- Myanmar A-Z
- Getting There
- Electricity in Myanmar
- Festivals and Celebration Days
- Photography in Myanmar
- Health and Vaccinations
- What to Wear
- Climate of Myanmar
- Communication (Telephone, Internet and Post)
- Travel Literature
- Burmese Language
- Cities and Regions At-A-Glance
- Myanmar Visa Requirements
- Cambodia Time Zone
Visitors traveling to Myanmar by air usually come via Bangkok, Kuala Lampur or Singapore. It’s also possible to take a slight detour and come via Taipeh, Peking or Guangzhou.
Currently, the only airports served by international airlines are those in Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw. The quickest options are to come via Doha with Qatar Airways, via Bangkok with Etihad Airways / Bangkok Airways or via Bangkok with Thai Airways.
Overland or on the water: There are multiple border crossings for tourists wishing to enter Cambodia by land. These include Tachileik, Myawaddy und Kawthaung. From Tachileik, visitors can fly to Yangon, Heho and Mandalay; from Kawthaung, there are flights to Myeik, Dawei and Yangon; and from Myawaddy, visitors can continue on the overland route to Yangon. If you are planning to enter the country at a border crossing, you must already have the correct visa in your passport. (Visa rules are subject to change at any time and without prior announcement).
For the people of Myanmar, the full moon is cause for lavish celebration. The dates of Myanmar’s festivals are based on the lunar calendar. Some full moons are considered to be particularly significant and are marked by large celebrations at all the major pagodas. Pilgrims and street vendors appear and numerous kiosks and food stalls are erected. A carnival atmosphere reigns in the streets.
The Burmese calendar year begins in April.
APRIL / MAY
Shwemawdaw Pagoda Festival in Bago April
Water Festival, also known as Thingyan – nationwide April This festival marks the beginning of the Burmese new year and takes place at the time of the sun’s transition from Picses to Aries, which always occurs around mid-April. Since this is the peak of the hot season, water throwing is a prominent feature of the festivities. The water is intended to “wash away” the sins of the previous year – and as you might expect, the streets get very wet indeed. Water-spraying platforms are erected for the water fights and the streets are filled with processions of dancers and pick-up trucks, which spray water and blast music as they pass. No-one is spared, including visitors! The houses and pagodas are decorated with colorful flowers to honour thenats (spirits worshipped by Burmese people in conjunction with Buddhism). What to know if you’re traveling at this time: The country comes to a standstill. Shops, restaurants, markets and museums are all closed, often for more than a week. Changes to planned journeys can become necessary at short notice due to streets being blocked or drivers not wanting to take particular routes.
Mount Popa Nat Festival or “Spirits Festival” on Mount Popa May Pilgrims from all corners of the country travel to Mount Popa, whose name is thought to come from the Pali/Sanskrit word puppa, meaning “flower”. They celebrate and pay homage to the Mahagiri nats (guardian spirits worshipped by some Burmese people). What to know if you’re traveling at this time: The mountain becomes very crowded, which can make the ascent more difficult than usual.
Full Moon of Kason – nationwide May The full moon of Kason is one of the most important and highly honored Buddhist festivals worldwide. It commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha and is thus considered to be blessed in three different regards. It is marked by temple festivals in a number of locations across the country. What to know if you’re traveling at this time: The Shwekyetyet Pagode in Mandalay receives a particularly high number of visitors. Traditional lethwei (Burmese kickboxing) matches are held in Mrauk U on the day of the full moon. Shite-thaung Pagoda Festival – Mrauk U May This festival is similar to other pagoda festivals, but also features traditional lethwei (Burmese kickboxing) matches.
JUNE / JULY
Thi-Ho-Shin Pagoda Festival – Pakkoku June A carnival spirit reigns during this fifteen-day festival, when markets spring up in the area around the pagoda and evening entertainment is provided in the form of zats (traditional dance dramas), anyeints (traditional Burmese performances combining dance, music, songs and comedy) and film screenings.
Chin Lone Festival – Mandalay July Chin Lone is a traditional, non-competitive sport involving a ball made of cane or rattan. The festival takes place in the vicinity of the Mahamuni Pagoda and draws participants from all corners of the country. The aim of the game is to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible without using one’s hands. The players at the festival are very practised in the sport – which requires a combination of athletic and dance-like movements – and fascinate onlookers with their acrobatic interludes or “solos”. The sport can be played in a team or alone and is accompanied by indigenous music.
