Yangon

The Shwedagon Pagoda.

Yangon (Burmese: ရန်ကုန်), formerly Rangoon, was the capital of Myanmar until it was replaced by Naypyidaw in Nov. 2005. Today, with a population of over 5 million people, it remains the largest city and the economic hub of Myanmar.

Understand

As the country's former capital, Yangon is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in Myanmar, where you can find nightlife, quality international restaurants, and many of the countries Museums. The city is an amalgamation of British, Burmese, Chinese, and Indian influences, known for its colonial architecture, which although decaying, remains an almost unique example of a 19th century British colonial capital in Asia. New high-rise buildings were constructed from the 1990s as the government began to allow private investment and with the introduction of reforms in 2013 many new buildings are being constructed and refurbished in the downtown area. Meanwhile, former government buildings such as the massive Secretariat Building, have been left to rot as the capital was shifted to Naypyidaw.

Yangon's former name was not the only victim of change in this country. For one, the country's name was changed. To add to the on-going identity crisis, the city has been stripped of its status as capital. The nation's capital has been relocated to a remote new site called Naypyidaw, built from scratch. The flag too has been changed, redesigned in 2010, replacing the old one which replaced another one slightly more than a decade ago.

Timekeeping is eccentric. Usually countries set their time in one-hour increments from GMT. This country set it with a 30 min differential.

While the government still requires foreigners to register their passports at hotels and private residences, the government no longer spends efforts to follow or otherwise monitor tourists and foreigners in Yangon. Note that it is illegal to stay in a private residence without registering with the local Township authorities. Likewise, the internet is no longer heavily censored and sim cards are freely available to foreigners and locals alike.

Get in

By plane

Yangon International Airport (Mingladon) (IATA: RGN) is approximately 30min north of city centre. Allow 2 hours during the rush hours. There is no accommodation in the immediate vicinity of the airport.

The easiest way to get to and from the airport is by taxi (USD10 from airport to city or 7,000 kyat or dollar equivalent from city to airport, all pre-paid). It is possible to use a public bus. If you exit the international terminal and turn right, walking along the road for about 10 min, you'll hit Pyay Rd, from where you can take public bus 51 which will take you one block east of Sule Paya, downtown (MYK200). Thus, the cheapest was to get to the airport is to take that bus, get off at Airport Rd, and take a cab for the remaining kilometre (about USD1 after bargaining). To get to town you could theoretically ask the cab driver at the airport to drop you off at that bus stop if you don't feel like walking. The name of the bus stop is "Mile 10" on Pyay Rd and it's line 51, but you might have trouble being understood if nobody writes it down for you in Burmese script with precise instructions (thus using this option to get TO the airport is much easier because you can ask your hotel for help). Best to just talk to some backpackers on the flight you're coming with and share a cab.

International: There are direct flights to RGN from Bangkok, Hong Kong, Chiang Mai, Dhaka, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Gaya, Kolkata, Kunming, Guangzhou, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Taipei. International Airlines servicing RGN include Thai Airways, Bangkok Air, Biman Bangladesh, Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, Korean Airlines, Silk Air, Vietnam Airlines, Dragon Air and Air India. Coffee, tea and very basic snacks (packaged biscuits and single serving cakes) are available inside the security area. The international terminal has free Wi-Fi.

Domestic: The domestic terminal is 200m past the international terminal, and is old and tired looking. Facilities are minimal (espresso coffee, tea, local beer, limited hot food, and basic packaged snacks are available) but, as a consequence, check-in is simple and quick and bags arrive quickly from arriving aircraft. Ancient buses ferry passengers to their aircraft. Pre-paid taxis are available, paid at the taxi counter inside the baggage claim area, but it is easier and cheaper to exit the terminal and negotiate directly with the taxi czar who controls the taxi trade at Mingladon. Try not to allow porters to carry your luggage, as they will demand specified tips and hassle you. This is especially a problem in the domestic terminal as there is no customs to pass through with your bags. If a porter has not attached himself to a hapless tourist, he may take random bags off the luggage cart, hoping someone will follow him. On the other hand you can experience the full service treatment, no going to counters or luggage concerns for a few thousand kyat.

