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Myanmar currency to use & Guided trip cost

How much does it cost to go to Myanmar?

Are you searching the internet but most of the information is from the backpackers who just spend less than $35-40/person/day?

Some of the advices includes sleeping inside a room with fan only, traveling by train and local public bus, and eating at the street food stalls.

With a higher budget (about $50-60/day), you can have some good meals, travel by air for some long distance, and sleep at an air-conditioned room.

Well, we believe you learned enough to save your pocket, and we do not intend to help you to … save more than that. 

Within this guide, we will help you reveal the cost of some important services of your trip to Myanmar, especially for a pleasant guided trip cost, including your accommodation, meals, activities, or transportation.

Before breaking down your Myanmar vacation cost, we will first guide you through the national currency of Myanmar (Kyat); hence, you will first have general idea of the money you can spend in the country.

Let's check it out.

Myanmar National currency

The local currency in Myanmar is called kyat (abbreviated MMK) and is pronounced "chat". These come in denominations as low as 50 pya (cent equivalent) to 10,000 kyat.

Tourists are unlikely to see these extreme denominations, though, as the most common banknotes in circulation range from 100 to 5,000 kyat. 

At the beginning of 2019, 1 US $ was worth around 1,500 kyat and 1 £ equals 2,000 kyat. For Canadian travelers, 1 CA $ amounts to 1,150 kyat and for Australians, 1 A $ is roughly 1,080 kyat. These are given for information purposes and we advise you to consult the present exchange rates on the Myanmar Central Bank's website: https://forex.cbm.gov.mm/index.php/fxrate

The kyat has long been the unique currency in use throughout the country but since the new government openness policy, the use and especially exchange of foreign currency has become more common.

Foreign currency

One of the most common questions we get has to do with how to deal with money as a traveler in Myanmar. Currency in Myanmar is complicated but eventually, you will get the hang of it.

While in the country, you will use a mix of US dollar and Burmese kyat. Most hotels, domestic airfares, some train tickets, and some entrance fees will be in US dollar, while everything else (food, souvenirs, uses etc.) will be quoted in kyat. Always pay with whichever currency works out best in your favor. Though, we can observe that in the recent years, Kyat is becoming the preferred currency, and visitors should plan to pay most expenses with it.

If you were to bring money from your own country, we advise you to bring US dollar since other foreign currencies tend to be harder, even impossible, to exchange. You can however find some places to exchange pounds and Thai baht in major cities and airports.

Exchange

Get US dollar

Before you go, if you plan to bring US dollar bills to spend or exchange in Myanmar, you should pay attention to the notes condition. Although Myanmar government has recently told the banks to accept more than just the most pristine of foreign currency, bills that are not perfect may still be rejected or exchanged at a lower rate.

It is wise to consult your local bank a couple of weeks in advance to let them know you need pristine bills that are neither creases nor smudges. Once you get them, treat them well and make sure not to fold them during your journey.

If you happen to be in Asia already, the exchange counters at the airports are the best and least painful options. For instance, Bangkok's main Suvarnabhumi airport is an excellent place to get clean US dollar at a very decent rate.

Exchange US dollar

The best places to exchange are at the airport (during regular hours) and the banks. They offer the best rates and the security that you will get what you should be getting.

Moreover, banks are now found throughout the country, and even smaller towns off the main tourist track like Pindaya have banks you can exchange at. 

Anywhere remotely close to a tourist spot (Yangon, Mandalay, Inle Lake, or Bagan) will have standalone places for exchange as well. 

Note that most banks are closed on weekends and holidays, as well as being closed for a week every April during Thingyan water festival.

You can also exchange money at your guesthouse or local jewelry shops, though the rate will likely be poorer (MMK 30 / $ less is fair) than what you would get at the bank.

Contrary to what you can read elsewhere, we do not recommend you exchange money on the streets. First, as the economy opens up, selling dollars on the black market has lost its appeal. Moreover, this is a great way to get scammed, particularly in Yangon.

