Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a relatively new country. Until few years ago it was difficult to get a visa, and even so it was limited to a week. Considering that this is the largest country in the South East Asia and its lack of infrastructures, those days were barely enough to touch base in the 2-3 tourist destinations designed by the government.
The military dictatorship ruling the country since its independence in the ’62 has recently started loosening up, opening to tourism and making a visa easier to get and lasting longer. Now some areas are still off-limits due to safety concerns but visitors can spend 28 days in Myanmar. Read our article on how to get a visa for Myanmar.
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Our trip to Myanmar
Places We Visited
The currency in Myanmar is the Burmese Kyat (pronounced chat). The exchange rate is little over 1000 Kyats to 1 US$ which is pretty handy for calculations.
Card payments and ATM machines are virtually non existent, with some exceptions in the main tourist areas. Even though this is quickly changing, it’s advisable to bring all the money you’ll need in US dollars. Notes will have to be new, clean and unmarked or they won’t be accepted. Money can be changed at banks and official exchange offices, sometimes even at some hotels. Just avoid dodgy black market sites offering good rates.
Payments are usually made in Kyats even if hotels, tour operators, taxi drivers and larger restaurants accept US dollars.
Weather in Burma: When to Go
The weather is warm and dry between November and March, in April heat and humidity build up preceding the rain season which ends at the beginning of October. In order to avoid the peak of high season, with its higher rates and crowds, it’s best to visit the country in November.
Burma or Myanmar?
The ruling military junta changed its name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989, a year after thousands were killed in the suppression of a popular uprising. Rangoon also became Yangon. (from BBC News)
I’ve always found this confusing… and partially still do. Essentially the military junta changed the name to drastically cut from the British colonial past. Which, to put it simple, sounds like a good decision taken by bad people. A Burmese man in Bagan told us that while “Burma” represents a region and the largest ethnic group while “Myanmar” the whole country. Reliable sources on internet report instead that both names have the same etymological root, the former name is the spoken form, the latter is the formal, written form. It’s all politics I guess!