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Info for a solo trip to Burma (Myanmar)

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May 7th, 2011, 09:47 PM
  #1
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Info for a solo trip to Burma (Myanmar)

I want to have a great adventure for my 60th birthday. I'm a woman considering a solo trip to Burma. I'd like to spend 3-4 weeks there. I would rather not go through a travel agency and I would also rather not have destinations planned in advance, except for my first and last night. I like the flexibility to change my potential itinerary and stay with locals. Can you tell me anything that would help me decide if Burma is what I'm looking for? Thanks very much - Wendy
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May 8th, 2011, 01:42 AM
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This would not be easy. A few things to consider. There is limited email, no ATMs, a repressive regime running the place which likes to keep an eye on the whereabouts of tourists and finally there are laws about staying with locals.

That said Burma is a wonderful country but you would need to do a lot of research first. Two must see places are Bagan and Inle Lake. I was a wuss and did a tour but solo travel is possible and I'm sure there are people at Fodors who will give you good advice.
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May 8th, 2011, 09:08 AM
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Traveling in Burma is different from traveling anywhere else. As silverwool says, there is not reliable internet (and even then, your email access is likely blocked) there are no ATMs and credit cards are not accepted. You will need to carry all of the money you will need in with you in crisp, new US currency. You will exchange some of your US dollars for kyat, but some things, like hotels/guesthouses, air tickets, rail tickets and even bus tickets as well as all admission fees must be paid in US dollars.

You can certainly travel solo safely and you can travel independently but you will likely need some assistance from a local travel agency (to book flights and they can get hotels for lower prices than you can. Depending on the time of the year you are traveling, you may be able to wing it on places to stay, but during the busiest time, you'll want advance reservations, even if it's only a few days to a week in advance. A local agency could help you with that.

As silverwool, says, there will be no staying with locals, and in fact, you have to stay at hotels/guesthouses that are licensed to accept foreigners.

We loved Burma, and are returning in Nov/Dec. It would be a wonderful trip for you, but you can't do things as you can in other countries.


Here is my Burma trip report: www.fodors.com/community/asia/burma-at-last.cfm
and our photos: www.marlandc.com/Burma/index.html

There are a number of excellent Burma trip reports here, just go to the top of the page and choose Burma from the drop-down menu to see all recent posts on Burma.
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May 8th, 2011, 10:28 AM
  #4
 
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Let me also recommend that you pick up the Lonely Planet guide. It's the only guidebook that is updated. I'm a reader and always read about the places I am going, but I've read dozens of books on Burma. Here is my post on Burma books:
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...-bookshelf.cfm
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May 8th, 2011, 12:20 PM
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As Kathie said, it is certainly not like any country you have traveled in before! I second her advice. I had traveled as you describe - without reservations and without plans in many different places in the world. And I went into Burma the same way. I quickly found out I needed some help. Then on a Friday afternoon I dropped into a travel agency mentioned in LP, Rubyland, and they scrambled to get me plane tickets and some reservations because at 6:00 on Fri, business offices were closing down. I hadn't yet processed what a different world I was in. AS it turned out, they were invaluable to me. THREE times I had to call on them to straighten out emergencies - which they did readily. A travel agent will do every detail of the trip for you OR just the parts you want them to do. They are very flexible.

In Burma, they still change things, even plane tickets, without all the restrictions and hoopla we are accustomed to in the Western World. So you can change your mind and you are not stuck with rigidity. As Kathie mentioned,just plan a few days or a week ahead.

A flight cancelled on me and the TA rescheduled the hotels. I got sick and they changed my last flight from Yangoon back to BKK daily, for 5 days in a row. It became a joke. I was glad for their support and services.

It will be an adventure and a step back in time. It was my favorite trip and I'm anxious to go back. Do not worry about doing it solo - it is probably the safest place I've ever traveled. But do get well informed so you know the places you would like to spend your time. Go to the Lonely Planet website to their Burma forums (Thorntree) and you will get more information for independent travel there.

