Burma (Myanmar), long closed to the outside world remains Southeast Asia’s most traditional destination and also one of its most fascinating and varied with a bewildering ethnic mix creating a rich and complex culture, history and cuisine. Burma also possesses, perhaps the most diverse landscapes of the region, from the foothills of the Himalayas in the north to the myriad tropical islands of the Mergui Archipelago in the far south, together with the bucolic scenery of the Shan Plateau, sublime Lake Inle, spectacular and completely unspoilt beaches and the dramatic karst features of Hpa-an and Karen State.
Burma’s vibrant street-life and bustling markets are as traditional as you’ll find anywhere. Its cultural heritage includes the atmospheric, crumbling, colonial extravaganzas of Yangon and Moulmein; the astonishing myriad ancient ruins of Bagan; glittering temples of Mandalay; and the still very traditional, minority villages of remote mountain areas.
Please note that in ethical terms – in the light of recent (and ongoing) events in Burma (Myanmar) – while we condemn outright and wholeheartedly the actions of elements of the military and government we do not agree with any actions that will further harm the ordinary people of the country. We believe that not continuing to offer tours to Burma impacts on hotel and restaurant staff (and of course suppliers), street vendors, local guides, drivers, souvenir sellers and so-on far more than it would any generals and politicians.
Just a few of our favourite things to see, do and experience in Burma (Myanmar)...
Cultural heritage - moss-covered and crumbling but still some of the most spectacular British colonial architecture to be found anywhere in Asia
Food - with such an ethnic mix it's no surprise to find one of the most varied and richest cuisines in the region
Inle Lake - a 2-day boat tour to discover the sublime landscapes, floating gardens and fishing villages of the world famous Lake
The far south - get off the beaten track amid the atmospheric old colonial ports and superb landscapes of the rarely visited far south
2,000 temples - spread across a plain between mountains and the mighty Irrawaddy. A sunset or sunrise trip to the Bagan temples is one of Asia's most awe inspiring sights
Culture and Customs
Knowing what to expect from local culture and customs will help you get more out of your Burma (Myanmar) tour
With India and Bangladesh to the west and Thailand and Laos to the east, Burma forms a bridge between the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia with China marking its northern limits.
Burma stretches over 2,000 kms - from the foothills of the Himalayas to the Peninsula in the far south. The River Ayeyarwady forms a wide plain through the centre with the Shan Plateau to the east.
Burma (Myanmar) has a tropical monsoon climate, with regional variations. Broadly speaking there is a hot dry season from March to May, rainy season June to Sept and cool, dry period Oct to Feb
A bewildering kaleidoscope with ethnic Burmese, (Bamar) accounting for some 60% and Indian, Chinese, Shan, Mon, Karen, Kachin, Arakanese and myriad minority groups accounting for the remainder
Corresponding to the ethnic mix Theravada Buddhism forms the principal religion but Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Animism are all significant minorities
Ditto food with obvious influences from its neighbours China, India and Thailand and all those 3 cuisines are found in abundance alongside the distinctive and unique Burmese traditional dishes
Genuine local knowledge is what turns a good travel experience into an unfforgettable one. Here's our shout-out to the locals that help maket that happen.'
Aung Myat Lin (Po)
Better known to our Burma (Myanmar) travellers as Po, Po-Po or Patrick (he doesn't mind which) was born in Yangon to a Karen father and Shan mother so pretty well exemplifies the country's ethnic diversity. As well as being a local guide for his home town, ever popular Po also leads both our classic, and off the beaten track - south Burma trips which take in of course Shan and Karen States respectively.
Win Win's calm, never flustered, and always fun presence graces both our classic, and southern Burma (Myanmar) tours. Win Win hails from a small town somewhere north of Mandalay but now divides her time between Yangon and hubby's homeland in France.
Things To Know
Useful information and practical tips you should know before you travel to Burma (Myanmar)..
Helpful Country Info
Republic of the Union of Myanmar
c 51.5 million
Kyat (pronounced Chat), unavailable outside Myanmar
ATMs and money changers widely available
230V; plug socket types highly variable
Erratic, but WiFi connections are available in most hotels
3G SIM cards easily available & generally work better than WiFi
Burmese with basic English frequently spoken
Theravada Buddhism with Muslim, Hindu and Christian minorities
Frequently Asked Questions
When’s the best time to go to Burma?
