I traveled Myanmar solo and off the beaten path for 5 weeks, visiting many places where there were few or no other foreigners, even in and around major cities. I felt totally safe at all times as a tourist.
Myanmar became my favorite place to visit, based on my direct experiences with people who live there and who were visiting family, but no longer live in Myanmar. The Myanmar people could not be more welcoming or generous– experiencing this first-hand is easier outside of the main tourist destinations and major cities.
Food is delicious soups, marinated salads, and meats with rice (although I keep seeing on other people’s blogs that they hated it). Click here to read all about the food I experienced.
A Myanmar visit is a highlight for any traveler interested in history, culture, affordable travel, or a safe + easy place to visit. Many people speak English to some extent, or can at least understand some. And, if they don’t, they will find someone who does! I quickly learned that someone asking me “What’s your problem?” actually meant “How can I help you with whatever you need?”.
This webpage is in depth, so please use the clickable table of contents as needed. Or, browse all my Myanmar content by using the search icon by entering “Myanmar”.
Current News – Employment, Refugees, and Genocide
Many Myanmar people (if you call them “Burmese”, you’ll get push-back from people not of the Burmese tribe) have emigrated to other countries for better employment prospects, or having left Myanmar as refugees. I met some of these people who were visiting family and friends.
There is currently a crisis in the country regarding the genocide of the Rohingya people. These devastated areas are closed off to foreigners and tourists, so you won’t visit or be in any danger.
It remains a very sore spot for me that a country whose general population showed me much kindness can simultaneously have a military treating other people with unimaginable cruelty (read: wiping out of entire villages, including babies). I am saddened and angered by every news report. For the most current news, please search on your favorite search engine for “Rohingya Myanmar genocide”, or even within your favorite international news source (e.g. CNN, The Guardian, New York Times).
My Myanmar Itinerary – 5 Weeks
Travel times between cities can be long by car or bus, but these are easily shortened with flights. However, I used buses and trains between cities.
Where to Visit in Myanmar – Places
There are many cultures, customs, and religions in Myanmar. The country is a conglomeration of ethnicities. Burmese are the largest group, but there are over 100. The country name is Myanmar both originally and currently.
In order visited on my route (see map above)
- Dawei – Take day trips to the various beaches. Or, use this as your jumping off point to the far south
- Mwalmyein – I rented a motorbike and visited the surrounding areas as well as the temples in town. I really enjoyed the huge market as well as the mall with a western style supermarket.
- Hpa An
- Yangon – I spent 24 hours here and visited a bunch of places and ate great food! Loved it for the colonial architecture, too. Here’s my review of my nice little hotel near the huge park.
- I selected a guest house near a lot of Hindu temples and a mosque. I explored the markets on the street and loved all the Indian food!
- Hopin and Lonton, Lake Indawgyi
- Fish and fishermen + women are along the coast and around the lakes, including the largest lake in the country, Lake Indawgyi in the far north. I spent a morning working (not very well) beside women on the lakeshore. Fish culture and photography.
- Matupi – Christianity in the Chin State mountains.
- The town of Mindat, where women have traditional tattoos covering their entire face. This blog post has a How to Get There section. Mindat is a half-day bus ride from Bagan, or a full-day from Mandalay.
- Women with facial tattoos in Mindat – interview and photographs (coming soon!)
- Bagan – 10,000 temples and boiling hot days, I loved exploring the area by electric scooter. Foreigners cannot rent a gasoline scooter. You can also rent a bicycle, or go by horse drawn cart (although the horses didn’t always appear well cared for). Guided tours are also a great option if you prefer a comfortable bus and a guide.
Places I did not personally visit, but recommended by others.
Inle Lake for the traditional fishing. This is a highly touristed area, whcih is why I skipped it for Lake Indawgyi. Kalaw and Hsipaw are nearby for trekking, including an overnight stay in a rural village.
Go trekking in Kengtung and visit the hill tribes. Click the link to see how a family went (with 2 small kids!).
Lashio – Off the beaten path. I will totally go here the next time I visit Myanmar. Lashio has some adventure tours that many speak highly of. It’s a little more money than trekking, but more activities than hiking, and even more off the beaten path than Hsipaw.
Mrauk U – takes a long time to get here, unless you fly.
Taungyyi – This is one Facebook users favorite city by far. They wrote: Lovely chilled vibe, friendly locals, the best food in Myanmar, and lots of hiking opportunities. Not a place for nightlife really though.
Pyin Oo Lwin – I had planned on visiting here, but didn’t for lack of time, although it’s close to Mandalay. Someone on Facebook loved this city for the amazing botanical garden, British mansion houses around, and coffee farms.
Myeik, Loikaw, and Kyaukme – Other places I’ve seen recommended, but don’t know much about.
Getting Into + Around Myanmar
Travel times between cities can be long by car or bus, but these are easily shortened with flights. During the high travel season (for example, April water festival) buy bus and train tickets as far in advance as possible (3 days at least). Same with booking hotels.
There are international flights into Yangon and Mandalay from Bangkok and other places. The budget airlines charge for baggage, so read my tips here on packing for carry on only. Also, here is how I find ridiculously cheap international airfares.
A Myanmar Visa is required prior to entry for most nationalities, including Americans This post includes links to the official Myanmar website; information on the eVisa and when you need a paper visa, and; overstaying the 28-day tourist visa.
Myanmar Overland Border Crossing
The Htee-Kee Overland border crossing from Bangkok / Kanchanaburi to Dawei requires a paper visa, but is an easy day-trip.
Details of Traveling in Myanmar
Selecting a Budget Hotel – 5 easy tips. Relevant to Myanmar or any other developing country.
Posts with very detailed first-hand information on traveling in Myanmar. I originally wrote them for my friends with kids, but realized that they’re so dense, they’re handy for anyone with any questions at all.
- Part 1: Traveling in Myanmar with Children.
- Part 2: Activities for Kids (or adults who act like kids) in Myanmar.
Buying bus tickets and train tickets in Myanmar – The best way to arrange this is to speak with your accommodation. They will arrange your ticket for a small fee. Ask the fee cost in advance, but usually it was $1 to $2 and saved me an hour or more of time going to the bus station.
Traveling on a budget in Myanmar (coming soon!). I spent about $700 USD total in 5 weeks on the ground. I used public ground transportation mainly, with taxis to/from distant bus stations.
I felt very safe at all times, as I traveled Myanmar alone. The Buddhist culture prevents even petty crime like pick-pocketing. As a fellow traveler told me, “I could leave my phone on this table [in a restaurant] and come back in a few hours and it would still be sitting here.”
Dangers of Myanmar for tourists relates some humor. Obviously, take normal precautions by not flaunting money or expensive items, and not doing anything to put yourself at unnecessary risk.
Hotels and Guest Houses
- Hpa An
- Yangon Guest Houses
If you have any questions regarding my Myanmar visit, just let me know in the Comments section below.
Or, if you happen to also be considering Mongolia, I have plenty of blog posts, but also a Comprehensive Mongolia Travel blog post that should help you get started on an itinerary. And, if you want to check out Mongolia photos first, they’re here.