Out of 35 countries, I haven't been anywhere that offered more adventure than Burma - yet.

Have a great trip and do come back and tell us about it.
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May 8th, 2011, 06:15 PM
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I am so convinced! I have to go there!!!! The other trip I'm considering is a solo bike tour of Vietnam, which also sounds very exciting and adventurous to me, but the thought of a country that has not yet been over-run by us, the ones who in the end ruin it, is enticing. Thanks you so much for your information. My main concern is that I can meet people who live in the country and that I don't have to have an itinerary all planned out before I get there.
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May 8th, 2011, 06:39 PM
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A couple of practical matters... you must have a visa in advance for Burma. It's easiest to get it in your own country before you go, but can also be obtained in Bangkok. The maximum duration for a visa is 28 days. There are no extensions. Some people overstay their visa and pay a fine, but the government is cracking down on that. Hotels and guesthouses in Yangon won't take you if you have an expired visa.

You can and will meet locals. Many speak at least some English, and I met many whose english was excellent.

It will help if you have a rough itinerary before you go. Know what is most important to you to see/do/experience. Check out the info on transport - often going from one place to another takes a full day. You can make changes in your plan as you go, but if you don't have any idea what you want to do, your consultation with the travel agent will end up with you doing some "standard" itinerary.

What time of year are you going?
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May 8th, 2011, 06:51 PM
  #8
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My birthday is in Sept. and I want to do something grand, but it looks like the weather will be better in Nov. so I can wait until then. What do you think is the best time to go? I'm very flexible. It's only yesterday, after reading what you and others wrote, that I considered Burma as a travel option so I've done no studying yet. It sounds like I could have a most lovely experience and also learn about a new country in ways that would be difficult without going there. Thanks so much Kathie!
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May 8th, 2011, 07:34 PM
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I think the only guidebook available for Myanmar is Lonely Planet's - you might want to take a look if you're deciding between countries.
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May 10th, 2011, 08:20 AM
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May 13th, 2011, 07:33 AM
  #11
 
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Let me first say that you will love your time in Burma. I have been about 6 times, including one 6 month stretch. A few pieces of advice:

As for when to go, I highly recommend avoiding the high season in Burma (Nov-Jan) if you can. Though the weather can be a bit unpleasant during other seasons, the Big 4 tourist destinations really get overrun in the cool season and, for me, really takes something away from the experience.

Next, please try to include some places outside the "Big 4" in your itinerary. While Inle, Bagan. Mandalay, and Yangon are great, getting a bit outside the tourist track can be really wonderful. I recommend Hpa-An and Moulmein or maybe getting to the west to Sittwe and Mrauk U.

As others have said, you can't sty with locals, bit it is so easy to meet people. Spend some time in a teashop or at a pagoda and they will approach you. Unlike in other parts of Asia, the people there (aside form right outside the major tourist spots) don't try to sell you things all the time. They just want to talk. Its wonderful. Also, there are many locals on couchsurfing that you can meet for tea even though you can't stay with them.

Bus rides tend to be long and sometimes uncomfortable, but the train takes forever on long trips, so avoid it unless you have lots of time to spare.

As others have said, there are no ATMs. Make sure your US dollars are crisp, clean, and new with no marks on them of any kind. When you get to Yangon, change money at Aung San Market where you will get the best rates. Just ask at any jewelry or gem store at the market and they will point you to a money changer. Don't ever change on the street. Generally, hotels, train rides, and admission fees are paid in US dollars and all other things are paid in local kyats.

Burma is extremely safe and you should have no worries about traveling alone. Getting around cities is very easy and people will go out of their way to help you out. If you have any other specific questions as your trip gets closer, please let me know.
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Jun 3rd, 2011, 06:50 AM
  #12
 
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I took a solo trip to Myanmar in January, and had an incredible time. I wasn't able to book anything with a travel agent ahead of time as this was a completely last minute trip. I found a ticket from the states to Bangkok, sent my passport overnight for the visa, and two weeks later I was on the plane.

