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Backpacking in Myanmar

Backpacking in Myanmar is still one of the last real adventures in Southeast Asia. Simply because until recently it was not possible to travel the country intensively. Only since the year 2011 a few regions of the country have been opened for tourism. But still many areas of Myanmar are off limit for visitors. Others can be visited, but you can hardly get there.

An example is the south before Mergui (Myeik) or Mrauk U, Kalewa, Putao among others. But that’s what you surely want. Off the beaten path, into the unknown. Since the political reforms, which are progressing quite slowly, at least a part of the country can be explored, and it is not even the worst.

Backpacking in Myanmar - Street life

Backpacking in Myanmar – Street life

But you have to be prepared for a few inconveniences, because there is a lack of traffic-technical and touristic infrastructure back and forth. But there are a lot of adventures. But you won’t necessarily discover the real adventure in the bush or in remote temples and godforsaken beaches, but by getting to know the people.

Only a few of them are ruined by the Green Buck and the Euro. Everything is simple, and so are the people. You can only enjoy comfortable travelling if you travel first class. Otherwise it makes you comfortable on your luggage and rice bags in the footwell. On some routes you have to reserve in advance, because on certain holidays all of Myanmar travels from A to B and from B to C. This also applies to hotel room bookings on such days.

What else do you need to know about the country? Internet? Right, Internet gives That’s right, there’s Internet too, not everywhere, but there is. The contact via Skype and Face with friends and family at home does not break off. The prices are also such a thing. Myanmar was once cheap, but hardly anyone was allowed into the country. Now you can visit the country as a backpacker and the prices rise rapidly.

The culture in Myanmar

Even though you’ve only recently been able to visit the country on your backpacker tour of Asia, you’ll probably meet the friendliest people in the region in Myanmar. The hospitality is highly praised by all visitors to the country. One can only hope that this will remain so for a long time to come. Once the disdainful Mammon has the say, this often changes abruptly.

You don’t have to worry about lack of contacts on the part of the locals. All Burmese show a keen interest in getting to know you. You should know that almost 90 percent of Burmese are Buddhist, 4 percent Islamist and just as many Christian. There are also a few followers of natural religions.

If you think that you’re making an impression on the Burmese people with a tattered slobber look and an unkempt hardcore backpacker outfit, then you’re wrong. Only those who are well-groomed and courteous will be treated with the appropriate behavior. Rule Number One: Always be polite and respect tradition and religion.

Backpacking in Myanmar - Monk

Backpacking in Myanmar – Monk

Backpacker Route in Myanmar

Travelling to Myanmar is still a real adventure. Especially because everything is still new. That means in this case that not only travel destinations themselves are unspent, not sucked away and not yet excessively dirty by neppers and tugboats. But also the people, even those who have to do with tourism, are still really naive.

Not like in other countries you’ll meet a sly pack on your backpacking tour through Myanmar that only wants your coal, the people in the country are still really interested in you. And that’s why they are by far one of the most important travel destinations in the country. But of course there are also other things to see in Myanmar for backpackers.

Route 1: The classic (15-20 days)

  • 3 days to explore the port city of Yangon (Rangoon) with the Buddhist national shrine, the Shwedagon Pagoda.
  • 1 day mountain ascent of Kyaikto, where an important Buddhist pilgrimage site is located.
  • 2-3 days to explore the coastal town of Mergui or Myeik today.
  • 3 days to visit the Sittwe (Akyab) region and islands. Unfortunately some of the best spots are still off limits
  • 3 days dream beaches on the west coast around the towns and regions Ngapali, Kanthaya, Chaungtha and Ngwe Saung get to know
  • 2 days to visit the city of Bago (Pegu), built in the 6th century.
  • 2 days experience the pulsating economic and commercial centre of Mandalay.
  • 3 days in Bagan on an area of 40 sqkm to visit more than 2200 stupas, temples and shrines

Route 2: Backpacker Intensive Trip (up to 40 days and more)

  • 3 days to explore the port city of Yangon (Rangoon) with the Buddhist national shrine, the Shwedagon Pagoda.
  • 1 day mountain ascent of Mount Kyaikto, where an important Buddhist pilgrimage site is located.
  • 2-3 days in the coastal town of Mergui or explore Myeik today.
  • 3 days to visit the Sittwe (Akyab) region and islands. Unfortunately some of the best spots are still off limits
  • 3 days dream beaches on the west coast around the towns and regions Ngapali, Kanthaya, Chaungtha and Ngwe Saung get to know
  • 2 days to visit the city of Bago (Pegu), built in the 6th century.
  • 2 days experience the pulsating economic and commercial centre of Mandalay.
  • 3 days in Bagan on an area of 40 sqkm to visit more than 2200 stupas, temples and shrines
  • 1 day ghost mountain Mount Popa
  • 1-2 days exploring Inle Lake on the 1000m high Shan Plateau and surroundings
  • One week Bay of Bengal and barely touched mountains in the hinterland
  • One Week Golden Triangle in East Myanmar
  • 3 days Hpa-An – get to know the capital Kayin and the caves surrounding it
  • Escape 2 days from the heat in the cooler town of Pyin U Lwin further up the mountain
  • 2 days Taunggyi – explore the capital of Shan
  • 2 days beach town Kawthaung
  • 3 days to visit Kengtung at the Chinese border Akha and Ann Völkern

Travel times in Myanmar

You don’t have to worry so much about the travel times in Myanmar during your backpacker trip, as you can travel the country all year round. Don’t worry so much about the rainy season. This all sounds worse than it is. Even at this time of the day the sun comes through for several hours a day and it’s hot anyway – even at night.

