Essentials

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Essentials

Etiquette

It's acceptable for women to wear short shorts on the street, but a longyi (traditional sarong) or long skirt is needed when entering pagodas and temples. Visitors are also required to remove shoes and socks. There's no need to hike up your skirt or sarong while you're walking around the temples; it's okay if it drags a bit on the ground.

Business-card customs here are the same as elsewhere in Asia. If you plan on doing business in Myanmar, have cards printed up with English on one side, Burmese on the other. Business cards are exchanged with two hands.

Be respectful of language difficulties. Although English is widely spoken, try and speak slowly and annunciate when talking to locals, especially over the phone.

Passports and Visas

Everyone needs a visa to enter Myanmar. As of this writing, visas on arrival arranged ahead of time through an agent are available. Tourist visas are good for 28 days, are not extendable, and must be used within three months from the date of issue. You'll need a passport that's valid for six months from the date of your arrival in Myanmar. If you are applying for your visa from within the United States, do so at least a month in advance. If you're applying from within Asia—Bangkok or Hong Kong, for example—you can get the visa in two working days, and the drop-off/pick-up process is quick and painless.

Money

Cash once ruled everything in Myanmar, but as of February 2013, there are now ATMs throughout the country that accept Visa and MasterCard, which visitors can use to withdraw the local currency, kyat. A fee of 5,000 kyat ($6) is charged for each transaction; 300,000 kyat ($353) can be withdrawn up to three times per day. Visitors will still need to change kyat into USD to pay for hotels. In Yangon and Mandalay, it's also possible to exchange euros, Chinese yuan, and Thai baht into local currency. Coins exist but are rarely given as change. Banknotes range from 50 pyas (cents) up to 10,000 kyat.

Health and Safety

Myanmar is very hot for much of the year, and it's essential to stay hydrated and protect your skin. Tap water is fine for brushing your teeth, but when drinking, stick to bottled. Sunscreen is only occasionally available at supermarkets in Yangon, so we recommend bringing your own.

Malaria is a problem in rural Myanmar. Be vigilant about bug spray, which is available in supermarkets, and sleep with the windows closed or inside a mosquito net.

The state of health care in Myanmar is very poor. HIV/AIDS is prevalent; avoid getting shots at local hospitals.

Myanmar is extremely safe. Crime, especially against foreigners, is severely punished. Even petty crime, such as pickpocketing, is rare. Visitors do not need to be concerned about wearing backpacks or carrying open-top tote bags or purses. The Burmese, many who are devout Buddhists, are markedly friendly; the closest you will come to being truly scammed is paying too much for jade at the market.

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