Full Moon Day of Waso – nationwide July The beginning of the three-month Buddhist Lent season, during which Buddhists reflect on the importance of moderation and introspection. Weddings and other celebrations are not permitted to take place. The monks retreat to their monasteries for the Lent period. On the full moon day, however, the monks move through the streets and collect robes and other essentials from the Burmese people.
Shwe Kyun Pin Festival – Mingun / Mandalay July After the harvest time, hundreds of farmers descend upon the Myatheindan Pagoda with colorful clothes and beautifully decorated ox carts. They thank the nats (guardian spirits) – on this occasion, the spirits responsible for guarding the river – for the harvest that has passed and pray for a good harvest in the coming year. This prayer takes the form of dance and is enjoyed by many hundreds of visitors and spectators. On the banks of the river, pottery items are offered for sale.
AUGUST / SEPTEMBER
Taung Byone Festival – Around Mandalay August Thousands of Burmese people travel to Taungbyone for this five-day festival in honor of the nats (guardian spirits) Min Gyin and Min Lai. The wood figures representing the spirit brothers are given a ceremonial washing and carried through the crowds. Sacrificial ceremonies are held. All attendees – from the very oldest to the very youngest – dance traditional dances. There are gatherings with shamans and pwes (feasts). Colorful goods are sold at a huge bazaar.
Yadanar Gu Festival – Amarapura August This festival is held to honor the nat (guardian spirit) known as Popa Medaw, the mother of Mount Popa. It is one of Myanmar’s grandest and most impressive spirit festivals. There is wild dancing, and groups hold ceremonies to propitiate the nats.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival (Karaweik Festival) – Inle Lake September One of Myanmar’s most colorful festivals. During the festival, five Buddha figures from Phaung Daw Oo are transported across on the lake on a decorated, gold-plated Karaweik ship. The ship stops at 14 villages on the banks of the lake to give inhabitants chance to pay homage. The festival is steeped in age-old tradition. Hundreds of boats follow the procession, which is watched by huge crowds of people from the lakeside. The festival program includes boat races and various other festivities. What to know if you’re traveling at this time: The timing of the procession can change at very short notice.
Shinbinsagyo Pagoda Festival – Bagan September /October Evening entertainment program with dancing, bands, cabaret artists and an open-air cinema.
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER
Kyaukdawgyi Pagoda Festival – Mandalay October The Kyauktawgyi Pagoda and its alabaster Buddha statue are located at the foot of Mandalay Hill. During the festival, the area around the pagoda plays host to a large fair, at which many beautiful hand-crafted products are offered for sale. Traditional puppeteers, dancers and all other kinds of activities are available for visitors to enjoy.
Myathalon Pagoda Festival – Magwe October Evening entertainment program with dancing, bands, cabaret artists and an open-air cinema.
Kyaukse Elephant Dance Festival – Kyaukse October During this festival, the streets are filled with colorful, lavishly decorated, life-size elephant replicas made of bamboo panels and papier maché . Two men are concealed within each elephant and must imitate the animal’s movements as convincingly as possible. The dance is led by a choreographer, who also directs the music. It demands a precise sense of rhythm from the elephant dancers.
Thadingyut Festival – nationwide October A festival of lights that is held at the end of the rainy season and marks the end of Buddhist Lent. Buddhist believers decorate their streets and homes with colored lights to guide Buddha’s way, and thousands of oil lamps are lit in the temples and pagodas. As well being a time for happiness and enjoyment, it is also an occasion for showing respect to older people.
Thanbodde Pagoda Ceremony / Phowintaung Festival / Kaunghmudaw Pagoda Festival – Monywa November A market is held at each of the pagodas, with a wide range handcrafted products for sale. At Phowinthaung Cave, in particular, visitors can find many indigenous wild herbs and fruits from the Chindwin River region. At the Kaunghamuda Pagoda, traditional handmade goods are sold from a procession of ox carts.
Taunggyie Hot Air Balloon Festival – Taunggyi / Inle Lake November The famous hot air balloon festival in Shan State starts on the day of the full moon and lasts for five days. Village communities from all over the state build hot air balloons to participate in competitions – the aim is create the most beautiful and lavish balloon possible. Flying competitions can be seen during the day, with hot air balloons in all different shapes and colours: elephants, horses, cows, mythical figures and many more. The evening fireworks are not to be missed. What to know if you’re traveling at this time: Participants and their supporters travel to the festival weeks in advance. Hotels and guesthouses tend to be fairly full.
Hot Air Balloon Festival – Maymyo (Pyin Oo Lwin) November This festival was established relatively recently and is based on the famous Taungyyi Festival. Village communities from the surrounding area build hot air balloons to participate in competitions – the aim is create the most beautiful and lavish balloon possible. Flying competitions can be seen during the day, with hot air balloons in all different shapes and colours: elephants, horses, cows, mythical figures and many more.