The high humidity in the region is problematic. But after some time on the spot one has got used to it. 30 degrees it is almost always and partly up to 100 percent humidity. If you want to escape the temperatures, you have to go to the mountain villages or to Pyin U Lwin. In terms of the overall annual temperature, the drier and fresher season in Myanmar is between November and February. Even snow can fall at 2000 m above sea level.

Backpacker Budget in Myanmar

What about the travel budget for a backpacking trip through Myanmar? Good! Because that’s how cheap you can get! Because you can rarely travel through a country so cheaply. Whether this will be the case long after the borders have been opened remains to be seen. Prices are already rising in the pig gallop. While a simple room with breakfast a short time ago cost about 10 Euro, the prices in the high season are often twice to three times as high. But this is only true for the tourist places. You have to stay away from them, or just come in the off season.

In Yangoon, the capital, you pay for a 1 star hotel from 15 dollars. The entrance fee to the Shwedagon Pagoda is around 6,5 Euro. Admission to the National Museum, worth seeing, costs you 3.5 euros. The prices for food and drink are hardly worth mentioning. For one Euro you can fill your stomach at the food stands. If it’s supposed to be a beer, it doesn’t cost more than half a euro either – it depends on where. The export beer is as always a little more expensive.

So you can expect a budget on your backpacker tour through Myanmar of about 20 Euro a day. If you stay about three weeks, then calculate 400 Euro for everything. Oh yes. A very important thing. To the Burmese, dollar bills are apparently sacred (how sad), because even if they have the slightest shortage, they are not accepted.

Public transport in the cities

The taxi from the airport in Yangon costs between 3 and 10 Euros, depending on your face. If you take the public bus, the trip is almost a gift. For a taxi ride you usually have to calculate 1 to 2 Euro for a distance of 3 kilometers. Take the tuk-tuks and it will cost you a fraction.

Domestic fares in Myanmar

You can pretty much forget that. Because everything goes under and over and also little reliability is to be expected. But have a look at the homepage of un Myanma Airways. Options are Air Bagan, Asian Wings, Air Mandalay and a few others. However, you should allow some time for this. A flight from Yangon to Mandalay costs about 80 Euro. With the international flights, however, this works out accordingly well. A flight Bangkok to Yangon and from Mandalay to Bangkok costs about 150 Euro. Depending on the season.

Buses in Myanmar

Bus lines cross the country from south to north and east to west. But you have to be tough to get through the 10 hour journey from Yangon to Mandalay in the usual buses for the price of almost 10 Euro. But what doesn’t kill us makes us even harder.

Train travel in Myanmar

The rail system is outdated and dates back to the British occupation, but it works. And the rail journeys are also inexpensive. The slightly more than 300 kilometres from Yangon to Mandalay cost 10 Euros in the wood class, 24 Euros in the better class and slightly more than 30 Euros in the sleeping car. The journey takes an amazing 16 hours.

Backpacker accommodations in Myanmar

You certainly don’t have to dig too deep for an overnight stay in Myanmar, but even the Burmese have quickly learned that good money can be made by offering beds in whatever form. Meanwhile you can find every kind of accommodation from the simplest accommodations up to the first class sheds. In some of them the night costs 200 dollars and more. Even with the small hostels and alleged low budget accommodations the prices rise rabiat from season to season.

With a little luck you can find a nice hut for 8 to 15 Euros, especially out of season. But you have to do without a good service here and there, because even the supply of fresh water can be limited in remote facilities. Not all rooms have a fan, which can be brutal at night. Fans not only cool, they also drive away mosquitoes. Another problem is the power supply, which is not guaranteed everywhere. But they are working on it. But generators provide the power supply for a certain price range.

The Burmese are somewhat peculiar with the registration in the accommodations, but this has more to do with the authorities. Care is meticulously taken to ensure that the data in the papers matches the data in the registration forms. After all, as a backpacker you travel through a country where a military dictatorship is in charge – don’t forget that! The prices for a bed in a guesthouse amount to the already mentioned 10 Euro, whereby the most expensive plaster is Bagan. There it can cost a bit more to sleep in a bed. Otherwise, however, you can expect a low cost of living in Myanmar.

Camping in Myanmar

Camping isn’t exactly the thing to do in Myanmar, although there would be a lot of great spots there. But don’t challenge the military authorities with your behavior. This can be painful and expensive.

