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Myanmar Travel Tips


What's happening in Myanmar?

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"President has stopped the billion dollar dam and electricity joint project with China at the source of Ayeyarwaddy river to protect the environment and to observe the will of the people," reports an another.

Myanmar people have started to see the real change that they have never experienced in their life time. Even Aung Sun Suu Kyi is hopeful that the country is heading in the right direction for full democracy and freedom. Media is allowed to report parliamentary proceedings which openly discuss issues that really matter to the people and the country. Surprisingly, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Burmese correspondent Ko Cho was among the journalists to interview the members of the parliament in Naypyidaw. Harsh slogans and seething articles about BBC and Voice of America in government run newspaper such as Kyay Mone (The Mirror) have all but disappeared.

Myanmar people can now access several websites previously banned. Yes, that includes BBC. The buzz words these days are "clean government" and "open dialogue." We are seeing a brave new government who said in the parliament to take the criticism of the people and the media. The president has welcoming back message to Myanmar nationals abroad who have left the country for various reasons to take part in national reconciliation and rebuilding the country. The countries in South East Asia once our equal or below in developments have overtaken us, he said.

Foreign ownership of businesses and land may be possible in the near future. Big foreign corporations such as Mitsubishi Corporation have started to explore the investment opportunities. The land is abundant here, and the labor cost is inexpensive.

And to add on to the positive developments here, on the Buddhist religious holiday called "Thading Tude" which falls on October 12th, 2011, there came a much anticipated event-- release of hundreds of political prisoners including the comedian Zargana and former monks now stripped off their robes. Release of all politcal prisoners is a necessary condition to end the Western sanctions. Not all has been released yet, but we expect more good things to come. We have never encountered such an abundance of good news coming out with such fervor during a short burst of time in a country where time seems to stand still and the story of progress has always been told in slow motion for the last 50 years or so.

What's more? Starting October 1st, 2011, a group of six non-government commercial banks have started to open counter for foreign currency exchange in the US dollar, euro and Singapore dollars. This is a good time for investors to rush in to get a head start and grab the opportunities, and for tourists and travelers to witness history in the making in this country rich in natural resources and diverse in culture.

(Updated: October 27, 2011)

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Money and Valuables

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In 2009, 1 US dollar was worth more than 1,000 Kyat, but Myanmar Kyat has strengthened against other currencies such as US dollar, Chinese Yuan, and Thai Baht. In August 2011, 1 US dollar went down to below 700 Kyat, but in early September, the dollar has recovered to between 772 and 778. The dollar than climbed up to as far as 825 kyats only to went down again to 813 kyat as of October 17, 2011. For the first few months of 2012, the rate fluctuates around 750 kyats to a dollar.

1,000 Kyat notes are most commonly used in shopping and in local restaurants. Coins with smaller values are worthless and are no longer used. In fact, the colloquial Burmese word "akyway" for coins has evolved, and it now refers to 200, 100, 50, kyats.

100 dollar bills are the most convenient to bring in and you will also get a slightly better rate when exchanging into local kyat. Also bring some smaller notes such as $20, $10, $5 and $1 to be used in hotel services, and for entrance fees. (Note: Most of our Tour packages for your Myanmar Travel will cover entrance fees for your sightseeing trips. Also, if you need an emergency cash, and have a PayPal account, we can work something out.)

Check your $100 bills and make sure that they don't start with the serial number "CB", which is widely considered as counterfeit. In addition, the older versions of dollar bills issued prior to 1991 with the so-called "small heads" of the presidents will not be accepted.

Please take note that government-issued Foreign Exchange Currency (FEC) will be gradually phased out and as of mid October 2011, some smaller hotels no longer accept FEC as payment.

As in any other countries, use common sense with your valuables. Make photo copies of the air tickets, visa, and personal particular pages of your passport. Keep the copies separately.

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William Phyo Sumar jonathan
“Our tips are often updated. Please visit again to check out the latest happenings in Myanmar.”
-- Asia Pearl Travels back in 2012 --