How Much Did We Spend in Myanmar?

August 20, 2013 — 12 Comments

Myanmar Spending Summary

Overall score (Dan) = C
Overall score (Jocelyn) = C

Total days = 6 nights, 7 days
Total cost = $1,182
Cost per day = $169 / day
Flight costs = $450 R/T from Bangkok
Cities visited: Yangon, Inle Lake, Bagan

Summary

Myanmar or Burma; regardless of the name, it’s a place I never thought I’d visit. In fact, if we traveled three years ago (before 2010) we wouldn’t have been able to visit because the military regime had the country closed down. Now they’re embracing the outside world while trying to hold on to their history and culture – which unfortunately includes massive amounts of corruption, cronyism, and a general non-chalante attitude towards the welfare of its own citizens.

All of the bad is easily forgotten when you spend some time with the people. Maybe it’s because they haven’t had enough time to get sick of tourists, but they were incredibly nice and loved talked to us. For most of them, they’ll never be able to leave their own country, so the only way they get outside is to experience other countries through tourists.

Thanaka on boy's faces in Myanmar

They use a powder concoction on their faces to protect from sunburn

How far does your money go in Myanmar?

Although the country and most of the people are incredibly poor, Myanmar is an expensive place to visit due to the lack of tourist infrastructure. That’s why we spent more there per day than we did in any other country in Southeast Asia. Because of this, most of the tourists are older since many backpackers can’t afford it.

Myanmar’s currency is the Kyatt (sounds like Jet) and $1 US dollar equals approximately 970 Kyatt. Since there aren’t international ATMs there yet (but coming soon), it’s best to bring US cash and exchange at the airport or better yet, at one of the many money changers in town.

Spending details

I’ll include the full spending details on the bottom of the post; here are our per day spending highlights:

Transportation = $94 / day
Lodging = $41 / day
Excursion = $18 / day
Food = $8.6 / day

Total hotel points used = One free night in Yangon on Agoda.com points

The Good

As mentioned earlier, one of Myanmar’s best assets is its people. However, the sites of Myanmar comes in a close second. From the 1,000 year old temples in Bagan to the unique inhabitants of Inle Lake, each new city offered up its own modern marvels.

Bagan, Myanmar

The horse cart is one of the most popular ways to get around Bagan

leg rower, Lake Inle, Myanmar

The fishermen at Inle Lake row the boat by wrapping their foot around the paddle and paddling with their leg!

Bagan is one of the places I’ve been most excited to visit on our entire trip – even though I had never even heard of it before we left on our trip! We talked to a traveler in Moorea who visited before the military cracked down on the country 25 years ago and he said it was one of the most amazing things he’d seen in his vast travels of the world. It didn’t disappoint. The desert landscape is covered with temples – including original temples, restored temples, and new temples they’re still building. There’s an estimated 4,000 temples throughout the landscape from very small temples the size of a shed to massive temples that rival some of the world’s best. The inside of the temples are filled with Buddhas and 18th century frescoes, but they’re empty of tourists. Our favorite thing was to find a abandoned temple to rest in while the breeze blew through the windows. The temples must have been designed with this in mind as it made a 95 degree day quite tolerable.

Bagan temples, Myanmar

Hanging out in one of the beautiful Bagan temples

Although the military crackdown was incredibly hard on the people, the one thing it did do was preserve the culture. As they didn’t have any access to the outside world, they’re what most of the SE Asian countries were 25 years ago. We felt like we were just watching as they continued to do the things they’ve done for centuries – not yet giving it all up for tourism like many other countries have – and what Myanmar will probably someday do.

Rotating market, Lake Inle, Myanmar

One of the locals selling her goods (coffee beans) at the market

The Bad

We only flew between the various cities which increased our overall expenses and why we averaged $94 per day on transportation. There are other options available – both train and bus – but the safety standards may not quite be up to par, and we didn’t have much time to waste. The safest option was to fly the airlines which unfortunately are owned by the government or its cronies which supports the “regime” that is still pretty rough on its people. Most of the money is concentrated in the hands of corrupt people and the challenge is to patronize businesses where weren’t included in that. For us, it was easy because we stayed in cheaper places, but for people staying in the nicest hotels, you can almost guarantee they’ll be government owned.

