A Tourist visa, valid for 28 days, is needed to enter the country. Visas are issued by one of Myanmar’s embassies abroad, however, since the 1st September 2014 citizens of several countries can now apply online for a pre-approved Tourist Visa, please see http://evisa.moip.gov.mm/index.aspx. It is a very straightforward process and works well on arrival, but is at the moment only possible when arriving by plane to Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyitaw international airports.
There are now ATM machines in Yangon and Mandalay where you can draw local currency with VISA and/or Master card. However, payment with VISA or other credit cards is only possible in some hotels and tourist shops, and then only at an extra charge. Therefore, it is still advisable to bring most of your travel budget in cash to cover your expenses while in Myanmar. The US Dollar is the most convenient currency to bring, as prices for tourist related services are usually quoted in dollars and it is also the most widely accepted currency to exchange into the local currency Kyat. It is important that the dollar notes you bring do not look “old” and worn out, have scratches and marks on them or have serial numbers that start with the letters CB or AB (apparently there have at one time been fake dollar bills in circulation with these letter combinations). A crisp 100 dollar note usually carries a little higher exchange rate than two 50 dollar notes. Money can be changed at some banks and in private shops at the Bogyoke Aung San market in Yangon and otherwise where your guide directs you. You should not change money with people approaching you on the street.
Health and medicine
It is always difficult to give advice on malaria prophylaxis. The usual places where tourists go are not considered malaria infested areas, but it is best to follow the medical advice of your doctor. The other recommended vaccines for Southeast Asia should be kept up to date. Please bring along your necessary medications in your hand luggage. There are some qualified medical doctors, but hospital care is far below Western standards, with medical equipment either in poor condition or completely missing. There is a SOS clinic in Yangon with a Western physician in charge. You should ensure that you have a good travel insurance, and that you have the policy number and the emergency number of the insurance company among your travel documents. The transition to a new bacterial flora and a warm climate offers an increased risk of stomach upset and diarrhea. It will usually go away in a day or two. Drink a lot of water while you are here, but never directly from the tap. Bottled water is inexpensive and can be bought everywhere. In most hotels bottled water is offered complementary in your room.
Clothing and equipment
Most Myanmar people, both women and men wear a blouse / shirt and a sarong-like piece of cloth that goes down to the ankles and is called longyi. On their feet they wear simple sandals which are very practical when you constantly have to remove your footwear before entering private homes as well as temples, pagodas, monasteries and other sacred grounds. It is appreciated that tourists follow a dress code at and near religious sites: T-shirts, blouses and shirts should have (short) sleeves and trousers and skirts should go below the knees. Adults should in general avoid walking around in public in very short or singlet. Otherwise, the need for clothing is as usual in the tropics: Pants and Tops in cotton, a sweater for cool mornings and evenings in the highlands (in December and January even maybe a jacket), and good shoes. Comfortable and inexpensive sandals can be bought at every market. A hat or cap is good to wear against the midday sun, and you should also bring sunscreen, insect repellent and a flashlight.
When it comes to crime, Myanmar is one of the safest countries in the world to travel in. There are very few stories about tourists being robbed or otherwise assaulted while here. On the contrary, you will more often learn that no efforts are spared to return lost wallets and valuables to the rightful owners. You should still exercise normal caution though, lock your suitcase or bag before you check it in at the airport and if you leave money in your room at least put it in your locked suitcase. There are no restrictions when it comes to contact between foreigners and locals, but tourists are not allowed to stay overnight in private homes or guesthouses that do not have a tourist license.
Burmese people generally treat each other in a friendly, polite and respectful manner. It is “loss of face” to show irritation or anger and to talk loudly to someone. Sarcasm and irony are not understood. You should avoid putting your feet up, point with your feet or pat anyone on the head, and a woman should avoid touching a Buddhist monk or his robe. Apart from this foreigners are granted wide tolerance. Any time of the day you will be greeted with a smile and “Min-ga-la-ba” which stands for good morning, good evening, hello, hi and you can safely answer in the same manner. “Thank you” is “che-zu-be” or a little less casual “che-zu tin-ba-deh”.
Your cell phone will probably only work with a local SIM card, but roaming service with international providers are slowly being introduced. Local and inexpensive SIM cards are now available in the major cities, but may not yet be working in all parts of the country. Hotels have IDD, but it is expensive to call abroad. The easiest method of communication at the moment is via internet and email. Many hotels have WiFi or other kind of internet access (though maybe slow) and there are private internet cafes also in remote locations.