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Planning visit to Myanmar mid April 2014


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I intend to visit Burma around the middle of April and although I’ve ploughed about on the forum a bit, I would still like some clarification on some things.

- I would like to stay for about a week to 14 days in the country.

- Staying in Thailand, I am travelling on a UK passport

1 - I believe I can now simply turn up on the border and get a visa on arrival - is that correct?

How much?

2- ATMs - will my Thai ATM (debit) cards - Kasikorn (Visa) and SCB (Cirrus/master) work on Burmese ATMs?

Are there many ATMs around?

3- Transport - I’m waiting to here that I can take my own car - I believe that is still some way off. Is this correct?

So what is the situation with car hire? What docs do I need? I have UK and Thai DLs - no IDP)

4 - Which foreign currency is best to take?

Do they like the Thai baht?

Edited by wilcopops
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Hello wilcopops!

Yes the visa situation still causes a lot of confusion.

1. I'm assuming you mean a tourist visa.

In practical terms, a tourist visa cannot be issued on arrival without it being pre-arranged first - so it doesn't really warrant the term "Visa On Arrival"

That being said there are companies who can make these arrangements for you in advance. This incurs a fee on top of the visa charges, and they normally need around 10 days notice to arrange. Often these are tour agents who can arrange this for you if you are also booking accommodation or travel inside Myanmar.

Cost is around $80 or so including the visa and the fee for arranging it. PM me if you want details for a reputable company there, or use google.

2. There are now ATM's operating in Myanmar which accept foreign cards (Visa Plus, Mastercard Maestro). These ATM's are in the major centres such as Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw. I believe the fee is 5,000 kyats or around $5.

3. I don't have info on car hire for Myanmar as I usually have my own transport there, sorry. Other members may be able to post advice and info on this.

If you do end up hiring a car in Myanmar, please post back and let us know.

4. Even with the recent advances in banking - the best currency is still USD or Euro. Especially with US currency, make sure they are crisp, clean, unmarked bills in a range of denominations. Dirty, torn or marked notes may be rejected (or they may offer a lower exchange rate)

The major banks in the airport and downtown Yangon will now accept a limited range of currencies (USD, EURO, SGD and several others) Some places will also accept Thai baht, but this is not widespread and you are best to arrive with USD or Euros.

Hope this helps.

SVB

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Hello wilcopops!

Yes the visa situation still causes a lot of confusion.

1. I'm assuming you mean a tourist visa.

In practical terms, a tourist visa cannot be issued on arrival without it being pre-arranged first - so it doesn't really warrant the term "Visa On Arrival"

That being said there are companies who can make these arrangements for you in advance. This incurs a fee on top of the visa charges, and they normally need around 10 days notice to arrange. Often these are tour agents who can arrange this for you if you are also booking accommodation or travel inside Myanmar.

Cost is around $80 or so including the visa and the fee for arranging it. PM me if you want details for a reputable company there, or use google.

2. There are now ATM's operating in Myanmar which accept foreign cards (Visa Plus, Mastercard Maestro). These ATM's are in the major centres such as Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw. I believe the fee is 5,000 kyats or around $5.

3. I don't have info on car hire for Myanmar as I usually have my own transport there, sorry. Other members may be able to post advice and info on this.

If you do end up hiring a car in Myanmar, please post back and let us know.

4. Even with the recent advances in banking - the best currency is still USD or Euro. Especially with US currency, make sure they are crisp, clean, unmarked bills in a range of denominations. Dirty, torn or marked notes may be rejected (or they may offer a lower exchange rate)

The major banks in the airport and downtown Yangon will now accept a limited range of currencies (USD, EURO, SGD and several others) Some places will also accept Thai baht, but this is not widespread and you are best to arrive with USD or Euros.

Hope this helps.

SVB

Thanks - are you using a burmese car or a Thai car?

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The norm in Myanmar is for car hire to be car plus driver. It is possible to negotiate with the owner to just rent the car but they will normally charge you more. This might be changing now as car prices are starting to come down to sensible levels. I'm not sure what the actual rules are in terms of license required, I know for me I could not get insurance without having a Myanmar license.

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It is roughly a 10 hour drive from Yangon to Mandalay all on a reasonably good motorway. There is a train but I do not know anyone who has taken it. Most locals doing the trip would take the bus. the easiest would be to fly.

What about stops en route? any recommendations?

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  • 2 weeks later...

naypyidaw is about 4.5 hours north of Yangon along the 6-year old expressway. Going along the old road takes much longer - Naypyidaw is a good place to break up the journey between Yangon and Mandalay even though there's not a whole lot to do there. Car with driver is the way to go since public transport is poor.

