Information & Facts
Business hours are 9.30am to 4.30pm from Monday to Friday.
Lightweight suits are recommended during the day and jackets are
needed for top-level meetings. Most commercial business
transactions will be conducted in English. Business cards in
Burmese script can be useful. It is important to maintain trust,
honesty and friendship in a business relationship. Favours
received, such as a reference, should be repayed later in the
Burma has three seasons, the very hot summer from March to May,
the wet and humid monsoon from May to October and the cold, dry
winter from November to February. Typhoons occasionally occur in
Burma between April and October. Average daily temperatures usually
reach around 86°F (30°C) while the evenings are slightly cooler.
During the winter season, average temperatures are around 77°F
(25°C) with evenings dropping to 59°F (15°C). Coastal areas are
usually much more humid, but slightly cooler overall.
The international dialling code for Burma (Myanmar) is +95. The
outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code. The area
code for Yangon (Rangoon) is (1) and Mandalay is (2). Internet
cafes are widely available in Mandalay and Yangon and public
telephone booths can be found on nearly every street corner as well
as at railway stations and airports, however international calls
are expensive. The military regime carefully controls and monitors
all Internet use in Burma and restricts Internet access through
software-based censorship that limits the materials individuals can
access online. A loop-hole has been reported by some travellers:
add an "s" to the "http" portion of the URL to bypass the blocked
site. Several cyber cafes have been allowed to open, but access to
the Internet is very expensive, and access to most international
e-mail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo is prohibited, although
Gmail can now be accessed.
It is rude to step over any part of a person or touch an adult
on the head and hugging and kissing in public is frowned upon. Most
Burmese families don't wear shoes in their homes and if visiting,
it is advised to remove shoes before entering the house. Monks
should be treated with respect, even if they are children and women
should not speak to monks. When dining out it is best to keep
voices low in restaurants.
Two bottles of liquor, two cartons of cigarettes or 100 cigars
and half litre of perfume are allowed per person. Valuables
including jewellery, cameras, electronic equipment, etc, should be
declared at customs upon arrival. Purchases of locally bought goods
may require receipts upon departure.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. European plugs
with two circular metal pins as well as British style plugs with
two flat blades and one flat grounding blade are
Air Mandalay, Air Yangon and Bagan Air run a good internal
flight service, but Myanmar Airways has a poor safety record for
internal flights. Other options include the Yangon-Mandalay bus
service for long distances. There are daily express trains from
Yangon to Mandalay. A private company runs these trains, though
regular trains are not recommended, as they are slow, dirty and
unreliable with uncomfortable seating that can result in
'saddle-soreness'. Travelling around town is easy and the fare is
negotiable. Most towns, including Mandalay, use horse carts and
trishaws. Alternatively, bicycles can be rented for a small price.
Domestic highway bus terminals are Aung-Yadanar and
Sawbwargyi-Gone, both about 10 miles (16km) from downtown Yangon.
River travel is another good option for getting around Myanmar.
With over 5,000 miles (8,000km) of navigable rivers, boat and ferry
rides are often more comfortable than cramped buses for commuting
Malaria and dengue fever are common in Myanmar, especially
during the rainy season (May to October). Cyclone Nargis, which hit
in May 2008, has increased the risk of cholera so visitors should
drink only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice drinks. A few
cases of avian influenza (bird flu) have been reported, and
although there is little risk for travellers, contact with live
poultry should be avoided. There are basic medical facilities in
Rangoon and Mandalay, for serious medical cases, evacuation is
recommended. Payment in cash is usually required before any
treatment. Comprehensive medical insurance is advised. Travellers
from yellow fever infected areas require a vaccination certificate
to enter Myanmar. MSG (monosodiumglutomate) is added liberally to
many dishes and travellers sensitive to this ingredient should
specify "no Ajinomoto" when ordering.
Burmese is the official language, yet English is widely
spoken and understood. Burmese's alphabet is made up of circular
and semi-circular characters. Other languages spoken are Karen,
Shan and Kachin.
The official currency is the Kyat (MMK) pronounced 'Chat'. The
best currency to travel on in Myanmar is the US Dollar. The Foreign
Exchange Certificate (FEC) is a legal currency for visiting
tourists that is usable in government shops and hotels. It is no
longer a requirement to convert US$200 into FEC upon arrival in
Myanmar. One FEC is equivalent to one US Dollar. It is recommended
to use US Dollars. It is difficult to cash American Express
travellers cheques in certain cities, such as Mandalay, and even
when it is possible the commission can be as high as 10 percent. US
Dollar notes will not be accepted if they are damaged or torn in
any way, or have pen marks on them.
There is a big difference between the official and
unofficial exchange rates; street moneychangers offer
favourable rates at hotels and Scott Market. As a rough guide, the
black market rate is in the region of US$1 = MMK 1000 - a dramatic
difference when compared to the official government rate. Very few
major hotels, airlines, shops and restaurants accept credit cards
and ATM cards can rarely, if ever, be used. It is advisable to
carry cash. Banks are closed on weekends.
All foreign passengers to Myanmar must hold confirmed
return/onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for
their next destination. They will also require a tourist visa,
which is valid for 28 days. Note that applications for visa
extensions are not possible once in Myanmar; however, a fine of USD
3 per day overstayed, can be paid at Immigration upon departure.
Foreign passengers are only allowed to travel to/from Myanmar by
air or sea, and will be required to convert a minimum of USD 200
into local currency upon their arrival in the country. Note that a
yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Myanmar,
if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an
infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport
has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date
of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials
often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and
Travellers need to exercise caution when travelling to border
areas in and around Burma due to heavy military activity,
particularly along the borders with Thailand. There are only a
handful of legal crossing points. Burma does however boast one of
the lowest crime rates in the world, making it a safe travel
destination. Anti-government demonstrations that took place in
August 2007 were led by thousands of monks in cities across the
country, but were dispelled by a government crackdown resulting in
violent clashes between protesters and the police. The protests
reflect the citizens' long pent-up opposition to the repressive
military regime. Visitors are advised to avoid all gatherings and
not to take any photographs of the police, military or
demonstrations. The monsoon season is June to September in the
southwest of Burma and December to April in the northeast, and
flooding may occur. Severe weather often also precedes monsoon
season; a devastating cyclone hit Burma in May 2008 killing
thousands of people.
The Burmese offer their help freely and genuinely, and don't
expect anything in return, though gratuity is greatly appreciated.
Tipping 5% on a meal is acceptable. Porters, drivers and tour
guides expect a small tip.