Robe Weaving Contest – nationwide, in larger towns and cities November On the night of the full moon, groups of women meet at various pagodas across the country to weave new, saffron-yellow monks’ robes (Ma Tho Thin Gan) at specially erected looms. Traditionally, women compete to produce the most lavish and decorative robe. The winners are awarded prizes and are permitted to lay the finished robes on a statue of Buddha.
Shin Mar Le Pagoda Festival – Mandalay November The Burmese people pay homage to Buddha by decorating the stupa at the north entrance of the Mahamuni Pagoda with lotus flowers.
Tazaungdaing Fullmoon Festival – nationwide November This festival – which, like the Thandingyut Festival, is a festival of lights – marks the full moon of the eighth month of Myanmar’s lunar calendar. Burmese people bring the monks new robes and other day-to-day essentials.
Shwezigon Festival – Bagan November The entertainment program at the festival offers visitors the chance to experience a traditional zat: a vibrant performance combining dance, song and theater. Sacrificial offerings are made at the temples. Up to 600 monks emerge on the day of the full moon to receive gifts from the people.
Shwe Myat Mhan Pagoda Festival – Shwe Taung bei Pyay November – December Similar to many other pagoda festivals. The interesting thing about this occasion is that it offers worshippers a chance to observe Myanmar’s only bespectacled Buddha statue. It is traditionally believed to help with eye problems. Every two weeks, the Buddha’s glasses are cleaned by a team of nine monks.
DECEMBER / JANUARY
Ananda Pagoda Festival – Bagan A huge temple festival is held in the Ananda Temple, attracting numerous traders and pilgrims.
Tourists wishing to take photographs or film in Myanmar are generally allowed to do so. Happily, the local people do not tend to be shy about being photographed. However, photographers should always maintain a respectful distance and, where appropriate, ask permission in advance. Military and strategic institutions (airports, train stations, bridges…) may not be photographed or filmed. Pagodas, temples and monasteries may request a small fee for the use of cameras. This usually goes towards the upkeep of the building.
Most medium to large towns and cities offer facilities for printing out digital pictures or transferring photographs from memory cards onto CDs. Conventional 35 mm film is available in all tourist areas; however, you will often find that it has been stored incorrectly and is therefore somewhat deficient in terms of quality. Slide film can be obtained in Yangon or in luxury hotels, but is very expensive and has sometimes also been subject to improper storage. Photography in Myanmar is always the more successful, for a little time spent preparing for the above.
No specific vaccinations are recommended for travel to Myanmar. Health risks for tourist areas of Myanmar are low, particularly since most illnesses can be avoided through careful planning and taking the right precautions. Cases of malaria tend to occur only in areas that are of minimal interest to foreign tourists. Since a malaria prophylaxis does not offer protection against Dengue fever and is often associated with significant side effects, we recommend that travelers protect themselves against mosquitoes using clothing, nets, protective lotion and distance. As for most other tropical destinations, it’s also recommended to avoid tap water and unwashed/unpeeled fruit and vegetables.
To get information about travel insurance or to book a policy for your trip abroad, please click here.
Light clothing is suitable for most areas of the country. However, please note that in higher altitude regions (e.g. in the north of the country, in Putao, Kalaw or at the Inle Lake), night-time temperatures can fall to as low as 10 degrees celsius during the winter. You should be sure to pack sufficient sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sun cream, etc.). An umbrella and waterproof poncho are essential if you’re visiting Myanmar during the rainy season. Shoes and socks must be removed when visiting temples, pagodas, monasteries and homes, so sandals or typical Myanmar-style slippers can prove useful options for footwear.
A year in Myanmar is divided into three seasons. The hot season usually lasts from March to May (with temperatures from 25 to 40 degrees), the rainy season from June to September (with temperatures from 20 to 33 degrees and relatively high humidity) and the dry or “cool” season from October to February (with temperatures between 18 and 25 degrees). Travellers should be aware, however, that each time of year has its own distinct appeal: while the cool season offers the most agreeable temperatures and humidity levels, the hot and wet seasons offer the cheapest tickets (due to less demand) and the chance to see the landscape at its lushest and greenest – the beating down of intense monsoon rains can infuse your trip with a kind of uniquely Southeast Asian romance. Travellers considering this option should note that the rain can occasionally make it dangerous to access roads in the more remote mountain regions. Mandalay, Bagan and the Inle Lake are largely unaffected by the monsoon and can be visited without difficulty all year round.
