Burma (Myanmar): The Changes

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I have been travelling to Burma (Myanmar) since 2006 and during that time I have seen many changes, especially in the last two years.  As you are probably aware, Burma is now a Republic with a predominantly democratically elected government and a Parliament, situated in the new capital called Nay Pyi Taw.

 

I can’t help thinking about how quickly the country has changed in so many ways from when I first visited this unique and amazing country. The people are as friendly now as they were then and always willing to help in any way they can, although unlike some other South East Asian countries, few locals can speak any English. I visited in January 2013 and again in November 2013; during those nine or so months I could not believe the development in services – from several new airlines to banking and the introduction of ATM’s in many cities, this was in stark contrast to almost none in January 2013.

 

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When we were there in November 2013, the only foreign currency accepted was the US Dollar. This can be changed to local currency “Kyat” (pronounced “Chat”) although some of the larger hotels in the main cities like Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan are beginning to accept some other currencies such as the Euro & the Pound Stirling. The best and safest place to change US Dollars are at hotels where you will get the best exchange rates – always make sure you compare the rate on offer before you change large amounts of money. If you need to change money and you are not near a hotel, you can change money through money changers, but ensure you get the best exchange rate and have your Kyat in your hand before you hand over US Dollars. One last important point to keep in mind – the smaller the denomination of the US Dollar, the less you will get when you exchange it for Kyat.

 

The expansion taking place in Myanmar now is huge. The number of tourists has increased so much in the last year (quadruple that of 2013/2014)  that the number of hotels cannot keep up with the increase in tourism, which has in turn caused a huge increase in hotel room prices. Before you book a hotel room at the lower end of the market, it will pay you to ask if you have hot water for a shower – it may not seem like much but it’s no fun having a cold shower when you don’t expect it. To ensure you get the best deal for the type of holiday you want, it is best to book a holiday through a reputable travel agent. It can be difficult to get around Myanmar without a guide and this way you can also fully enjoy visiting the sights and places you want to see.

 

Alistair Leonard

Burma Travel – Managing Director