By train

There are several train lines that connect Yangon to the rest of Burma. Several trains daily connect Yangon to Mandalay via Bago with connections to Bagan and the Inle Lake area at Thazi. Most trains leave early in the morning (02:00 or 03:00) and arrive late at night. Yangon-Mandalay fares for a sleeper are USD35-50, for a seat are USD30-40 in first class and USD10-15 in second class. There is also a direct train line between Yangon and Bagan (USD35) but trains take almost 24 hr for a bumpy journey and the change at Thazi is a better bet.

The oldest line in Burma is the Yangon-Pyay line and it shows its age. But, the nine hr journey (USD15) along the Irrawaddy basin is well worth it. The Mawlamyine line is equally bumpy and the 9 hr express (06:15, USD17-11) and 11 hr slow train (07:00, USD14-5) is slightly longer than by road. On this trip in first class you get your own seat and it's slightly less crowded, but there isn't much else different between the classes. Trains also run to Pathein in the Irrawaddy delta but are very slow and the bus is a better alternative.

By boat

A hundred and fifty years ago, boats were the way to get to places from Yangon and IWT (Inland Water Transport) passenger ferries still ply the major rivers. Yangon to Mandalay takes 5 days with a change at Pyay (3 days) and the return trip (downriver) takes three days. A luxury ferry (the Delta Queen) recalls the colonial era on the Yangon-Pathein route (about 20 hr, USD170/person). The IWT ferry to Pathein takes 15 hr for the overnight trip (USD35/10).

By bus

There is heavy competition on the Mandalay route with air conditioned fares ranging from MYK10,500 (Mandalar Minn, E lite) to MYK18,000 for a 3 seat across VIP bus (E lite). E lite has an all new fleet with several departures early morning and evening. The new highway has dramatically reduced travel times north with the Mandalay trip taking just over 8 hr with a good bus. Buses to Bagan are poorer value at MYK15,000. At the stadium, you can get bus tickets for MYK13,000 (haggle!). Buses depart around 09:00 and 21:00. There are ticket offices representing all companies outside the stadium opposite the main train station. Many offer ferry services to the Highway Bus Station in a pickup for MYK1,000. A taxi will cost around MYK6,000.

Going to the city from the Highway Bus Station is possible on Bus 43 for MYK300. The bus passes in front of the entrance to the station. Just ask the helpful locals. On the way to the terminal, ask your hotel to write it down in Burmese script and catch the bus from the city hall across Sule Paya right downtown for just MYK200! Better than the horrible transfer timings (see shuttle ticket below) that sometimes make you wait at Aung Minglar for 3 hours. Bus 43 takes about 1h to get there, but give yourself some time to check in and allow for potential delays, leaving 2h from Sule Paya before your bus leaves.

Thanks to the new bridge and upgraded road, buses to Pathein take less than 4h and the journey is comfortable. Add 45min by taxi to get to the Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal though. MYK6,000.

Big bus companies serving the main tourist destinations (Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal) have sales offices across from Yangon train station (can also buy "shuttle ticket" to Bus Terminal for 1,000MYK here).

Get around

By taxi

The easiest way to get around the city is by taxi and Yangon is the city where Toyotas come to live out the rest of their days. Plenty of old white Toyota Corolla taxis ply the streets and will pull over if you stick your hand out. Be warned that almost all taxis are in appalling condition. They're old, dirty, and run down. Don't expect air-con or seat belts that work. Genuine taxis have red license plates, carry a laminated green slip, and a large-print taxi driver identification card on the dashboard of the car, but all taxis are reliable. Be warned though that around lunchtime and late at night, it may be hard to hail one. Taxis are always available outside the bigger hotels, on Sule Pagoda Rd, outside Cafe Aroma, and, during the day, outside the south entrance to the Shwedagon Pagoda. Away from the city centre, for example, near the budget hotels in Pazundaung Township, you may have to wait a bit before a taxi shows up and it may be easier to ask your hotel to call one for you. If you're travelling in the wee hours (for example, to catch a 04:00 train or flight), arrange one with your hotel the previous evening. You will always, at all hours, find a taxi outside the Central Hotel on Bogoyoke Aung San Rd.

It is customary to negotiate prices prior to the trip but, other than tacking on an informal tourist surcharge, you'll very rarely be cheated. If you're not sure how much you should pay, it is safe to assume the driver is charging you an extra 500 kyat because you're a foreigner. Ask for 500 kyat less than the stated price if in doubt. Approximate fares are: city centre to airport, MYK4,000-6,000; city centre to Shwedagon Pagoda, MYK2,500-3,000; city centre to Pazundaung Township, MYK2,500; city centre to Aung San Suu Kyi's house, MYK3,000; city centre to Kandawgyi Lake area, MYK3,000; city centre to Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal, MYK5,000-6,000; city centre to Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal, MYK4,000. Expect to pay more, sometimes twice as much, when it rains and late at nights.

