Khiri’s 10 Tips for President Obama’s trip to Myanmar
Last month we put together some useful tips for the President’s much awaited trip to Myanmar. We thought they might help you too!
Since Khiri Travel Myanmar opened its office in Yangon in July 2011, they’ve seen many visitors get it right — and a lot get it wrong. Here are Khiri Travel Myanmar’s ten points of practical advice for President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and everyone visiting Myanmar this high season.
Get Your Visa and Book Accommodation Before Arrival
Get your Myanmar visa before arrival in the country. There is only a pre-approved visa on arrival and it takes two weeks’ advance application. Demand for Myanmar hotel rooms during high season (November to March) outstrips supply. Rooms are not cheap. If you don’t pre-book and arrive in a town in the evening, you’ll end up paying over the odds for a mediocre room — if you can find one.
There are no ATM cash points in Myanmar. Bring dollars — preferably hundred dollar bills. But not old ones, as vendors won’t accept notes that are torn, shabby, have a stamp on it, or a fold in the middle. They may not accept ones with “CB” in the serial number either.
Forget Your Mobile Phone
There are no roaming mobile phone agreements with other countries in Myanmar. So relax. Enjoy your holiday. Instead of staring at a hand-held screen, feast your eyes on the real thing — amazing monuments and temples.
Your Credit Card is Useless
Fewer than five places accept credit cards in Myanmar. Three local banks are said to have signed an agreement with Visa. But it will take a while time before credit card acceptance and ATM access is possible. Until then, avoid such hassles by pre-paying for your accommodation, tours and transfers with a respectable tour operator before you go to Myanmar.
Behave Like a House Guest
In Myanmar there is no word for “tourist”, only the word for a “guest”. So behave like a guest when visiting the country. Be polite, don’t yell when things don’t go to plan. Use the Burmese word “jabade” which means “it’s ok!”
When you visit places like Shwedagon Pagoda or Bagan dress appropriately for entering a place of Buddhist worship. Ladies, despite the heat, no plunging necklines please. Wear a long lightweight sarong. Cover your shoulders. Flaunting sexuality is a no-no. Modesty is key. Guys — wear t-shirts or shirts, not a sleeveless one. And it’s not Bondi Beach. Don’t go bare back. Everyone should wear sandals as you’ll be taking your shoes off a lot.
Know a Few Words
Mingalaba — hello/greetings! (used any time of the day); nà-m?leh-ba-bù – I don’t understand; diha balao leh?– how much is this? cè-zù tin-ba-deh — thank you. Ta-ta — goodbye!
Body Language Counts
You can’t speak Myanmar’s languages. Make up for it in body language. Smile a lot. Don’t be loud and physically domineering. Don’t point at stuff with your feet — the lowest part of your body, literally and figuratively. Don’t put your feet up on chairs, tables, or on temple structures.
Barter When Shopping
The objective is not to relentlessly chase the cheapest price, but to secure a fair price. A bit of good natured back and forth on the price of some lacquerware, wood carvings or a longyi in a market or shop is acceptable, indeed expected — but always with a smile. Both parties should finish the transaction happy and grateful for the interaction.
Mohingar, Not McDonalds
There are no McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, or international fast food or drink outlets in Myanmar. Go local. Help local vendors. Try mohingar (delicious thick fish soup often eaten for breakfast), ohne kyaukswe (coconut noodle soup), leh pet thauk (pickled tea leaf salad).
You’re travelling now. Welcome to Myanmar!