial architecture, vibrant streets, fascinating historical sites and abundance of glorious temples make it perfect for urban exploration. From the the hoards of newspaper stands, tea shops, and betel leaf vendors to the curious and friendly traditionally-dressed locals, Yangon is bursting with culture, making it one of Southeast Asia's most unique and compelling cities.
Hit the Beach
While Myanmar has palpable allure to most travellers, few think of it as a beach destination. As with most things in Myanmar, it isn’t necessarily the places that make the destination, but the people and the vibe they create – and Ngapali Beach and Ngwe Saung are no exception. What they lack in lustre they make up for with their untouched vibes and relaxing atmospheres. If you really just want to get away from it all and unwind, Myanmar’s beaches are the place to do it. Keep in mind that most resorts and hotels close during the rainy season (mid-May to mid-September).
As an overwhelmingly Buddhist nation, Myanmar is one of the region’s best places to go to witness the full majesty of Southeast Asian spirituality. There are endless options for temple exploration in the country, from massive gilded pagodas of almost unimaginable splendour to the crumbling stupas of Myanmar’s past civilizations. It offers a glimpse into the fascinating history of this dynamic place, but also the vital spirit that makes Myanmar so intriguing. Burmese people are deeply religious, and temples are perhaps the best places to see how this vital aspect of their culture manifests itself in daily life.
Drift along the Irrawaddy River
Cruising along the vast Irawaddy River is one of the best ways to discover a Myanmar that few people get to see. Similar to the Mekong River in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, the Irawaddy River serves as part of the country’s lifeblood. One of the things that makes the Irrawaddy unique, though, is that most of its over 2,000 kilometres of length is navigable by boat due to the absence of dams – which will eventually change. Whilst traveling the course of the river you’ll see networks of villages, pagodas and temples that, quite possibly, have never been visited by foreign travellers. These remote areas just ooze with a sense of undiscovered charm that would be difficult to match anywhere else in Southeast Asia.