Here are just a few travel tips for Myanmar. The country is opening up, as they say, and now is the time to get there. Be sure to get your Myanmar visa before you arrive. In the USA, you can apply by mail to the appropriate Myanmar entity – it varies by state. Myanmar Visa on arrival is not recommended. For those already traveling or looking to stop in Thailand for a connection, applying for a Myanmar visa in Bangkok is a good option.)
Bring brand new, crisp, recent-year American dollars to exchange. While it seems there is a slight reduction in the OCD scrutiny of bills, the slightest defect, wrinkle, tear, or blemish may still get them rejected by money changers.
In the past, the practice was to pay in US dollars for a taxi from the airport and then seek out a black market money changer for a better exchange rate. (been there, done that) However, current rates and exchange practices at the Yangon airport are quite good. I got the exact rate posted that day on xe.com and without a commission withheld. (more on changing money in Myanmar)
A taxi ride from Yangon International Airport should cost about $10 USD. I opted to use kyat and was charged 8,000 kyat which was slightly less than that. I paid 10,000 kyat for an early morning return to the airport and didn’t feel like arguing. At the airport you can give in to the many hawkers or go to a booth that will offer you that $10 deal, give you a sort of ticket, and a man will walk you out to a waiting taxi. All legit. He pays the taxi driver. In my case, he told me “he will give you your change”. When the taxi driver dropped me off, he “forgot” about the change. I needed only to remind him and he gave it to me.
Taxi rides in Yangon throughout the city center should be 2000-3000 kyat. In the evening or early morning (as to the airport for an early flight) it may be 500-1000 kyat more. You may be able to work out a cheap drive around Yangon with a taxi driver for as little as a few thousand kyat. (A fellow traveler told me he got an hour “tour” for 3000 kyat.) They are not using meters here, so settle on the price before you get in. If you are staying in a hotel, the doorman will likely hail the taxi, make sure they understand where you’re going, and affirm the price. English speakers are not guaranteed but not uncommon. The accent, however, may present a challenge.
The taxis may be rather old and look to be in pretty bad shape but more and more new cars are showing up. Traffic is on the right but so is the driver’s wheel. This makes passing/overtaking a bit riskier.
If you only see one thing in Yangon, it’s Shwedagon Pagoda. Go in the morning before the heat gets up and use your ticket again that same day to be there for sunset. (Confirm the ticket is still good later that day – things are changing a lot and often these days.
Bottled or tap? Bottled water, of course. There’s a free water cooler inside the airport near the departure gates in Yangon, so don’t worry about losing your bottled water at security.
Electricity is 220V and most common are the European two round-pin plugs (grounded and ungrounded). I’ve seen the grounded India three-prong in a couple hotels but the staff offered adapters and you can buy them around town too. Always make sure your device can handle 220. Most phone chargers and computer adapters will show 100-240V on them anyway, but there’s that hair dryer or an old shaver you love… boom. (been there, done that)