Myanmar is the largest country on mainland South East Asia. It lies on the coasts of Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea with Bangladesh and India to the west, China to the north, and Laos and Thailand to the east.
- The official language of Myanmar is Burmese. There are also many other ethnic groups in Myanmar such as the Mon, Shan, Pa-O and many others who continue to speak their own languages. There is also a sizeable ethnic Chinese community, many of whom speak Mandarin. Some areas are also home to various ethnic Indian communities who continue to speak various Indian languages. However, with the exception of the elderly, it is rare to find any locals who do not speak Burmese. Myanmar is a former British colony, and as a result, English is still compulsory in kindergartens and primary schools. Therefore many Burmese understand at least some rudimentary English. Hotel and airline staff, as well as people working in the tourism industry generally speak an acceptable level of English.
- About 89% of the population ‘s religion is Buddhist and about 4% are Christian and 4% are Muslim.
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- Valid US passport valid for at least 6 months based on return date.
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The Burmese National Day is a specific date, 4 January (1948), to observe the Independence Day of Myanmar. On this public holiday in Myanmar the banks, schools and other public buildings would be closed. The First of January is celebrated as The New Year in Myanmar to mark the start of a new calendar year. December 25th is celebrated for Christmas. The biggest holidays for Muslims in Myanmar are Eid ul-Fitr. This is observed right after the conclusion of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha that is celebrated at the conclusion of the Hajj. Diwali (Festival of Light) is one of the significant holidays celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs who live in Myanmar. Jews who reside in Myanmar observe numerous celebrations: the Passover (Spring Feasts of Pesach) and Shavuot, the Rosh Hashanah (start of the Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Sukkot (Tabernacles), and Shemini Atzereay Day can be another nationwide holiday in Myanmar that is observed to celebrate the accomplishments of the work movement.
Despite recent developments, Myanmar is still a conservative country and visitors should keep that in mind. Modest clothing is highly appreciated everywhere except nightclubs, and is required in religious places such as pagodas, temples and monasteries. Miniskirts, shorts and sleeveless shirts are not allowed in consecrated areas, where you also have to remove your footwear, so loafers and flip-flops that can be slipped on and off are highly recommended. You can readily purchase modest clothing that is also light and cool.
With a population of 61,120,000 (2012 estimate). The dominant ethnic group in Myanmar is known as the Bamar, from which the original English name of the country, Burma, was derived. Besides the Bamar, Myanmar is also home to many minority ethnic groups and nationalities which have their own distinct cultures and languages. In addition to the native ethnic minorities, Myanmar is also home to ethnic Chinese and Indians whose ancestors migrated to Myanmar during the colonial period, most visible in the cities of Yangon and Mandalay. Generally speaking, the divisions in Myanmar are Bamar-dominated, while the states are dominated by the respective ethnic minorities. Most Burmese people are incredibly friendly and polite, and will do their best to make you feel welcome in their country.
Myanmar is considered to have 3 seasons. The hot season is usually from March-April, and temperatures then cool off during the rainy season from May-October. The peak tourism season is the cool season from November-February. Temperatures can climb as high as 36°C in Yangon in the hot season while in the cool season, noontime temperatures are usually a more bearable 32°C, with night temperatures falling to around 19°C. Mandalay is slightly cooler in the cool season, with temperatures falling as low as 13°C, while temperatures in the hot season can go as high as 37°C. Generally, Lower Myanmar, the area around Yangon, receives more rainfall than the drier Upper Myanmar (around Mandalay). In the highlands such as Inle Lake and Pyin U Lwin, winter temperatures can fall below 10°C at night, while daytime temperatures tend to be very pleasant. Even in the summer, temperatures rarely climb above 32°C. Near the Indian border in Kachin State, there are mountains which are permanently snow capped throughout the year.
Myanmar/Burma's currency is the kyat, pronounced "chut/chat". Prices may be shown locally using the abbreviation of K or Ks either before or after the amount. The ISO abbreviation is MMK. Pya are coins, and are rarely seen since their value has become increasingly insignificant with even the largest 50 Pya coin worth less than six US or euro cents.
Foreigners are required to pay in US dollars for hotels, tourist attractions, rail and air tickets, ferry travel and sometimes for bus tickets as well, and are required to pay in kyat for most other transactions (trishaws, pickups, tips, food, etc.). Bring very clean, unfolded US dollars (or they will not be accepted by hotels, restaurants and money changers), and dispose of remaining kyat before leaving.
Some hotels and restaurants have started to accept credit cards. Visa is more common than MasterCard. In 2014 there were working ATMs at airports and around tourist sites. Guides say there has been a real effort to improve coverage. There is usually an ATM fee of MYK5000 (USD5) associated with the transaction with maximum withdrawal amount being MYK300,000.
Traveler’s checks are not accepted in Myanmar. The only exception might be some especially shady money changer, but be prepared to pay an astronomical commission (30% is not uncommon).