PASSPORT AND VISA - Visitors must have a valid passport with an EVT [Entry Visa for Tourist: Package visa and FIT visa] to enter Myanmar. EVT can be obtained at any Myanmar Embassy / Consulate offices with validity for 28 days. Visa-on-Arrival can be arranged for those countries where Myanmar Embassy / Consulate office does not exist.
CURRENCY EXCHANGE - The currency in Myanmar is called Kyat (pronounced 'chat'). As in many countries of the area the US Dollar is the most useful currency to carry and it can be exchanged into local currency.
However Traveler’s Cheque and International credit cards are not widely used. Traveler’s cheques can currently NOT be used or exchanged in Myanmar. It is absolutely necessary to bring enough cash in USD or EURO. Other foreign currencies are difficult to change. There is not anymore required to change 200 US Dollars into 200 FEC (Foreign Exchange Certificates) upon arrival at the airport.
AIRPORT TAX - An international airport tax of 10 USD per person is payable cash in USD or FEC (Foreign Exchange Certificates) when departing Myanmar on an international flight. No departure tax charged on domestic flights.
HEALTH - No vaccination certificate is required unless coming from the infected area.
ELECTRICITY - Myanmar uses 220-250V, 50Hz. power-cuts are quite common but most hotels have their own generator.
CULTURE - Myanmar lies between two great civilizations, India and China, but it has developed its own distinctive culture. Buddhism has a great influence in the daily lives of the Myanmar people. The people have preserved the traditions of close family ties, respect for elders and simple native dress. While tolerance and contentment are the characteristics of the people, Myanmar hospitality is legendary.
RELIGION - Everyone in Myanmar has their independent right in religion. Theravada Buddhism is the predominant religion with over 80% of the population professing it. There are also Christians, Muslims and Hindus.
CLOTHING - Visitors are required to dress decently on the precincts of religious buildings. Ladies should not wear shorts, briefs or bra-less T-shirt on Shwedagon Pagoda. Shoes and socks or stockings must be removed at Pagodas and Monasteries.
CUSTOM’S FORMALITIES ON ARRIVAL - All foreign currencies in excess of US$-2,000, Traveler’s Cheque and jewelry, cameras and electronic goods etc, must be recorded on the customs form which may be checked on departure.
ECONOMY - Myanmar’s economy has been replaced by the “State Law and Peace Restoration Council’ from the centrally planned economy to an economic policy based on market-oriented economy. Myanmar has liberalized domestic and external trade, now promoting the rate of private sector and opening up to foreign investment. Agriculture remains the main sector of the economy and private sector participation is strongly encouraged for rapid and sustainable development. In industry, small and medium enterprises are given priority in agro-based industries. As an emerging country rich in natural and human resources, Myanmar has enormous potentials for long term economic development.
DO AND DON'T
If you happen to be one of the visitors to the land of Golden Pagodas, there are some things you should know about the customs and beliefs of the Myanmar people that will go a long way toward making your stay more pleasant. A key concept for Myanmar people is "Cetana". Although the word has no exact translation in English, it is generally employed in the sense of goodwill, good intention or benevolence. Cetena is manifested in a thousand ways. In the life of a Myanmar, it is applied everywhere and all the time. It is practiced in both his religious duties and daily dealings with others. Any act performed out of true Cetana is greatly appreciated in Myanmar society, you also should never hesitate to ask for help whenever you feel the need for it. Anybody would be happy to help you, without harboring any selfish desire for material gains. Belief that merits, i.e. doing good deeds for others, especially strangers, will accrue is widespread. It even makes us feel enraptured. Thus, gift of money or things should, if at all, be given courteously to a Myanmar who helps you. You should be aware that the help is Cetana, regardless of whether it actually involves expenses. Most Myanmar feels that Cetana can be repaid with gratitude rather than money. Tipping as a system thus confined to such service people as taxi drivers, porters, bellboys and waiters, since they expect a small extra payment if they are indeed, of service to you.
Feeling of Respect
In Myanmar, feelings of respect are spontaneous in almost any situation. Deeply rooted in hearts. People pay respect to whomever honor is due. Yadanar Thone Par-literally meaning the Three kinds of Gem, refers to the venerable trinity of Buddha, Dhamma [his Teachings] and Sangha [members of the Buddhist Order]. Among the Three Gems, Buddha is the most exalted. So much so that each Buddha image must be treated as reverently as a living Buddha himself. Also to be revered are shrines housing the images, and precincts where in shrines, stupas, temples, monasteries and any other religious edifices stand. Which is why footwear is strictly prohibited on sacred religious grounds.
Like other Buddhist Asian countries, Myanmar adheres to a se5t of acknowledged cultural rules that can cause problems for the uninitiated. Here's a guide to what you should not do on your trip to Myanmar :
- Never wear shoes and socks inside a pagoda or monastery as they are not allowed, although some monasteries allow footwear in the grounds. When visiting someone's home, shoes should always be left at the door. You should also remember that carpets, mats and other kinds of floor covering are meant to be sat upon, so should avoid walking on them especially with your shoes on.
- Myanmar dress is conservative; therefore visitors should avoid wearing anything unsuitable in public. In a pagoda, men and women should avoid wearing sleeveless or revealing clothing.
- Women should not sit on the roof of buses or boats out of politeness to the men or elder sitting underneath. Nor should anyone sit in chairs on the same level as monks or nuns and certainly not higher.
- Do not step over the body of anyone else. But if you must, always ask to be excused first.
- When you offer something to a monk or nun or an elderly person, use both hands. With others, apart from casual transactions at shops or food stalls use your right hand or both hands in order to be polite in the case of giving or receiving gifts, etc.
- Monks and nuns should not be touched. Women should be careful not to let any part of their body touch a monk's robes.
- Men should not offer to shake hands with a Myanmar lady unless she offers first, and should not touch them even in friendliness. Also, couples should avoid displaying affection in public.
- Do not sit with feet on tables or sprawl yourself on the floor. If you happen to be sitting and your feet should, however unwittingly, be pointing toward, say, a Buddha image or a monk or an older person, it would be considered offensive.
- However aggravated you are, do not lose you temper in public as it will cause everyone involved to lose face. Furthermore, touching someone older than you on the head may also be interpreted as an act of aggression and should be avoided. It is also worth bearing in mind that, apart from the religious persons, age, rather than wealth or professional position, is the most important criterion of social standing. In short, respect for elders above all.
Introduction and Greetings
Mingalarbar, literally means an auspicious occasion! Probably is the first word, which you will hear from a local when you visit Myanmar. Unlike any other language-greeting phrase, Mingalarbar can be used at any part of the day. The originally western custom of shaking hands when introduced has become something of a vogue among urbanized Myanmar. But this applies only to men. If you were introduced to monks, you would bow or bring your palms together. If you, a man, are introduced to a Myanmar lady, you should not stretch out your hand to shake hers unless she does so first. As demure and shy as a Myanmar lady might appear at first to a foreigner, she is the upholder of centuries-old traditions that make up the fabric of Myanmar society. Thus a proper Myanmar woman will most certainly be reluctant to have any sort of social intercourse with a man who is not intimately related to her. In urban areas, once again, better-educated, well-exposed ladies are less likely to adhere rigidly to such a conservative code of behavior.