Taxis were also required to get around and added up – especially at Lake Inle where we had to pay $30 each way – much more than we were used to paying across SE Asia.

The Ugly

People love to talk about how “authentic” places are and they want to visit them before tourists overrun them – even though they’re the very tourists who are overrunning them! Sure this is great, but what it really means is the place is probably pretty underdeveloped for tourists. This explains why we spent more in Myanmar than any other country, and why our hotels weren’t up to par with the others! We stayed at some pretty rough places where dirty linens, smelly water, and bad breakfast was the norm. In fact, we got food poisoning at Lake Inle which made the rest of the Bagan trip pretty rough. However, it sure was authentic!

In conclusion, we’re so fortunate to have visited Myanmar and to have seen what the country is before its overrun by people like us. The wheels of progress are already turning and money is pouring into the big cities like Yangon as they renovate the dilapidated buildings built by the British in the last century. The people were still excited about the Obama visit months before and the US efforts to help clean up corruption. It will hopefully mean a better life for the Burmese people instead of only enriching the cronies.

Next up: India

Rotating market, Lake Inle, Myanmar

A beautiful scene at Lake Inle, Myanmar

Sunset over Bagan, Myanmar

The sun setting over the temples in Bagan, Myanmar

View of temples in Bagan, Myanmar

An afternoon shot of the many temples in Bagan, Myanmar

How much land does a man need - Tolstoy

Myanmar struggling with their destinies…

How Much Did We Spend in Myanmar?

A man prays to the sun in Yangon, Myanmar

Lake Inle, Myanmar

A local fisherman at Lake Inle, Myanmar

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12 responses to How Much Did We Spend in Myanmar?

  1. My brother had traveled there on business and says pretty much the same thing. Doing business there is difficult because of the very issues you mentioned. Can’t wait to hear about India.

    • Oh wow, I bet he has some interesting stories from his travels to Myanmar. They’ve had a corrupt system for so long that it seems like it’ll be hard to change.

  2. Isn’t it funny that one of the most expensive places you have visited ended up having the least amenities?

  3. As always, beautiful photos and you convey a great sense of place both in text and with images. Myanmar might not be the most tourist friendly place on the planet, but just think how lucky you are to have experienced it.

  4. I can’t believe that in all this time that you have been traveling you ended up with food poisoning this time. So sorry… I have had food poisoning so I know it’s no fun. Glad you are OK. Looking forward to the photos from the next country you visit. 🙂

    • Oh yes, it was one of those rough ones too… I think we narrowed it down to the french fries we ordered at a restaurant which we thought was the safe option! I think the grease was bad though

  5. If you are using this book to budget for your trip, keep in mind that accommodation rates have increased. Prices for all but of the guesthouses where they stayed were 10-50% higher than what is listed in the guide. Also, it is no longer advisable to exchange funds on the black market, as the book suggests. Lots of fellow travelers fell victim to scams when doing so. Exchange in established banks, which now give comparable rates.

    Having returned from three weeks of travel through Burma, with the Dec 2011 LP as our guide, my fella & I were disappointed with this book. It appeared like a rush job – maps were incorrect & poorly labelled, sections ( “Around Hpa-An, p108) were poorly edited & confusing, the text is not without its typos, rates & advice on exchanging funds were obsolete (though this is forgivable given how quickly things are changing in Burma), train & bus times were incorrect (also forgivable).

  6. Loved your photos and I didn’t know about the country’s antiquities. Not likely that I’ll get to Myanmar, but I’ve sent your post to a friend who is a world traveler and loves taking on new adventures like going to the North Pole last winter in a Russian nuclear ice breaker. She’s not bothered by inconvenience. Me, I love all the comforts of home!

    • Wow, she sounds way more extreme than us! We’ve learned the tourist trail isn’t such a bad thing because it usually means nicer accommodations and safer food… it’s rough when you get off the beaten path!

  7. Thanks, it’s a beautiful place!

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