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Btw for overland entry into Myanmar from Thailand the best currency to take is the Baht but be sure to exchange all the Kyat you need in the border town as Baht may still not be easy to exchange elsewhere though there are a few places in Yangon that will take Baht at good rates. Interestingly, in towns like Myawady dollars are almost unknown but once the banking system improves expect many major currencies to be exchangeable both in border towns and everywhere else, not just 3-5 currencies but probably 10+ like in other regional countries.

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I would like to point out that mid-April is going to be smack in the middle of water festival. Apart from many places being closed for a few of those days, they love to double prices of hotels, car rentals etc during that period as it's a 10 day public holiday. Just in case you weren't aware.

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I was aware it was Song Khran in Thailand, but not aware that prices DOUBLE in Burma. What is the festival called in Burma?

Car and driver sounds about right.

If I was to drive to the border - maybe Ranong or does anyone have better suggestions! - are there places in Thailand to leave a car for a week or so?

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I was aware it was Song Khran in Thailand, but not aware that prices DOUBLE in Burma. What is the festival called in Burma?

Car and driver sounds about right.

If I was to drive to the border - maybe Ranong or does anyone have better suggestions! - are there places in Thailand to leave a car for a week or so?

Burmese New Year / Water Festival is called Thingyan locally.

If you do go to Ranong and cross into Kawthoung, you will need to get to Yangon from either Kawthoung or Myeik.

If you have the time, take the ferry from Kawthoung up to Myeik, have a look around Myeik, then fly up to Yangon from there.

Need to be flexible though, cannot guarantee you will get on the flight to Yangon on the day you want to.

And be sure to get your visa in advance of arrival.

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I was aware it was Song Khran in Thailand, but not aware that prices DOUBLE in Burma. What is the festival called in Burma?

Car and driver sounds about right.

If I was to drive to the border - maybe Ranong or does anyone have better suggestions! - are there places in Thailand to leave a car for a week or so?

Burmese New Year / Water Festival is called Thingyan locally.

If you do go to Ranong and cross into Kawthoung, you will need to get to Yangon from either Kawthoung or Myeik.

If you have the time, take the ferry from Kawthoung up to Myeik, have a look around Myeik, then fly up to Yangon from there.

Need to be flexible though, cannot guarantee you will get on the flight to Yangon on the day you want to.

And be sure to get your visa in advance of arrival.

Thanks I think we will make final decision next week.

How much (about) is a flight from Myeik?

How long does it take tot get a visa (UK passport)?

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Thanks I think we will make final decision next week.

How much (about) is a flight from Myeik?

How long does it take tot get a visa (UK passport)?

Flight from Myeik should be around $135-165 max

Visa in Bangkok:

- same day (express turnaround) 1240 baht (must show ticket for next day travel)

- next day 1050 baht

- second day (normal turnaround) 810 baht

Check other threads for more info or let me know any other queries

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Thanks I think we will make final decision next week.

How much (about) is a flight from Myeik?

How long does it take tot get a visa (UK passport)?

Flight from Myeik should be around $135-165 max

Visa in Bangkok:

- same day (express turnaround) 1240 baht (must show ticket for next day travel)

- next day 1050 baht

- second day (normal turnaround) 810 baht

Check other threads for more info or let me know any other queries

Thanks -

Hoping still to find some info on leaving my car in Thailand (Ranong or near the crossing) for the duration.

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Thanks -

Hoping still to find some info on leaving my car in Thailand (Ranong or near the crossing) for the duration.

If you were to stay overnight in Ranong the evening before you leave for Kawthoung - then I imagine you could ask the hotel/guest house if you can leave your car there for the duration of your stay.

I have parked at hotels in Ranong before for several days (also parked at the Sapan Phla jetty where immigration is for a night or two)

Just a thought.

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If you are driving a Burmese car, one thing to be aware of.

Half the cars in Myanmar are left-hand drive and the other half are right-hand drive.

Crazy, I know. Scary, too if you're in the wrong kind.

I've driven RHD cars and trucks on the right and LHD on the left......... and vice-versa, driving on on e side or other of the car OR road is the least of my problems when driving in a strange new foreign country.

although I prefer to drive myself, it looks as ig=f this time I'll have to let someone else do it...... not that I think they'd be any better at it than me!

Good to know people have left their cars in Thailand though.

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If you are driving a Burmese car, one thing to be aware of.

Half the cars in Myanmar are left-hand drive and the other half are right-hand drive.

Crazy, I know. Scary, too if you're in the wrong kind.

Actually from what I saw, about 95% of cars are RIGHT hand drive which of course is the wrong side for driving on the right side of the road. I did a few counts when I was walking around Yangon because I found the situation so weird. Also quite strange is the total lack of motorcycles in Yangon as they are banned. Especially as they are so prevalent in all other 'developing' Asian countries cities.

