Yangon

Travel Guide Asia Myanmar Yangon Division Yangon

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Introduction

Myanmar

Myanmar

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Myanmar's capital until 2005, Yangon is still one of the country's main hubs and likely to be your point of entry if you are planning a trip to Myanmar. Some of the most authentic British colonial architecture in the region is found in the city, and the combination with newer high-rise gives the city a unique feel.

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Sights and Activities

Shwedagon Paya

Shwedagon Paya (A taxi from city centre costs MMK2,500-3,000. Taxis are available for the return trip at the bottom of the main entrance. Can also take bus 204, MMK100. Catch this on Shwe Dagon Pagoda Rd across from the public toilets just as you cross the overpass. From China Town it's a 30min walk). Daily, 06:30-22:00. The pagoda opens at 05:00 but, technically, tourists are not allowed in till 06:30. The Shwedagon Pagoda or Paya is the single most important religious site in all of Myanmar. The pagoda stands on the top of Singuttara Hill, and, according to legend, that spot has been sacred since the beginning of time, just before our present world was created. At that time, five lotus buds popped up on the hill, each bud signifying the five Buddhas who would appear in the world and guide it to Nirvana. Gautama, the Buddha as we know him, is the fourth of these five (Maitreya, the fifth, will announce the end of the world with his appearance) and, according to the legend, two brothers brought eight hairs of the Buddha to be enshrined in this sacred location, inaugurating the Shwedagon Pagoda. Whatever the truth of the legend, verifiable history records a pagoda at the site since the 6th century CE. Built and rebuilt, gilded and regilded, almost nothing in the pagoda is likely to be old, except whatever is hidden deep inside the stupa. An earthquake (18th century) destroyed the upper half of the pagoda spire and many buildings. Burmese Buddhists are inherently practical people who constantly build and rebuild pagodas for merit. 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.

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Weather

Yangon has a hot and humid tropical climate. Temperatures are well above 30 °C during the day and mostly around 20 °C at night. Temperatures from mid March to May can reach 40 °C making this time rather unpleasant for visiting the city. This time is often called the hot dry season. From June to October is rainy season. There is massive amounts of rainfall this time of year. The best time to visit is during the cool dry season which is December to February. During this period there is still warm and pleasant weather with pleasant nights around 18 °C. It usually is dry and rather sunny during these months.

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Getting There

By Plane

Yangon International Airport (RGN) is where most travellers start their trip in Myanmar. It has good connections in the region but does not have direct flights from North America or Australia, but a few direct flights from Milan in Europe.

Myanmar Airways International, the international airline of Myanmar, flies to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. While they do not operate any aircraft, they are on code share with Jetstar Asia, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Thai Airways. The Bangkok-Yangon route, the most commonly used one, is serviced by Thai Airways and AirAsia.

Other international airlines flying into this airport include Air India, Air Bagan, Air China, Air Mandalay, Bangkok Airways, China Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hong Kong Express Airways, Singapore Airlines and Vietnam Airlines.

Domestically, Air Bagan, Air Mandalay and Yangon Airways all offer flights between Yangon and Mandalay, Bagain and Heho (for lake Inle) as well as flying to more remote places like Sittwe at the west coast, Kawthoung in the south (for onward travel to and from Thailand) and Kengtung (also for onward travel to and from Thailand).

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 Bus

There is heavy competition on the Mandalay route with air conditioned fares ranging from MMK10,500 (Mandalar Minn, E lite) to MMK18,000 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 MMK15,000. At the stadium, you can get bus tickets for MMK13,000 (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 MMK1,000. A taxi will cost around MMK6,000.

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).

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Getting Around

By Car

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. 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, MMK6,000-8,000; city centre to Shwedagon Pagoda, MMK2,500-3,000; city centre to Pazundaung Township, MMK2,500; city centre to Aung San Suu Kyi's house, MMK3,000; city centre to Kandawgyi Lake area, MMK3,000; city centre to Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal, MMK5,000-6,000; city centre to Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal, MMK4,000. 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 (MMK3,000) 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 MMK1,500 even for short trips. It seems like meters are never used, even when present.

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 MMK500-1000 for a short ten min ride, while a little more than a local would pay, is appropriate.

By Public Transport

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.

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

By 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 Anawratha 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.

By Bike

Motorbikes and bicycles are not permitted within Yangon (although they are permitted elsewhere in the country).

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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.

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 MMK500-2,000.

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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 accessed by local people.

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 houses 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 are eager to talk with foreigners. When choosing beery brand 'The Dagon Red' beer has fine and great value.

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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 money. You'll need a taxi 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 taxi 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. 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.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet is now widely and cheaply available in Yangon, Mandalay, and Bagan, but more limited elsewhere. However access can be slow although now unrestricted. Rates are around 300 kyat/hour in Yangon and 1,000-3,000 kyat/hour elsewhere. Some hotels, although rare, allow free access to the internet.
The government records screenshots every five minutes from PCs in Internet cafés to monitor Internet usage. If you don't want your privacy violated in this way, save your surfing for Thailand or wherever you head next.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Myanmar's country code is 95.

International phone calls can be arranged at the Central Telephone & Telegraph Office at the corner of Ponsodan and Mahabandoola Streets in Yangon. International Direct Dial calls are also possible from most hotels and at many public call offices (often a phone in a shop), but they are expensive, e.g., a call to the US costs USD6–7 per min.

The MPTGSM mobile phone network is provided by the Myanmar Government's Post and Telecommunication agency. This works on the GSM900 band, so is visible to multi-band GSM phones. Roaming is available onto MPT's GSM 900 network, subject to agreements between operators; check with your operator before you leave to be sure. Unfortunately, MPT only has international roaming agreements with operators from a limited number countries and territories. Nevertheless, if your own mobile telephone can detect the MPT GSM network, then you may be able to buy a USD20 SIM card which will work for 28 days.

As of October 2014, Telenor and Ooredoo, two international companies, have entered the market. Sim cards are cheap and widely available (1500 kyats for a Telenor sim). Nevertheless, connectivity can still be limited to urban centres, Yangon and Mandalay in particular. Telenor seems to have a better connection and plans to improve nets massively in the next years. Although MPT has the widest coverage, it is also the most expensive.

Post

International mail out of Myanmar is reportedly quite efficient, despite what some hotels might tell you.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 16.80389
  • Longitude: 96.154694

Accommodation in Yangon

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Yangon searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

Elsewhere online

Trip101 provides a handy list of things to do in Yangon.

Contributors

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This is version 32. Last edited at 12:40 on Jun 28, 17 by Utrecht. 16 articles link to this page.

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