As it is often the case, larger bills (US $50 or US $100) in Myanmar are exchanged at slightly higher rates than smaller bills. Also remember not to exchange everything to Kyat, it can be handy to keep some US dollar in your wallet.   

When you leave the country, you can exchange your kyat at the airport or banks before you take off. Keep in mind that nowhere outside of Myanmar will be interested in exchanging your extra Kyat, make sure you get rid of them before you leave.

ATMs in Myanmar

While foreign banks are as yet not allowed to operate in Myanmar, major local banks like Kanbawza (KBZ) Bank, Asia Green Development Bank and CB Bank use automatic teller machines that connect to interbank networks like Cirrus and Visa Plus. 

The number of ATMs in Myanmar is growing exponentially, making it much more convenient with now thousands location across the country.

These machines are often set up alongside prominent pagodas, nearby touristic sites or main economic areas. ATMs allow a maximum withdrawal limit of MMK 300,000 (around US $200 ) per day. To find an ATM near your location in Myanmar, check out these pages: 

Do note that the banks will charge a MMK 5,000 minimum fee per transaction (approximately US $4), not including the fee deducted by your own bank! 

We advise you to use ATMs if bringing cash is inconvenient for you or if you want to avoid carrying large amount of cash during your trip.

Please note that, as the system is relatively new, it can happen that some ATMs will not be able to dispense cash, or you might see your card being rejected. In that case, try an ATM from another bank and anticipate your withdrawals as much as possible.

Credit Cards in Myanmar

A growing number of businesses will accept credit cards in Myanmar. Even if some small shops do accept credit cards, it is often limited to hotels and mid to high-end establishments catering to tourists. Expect businesses that accept credit card to add a 3%-8% fee on top to cover their fees and sometimes more…

Banks in Myanmar have partnerships with Visa and Mastercard. That means no Discover, American Express and no other funky cards for the moment. As always, it is best to call your credit card company and bank in advance: 

  • To make sure you can withdraw abroad with your current credit card option. 
  • To let them know you will be traveling, so the chance of your card being blocked is reduced.

Figuring out currency in Myanmar is not as hard as it might seem when you first arrive. Burmese money is as multifaceted as the country itself, but with a little practice, you will be navigating the money and the streets of Burma with equal ease.

How much money do you need to visit Myanmar?

Now, we will come to the part that you have been long waiting.

Lots of travelers wonder how much money is needed to travel Myanmar, now that the country has only just recently opened to more tourism. Despite some costs being higher than those in Thailand for instance, Myanmar is still a very affordable destination.

Calculating rough travel costs for Myanmar really depends on you and your style of travel. Myanmar can be explored on a

ackpacker’s budget, but on the other hand, you will find plenty of luxury hotels and lavish ways to spend additional money.

The more that you move around, and the more sights you choose, the more you will ultimately spend. For the backpackers, if you not fancy going to upscale hotels and restaurants, you should easily get by with a budget of around US $40 per day.

For our clients, we recommend the budget around $120-150/person/day so that you can get the comfortable trip with suitable accommodation, good meals, and behind-the-scene experience with our escorting guide throughout your Myanmar trip.

You will find below some more details about the main cost items when traveling in Myanmar as well as some indicative prices.

Transportation

Cost of bus tickets

Bus tickets are cheap in Myanmar. Surprisingly enough, the price difference between normal buses and luxury buses is minimal. Our bus from Mawlamyaing to Yangon was a real luxury vehicle with just three huge seats per row and an entertainment system in each seat. The tickets for this bus cost only about 2 euros more than for a normal bus.

Make sure you book a ‘2+1’ bus ticket when you book your trip. 2+1 refers to the number of seats per row and means that there are only 3 seats in a row.

On the typical tourist routes between Yangon, Mandalay, Inle Lake, and Bagan, you rarely pay more than 20,000 kyat (14 euros) per route. Buses definitely offer the best value for money in Myanmar.

Cost of train tickets

Train tickets are even cheaper than bus tickets, but we’d only recommend train travel for the most foolhardy adventurers. A short trip is certainly an experience, but we’d definitely recommend the taking the bus for longer journeys.

