Changing Money in Myanmar

Myanmar kyat

Changing money (US dollars) has become easier in Myanmar with the recent political changes and the growing receptiveness to tourism. (see current Myanmar kyat to dollar exchange rate) Money can be exchanged at the Yangon International Airport and Mandalay International Airport for a fair rate and with no commissions (this wasn’t really the case back in 2010). In Yangon airport, the booth is to the far right when you are looking at the exit to the taxis after you exit immigration. Get in line, hand them your money and passport. They will fill in some paperwork and send you to the next line to wait. (Unnerving, right? Thanks for the money and passport. Next!) No big deal. They process the exchange while you wait in that line and you then get your cash counted in front of you and a receipt.

There are no coins in Myanmar other than antique currency. Expect 10,000-, 5,000-, 1,000-, 500-, and 200-kyat bills. You may come across rare 50 pya, 1-, and 5-kyat bills, but they have no real value other than perhaps a nice souvenir. There are two different sizes of 200-, 500-, and 1000-kyat bills – both are OK.

ATMs arrived in Myanmar in late 2011 thanks to CB Bank, but initially only for withdrawing kyat from local kyat accounts. Now some of them also accept international VISA and MasterCard as well as the affiliated debit cards, in the PLUS or Cirrus systems, for example. However, not all of them will work for international cards, so do not depend on credit cards for all the cash during your trip. There are ATMs in both the Yangon and Mandalay International Airports. Travelers from the UK and Canada have been successful with this. I am still waiting for reports from Americans who may or may not be affected by US governmental rules. (PayPal, for example, is not reachable from within Myanmar due to their compliance with US embargo rules – even if a VPN may work for you, you will likely have your account locked and a whole headache of procedures to open it again). There are other ATMs throughout the city but they may be hit or miss. The Strand Hotel and Park Royal Hotel, KBZ Bank, Inya Lake Hotel, and CB Bank have ATMs for sure.

WARNING: Be sure to notify your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling and using your card in Myanmar. (Good advice before any trip, really.) Use there will likely trigger a fraud alert and lock up your account.

When leaving the Yangon airport, I found that there was no Currency Exchange in the international departure area (as of 2/15/2013). One was under construction, however, so by about March 2013 there should be one once you are past immigration and into the boarding/gate area. However, if you are there early in the morning and the currency exchange is still closed, try any of the souvenir vendors there. I had to do this and I got a very reasonable rate from a trinket seller who had a nice wad of American dollars to make change for me. I lost about 60 cents off of $50 worth of kyat – still less than a common commission in other countries.

The previous practice of using black market currency exchanges (they will approach you on the street muttering “change money” like a conversation with an informant) is really no longer worth it and offers risks. But you will still see the occasional local leaving a market area with a plastic grocery bag full of bricks of kyat.

More Travel Tips for Myanmar

9 thoughts on “Changing Money in Myanmar

  • Pingback: Using Clean, Brand New US Bills in Myanmar

  • February 17, 2013 at 7:08 pm
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    It’s funny that about the only time I see fresh, clean American dollars is far outside of America. The US seems to be the place where old bills go to die. Yet, whenever you get change in Thailand, or Vietnam…it’s so worn, torn, dirty and barely recognizable as to hardly be worth the germs impregnated in it. Yet, they won’t accept anything but fresh, clean US cash…wondering if I should just start printing my own Dong, or Bhat and throw it for a few cycles in the toilet then wash it clean in a muddy puddle, throw some tape on there and it’s good! Print all you want! We’ll make more…

    It is so bad though, it is comical, and all you can do is shake your head and laugh. Would love to get to Burma someday…and back to SE Asia.

    Reply
    • February 18, 2013 at 4:42 am
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      Yes, you must come see Burma soon before something stupid happens like reckless development or hordes of tourists. 🙂

      Reply
  • February 20, 2013 at 5:25 am
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    I changed money at the airport and later at the Summit View Hotel this year. The woman there held my pristine bills up to the light examining both sides and then, literally, sniffed them. I’m still mad at myself that I didn’t get a video of it. Last year a friend charged her credit card at the Park Royal, but it was run through Singapore. She hadn’t mentioned that destination in advance to her bank and her card was declined later in Thailand and India. Cash rules. I love Myanmar and hope to return a third time perhaps.

    Reply
    • February 20, 2013 at 5:28 am
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      Ah, the sniff inspection. One wonders what determines a passing smell. Other than booking my hotels with Agoda.com using my credit card, and thus not running it through anything in Myanmar, I really don’t see a use for a credit card there. Perhaps for an internal flight, but otherwise I am comfortable traveling with the necessary cash to get by there for a week or three.

      Reply
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  • May 23, 2014 at 6:22 am
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    Is it ok to bring clean an unfolded USD? In the past I have heard the notes need to be BRAND NEW…

    Thanks

    Reply

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