Most taxis will be only too happy to negotiate an hourly (MYK3,000) or daily (USD20-30) or longer rate. Taxis will take you anywhere and you can, in theory, hail a cab and negotiate a trip to Pathein or Bago or other destinations at a much lower price than through a travel agency.

Most taxis seem to charge a minimum fare of MYK1,500 even for short trips. It seems like meters are never used, even when present.

By trishaw

Trishaws are scarce in the city centre (and not permitted before 10:00), but more readily available in the surrounding townships. Negotiate fares in advance, but MYK100-200 for a short ten min ride, while more than a local would pay, is appropriate.

By bus

Riding the bus is absolutely safe. The only drawback is the lack of understanding. Most of the locals can't speak English and the signs are written in Burmese. As you would expect, Yangon has an extensive and chaotically crowded bus system. Most are privately-run and will not move until enough people are falling off the sides of the bus. Buses are cheap, but high inflation is chipping away at that cheapness. Most routes originate and terminate on the east side of the Sule Pagoda, so head there if looking for a bus to the airport or to the Shwedagon Pagoda. If you don’t know how to read Burmese numbers there is a problem. Take bus 51 for the airport, they will drop you off a little past the entrance gate.

By boat

A ferry crosses the river to Dallah from the Pansodan St Jetty.

On foot

Distances in the tourist areas are not great and, provided you take it easy, you can walk almost anywhere. The pavements can be very crowded though, particularly on Anwaratha Rd, so expect to be constantly bumped into and to have to negotiate your way across vendors selling everything from hot samosas and curry to screwdrivers, TV remote controls to jeans. Many of the footpaths and sidewalks have large holes, mismatched pavers, or missing/unstable covers over drains. Walking on the footpath after dark can be treacherous, so either carry a torch or, like most locals, walk on the edge of the roadway which is normally in a (marginally) better state of repair.

Other

Foreigners on tourist visas are not permitted to drive in Myanmar. Motorbikes and bicycles are not permitted within Yangon (although they are permitted elsewhere in the country).

See

Relatively untouched by development compared of other major Southeast Asian cities, the city centre of Yangon is full of historical sights. Yangon is perhaps the best preserved example of a European colonial capital in Southeast Asia.