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If you are driving a Burmese car, one thing to be aware of.

Half the cars in Myanmar are left-hand drive and the other half are right-hand drive.

Crazy, I know. Scary, too if you're in the wrong kind.

Actually from what I saw, about 95% of cars are RIGHT hand drive which of course is the wrong side for driving on the right side of the road. I did a few counts when I was walking around Yangon because I found the situation so weird. Also quite strange is the total lack of motorcycles in Yangon as they are banned. Especially as they are so prevalent in all other 'developing' Asian countries cities.

As I understand it, Burma was drive-on-the-left until some mad monk persuaded the government to swap over in the seventies after having some dream about it.

i wouldn't put it beyond the realms of possibility for them to change back with the advent of ASEAN - it would appear that the majority 4 wheel vehicles in AEC are RHD.

Edited by wilcopops
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If you are driving a Burmese car, one thing to be aware of.

Half the cars in Myanmar are left-hand drive and the other half are right-hand drive.

Crazy, I know. Scary, too if you're in the wrong kind.

Actually from what I saw, about 95% of cars are RIGHT hand drive which of course is the wrong side for driving on the right side of the road. I did a few counts when I was walking around Yangon because I found the situation so weird. Also quite strange is the total lack of motorcycles in Yangon as they are banned. Especially as they are so prevalent in all other 'developing' Asian countries cities.

As I understand it, Burma was drive-on-the-left until some mad monk persuaded the government to swap over in the seventies after having some dream about it.

i wouldn't put it beyond the realms of possibility for them to change back with the advent of ASEAN - it would appear that the majority 4 wheel vehicles in AEC are RHD.

It was a RHD country in the past due to being a British colony. I heard that they changed to drive on the right after they became independent, as a gesture of getting away from the colonialists. If you have any information about a "mad monk", I'd be interested in a link.

There is no chance of them changing back. I actually asked HE the Union Minister of Transport two years ago, and he was very clear about that.

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I'm not particularly concerned about which side they drive on - However, one has to consider that the opinion of any burmese minister has a limited life span in this day and age, and the country's infrastructure still partially at least, has the remnants of the old drive on the left system. My point is that of all the countries in ASEAN that could change Burma would be the easiest - and the majority of vehicles in ASEAN are RHD. - I'm not speculating on the odds of it happening. Apparently the change was OVERNIGHT! - or least without any real preparation.

http://www.minordiversion.com/2012/03/the-unique-world-of-burmese-driving/

"I asked several people for the cause of the change and there are two commonly held theories, both of which point to the eccentricities of General Ne Win. One theory is that Ne Win’s wife’s astrologer said that the country would be better off driving on the right side of the road. The second is that the General had a dream that the country should switch directions. Either way, the General called the shots and traffic was directed to move sides overnight.

Despite the lane shifts, virtually every vehicle in Myanmar has right hand steering. Many vehicles are very old, and those that are considered modern are second hand imports from Japan. It isn’t just the cars that have to catch up. One can still see old traffic signs in downtown Yangon facing the wrong direction."

Here is an extract from Ne Win's obituary.......

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1415295/General-Ne-Win.html

"Ne Win, who seized power in a coup in 1962, was xenophobic, capricious, superstitious and fascinated by the occult "science" of numerology.

Nine was his lucky number: important events were staged on dates whose numbers, when added together, made nine; and in 1987, after deciding that all banknotes should be divisible by nine, he introduced the 45-kyat and 90-kyat notes. The result was that Burmese who had hoarded 100-kyat notes lost all their savings.

On other occasions, he told his ministers to eat mohingka, a poor man's dish of fish and noodles, to solve the problem of poverty; ordered everyone to start driving on the right side of the road, rather than the left, on the advice of a wizard; and was once seen in the middle of the night, dressed as a king, walking backwards over a bridge in Rangoon, apparently on the advice of his soothsayers.

Burma, which changed its name to Myanmar in 1989, paid dearly for Ne Win's eccentric but ruthless despotism. Rich in natural resources, it had once been seen as potentially the wealthiest country in south east Asia. Under Ne Win, it became the poorest."

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The country is called Myanmar, not Burma.

It's not a black or, white issue. It was changed in 1989 by SLORC.

The UN recognizes the name change, but, the UK and the USA do not.

Officially, Aung San Su Kyii's political party also don't recognize the name change as it was mandated by the military after the results of the 1988 election were ignored.

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Yes, let's not get into the debate on Myanmar vs Burma here.

If I took a stance on this I'd be forever editing topics to change names one way or another.

Even my Burmese friends and colleagues tend to switch in conversation and correspondence depending on who they are communicating with (and what country the person is from)

Lets get back to the original topic thanks.

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