We took the train from Yangon to Bago. The two-hour trip cost 1,000 kyat (0,70 Euro) per person in the first class (upper class).

Cost of domestic flights

Domestic flights are the fastest way to get from A to B in Myanmar. We booked a domestic flight from Yangon to Sittwe and paid 115 dollars per person.

That’s also about the normal rate for a domestic flight. Depending on the route, the flights always cost around 100 dollars (+/- 30 dollars), regardless of whether you book well in advance or one day before the flight.

Cost of taxis

In city traffic, you have the choice between taxis, tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxis, and maybe even an ox cart.

A taxi ride in Yangon costs between 2,000 kyat within the city and 7,000 kyat from the city to the airport or bus station. Prices are similar in every city, and we were never quoted an inflated price.

Cost of renting mopeds and bicycles

In many parts of Myanmar, you can rent a scooter and explore the area on your own. This shouldn’t break the bank either.

Accommodation

When budget travelers claim that Myanmar is much more expensive than neighboring Thailand or Laos, they are often referring to accommodation prices. Prices for government-sanctioned guesthouses and budget hotels are higher than that in other parts of Southeast Asia. 

The good news is that standards are often higher, too. A full-service hotel in Mandalay with elevator attendants and the works can cost as little as US $30 per night. Most decent-sized hotels include a free breakfast.

A midrange hotel in Yangon starts at around US $40 per night, prices increase depending on location. Upscale hotels usually vary from US $80 to 200, according to facilities and services offered.

Food cost in Myanmar

While accommodation in Myanmar is more expensive than in Thailand, food is tasty, cheap and incredibly easy to find. Rice, noodle and curry dishes such as mohinga or biryani are easy to find and cost as little as 1,000 kyat in lots of local restaurants.

Other cheap Burmese snacks include dosa, which is available from just 200 kyat, and deep fried stuffed tofu.
Local restaurants and street carts are your best bet if you’re aiming to eat cheaply, with filling meals available for 1,000-5,000 kyat. If you eat at local restaurants and stick to Burmese food, it’s possible to spend $10 or less a day on food in Myanmar.

Western food is surprisingly easy to find in Yangon, with everything from pasta and pizza to French fine dining on offer. Prices for Western food range from 5,000 kyat to 50,000 kyat or more at high-end restaurants in Yangon’s luxury hotels.

Alcohol and Cigarettes in Myanmar

Nightlife in Myanmar isn’t the most exciting in the region, but if you stick to the local bars (known as “beer stations”) you’ll be able to enjoy a night out without spending more than 1,000 kyat per beer.

Expect to spend around $5 per drink in more upmarket places. Most Western bars in Myanmar are found in Yangon or, in other locations, inside hotels and resorts.

Cigarettes are cheap – a pack of Marlboro costs around $2 USD, and local brands are even cheaper.

Entrance Fees

Along with accommodation, entrance fees at popular places in Myanmar will be one of the bigger hits to your budget. Tourists always pay more than locals.

Expect to pay US $8 for the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, US $10 to enter the Inle Lake zone, and US $20 to enter Bagan.

Less popular places such as the Drug Elimination Museum in Yangon and the National Museum are relatively inexpensive (entrance: US $3 to 4).

Below is the entrance fee of some famous tourist sites in Myanmar:

  • Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon: 8,000 kyat (6 euros)
  • Sule Pagoda in Yangon: 3,000 kyat (2 euros)
  • Bago: 10,000 kyat (7 euros)
  • Golden Rock: 6,000 kyat (4 euros)
  • Kawgoon Cave in Hpa-An: 3,000 kyat (2 euros)
  • Mrauk U: 5,000 kyat (3.50 euros)
  • Bagan: 25,000 kyat (17.50 euros)
  • Thanboddhay Pagoda in Monywa: 3,000 kyat (2 euros)
  • Mandalay Hill: 1,000 kyat (0.70 euros)
  • Mingun: 5,000 kyat (3.50 euros)

Travelling Around Myanmar

Travelling around Myanmar isn’t expensive, although buses aren’t as cheap as they are in Vietnam or Cambodia. Long distance buses like the nine-hour journey from Yangon to Mandalay cost $13 or $22 for a more comfortable VIP bus.