The pagoda is an interesting place for tourists. For one, it is lit up Las Vegas-style with multicoloured neon highlighting a galaxy of colours, textures, and shapes. It is also a jungle of spires with superior Myanmar woodcarving embellishment playfully mixed and matched with modern building materials such as corrugated roofing. Unlike other religious sites, it has a spiritual as well as a secular feel about it. Children run up and down singing songs, monks sit on the steps chatting, young men cast amorous glances at women, women stand around gossiping, all while others are deep in prayer in front of whatever shrine has significance for them. The Shwedagon captures the essence of both the informal nature as well as the strong ties that signify the relationship that the Burmese have with their Buddhism. There is no other pagoda like it in Burma and there is no other place like the Shwedagon Pagoda in the world. MMK 8000. Ticket booths are at the top end of the flights of steps on all entrances. If you enter before the booths are opened, the ticket agents will catch up with you sooner or later and collect the fee. They are a team of three men, one of them carrying a thick book of receipts, all wearing ID. It is easy to avoid handing the MMK 8000 government fee by simply asking for or buying a used sticker from another tourist as they leave the paya then going up one of the side entrances. If you get in at 05:00 and get out by 06:00 you'll probably escape paying the fee (but risk not being allowed in). Tickets are valid for one day only (not a 24 hour period) and must be retained throughout your visit. While a sticker is to be displayed, is unusable the next day for a new colour is introduced. Bring some sticky tape to help keep the sticker attached to your clothing (especially if it is a hot or wet day, like most days in Myanmar). ATMs available at the platform..
  • Guides. Guides, official and unofficial are available for USD5 (add a USD1/MYK1,000 tip). The quality is variable, but most guides are friendly and trying to make their way against the odds. The pagoda is vast and complex and, if you can afford the extra dollars, the company and practical information on what's going around you is well worth the expense.
  • Food. The closest restaurant is at the intersection of the Shwedagon Pagoda Rd and U Hlaung Bo St (at the bottom of the south walkway). There are some tea shops on a small roadway that describes a semicircle just below the top of the pagoda where you can get tea and biscuits. North of the pagoda, on Inya Rd and outside the Savoy, are many places to eat, fincluding a good fast food restaurant for pizza, coffee, and sandwiches. Bring water; the heat of the sun can get to you if you visit during the daytime. No food or bottled water is available on the platform itself, but water is available from one of the many water dispenser. It's clean, cool and free.
  • Disabled travellers. A road on the south side leads halfway up the Singuttara Hill and an elevator can take you the rest of the way. Alternatively, if not in a wheelchair, head for the Western entrance from where escalators are available all the way to the top. The escalators are free for foreigners (or rather, included in the price of the ticket).
  • Dress code. Dress reasonably and keep your legs covered (long skirts, halfway between knee and ankle, are fine; shorts, on men or women, are not). Longyi are available at the ticket booth if you arrive overly uncovered.
  • Shoes. As with nearly all Buddhist monuments, footwear is not permitted. Almost all visitors (and all locals) remove their footwear at the gates before even setting foot inside the complex. There are places to leave your shoes at the bottom of every walkway for a nominal fee (MMK5) but that can be a problem if, say, you enter using the east walkway and wish to leave by the north. Carry a plastic shopping bag, pop your shoes into that bag, and carry it around with you while on the walkways and platforms. That is the Burmese way! If you can, visit during the early morning or in the late afternoon / evening so the white marble tiles do not burn your feet.
Things to see at the Shwedagon
  • Plan. The pagoda is actually shaped like a Greek cross. There are four entrances at each of the four cardinal directions flanked by gargantuan sculptures of mythical Burmese lions. These entrances open up to the four walkways as the appendages of the cross ascending to the top via flights of steps. At the top is the octagonal intersection of the cross which consists of the stupa at the very centre itself surrounded by shrines that can qualify as temples by themselves and separated from the Stupa by a vast open walkway paved with spic and span shiny marble tiles. The stupa is further surrounded by a string of micro shrines - small celled structures housing the icon of the Buddha himself and interspersed by lion sculptures, and then further inwards, another string of micro stupas surround the stupa superstructure.