In major towns and cities, it is usually very easy to make telephone calls (or send faxes) abroad. However, you should ask about the current price before beginning your call. Due to the absence of roaming agreements, it is not currently possible to use foreign cellphones in Myanmar.
While internet cafes can now be found in Yangon and even in smaller towns and cities, the speed is very slow. Furthermore, several websites and web services are not freely accessible. Even the internet in the business centers in Yangon’s largest hotels is censored, which means that saved web pages can often not be accessed. In many internet cafes, however, the employees know how to bypass the censorship filters for western customers.
Guidebooks: Coming soon…
Historical figures and modern-day experts have produced an enticing range of lively accounts of Myanmar over the years. Among the best-known are Rudyard Kipling’s “Letters from the East” (London 1889), Somerset W. Maugham’s “The Gentlemen in the Parlour” (New York 1930) and Bertil Linter’s “Land of Jade” (Edinburgh 1990).
Following the saga of a poor Burmese boy from the British invasion in 1885 to the time of the military government, Amitav Ghosh’s “The Glass Palace” is a wonderful, unmissable piece of holiday reading. George Orwell’s classic “Burmese Days” paints a vivid, enthralling picture of the mood and happenings of the British colonial era, while Daniel Mason’s relatively recent work “The Piano Tuner” follows the exciting, intrigue-packed journey of its piano tuner protagonist through the Myanmar jungle.
The official language of Myanmar is Burmese. However, there are around 200 different dialects spoken throughout the country. Though English is quite common in the popular tourist areas, travellers can make their lives significantly easier by arranging to be accompanied by a local guide.
Yangon The exotic metropolis of Yangon greets visitors with the golden luster of the legendary Shwedagon Pagoda. Commonly used as the start and end point of trips around the country, Myanmar’s largest city (population around 4.5 million) has an abundant supply of the magic that makes the country so unique. From this former capital, it’s only a stone’s throw to the Golden Rocks, Pyay or the beach at Ngwe Saung.
Mandalay The name of this city is steeped in a special kind of magic. In fact, Mandalay’s melodic-sounding name doesn’t just refer to a former royal city of palaces, pagodas and monasteries, but to the cultural heart of Myanmar, overflowing with legend and spirituality. The nearby former royal cities of Amarapura, Inwa and Sagaing are perfect candidates for day trips, as is the town of Mingun on the banks of the Ayeyarwady.
Bagan Dotted with numerous Buddhist holy sites, the plains of Bagan are among the most spectacular sights Myanmar has to offer. This was where Asia’s most beautiful metropolis once blossomed – and a huge variety of golden cupolas and red stupa remnants can still be found here. A romantic balloon ride at sunrise is an experience not to be missed. While you’re here, it’s well worth paying a visit to Mount Popa, which is located just 75 km away and serves as a major site for the worship of nats.
Inle Lake The amphibious marshland of the Inle Lake enchants visitors with its traditional stilt houses, floating gardens and and famous leg rowers. Situated around 900 m above sea level, and surrounded by mountains, this legendary body of water forms a fascinating world all of its own. From its location in Shan State in the heart of Myanmar, visitors can take an overland route to Bagan, passing through Pindaya and Kalaw on the way.
Ngapali Beach Around two dozen beach resorts have risen from the sands of Ngapali Beach in recent years. Located close to the ancient seaport of Thandwe (known until 1989 as Sandoway) and nestled among beautiful tropical gardens, the stylish rooms, inviting restaurants and beach bars of this seaside destination offer superb standards of comfort and opportunities for relaxation. It is located around 300 km north-west of Yangon.
Ngwe Saung Beach Ngwe Saung Beach is located around 40 k from Pathein. Also known as Silver Beach, it invites visitors to enjoy almost 15 km of bathing-friendly waters, extensive walking tours, picturesque fishing villages and secluded sunsets. It can be reached easily via the overland route from Yangon.
Mrauk U Though the ruins of Mrauk U might be dark in color, they hark back to a truly dazzling time: thanks to its central location, Mrauk U Kingdom once wielded extensive power. Mrauk U can be reached by a 5-hour boat ride on the Kaladan River – the journey leaves from Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State.
Sittwe Rakhine State’s present-day capital is packed with diverse attractions. A Dutch clocktower, stately British colonial villas and an 8.5-ton bronze Buddha – Sittwe’s most important holy site – can all be found in the heart of the town.