Myanmar’s slow road transportation makes flying a good alternative. Return flights from Yangon to Mandalay (a 90-minute journey each way) are available from $290 on Air Bagan. Check Skyscanner for availability and exact pricing.
Flights from Yangon to Nyaung U, the airport closest to Bagan, are available from $276 return on Air Bagan. Return flights to Thandwe, the airport close to Ngapali Beach, are priced from $256. Again, check Skyscanner.

In Yangon and other cities, taxies are the easiest way to get around. Fares are always negotiated in advance and start from 1,500 kyat, with trips to or from the airport in Yangon priced at a flat rate of $10 each way.

In Bagan and Myanmar’s beachside resorts, transportation ranges from horse carts to bicycles. Travel costs can range from $5 to $20+ per day, depending on whether you’re happy walking or frequently take taxis and private buses.

Spend Your Kyat Before You Leave

Exchanging kyat is difficult once you leave Myanmar, with few currency exchange shops accepting it. Make sure you spend your kyat before you leave the country or you’ll end up with unusable (although extremely low-value) notes in your wallet.

Frequently asked questions

Q. How much does it cost to live in Myanmar?

Same as travelling, this depends on your style and what you expect. The lowest cost of living for an expat that you can expect is about $900-1,000/person/month.  For more comfort, you need to double the budget ($1,800-2,000/person/month). The ideal living standard for an expat in Myanmar is around $3,000-3,500/person/month.

Q. Do you need to tip in Myanmar?

Having only opened up to tourists relatively recently, there’s a nascent culture of tipping in Myanmar. We’d encourage tipping for particularly good service; wages are low, so they’ll certainly be appreciated. That being said, do only tip on a merit basis and don’t feel obliged to do it.

Here is our tipping guide in Myanmar

Q. How to haggle in Myanmar?

Throughout most of Asia, haggling is a daily occurrence. In Myanmar it’s not nearly as common, as prices quoted by the locals are often a fair price to begin with. So don’t go thinking a local is ripping you off if they won’t go lower.

As tourism increases in Myanmar, it’s okay to try some haggling – but don’t push as much as you would in other parts of Asia.
If you intend to try, haggling should be lighthearted, fun and most of all polite. Be realistic and reasonable about your expectations and remember that although the discount you are working towards might be a tiny fraction of your daily income, it could be a huge slab for someone else.

Here is our haggling tips in Myanmar

Q. When is the cheapest time to fly to Myanmar?

Logically, the cheapest time to fly to Laos is during the off-season from April until October. As there are not many tourists visiting the country, the airlines and hotels seem to offer promotion to attract more tourist and try to fill-up the plane. If you are ok with the heat and some sudden rain, this is the time for you.

According to cheapflights.com.au, the cheapest flights to Laos are usually found when departing on a Monday. The departure day with the highest cost is usually on a Friday.

Moreover, Myanmar flights can be made cheaper if you choose a flight at noon. Booking a flight in the morning will likely mean higher prices.

Simply follow this, sometimes you can have the promotion of 40-50% discount.

Here is the guide to get the cheapest ticket to Myanmar

Q. Is Myanmar safe to visit?

Travel to almost all parts of Myanmar is safe. In general, visiting to Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake should use normal safety precautions. Anyone thinking about visiting Rakhine State should reconsider their need for travel. The overall rating for the country is “high degree of caution”. 

Check out Myanmar safety and precaution here

NOT READY YET?

We believe you have the right to arm yourselves with as much information as possible before making any decision.

Check below our detailed tips & guide for every places to visit in Myanmar, recommendation regarding the inclusion in each theme you prefer, and what you can do based on the time frame you have.