  • Walkways to The Pagoda. Four covered walkways lead up to the pagoda from the plains surrounding the hills. The east walkway is the most interesting, crowded as it is with vendors selling items for pilgrims (candles, flowers, gold leaf, stones and other paraphernalia of Burmese Buddhist worship) and souvenirs for domestic (and international) tourists (Buddhas, lacquer ware, and thanaka). Nothing tacky is for sale, so do stop and take a look. The other walkways are less interesting but the west walkway has escalators and the southern has an elevator. Walking up the Eastern walkway to the top and allowing the beauty of the pagoda it to emerge remains the best way to get up the hill!
The entrances are a sight to behold because of the Hollywoodish overall effect they evoke. As previously mentioned, there is a pair of mythical and stylized stone lions guarding the doorway framing the grand staircase as if this scene is coming out from a biblical movie set. To view clearly these mythical lions, one simply has to examine the Myanmar currency notes where it is featured practically in all denominations. The Great Stupa is very visible and at dark, multicoloured neon lightings highlight its profile in Las Vegas-style.
Another attraction of this temple in general and the walkways in particular are the 3D murals of the Jataka tales in Myanmarese interpretation showing distinctive Myanmar landscape, temple and toddy palm dotted countryside, country life, architecture, palace and court scenery and pageantry, temple scenes, period costumes, mythological nagas and nats, elephants, lions, and dragons - all literally popping up like 3D children's picture book. These 3D murals flank the upper part of the walls of all the four entrances.
  • The Pagoda Platform. Although similar in concept to Mecca's kaaba, surrounded by a vast space, the pagoda platform where people may make rounds of the stupa, exists as a religious space without pomp and circumstance and is one of the best places in the world to sit and people watch. Find a comfortable step, or sit on the floor, and look around. Children run up and down, perhaps singing and shouting with abandon. Women cluster in groups gossiping. Couples, young and old stroll up and down. Burgundy robed monks are everywhere. Here and there, at the many shrines that dot the platform and sit around the stupa, people pray, seriously and silently. Bells ring. There is no awe here, only life, religious and secular life. Sit there long enough and someone will stop to chat with you, to ask questions, to exchange information.
  • Day Shrines. There are eight shrines, one for each day of the week (in the Burmese calendar, Wednesday is divided into two parts), dotted around the eight corners of the stupa (the stupa is octagonal), and most Burmese pray at their day shrine when visiting a pagoda. If you can figure out the day of the week when you were born, light a candle, place some flowers, or pour water over the shrine corresponding to that day. Starting from the south entrance, and going clockwise, the eight planetary posts are: Mercury (Wednesday morning, before noon), Saturn (Saturday), Jupiter (Thursday), Rahu (no planet, Wednesday afternoon), Venus (Friday), Sun (Sunday), Moon (Monday), Mars (Tuesday). Each shrine also has a beast associated with it, the most interesting one being the Gahlon, a mythical half-bird half-beast said to guard Mount Meru (the shrine for Sunday).
  • Statue of Wa Thon Da Ray. The statue of Wa Thon Da Ray, the guardian angel of the earth, is to the left of the south walkway. Wa Thon Da Ray is said to have saved the Buddha from burning by wrapping her wet hair around the earth. The long tresses are clearly visible in the stone statue that stands in her honour.
  • The Arakanese Prayer Pavilion. A little before the west walkway, was a gift of the Rakhaing people of Arakan. The prayer hall itself is ordinary, but the wood carvings on the roof are exquisite, probably the finest in the pagoda complex.
  • Maha Ganda Bell. Known locally as the Singu Min Bell (after King Singu, who donated it to Shwedagon), the Maha Ganda bell was cast between 1775 and 1779 and weighs 23 tonnes. Impressed by the size of the bell, the British attempted to take it as war booty after the First Burmese War (1825), but dropped it into the Yangon River instead. The story goes that the British tried everything to get the bell out of the water, but all their technology was of no avail. Giving up, they told the Burmese that they could have it back if they could get it out of the water. The Burmese, with some bamboo rafts, managed to retrieve the bell and it was returned to the pagoda! Pick up a mallet and bang on the bell for luck. Behind the bell, a small pavilion provides excellent views of the stupa (spectacular at night) and a panoramic view of the city.
  • Naungdawgyi Pagoda and Sandawdwin Tazaung. Left of the north walkway, the Naungdawgyi or Elder pagoda is supposed to mark the spot where the sacred strands of the Buddha's hair were placed and washed before being enshrined in the stupa. (Women are not allowed onto the Elder pagoda platform.) Close by is the Sandawdwin Tazaung (Hair Relics Well) which provided the water for the washing. The well is odd because it is fed by the Irrawaddy rather than by ground water and the level of water in this well rises and falls with the tides!
  • Dhammazedi Inscription. A 1485 tablet that relates the story of the Shwedagon in Pali, Mon, and Burmese. One of the few verifiably antique objects in the pagoda complex.