When I arrived, I popped into a travel agent and they were able to book my flights and hotels for me. Maybe I got lucky, but I was able book almost everything I wanted. At one point I decided to stay in Inle Lake one extra day... no problem at all to change my plane ticket back to Yangon.

While it might not be ideal, it is possible to wing it. I met many travelers who were doing just that. There were some occasions where they had to take the bus instead of fly, but there were other times they booked the airline ticket the day before. One friend I met was told that she was on the waiting list for an airline flight for several days - she finally walked into a different travel agent and had a ticket for that same flight within 5 minutes. So ask around.

As a solo female traveler I felt incredibly safe. I met some incredible people - both other travelers and locals. Needless to say, I had an amazing time.
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Jun 3rd, 2011, 07:21 AM
  #13
 
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I have completed my bookings for my November trip. Most of the places I wanted to stay were full or nearly full, I had to make some adjustments to get the hotels I wanted. Tourism is up dramatically in Burma for this winter. If you are thinking about going in Nov-Dec-Jan Feb, I'd highly recommend you book NOW. I expect all flights will be entirely full and those who have not booked ahead will be out of luck. Two years ago when we went, this was not a problem.
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Jun 3rd, 2011, 08:11 AM
  #14
 
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wow, I guess I got lucky earlier this year! Looking forward to reading about everyone's upcoming trips. It is a spectacular county!
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Feb 10th, 2013, 09:35 PM
  #15
 
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Hello, I'm a 26-year old female from the Philippines. I am planning a trip to Myanmar but I cannot find a companion so I might just do it alone. It will be my first solo trip abroad so I am pretty excited and anxious at the same time. Kathie mentioned above that "new, crisp USD" is needed. Why is that so? won't they accept older bills? I also remember reading that in Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum. Or is this just meant figuratively? Would you also know how it is travelling to Myanmar now? Thanks.
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Feb 11th, 2013, 07:12 AM
  #16
 
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maria, you should start your own thread about this rather than tagging on to a thread that is two years old. Many things have changed in Burma in the last two years. There are many, many more travelers than before and right now accommodation is entirely full in all of the major stops: Yangon, Inle, Bagan, Mandalay. Prices for hotels and guesthouse have doubled or tripled since the last Lonely Planet guide was published. Some things have also changed about money. In some places they no longer require pristine bills, but outside of Mandalay and Rangoon, you will need perfect bills. There are some ATMs now that accept foreign cards, though the cost per use is 5000 kyat (over $5) plus whatever your bank charges for use of a foreign ATM.
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Feb 13th, 2013, 08:58 PM
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Thank you Kathie. I just searched it in Google and this forum came up so I thought I could still raise my concern in this thread.
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Feb 13th, 2013, 09:17 PM
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For a first solo trip abroad, Myanmar may be somewhat ambitious. What time of year are you planning on going? If you're going in high season (November--March) it's quite pricey and getting pricier all the time. We were there from late Noveber '12--mid-December '12, 20 days in total and have friends who are going in two weeks for twelve days. Their trip will cost at least 50 to 60% more than ours for a little more than half the time and for the most part the hotels they're staying in are NOT the same level of hotels that we stayed in.

There are small tour groups that you might enjoy--or you could book one of the Pandaw river boat cruises; we went on a ten-day one and got to stop at many villages that are inaccessible except from the river, were for the most part, completely untouched by tourism, and provided a completely different experience from visiting the traditional tourist sites, although those also were wonderful but in a very different way. And by going on the boat you would have companionship, excellent guides, and a very different experience
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Feb 14th, 2013, 09:51 AM
  #19
 
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Hi maria, perhaps I wasn't clear. People will be glad to answer your question here. But you've added your question to an old thread. Go to the top of this page and click on the yellow "start a new topic" button and ask your questions. You will get more responses that way.
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