Have you seen my photographs of Myanmar? I received a lot of questions about the Golden Land when I posted my photos on Instagram. I thought it would be best to leave it to the “Ambassador of Burma” to answer some of your Myanmar travel questions. Sammy Samuels of Myanmar Shalom, a travel company in Myanmar, answers 16 of your questions about Myanmar.
What is Myanmar like?
When Rudyard Kipling visited Burma a hundred years ago, he described it as “quite unlike any land you know about”. In the ensuing century little has changed, making it one of the few remaining places on Earth that can truly bring you back in time and experience to the Asia of old. It is a country where the people still adhere to age-old traditions and customs. Nowhere in Asia will you find a more mystical and exciting place to explore.
What’s your favourite part of the country?
Every destination in Myanmar is unique. The scattered temples in Bagan, the ancient capitals that surround Mandalay, the unique “leg rowing” fishermen of Inle Lake and colonial heritage of Yangon are all must-see destinations.
What do you think is the one thing every traveller should experience while in Myanmar?
I would suggest spending at least 9 days to visit 4 major destinations in Myanmar. If you don’t have enough time, Bagan or Inle Lake would be a unique experience.
What would you recommend for a one-week itinerary?
For one week programme: we have 7 days in 4 cities that will cover all major sites. If you think it’s too rushed, we can skip Mandalay and do 7 days in 3 cities.
If travellers have another week, what else would you add onto the one-week itinerary?
If travellers have another week, we normally add Ngapali Beach and off-the-beaten-path places like trekking from Kalaw to Inle, the Kayah state area or the lost city of Mrauk U. Not many tourists in those areas.
What are inter-city buses like? How are the road conditions?
Buses are nice and comfortable, and road conditions to all major destinations are good. But the only issue is time. The Yangon to Bagan bus takes about 11 hours but it takes only 1 hour if you fly.
Can you stretch out and sleep on the overnight buses?
You can’t stretch out but we normally suggest buying two tickets so that you will have one row for yourself instead of sharing with another person next to you.
What are the domestic carriers like? Which airline is the best, in your opinion?
Domestic flights are reliable and have good safety records. Air KBZ is getting popular as it has many different flight schedules – now newly privatised airline FMI Air is also good and provide premium services such as access to airport lounges in some destinations.
When is the best time of the year to travel to Myanmar?
The best time to travel to Myanmar is October to March. The weather is much cooler and it isn’t so rainy during those months.
What is the time of the year to avoid, if any?
April to May is too hot and June to September is rainy season. But the good news is from April to September, the cost for hotels and flights are less expensive. So if you are concerned about budget, those months are good to travel around Myanmar as well.
Is Myanmar an expensive country to visit?
Compared with neighbouring countries: Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, Myanmar is an expensive country. The country has been closed for a long time and it has only opened up to tourism since 2012. There is high demand and low supply. That is why hotel rates and domestic flights are more expensive than other neighbouring countries.
Please could you give an idea of how much a low-budget, mid-range and luxury traveller might expect to spend per day?
A low-budget guided tour costs around USD 80 per person per day, mid-range USD 100 and luxury traveller around USD 150-200.
Many travellers want to travel responsibly. How does Myanmar Shalom contribute to responsible tourism?
In 2016 we helped build a village school in northern Myanmar near a popular tourist destination. We aim to involve communities in the wealth that tourism brings. Children from poor families are often found in tourist areas begging or selling flowers and souvenirs. By providing opportunities for parents and communities, we can keep children off the streets and reduce the risk of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. We work together with organisations trying to educate children and people in rural areas about the risks of human trafficking so Myanmar does not become yet another destination for sex tourism in Southeast Asia.
Is it safe to travel around Myanmar?
It’s very safe to travel around Myanmar and people are friendly and willing to help.
Is it easy for women to travel around Myanmar alone?
We have many women travellers asking this question.It’s easy and safe for women to travel around Myanmar alone.
What are the best things to do in Myanmar with the younger travellers?
For younger travellers, it’s fun to do a bike tour in Bagan, trekking around Kalaw-Inle Lake area, trying local street food, and we also have many beautiful beaches.
A graduate of Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business in New York City, Sammy Samuels has promoted his country, Myanmar, to all who knows him. That is why some of his friends and colleagues call him the “Ambassador of Burma.” He splits his time between New York and Yangon but since Myanmar has opened its door to tourism, he is spending more of his time in Yangon. Sammy has assisted many holidaymakers in designing and arranging their trips to Myanmar. Through Myanmar Shalom, he is introducing more tourists to his amazing country. Sammy is also the leader of the small Jewish community in Myanmar.
Thank you, Sammy, for answering these Myanmar travel questions!
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*This post was sponsored by Myanmar Shalom.