Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country of some 676,000 sq.km. and is situated between Thailand and Laos on the east, Bangladesh to the west and China and India to the north. The Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea lay to the south. For administrative purposes it is comprised of seven divisions (where Burmans are in the majority), and seven states with non-Burman majority; Shan, Kachin, Chin, Rakhine, Kayah, Kayin, and Mon. The total population is around 50 million, of which more than four million reside in the capital city of Yangon. The second largest city is Mandalay, in central Myanmar, population one million. Officially the government recognizes 67 different ethnic groups but others count as many as 135.
A tourist visa for Myanmar can be obtained from any Myanmar embassy or consulate office world-wide. Visas are valid for 28 days and can take from one day to two weeks to obtain depending on the embassy involved and current regulations. Visa extensions may be obtained in Myanmar. Visa on arrival can be arranged through Sanda Tour.
Two types of visa are issued: those for "FIT' (independent travellers) and those for "package tours." Can be obtained by an authorizing letter from the travel company. The Sanda Tour office will supply this on request for the embassy or consulate where you are requesting your visa.
The Myanmar currency is known as the "Kyat", (pronounced chaat.) The official exchange rate is about 6 Kyat per $US but the "real" rate is much higher and can fluctuate quite a lot at times. Visitors may now change their dollars into FEC and can then change their FEC legally into local currency at the market rate. Travelers cheques in USD, BP sterling, JYen, DM, FF, and SF are accepted at the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB) and at licensed money changers but the purchasing order from the issuing bank is required. Cheques may be cashed at the MFTB branch at the airport or downtown. British Pounds, French Francs, and German Deutche Marks may also be converted to FEC.
However these currencies are not always accepted elsewhere except at licensed money changers. The easiest way is to bring cash ($US) if possible.
While no immunizations are formally required, malaria prophylaxis is often recommended by traveller's personal physicians. Occasionally, typhoid, hepatitis, tetanus and Japanese encephalitis vaccinations are also recommended. Drink only bottled or boiled water and it is suggested that food not be purchased from sidewalk vendors. In addition to dining at Sanda Tour recommended hotels, use only large, clean and obviously busy local restaurants. Sanda Tour's Yangon office can also offer restaurant suggestions.
Insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites is particularly recommended, especially up-country and in wooded areas.
As of Sept/2001, eight internationi airlines fly to Yangon: Thai Airway (TG)- twice daily from Bangkok; Myanmar Airway International (MAI)- once daily from Bangkok, four times a week from Singapore and twice weekly from Kuala Lumper and Hong Kong; Silk Air (Ml)- daily from Singapore; Air China (CA)- twice weekly from Beijing, Biman (BG)- weekly from Dhaka; Indian Airlines (1C)- twice weekly from Calcutta;
Malaysia Airlines (MH)- twice weekly from Kuala Lumper; Mandarin Airlines (AE)-four times weekly from Taipei.
After your passport is checked at the immigration desk you will proceed into the baggage area.Sf you do not have the 'package tour visa' you will be asked to change USDgOOequivaienttQ.EEC 200 (see 'Visa Requirements'). If you encounter any difficulties you will find the Burmese are most understanding and eager to help. After collecting your checked luggage and clearing the customs inspection points (tourists' bags are occasionally inspected), Sanda Tour travellers will be met at the arrival area by their tour guide.
As a basic rule-of-thumb, all valuable items brought into the country such as jewelry, cameras, electrical equipment, etc. must be declared upon arrival and subsequently brought out of the country upon departure. All foreign currency in excess of $2,000 must also be declared. Export of handicrafts considered to be antique, or of artwork thought to have archaeological significance is prohibited. Export of any allowed items must be accompanied by an official dealer's receipt.
Border crossings are allowed for tourists with 'package tour' visas at Muse by the Chinese border, atTachiIek which is in the 'Golden Triangle' across from Mae Sai in Thailand, and at Kawthong, the southern most tip of Myanmar. In practice however, Thailand and Myanmar frequently close off their mutual border when they are unhappy with one another. Crossing the Chinese border at Muse has not been a problem however, although there can be a lot of paperwork and checkpoints involved.
Traveling in Myanmar
The quickest and most comfortable mode of domestic travel is by flying. Modern ATR72 and ATR42 turboprop aircraft are used by Air Mandalay, the private domestic carriers. Trains, ferryboats, and coaches may also be utilized for some Sanda Tour. The cars and coaches used are late model, fully air-conditioned vehicles. Passports should be carried when travelling outside of Yangon.
Climate and Weather
Myanmar has three "seasons": Hot Season -March to May with average temperatures 25-38 C Rainy Season - June to September with average temperatures 23-33 C. "Winter" Season -October to February with average temperatures 18-24 C. The ideal time to visit Myanmar is during the Winter season, but it doesn't rain much up country in the rainy season and even then just for part of the day. So nowadays many people are coming in the off season and finding better rates, fewer fellow travellers and more greenery. In essence the travel season is now virtually all year long.
What to Wear
Warm weather clothing is quite adequate for Yangon and most tourist spots although up country around the Inie Lake area and other higher elevations the temperature may reach near freezing at night during the 'winter' season. Travelers should bring appropriate cold weather clothing in such cases. However, even after a cold night, by mid morning the temperature is again quite pleasant. Suggestive or revealing clothing is never a good idea in this conservative and largely Buddhist culture. When visiting religious shrines and temples, modest dress is required and easily removable footwear is highly recommended'since such sacred grounds must be visited only in barefeet (no socks). Hats and sunglasses are usually appreciated, as is an umbrella for the rainy season.
Airport Departure Tax
There is a departure tax of US$10 (either US$ or FEC) payable on international flights. There are no taxes for domestic flights.
The voltage throughout Myanmar is 220-230 Volts AC. Because the voltage may be inconsistent, valuable or sensitive equipment like stereos and computers should have appropriate electronic protection. Most sockets can accept either flat or round two prong plugs.
Cameras (both still and video) are permitted in Myanmar. Some good quality slide film is available in Yangon and in some larger hotels in Mandalay. However for professional quality film it is best to bring your own as the selection here is limited. Print film is generally available in all the main tourist areas. Restrictions on photography include military facilities and any structure considered strategic (including bridges and train stations).
Upon arrival you may be asked to leave your mobile phone at customs as unlicensed mobile phones are technically not allowed in Myanmar. If you are asked to leave it (or the battery) at customs you can retrieve it on departure. You will be able to send international fax and make telephone calls from Myanmar as major hotels have IDD lines. Check the price before using as some rates are expensive.
Hospitals with the standard of care most tourists are used to do not yet exist in Myanmar. There are a few private clinics at which reasonable emergency care can be obtained but if a traveller were to become seriously ill or injured, they may need to be med-evac'd to the nearest major medical facility, most likely in Singapore or Bangkok. We highly recommend that travellers purchase insurance which will provide medical-evacuation coverage should they require it.
Foreign Missions in Myanmar
The following countries maintain embassies or consulates in Yangon: Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Russia, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, Viet Nam and Yugoslavia.
Rules of the Road
In Myanmar; cars, trucks, and buses rank first and pedestrians are a distant second. Since Myanmar drivers assume that pedestrians will make way for them, travellers should be alert when crossing streets, especially in busy downtown