Other religious sites

Parks

Miscellaneous

Do

Buy

Handicrafts, gemstones, clothing, and collectibles. Shopping is fun in Yangon because of the variety of things available and because, unlike neighbouring India, the hard sell and hassle is missing. Bargaining is expected, although tourists will be charged higher prices. Street vendors in the centre are not allowed to open shop until 18:00, by government mandate.

| name=Bogyoke Aung San Market | alt=Scotts Market | url= | email= | address= | lat=16.78044 | long=96.15570 | directions= | phone= | fax= | hours= | price= | content=An excellent source of Burmese handicrafts, such as wood carvings or lacquerware. Beware, however, because some lacquerware is not traditionally-made, and will wear away quickly. The market is also known for its clothing and fabrics.}}

Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scotts Market)

Money

Rates at the airport are almost as competitive as in the city, so change your money there or withdraw cash from an ATM. Do not change at the first bank you see inside the security area. Banks beyond security offer better rates.

If you need to change money outside business hours, especially on holidays and Sundays, only banks in the airport are open. Exchange rates are poorer at guesthouses and money changers.
Every full moon is a public holiday. Banks, money changers, and all government offices will be closed.
In Yangon more than 50 ATMs are available , however, not all work. It may take awhile to find one working. The withdrawal limit is typically MYK300,00 plus a processing fee of MYK5,000.
When bringing in US currency, bring a wide range of denominations. The best exchange rates are for USD100 and USD50 notes. Smaller notes (USD1, USD5 and USD10 bills) are indispensable to pay for admissions and transportation, which are usually charged in US dollars only. Bring notes in crisp condition as cashiers are wary of even the slightest blemishes. Check any US notes you are given in change, for the same reason. If you are given any damaged notes, they will be useless for the rest of your trip.}}

Eat

Yangon has seen an explosion of restaurants in the last ten years and almost any type of international cuisine — eclectic Western, Italian, Japanese, Thai, and Korean — is available. Local cuisine reflects the multi-ethnic nature of the city and the country. Along with Bamar food, there are a large number of Indian and Chinese restaurants as well as a few places specializing in Shan food. Fast food restaurants (usually with table service) serving burgers and pizza, and a few cafes complete the scene. Biryani, a rice and meat dish with roots in the Mughal Empire, is a specialty and there are many biryani restaurants (dan-PAO-sain in Burmese) in the city centre, especially along Anawratha Rd. The three main competing restaurant chains (all halal, but vegetarian biryani is usually available) are Yuzana, KSS (Kyet Shar Soon), and Nilar.

Street Food: Anawratha Rd and Mahabandoola Rd are dotted with food stalls, but Yangon street ambiance is not conducive to al fresco eating. Betel-nut spitting pedestrians do not add to the ambience either. Myanmar street food is mostly deep fried, and often served in a puddle of oil. Dishes are washed at the roadside "dunk" style, without soap and without running water. The green tea is free but before drinking from the cups pour some tea, swing it, empty it on the street and finally pour yourself the cup of tea. Alternatively, use the provided tissue at the table. Locals do the same. There are many buffet style street stalls at the streetsides where you can point at the most delicious looking food to order it.

Food in Myanmar has an amazingly wide price range. Restaurants and cafes in hotels and the airport charge prices that are normal in Western countries, yet at a streetside stall you can have a whole meal for MYK500-2,000.

Budget

Street vendors sell samosas, onion balls, and other Indian snacks around Anawratha St between Sule Paya Rd and Shwe Bontha St in central Yangon for under MYK200. Beware that many restaurants and food stalls close as early as 8 or 9pm. Best go around 7pm.


Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

Nightlife in Yangon is rather limited by Western standards and can be hard to find. Local bars or "beer stations" as they are called, close early (around 21:00-23:00), but offer drinks at bargain prices. Expect to pay about 500 kyat for a pint glass of beer (Myanmar Beer). Local whiskies cost 2,000 kyat a glass. Expect to get a lot of attention when going to the local beer stations since theses places are not frequented by foreigners, but people are curious and friendly!

Drinking is not culturally acceptable for women in Burma, so don't expect to pick up any girls, because there won't be any in the beer stations. The beer stations are a place where men meet to talk, chew betel nut (very popular in Burma), and drink.

Most upscale clubs are in luxury hotels. Nightclubs in hotels include The Music Club (at the Park Royal Hotel (admission, USD6, hotel guests, free); Paddy O'Malley's (Sedona Hotel, admission, USD5, including one drink).

There are also stand-alone nightclubs: BME1 and BME2 in the north of the city, and Pioneer to the east of city centre. Local entertainment plazas that house karaoke, bars, and discos include Asia, JJ's, and 225. Admission is between USD3-5. Beer is around USD1-2. Most up-market discos and nightclubs are frequented by Burmese prostitutes who will be very eager to talk to foreigners. The Dagon Red beer is fine and a great value.

Sleep

Accommodation in Yangon is comparatively much more expensive than Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, or Laos and is of a much much lower standard (army-controlled pricing).

Rooms are abundant except at the height of the tourist season (Dec-Jan), and then only in the popular backpacker hotels. Reservations are almost never necessary. Tourists can still pay in USD (bring only newer USD banknotes in good condition), but the kyat is more commonly used now. Credit cards are increasingly accepted at hotels.

Budget hotels (under USD20) are mostly away from city centre. The upside is that the hotels are quieter, the city centre can be quite noisy, and you get a little more room for your dollar. You'll need a cab to get to the main sight, the Shwedagon Pagoda anyway. The downside is that most restaurants are in the city centre, a long walk or cab ride away and choices outside the centre are limited, usually with the only choice being a restaurant attached to the hotel with indifferent cuisine and which may be closed if business is slow. Pazundaung and Botataung Townships seem to have the highest concentration of budget hotels. Some rooms, the cheaper ones, in many budget hotels have no windows at all and if you are claustrophobic, make sure you don't end up in one of those! There are a few budget central hotels but, except for a couple, are quite shabby.