The cool, dry period (by Southeast Asian standard) lasts from the end of October to early March though there are various advantages to visiting at any time of the year.
Why should I visit Burma between April and September?
In short, because there are fewer tourists there. Most of Burma experiences a rainy season or western monsoon period from around early May through to late September. During this period, the tourist traffic in much of the country is down to a trickle which is especially important when visiting the major sites like Bagan. Often there are discounts to be had from airlines and tour operators, including All Points East! The image of all day every day rain is completely false; typically tropical rain falls in short sharp bursts so often humidity will build up during the day resulting in an afternoon or evening downpour. Some of these tropical storms can be spectacular but rarely long and often only mean sheltering in the nearest cafe for an hour or so until the rain stops. Landscapes will be lush and green, rivers and waterfalls at their most spectacular and the fauna too is more active and plentiful; nature comes alive so to speak!
Which innoculations do I need?
For most of Southeast Asia there are no compulsory inoculations – however, Hep A, Polio, Typhoid and Tetanus are recommended. If you are considering antimalarials we recommend you consult a health professional, but whatever you do or don’t do about anti-malarial, we recommend a 50% DEET based insect repellent. Have a look at Fit for Travel which is a useful resource.
Do you recommend your tours for people travelling on their own?
Our small group tours make ideal holidays for solo travellers. Small, fully escorted groups, eating together, family style and no compulsory single supplements all go towards making you feel like you are travelling with a group of friends. If you don’t want to share then ask about single room supplements.
If we book flights through you, which airlines do you use?
We are happy to book your flights from the UK to Rangoon/Yangon. There are no direct flights but we can offer a wide range of options from regional airports as well as London using most major airlines – most often Thai, Emirates and Qatar. Prices on the website are a guideline and we find the best prices and routes for you. Upgrades to Premium Economy or Business class are available.
How do I pay for the holiday, and is there a surcharge for credit cards?
We ask you to pay a 10% deposit upon booking your holiday with the balance being due 60 days prior to departure. There is no surcharge for paying with a credit card. We accept most major credit cards including American Express.
What’s your policy for tipping?
Tipping is discretionary. People always appreciate a gesture for their hard work and dedication but staff are paid and don’t rely on tips. It’s hard to give a guideline before a tour as it does depend on the group size. The tour leaders don’t collect money for tips but are happy to advise. What often works well is if the group appoint someone to collect and distribute tips on behalf of the whole group.
Packing light is a virtue, it'll make getting around easier and gives you room for souvenirs and the special things you find along the way. Packing "as little as possible" doesn't mean you have to forego comfort and any items you may forget are usually available locally for a fraction of the price.
What to Bring
Here is our list of what to pack based on our experience travelling in Burma (Myanmar)...
- Day pack / small pack Sufficient to carry water, sun block, camera etc
- Suitcase/ bag Any smallish bag that can be carried over short distances
- Waterproof bag*Opt Useful for boat trips if you want to keep your camera etc dry
- Hat Can be bought cheaply locally
- Light walking boots or sandals Something waterproof can be useful
- Light waterproofs*Opt Useful for rainy season but remember it is still hot. Easily purchased locally
- Lightweight cotton clothes Long trousers are essential for temples and long sleeves can be useful in the evening. Nights can be cool in winter
- Swimming costume/ shorts*Opt Some hotels have pools
- Warm clothes (eg fleece)*Opt Necessary at certain times of the year - it can be cool in the mountains during the winter (Dec to Feb)
- Umbrella*Opt A small umbrella can be useful
- Basic Medical Kit You will never be far from a pharmacy so basic is the key
- Mosquito Repellent Containing DEET
- Sun block
- Guide book*Opt Please bear in mind even the newest book is likely to be at least 12 months old
- Torch/ flashlight
- Mobile Phone/ internet Refillable SIM cards can be purchased locally. For roaming and 3G check with your local provider. Internet access is available in most larger towns and cities
What NOT to Bring
There are somethings you just don't need to worry about when travelling in Burma (Myanmar)...
- Towels Provided by all hotels and guesthouses
- Water purification tables
- Film/ Camera Equipment Most common brands are widely available as are batteries, digital camera cards etc