Region: South East Asia
Approximately 87% of Burmese are Buddhist, 5% are animist, 4.5% Christian, 4% Muslim and 1.5% Hindu. When visiting temples, please ensure that you are dressed appropriately - no shorts or singlets. Please show consideration if you wish to take photographs or enter temples. Monks are not allowed to touch or be touched by women, shoes should be taken off when entering any building housing a Buddha image. Never point the soles of your feet at a Buddha image and always adopt a subdued demeanour. It is important to remember that the Burmese are much more pious than most westerners and religion represents an important part of the average Burmese person's life.
Asian languages are often difficult for outsiders to follow because of their tonality. However, learning the basic few words will win over the locals and is sure to allow you to get closer to them. Some Burmese, particularly older ones, speak English, but don't rely on it. Also, some Burmese words are actually Burmese-English - a legacy from the colonial days; so if you hear someone say ‘telephone’, it doesn't mean they speak English. The first things to learn are forms of address; in Asia these show respect and calling an elder male ‘uncle’ not only displays deference, but also builds friendship.
Area (sq. km):
678,500 square meters
GMT +6 and a half hours
As with most countries in South East Asia, Burma has three distinct seasons. It is cool from November to February (20-22°C), hot from March to early June (up to 45 degrees in the central region) and rainy from early June to October. The mountain areas tend to be cooler, due to the elevation and are generally drier. Around Pagan, the country is quite arid, lying in a rain shadow. The areas facing the prevailing winds and in front of mountains (such as Arakan) experience some of the highest rainfalls on earth.
Between the months of November and February there is less rain and it is slightly cooler, but anytime of year is good to travel to Burma. The monsoon season runs from July to September. The peak times for tourists to visit are December, January, February, March, July and August. The least crowded times are May, June and September.
Rangoon's Mingaladon International Airport is located 7 kilometres northwest of the city centre. If you are finding your own way into town, grab a taxi and look at paying about US$5 to US$8 for a one-way journey.
The international dialling code for Burma is +95. Telephone calls, especially international calls, made from hotels, often attract significant service charges, even when the number dialled is not available. Where possible, endeavour to make calls from local telephone offices, which are usually situated in or near the post offices. It is always advisable to confirm the rates you will be paying before you make your call. Should any extra assistance be required when you are on tour, please contact our local offices first. If you have a mobile phone it should be a relatively simple procedure to arrange ‘global roaming’ with your service provider; however, charges are generally very high so be sure to check this option thoroughly. You should also check with your service provider to see if your mobile phone is compatible with the networks used in Burma.
The electricity supply in Burma is rated at 220 volts, and appliances requiring 240 volts will also work normally.If you bring electrical appliances you should also bring an international adaptor. Plug design varies, depending where you are; however, two flat pins (USA style) or three-pronged angled pins (Australian style) are fairly common.A torch (or flashlight) is useful when travelling in more remote areas. Note that whilst trekking, and in more remote areas, electricity will not be available. Here, the best option is small, battery-operated appliances.
Unlike most South East Asian countries, the food in Burma is a bit more limited, but it is none-the-less interesting. Due to the fact that there are large Indian and Chinese communities in Burma, most of the restaurants in the country actually specialise in food cooked in either of these two styles. Traditional Burman cuisine has made resurgence lately as the economy has improved. It consists primarily of rice, mild curry and soup. Salads are also quite popular, as is lentil soup. If you are adventurous, we recommend that you pay a visit to the food-stalls and cafes at the back of Bogyoke Market (Rangoon) and try the Shan-style noodles ('khauk-swe') - they're delicious!
Our tours in Burma utilize a wide range of transport including private air-conditioned buses, planes, and boats. You may also have the chance to try out a trishaws in your free time.
Because you can obtain such good exchange rates, shopping in Burma provides real bargain opportunities. You can also trade western goods for Burmese ones, if your bartering skills are good. Lacquer ware, textiles, carved wood, umbrellas, tapestries, cloth, jewellery and precious stones are all available and worth checking out. Be wary of people selling precious stones, however, as some stones and gems are fakes. In addition, unless you buy them from a licensed dealer, stones and gems may be confiscated at the airport as the government has a monopoly on this trade.
Please note that visa requirements can and do change. It is essential that you confirm requirements with the nearest relevant embassy or check with your travel agent before you travel. At the time of writing, a visa is required by most travellers visiting Burma (Myanmar) including Australians, New Zealanders, Americans, British and Canadians. All other nationalities should check with the Myanmar Embassy or Consulate in their country for up-to-date visa information. Tourist visas CANNOT be obtained on arrival in Yangon and Mandalay International Airport. The visa must be obtained in advance of travel from your nearest Myanmar Embassy prior to arriving in Burma. A letter of invitation is required when applying for your visa and this is supplied by our local operator. In order for us to arrange this letter you must provide your full passport details at time of booking. Please note that it will often take some days for your visa application to be processed, so your application should therefore be lodged well before you travel.
Lands of Charm and Cruelty - Stan Sesser
Golden Earth - Norman Lewis
Myanmar (Burma) - Lonely Planet
Nat-Pwe: Burma’s Supernatural Sub-Culture - Yves Rodrigue
Outrage: Burma's Struggle for Democracy - Bertil Lindner
Culture Shock! Burma - Saw Myat Yin
The Glass Palace - Amitav Ghosh
Freedom from Fear & Other Writings - Aung San Suu Kyi