Mid-priced hotels (USD20-50) are scattered about the city, with one set concentrated in the few blocks around Sule Pagoda and a second set just north of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Luxury hotels are concentrated around Kandawgyi Lake or city centre.

Rates for hotels are usually quoted as single/double. The room is usually the same but you pay a little extra (about USD5-10) if two people share the room. Breakfast is almost always included and the quality and variety increases with the cost of the hotel. In a budget hotel, expect a banana, an egg, some bread and coffee made from "coffee mix" (a pre-packaged mix of coffee powder, milk powder and lots of sugar).

An important factor in choosing a hotel is electricity. Electricity supply is subject to frequent breaks anywhere in the city. Mid-priced hotels usually have their own generators while budget hotels either do not or have a limited supply (lights will work till 23:00, fans may or may not work, air conditioning never does even if fitted in the room unless state-supplied electricity is available). Do ask when you book what the electricity situation is and, if there is no generator, what you can expect on the days that you are there.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

Internet cafes

Internet cafes have proliferated in recent years and Yangon has quite a few that provide access at a reasonable speed for a reasonable price. The government no longer blocks any web sites, but connections are not 100% reliable. Many hotels provide Internet services, but these tend to be more expensive than the public cafes. The cheapest rate is around MYK400 per hour. There are plenty of places so shop around and save some cash.

Post Office

Photography & Video

Stay safe

Despite widespread poverty, Yangon is one of the safest big cities in the world. Most people, including single female travellers, will not have any problems roaming the streets alone at night, and carrying large amounts of cash rarely poses a problem. Crimes against tourists are taken very seriously by the military government and punishment is often disproportionately severe. This, in addition to the strong Buddhist culture in the population, means that Yangon's crime rate is lower than the likes of Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. Violent crime is especially rare. However, little crime does not mean no crime, and there have been isolated incidents involving tourists, so it is best to take normal big city precautions like avoiding lonely areas at night and always being aware of your valuables. As with everywhere else in the world, there is no substitute for common sense.

Prostitution and drug trafficking are illegal, though there are plenty of prostitutes in Yangon, often in bars owned by senior army officers. Drug trafficking is punishable by death.

Scams

Be wary of over-friendly locals who offer to take you around or to places they are going. They may turn out to be genuine tour guides. And maybe not. It is easy to find a tour guide as they will approach you at tourist attractions. Traveling around Yangon for half a day would cost around USD5-10 while a full day trip or half a day trip to another city such as Thanlyin from Yangon costs around USD10-15.

The most common crime in Yangon is being short-changed by a money changer, so count your kyat carefully when you exchange money. Opt to exchange at the Bogyoke Market, where the rates may be slightly worse, but the jewellery shop owners won't rip you off. Do not fall for the "bad serial number" excuse, it's another attempt to con you (only "CB" serial numbers are bad). Be especially careful with the money changer around Sule Paya. They count the money right in front of you, but will trick you while doing that (they have fast hands!). Travellers are strongly advised not to change money there.

There are a multitude of fake monks along the street near Sule-Shangri La Hotel (formally Traders) and Bogyoke Market. Authentic monks do not hang around tourist attractions soliciting donations.

Stay Healthy

Healthcare

Tuberculosis and AIDS (known as "A-I-D Five" among locals) afflict a disproportionately high percentage of the people. However, HIV infection is not at the epidemic level (infection rates are much less than 1%). There is a risk of dengue fever. Malaria is a risk in rural areas.

Medical care is limited, but is most expedient at private medical clinics. Government hospitals are usually unreliable and require bribes. Do not seek medical care at the General Hospital (on Bogyoke Aung San Rd, sandwiched between Bo Ywe St and Lanmadaw St). It is unsanitary and inefficient. Most guesthouses and hotels will be able to provide you with the address of a private doctor with experience in treating foreigners. Be sure to take the proper vaccinations before you leave for your trip. Carry a small first-aid kit with you containing at least painkillers, band-aid, ORS and a loperamide-like medicine. Anti-malarial pills and DEET are recommended.

Cope

Embassies

In the event of an emergency, always take the precaution of registering at your embassy.

Go next

Allied War Cemetery and Memorial, Taukkyan

Buses


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 28, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.