Day 1 in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) Part 1: Arriving Yangon & Things You Need to Know

After watching the movie, The Lady, based on a true story in Burma which tells the story of Aung San Suu Kyi as she becomes the core of Burma’s democracy movement, I’ve been wanting to visit the country itself. Thankfully there are direct flights from KL to Yangon and we bought return flights from Airasia during one of its sales last year. It is a 2 hours and 40 minutes flight from KL to Yangon and the first flight out is at 6.55am.

I prefer catching early morning flights and midnight flights because I could save time by sleeping on board and feeling refreshed upon arrival and ready to conquer the new place! Arriving early in the morning or late noon would buy us more time to spend exploring the city without having to waste a day in the plane if we were to reach in the evening (this is assumption based on no flight delays). Furthermore, the traffic to the airport is a swift without all the jams during peak hours. As for returning flights, I would prefer late afternoon or night. That way can still spend some time in the city before flying off, aka, last minute shopping or last meal. If flying off early in the morning, it would be a very tiring trip as we need to rush to airport as soon as we wake up.


HELLO YANGON!

We are here to celebrate Myanmar New Year aka Thingyan aka Water Festival. It is the same time as Thai’s New Year aka Songkran aka Water Festival (usually falls on the second weekend of April).

Looks like Samsung is the electronic brand for the year in Yangon as we noticed a lot of Samsung devices all around the airport, heavy advertising around the cities as well (eg: billboards, tv ads, etc).

Time Difference

The time difference between Myanmar and Malaysia is +1:30 which means Myanmar is 1 hour and 30 minutes behind Malaysian time. It’s great for us as this means we have more time to play! We reached Yangon at 8.15am, there was a slight delay. But still, it was so early we had plenty of time to spend for the day. After going through the custom and immigration, not to mention toilet break and and some photo taking of the airport.

Language

Myanmar is a country yet unexplored by many tourists. They just recently open up their country to the world and start to pick up on tourism. So, we manage to enjoy a lot of very localised traveling experience despite having difficulties to communicate. Not many Myanmarist speaks English and we used body languages most of the time.

VISA

Yes, you need to apply VISA to enter Myanmar even if you’re a Malaysian passport holder. All the while I thought that there were exemptions for all countries in South East Asia (SEA), which means they don’t need traveling VISA when visiting countries within SEA, all except Myanmar. Furthermore, there’s option for Visa on Arrival BUT that is only applicable for Business visa and others. Anyway, Tourist Visa MUST apply in advance and it usually 1 day to complete. You can either apply at:

Myanmar Embassy
Tel: 03 4251 5595/ 4455 / 6355
Fax: 03 4251 3855
Address: NO 8-C, Jalan Ampang Hilir, 55000 Kuala Lumpur

Visa fee: RM110 per passport

OR

Appointed Myanmar Visa Submission (Visa Center)
Ever Fine Travel & Tour Sdn Bhd
Address: No 19-21, M- Floor, Jalan Tun Perak, 5000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03 2026 4075/ 03 20264076
Visa Center Service Fee: MYR 30 per passport

Total Visa fee: RM140 per passport

Documentations:
1. Original passport must be valid for minimum six (6) months from the departure date.
2. Two (2) recent passport-sized photographs (white back-ground)
3. One (1) application form
4. Photocopy of passport
5. Birth certificate for those below 18 years old
6. Flight & ground itinerary or confirmation
* The above requirements also applicable to foreign passport holder but subject to add on requirement
from embassy.
*Remarks: The above information is for your guidelines and references only.

Currency

The currency used in Myanmar is Burmese Kyat. Oh by the way, Myanmar and Burma are the same thing. “Myanmar or Burma, officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar which is derived from the Burmese Empire – Wikitravel”

We didn’t buy any Burmese Kyat from Malaysia as the money changers do not carry any. So, we brought in USD to change at their local money changer. Apparently, their banks have the best rates compared to money changer. This works the other way round in Malaysia, where the banks usually sells more expensive than the money changer. Ishk. When we arrived Yangon International Airport, the first thing we did was to get some Kyats to spend for the day. We were unsure what the rates were and only changed a bit thinking that airport would have the lowest rate (USD1 = Ks 958). Who knew, the city rates were not much different (USD 1 = Ks 960). So, if you’re traveling to Yangon, just save the hassle by changing your USD at the airport. That way, you don’t have to run around the city looking for money changer every now and then, as what we experienced.

Taxi

We were pretty skeptical about getting taxi around here. We were worried that we would get ripped off or conned by the local taxi (thanks to Malaysia’s taxi drivers for that mentality). So, we bought taxi coupon at the counter which is USD10 or Ks. 9,000 from the airport to our hotel. Which is pretty reasonably priced.

In fact, taking taxi around Yangon is really cheap. Usually from point A to point B is around KS1,500 to Ks4,000 (depending on the distance) and that’s approximately USD1.50 to USD4. However, we did get ripped off by some taxi drivers T__T But that’s another story to tell in the later posts.

The taxi driver who picked us from the airport, Mr. Myint, is a friendly and knowledgeable driver who speaks fluent English. He has quite a number of tourism stickers in his car which permits him to be a tour guide to bring tourists around the city with his taxi. He charges USD60 for a day for up to 4 persons (because the maximum people to be in the taxi is 4). His itinerary involves tour to various well-known Pagodas in Yangon and the few tourists spots. (He is knowledgeable on the Pagodas and tourists spots. Only drawback is that he doesn’t share much on local stuffs, such as the good local food, the lifestyle, the earning and spending power, and etc..)

When he dropped us off at our hotel, we checked in and discussed about hiring him for the day to bring us around for city sightseeing. Then, we got the hotel to call his mobile phone and he turned back to pick us.

Hotel

We stayed at East Hotel which we booked from Agoda with rating of 7.7/10. The hotel is located along Sule Pagoda Road in Downtown Yangon which is a strategic location. Most of the tourist spots are within walking distance and needless to say, street food (which we love to explore) is just a door away. I’ll talk more about the hotel in a separate post, because it deserves a post on its own 😉

Next post: First Meal in Yangon.

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