Backpacker Trips, Tips & Highlights in Myanmar

Travelling in Myanmar is certainly not easy due to the lack of infrastructure. But a real backpacker doesn’t mind that, of course. On the contrary, this makes the tour even more attractive. There are some highlights that you should definitely check out, even if they don’t belong in the category “off the beaten path” right now. The highlights certainly include a detour to the ghost mountain Mount Popa and the exploration of Inle Lake on the 1000 m high Shan Plateau.

Mount Popa has developed into a true meditation centre, while the indigenous Intha tribe has settled on Inle Lake. Most of the lake is inhabited and farmed. It is hard to believe, but even floating gardens were created on the water. In addition to flowers, there are different kinds of vegetables. Of course, the Golden Triangle also has its charm. But you should always be careful with everything you do.

Backpacking in Myanmar - Tempel in Nature

Backpacking in Myanmar – Tempel in Nature

Backpacker Highlights in Myanmar

One of the backpacker highlights is the purchase of lacquerware. They come in thousands of different facets. Cheaper than in Myanmar you will never get real gemstones again. But be careful! Don’t let them get to you. On the lively and colorful markets you will discover even the finest weaving works. If it says “made in China” on it, then better leave it there. Myanmar is considered an Eldorado for antiques. Here, too, hands off if you have no idea what is going on.

If you are lucky and have found a family connection, then it will be a great honour for the locals to invite you to the Novitz Festival, where the young Burmese men become monks. The best thing you can do is to bridge the distances by boat. If that’s not possible, then it could be the bus. Enjoy the ride on the roof.

Backpacker insider tips in Myanmar
If you want to travel by boat from Mmyitkiyna to Katha (from there it goes on to Mandalay), then take the opportunity to spend the night in the small town of Sinbo and explore the area. You will not meet any other backpacker. Trekking can be done very well in the mountain region of Tayaw. A secret tip is also a visit to the fascinating city of Mingun, which you can reach in a somewhat adventurous way with a river boat trip from Mandalay.

As the river boat tours are a real adventure at all. One trip to Bhamo by boat. On board the locals cook and live during the trip like in their own four walls. Just experience the incomparable Myanmar feeling during a trip on the so-called Burma Road. Nothing is special and yet everything is impressive. You shouldn’t miss the cave system near Monywa. Everything is still quite quaint and little touristically developed.

Backpacking in Myanmar - Tempel

Backpacking in Myanmar – Tempel

Food & Drinks in Myanmar

Burmese cuisine combines various influences. You will discover Chinese tendencies, your own Mon cuisine and an Indian touch. Spicy can be a dish or two already. Not to mention that you’ll spit fire like a dragon if you’re not careful. Depending on the region, more meat or fish and seafood will be on the table. That’s in the nature of things. In Germany you can also find some kitchens/restaurants from the region. However, one can compare this rather less with the food locally. Rather other countries adapt to our taste. Of course, also to the spiciness of the dish, which is here compatible.

Food in Myanmar

Mohinga is called a kind of national dish in Myanmar. It is based on rice micellis and can be quite hot. The varieties range from sweet to sweet-sour to caustically hot. The preparation varies from region to region. Onnokauswe, a local dish that is also quite popular, consists of a kind of thicker noodle soup enriched with chicken and coconut milk. The dish is extremely tasty, nutritious and ridiculously cheap. A real local delicacy is Laphet thote, which consists of fermented tea leaves prepared as a salad with nuts. Rice is available as a side dish.

Especially in the Shan region you will encounter the dish. You should know that Burmese curry is understood to mean something different than the more famous Thai curries. Coconut milk is not used in Myanmar. And the curries are usually sharper as well. You pay more for your food during your backpacking trips than the locals. That is the rule. So don’t make a fuss if you ever notice it. There are hardly any burgers and Mac Doof, but unfortunately that will change soon.

Drinking in Myanmar

Tea is the bad drink in Burma. Of course, the stuff grows in the highlands. And not for nothing were the English here. Make sure that you always drink bottled water. You should even brush your teeth with it. Alcohol in the form of beer is certainly offered. Also the one or other import beer. Cheaper is the palm wine, which also pops more.

Attention also in the north and in the region around the Golden Triangle. It has already been reported that these local drinks, which are not professionally and industrially bottled, are mixed with drugs. Otherwise, of course, you must not miss the freshly squeezed fruit juices. But also here you should be careful when ice cream comes into play.

Backpacker Visa und Vaccinations in Myanmar

The entry regulations for German citizens are quite conclusive when they should be retrievable, but stupidly they change constantly. So there is no other choice than to always inform yourself about the current situation on the website of the Federal Foreign Office. Entry is possible for German citizens with the following travel documents:

  • Passport: Yes
  • Provisional passport: Yes
  • Identity card: No
  • Temporary identity card: No
  • Children’s passport: Yes, photo required
  • Still valid child ID according to old model: Yes Photo required

Medical references and vaccinations

You should be very well prepared and enter the country with all the necessary vaccinations. You are not going to Switzerland, but to a country that has only recently opened its doors. All the known tropical diseases that exist in Asia are also present in Myanmar, including dengue, malaria, chikungunya fever, Japanese encephalitis, avian influenza, tuberculosis and many others.

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