Why go to Myanmar ?

 

You will find here the results of our backpackers' survey as well as comments on some aspects of Myanmar.

We asked backpackers who had traveled in Myanmar for more than two weeks already to answer the followings.


Do you like Myanmar ?  98% of the backpackers surveyed (57) say yes !
(same)

As a apolitical backpacker, it seems difficult not to enjoy traveling Myanmar. But again, you need to know what to expect : party-goers may not have so much fun...

 

Would you happily come back ? 89% of the backpackers surveyed (57) say yes ! (up)

Some travelers, annoyed by the governments' prices, regulations or dictatorship, would logically mind coming back. But for the vast majority, Myanmar is, thanks to its people, a travel wonder. And as there will probably be more area accessible to foreigners in the future...

 

Would you recommend Myanmar ?  100% of the backpackers surveyed (57) say yes ! (same)

How will Myanmar handle this unanimity of recommendation ? It depends, I suppose, to who the country is recommended to...


We also asked them to rate the followings :

The tourists attractions        Backpackers : 15.37 /20 (up)
With what is open of the country, you already have enough opportunities to spend a few interesting months... As far as old structures are concerned, the ancient capital of Bagan is by far the major attractions, followed by the ancient cities of Mandalay, the ruins of Mrauk U and of course the Capital, Yangon. But temples, massive or small, old or new, active or neglected, tasteful or kitschy can basically be found at every corner, all over the country, making the smallest village worth a look. Once fed up with Buddha, go for the natural attractions : Inle Lake is a favorite but the fresh air of the hill resorts or the sandy beach of Ngapali are also great escapes. And in addition of the above, old colonial architecture are everywhere to remind you of the past... Do you need anything else ?

The city scenery       Backpackers : 13.40 /20 (up)
On Asia's scale, Myanmar ends up very respectably. Mandalay is actually the one city that reduces the global rate while the capital Yangon scores quite high with travelers as far as cities charm are concerned. But anyway, touring Myanmar is, as a whole, more about walking villages than touring cities...

The natural scenery         Backpackers : 14.00 /20 (same)
A fair rate which reflects the fact that the Myanmar that it is possible to discover today boost some very pretty natural sceneries : lakes, waterfalls, rivers, beaches or small mountains offers great natural escapes. But of course, it is not as striking as other Asian countries : its best beaches are off access in the south, its wilderness is sealed in the north and it globally lack the diversity of big China...

The cultural opportunities        Backpackers : 16.56 /20 (down)
The highest rate in Asia due, I believe, more to the good interactions that it is possible to have with the local people than the numerous "all look alike" temples : as long as they can speak English and are not under surveillance, most of them are indeed quite eager to share their thought with you and introduce you to their culture. This is worth all the museums of the country ! And it is free !

The food         Backpackers : 12.48 /20 (same)
(up)
An average rate explained by the fact that Myanmar food is not that popular with travelers but good alternatives, Chinese or Indian are readily available. The choice, including for snacks, is wide and prices very reasonable, in particular on the street. There is no reason to loose weight in Myanmar !

The infrastructures         Backpackers : 10.04 /20 (down)
(up)
If coming from a developed country, Myanmar's roads and transports will indeed look like substandard : pick-ups are notoriously crowded, cargo-buses have to be seen to be believed and you would not wish your worse enemy to spend a night in the train's ordinary class... But then, good cheap AC buses ply the most touristy path, train's upper class would suit your best friend, a few transports options are usually available (at least toward open areas) and roads would actually qualify as luxurious if compared to Laos or Cambodia...

The cost of living and traveling        Backpackers : 15.79 /20 (up)
If it was not for the entrance fees and other foreigners prices & regulations, Myanmar would certainly be one of the cheapest country to visit in Asia. But if you are forced to exchange $200 (down from $300) for one week visit, you will obviously disagree... even so you will need creativity to spend so much ! Without beer ($1) and eating often at food stalls or local restaurants, count on less than $2 per day on food. Good accommodations in low season vary from $2 to $5, including breakfast. Entrance fees cost from $2 (museum) to $10 (Bagan) with averages at $4 but it is possible to skip quite a few... As for transport, count on $4 to $6 for a typical night on a bus but $16 plus for boat or upper class trains...
Altogether, traveling sober but comfortably for one month, I spent in LS an average of $7 per day. Add $2 more per day to play safe in HS.