PLACES TO VISIT IN Myanmar
Yangon
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Bagan
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Mandalay
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Inle Lake
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Mergui Archipelago
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Ngapali Beach
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Myanmar PLANS BY TRAVEL THEME
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Unique experience combined with top-notch services

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Easy excursion combined with week-long beach break

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The combination of fun and educational activities

Unseen
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Trek & Hike
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Explore the least visited destinations and unknown experience on foot

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Explore every corners of the destination on two wheels

Honeymoon
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Easy excursions combined with unique experience making the long-lasting romantic memories

Cruise
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The combination of some must-see experience and the cruise tour along the mighty rivers

Myanmar PLANS BY TIME FRAME
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Myanmar BLOG ARTICLES

Thanaka or  thanakha is a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from ground bark. It is a distinctive feature of the culture of Myanmar, seen commonly applied to the face and sometimes the arms of women and girls, and is used to a lesser extent also by men and boys. The use of thanaka has also spread to neighboring countries including Thailand.

Within this article, we will learn everything about Thanaka and the benefits of its powder in making a secret beauty ingredient of Burmese women.

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Burmese Longyi, along with the country’s longtime history, art, and heritage sites has contributed to the richness of the local culture that will grasp your attention whenever you find yourself in strolling around the streets of Myanmar. With just a piece of fabric grasping on the lower part of the body through time, the longyi has made it become an incredible pattern of Myanmar traditional costume for both men and women. In this article, we are going to find out the secret of Myanmar quintessence through Longyi, about why it has been worn for centuries by the Burmese people.

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Kachin Manaw Festival is an annual traditional dance festival celebrated by Kachin people. Mostly held at Myitkyina, Kachin State also known as Manaw Land in Myanmar and also celebrated by Kachin people around the world. Manaw is the largest festival in Myitkyina, held at the beginning of January. Manaw Festival is the most significant event for Kachin People. Tribes of Kachin gather together in Manaw ground and dance around the erected Manaw poles. The Manau dance is performed at Manau festivals, which originated as part of the ‘Nat’ or spirit worship of the past.

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If your idea of fun involves a blurry riot of colour and explosions, look no further than the Taunngyi Fire Balloon Festival, which takes place in the culturally diverse capital of Shan State over several days every November. This celebration is held around the Full Moon of Tazaungmon, a Myanmar national holiday that marks the end of rainy season and is also known as the Tazaungdaing Festival of Lights.

Traditionally, it is a festival to pay homage to the Sulamani Pagoda by sending up decorated hot air balloons, and lately it also became as a Hot Air Balloon Competition Festival and the festival is divided into two parts; daytime competition and nighttime competition. In the daytime, hot air balloons are sent up with the shapes of various animals and mythical creatures, and hot air balloons with firework & fire-cracker (known as Nya Mee Gyi) and lot of lanterns are hanging in the hot air balloons (known as Seinnaban) are sent up in the nighttime.

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All year round, visitors to Myanmar can experience the country’s warm and rich culture. However, one particularly special and unique time to visit is during the Naga New Year Festival, which will be held in Lahe around mid-January every year.

This special time allows visitors the chance to experience the traditions and customs of Myanmar’s Naga people. For the Naga, Lahe (New Year) is a significant time when people share their wishes and hopes for the future, and families are reunited.

It is a time of great celebration; where lively dances are performed in traditional dress, to the beat and sounds of traditional instruments.

Few tourists are lucky enough to share in the joy and festivities of the Naga New Year, but those who do are richly rewarded with an incredible cultural experience.

Overall, for those who seek genuine cultural exchange and the opportunity to take some truly stunning photographs, the Naga New Year is an amazing and unique festival to attend.

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The full moon of the Thadingyut month is when Buddhists believe the Buddha descended back to earth after three months of preaching in the spiritual realm above. While the rest of Myanmar celebrates it by lighting the Buddha's way home, the town of Kyaukse near Mandalay commemorates it a little differently: with a Elephant Dance Festival, populated not by real elephants, but by pairs of dancers in gigantic elephant costumes.

Hmm... What is it? What makes it so special? and how to join the festival? You will have all the answers below.

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