Mount Victoria As the highest mountain in Chin State, Mount Victoria rises above the magnificent surrounding landscape (designated the Nat Ma Taung National Park in 1994) at a proud height of 3,053 meters. The Chin women who live here decorate their faces with mysterious tattoos, with designs consisting of spiders’ webs, half-moons and dots.
Golden Rock This sacred site is one of the grandest attractions Myanmar has to offer. Because of its spectacular location – and the fact that its history as a place of worship dates back to Buddha’s lifetime – this golden block of granite is the most important pilgrimage site in the country. Known as “Kyaiktiyo” in the Mon language, it receives up to 10,000 pilgrims every day; at peak times, this number can reach 40,000.
Hpa-An The name of this southern city comes from the Burmese word for “frog” – which also helps to explain why the pagodas here are adorned with so many depictions of the amphibious animal. Though this sleepy city has only recently begun to gain popularity as a tourist destination, it is well worth a visit: the surrounding area is dotted with fascinating (and expansive) labyrinths of caves.
Mawlamyine Don’t dare attempt the pronunciation of this Burmese city? You might want to use its former name, Moulmein, instead, which was given to it by the Britons during the period of their rule in Burma. As the largest city in Myanmar’s south and a one-time capital of British Burma, there’s still a great deal here to remind visitors of its colonial past. With so many nostalgic scenes and so much exotic charm, it’s easy to see how the city was responsible for inspiring Rudyard Kipling’s “Road to Mandalay” and George Orwell’s “Burmese Days”.
Myeik Archipelago This enchanting island world is a grand yet largely untouched seascape – a rare thing in the world of today. The archipelago consists of around 800 small, mostly uninhabited islands, with idyllic coral gardens concealed beneath the sea in between. The best way to access this fascinating area is via Thailand. Since only two of the islands currently offer a resort, visitors are advised to explore the archepelago as part of an unforgettable expedition cruise.
Keng Tung Only a small number of travelers make it as far as this attractive enclave in the eastern region of Shan State. Situated at around 800 m above sea level and serving as a central hub between Thailand, Laos and China, Keng Tung is the secret capital of the Golden Triangle. Former smugglers’ routes function as hiking trails to the homes of the Shan, Wa, Akha, Lahu or Palaung mountain tribes, whose women are known for stretching their bodies with brass rings. The enclave occupies an idyllic seaside location and is characterised by hills and rice terraces, traditional tiled roof houses, colonial buildings, more than 30 Buddhist holy sites and the remnants of the town walls.
Loikaw This small town occupies a high-altitude location in Kayah State in the east of the country. Travelers wishing to journey to Loikaw can do so via the Inle Lake, although the trip from there takes several days. Two pagodas, a catholic diocese and a silk weaving mill form the heart of the town. Of interest to visitors are its delightful landscape and the variety of ethnic minorities that make up its population.
Tachilek Myanmar’s smallest border town makes a great day trip for those visiting the region to see the Golden Triangle – it’s the perfect place to spend a couple of hours immersing yourself in the traditional Burmese way of life. The nearby village of Akha is also well worth a visit.
Putao Nestled in the Myanmar’s mountainous highlands, Putao is one of the most important location towns in Kachin State. The northernmost tip of the state is home to Myanmar’s highest mountain, the legendary Hkakabo Razi, which can be viewed from Putao and rises majestically above the surrounding landscape at a height of 5,889 metres. The first successful ascent was made in September 1996.
Myitkyina Like the delightful Bhamo (the second-largest city in Kachin State), Myitkyina lies in the upper reaches of the Ayeyarwady. This mystery-steeped provincial capital – an important location on the supply route to China in WWII – extends over a shallow valley and enchants visitors with its variety of beautiful pagodas.
Indawgyi Lake Measuring 13 km wide and 24 km long, the picturesque Indawgyi Lake is Myanmar’s largest body of water. Trips to the lake usually take in its floating pagoda and diverse, exotic range of birdlife.
Myitsone Near Myitkyina is the location of Myitsone, whose name stands for the confluence of the Maikha and Malikha rivers and which represents the source of the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar. It’s hard to believe that this major waterway – which comes in at more than 2,000 km long and is considered Myanmar’s “lifeline” – flows through the landscape here as little more than a crystal-clear stream.
THE AYEYARWADY & CHINDWIN Nostalgia-inducing river cruises along Myanmar’s life-giving rivers are among the most relaxing ways to discover the country. A huge variety of cruise ships await to help you explore the roughly 8,000 km of waterways, with each and every vessel offering top-notch standards of comfort and ambience. At 2,170 km long, the Ayeyarway is the country’s most important river, while the Chindwin sometimes offers chances to glimpse the famous Irrawaddy dolphin.