Backpacker's Tips : Vivian Leeman, Belgium (May 04)
«The comment on the mandatory exchange of 200$ for FEC is no longer up to date. As of September 2003 this requirement has been dropped by the Myanmar government. On the flip coin, currently you can not use VISA, AMEX etc ... anywhere. The above two rules seem to change every so often. »

The safety        Backpackers : 19.02 /20 (down)
The only good thing about the military dictatorship : you feel perfectly safe ! That is off course if you do not include water splashing as a kind of aggression during the water festival and stick to the roads which are open...

The cleanliness        Backpackers : 13.40 /20 (up)
No, Myanmar is not clean (look at the side of the roads or around the corner of every village) but the general impression is quite favorable. Indeed, a big city like Yangon is surprisingly neat.

The pollution        Backpackers : 13.05 /20 (up)
Here also, travelers are not that concerned by the problem as most of their traveling will take place in unaffected countryside area. And even in busy Yangon, it is possible to spot the stars at night... Mandalay's situation is however not as bright... 

The Shopkeepers' attitude        Backpackers : 15.37 /20 (down)
Certainly not pushy (they never insist long when you ask them to drop), sellers & touts are however numerous enough to be a bit annoying around touristy places. Bagan is the worst place as they are not afraid to go deep inside the temples to great you with a loud "Hello cold drinks". 

The Minorities' attitude        na
Myanmar claims 135 national races ("they are not called minority as in the British period" points an article of "The New Light of Myanmar") but most are off access to foreigners. You may meet some of them while trekking in Shan province or at colorful markets but the cultural exchanges will certainly be rather limited. Chinese & Indian people, can however be found everywhere, to the point that you do not always feel in Myanmar...

The Myanmar people's attitude        Backpackers : 18.57 /20
(up)
The leaflets reads : "Visitors will find Myanmar a beautiful and peaceful place with the most hospitable people in the world". For one time, this is not exaggerated propaganda : local people are indeed as friendly and generous as it is possible to be, even so they do not have exclusivity rights for this, the Philippino being rather good at this game as well. 

Entertainment        Backpackers : 7.27 /20 (up)
Do we need to say more ? But this certainly contributes to the charm of the place : nobody comes here so far to get high on drugs or girls or to party with friends. No full moon parties in Myanmar ! Listening to local people playing the guitar while sipping a beer is more what you should expect...

Shopping        Backpackers : 14.40 /20
(up)
Myanmar offers numerous shopping opportunities for souvenirs, even outside illegal smuggling activities. Puppets or lacqueware products are beautiful and cheap and it is probably one of the best place to buy genuine gems. But again, shopping around is a must as some stuff are of evident poor quality. 

Generally, the country        Backpackers : 17.40 /20 (up)
An excellent rate for the Golden Land ! Great people, some excellent attractions, acceptable transports, varied food, cheap prices,... It is really too bad that only one part of the country is open ! Myanmar has such a potential for tourism that it would be advisable not to delay your trip for too long. Travelers shall soon discover it...

Value for money        Backpackers : 17.43 /20 (down)
Myanmar is the country that travelers believe deliver the most for their money ! Even more than Thailand ! All right, you may pay more for your accommodations than in neighboring countries but look at what you get in return : the double room with AC and HW shower is indeed not unusual. Food & bus transport are very well valued as well. But one word of warning : as in Laos, the situation could change overnight, if the government decide for example to prioritize tourism over backpacking or if the economy gets out of control...


Give your opinion !  If you have traveled in Myanmar for more than 2 weeks, please participate to our surveys !

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