How to get a Burmese visa: it is done online
For a few years, Myanmar has been using one online procedure for applying for a tourist visa which allows it to be obtained at the international airports of the country (Yangon, Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw) and, starting from 1 September 2016, also at three border crossings with Thailand (Tachileik, Myawaddy, Kawthaung). The online visa application portal is this: www.evisa.moip.gov.mm The procedure allows you to apply online for a tourist visa with a maximum duration of 28 days and with single entry, upon payment of the visa by credit card. After the payment, the relative receipt is sent via email, which is essential for obtaining a visa.
Getting around: internal flights
Unfortunately I only had 11 days to visit it (the classic Christmas holidays) and I had to make a choice (which is also why I will definitely return!). After a careful study of the guide, I selected the capital Yangoon (you land there), Inle Lake and of course Bagan. It is not possible to enter Burma with direct flights from Europe, it is necessary to pass through Thailand (with consequent loss of time!). Having so few days I opted for internal flights; the roads are in a bad state and it takes more days available. Note that internal flights are like buses, they make intermediate stops! To make 3 internal routes we landed and left at least 10 times .. if you are afraid of the plane (especially small planes like myself) lose a few years of life !! THE internal flights they can be bought online on the Air Mandalay website. In reality, you cannot pay from the site, so you communicate by email with the company and pay and collect your tickets from a representative when you land in Yangoon. Flights cost between 90 and 130 euros each way (2015 prices).
vaccinations: there are no vaccinations to do to go to Burma, even if they tend to tell you the opposite !!!
When traveling to Burma you have to leave with all the money in cash, more specifically in dollars, and it is really important (as it is written on all guides) to have dollars in excellent condition, not folded, otherwise they are not accepted !! There are no ATMs, only exchange offices (regular or abusive).
Health insurance is required
In Burma our health coverage is not valid. My advice is to always take a classic medical-luggage insurance that can cover you during the trip. I am very happy with many insurance companies, a site that compares the policies of different companies and proposes the most convenient policy for that particular trip. To do this you will have to enter the data relating to your trip (country, duration, etc.) and they will send you an email with the best proposal that you can then buy directly online.
Connectivity (phone and wifi)
The cell phone didn't work when I was there, but now they say yes. The wi is found in hotels, but the network is quite unstable. It's a perfect holiday for a little detox from mobile and social!
When to go to Burma
the best time to go to Burma is winter. In December there are 25/30 degrees and the sky is clear. Only on Inle Lake are temperatures lower and in the evening they can reach 10 degrees. It is highly not recommended to go there in the summer! There are monsoons and it rains a lot.
How much is spent
Like many Asian countries, Burma is a very cheap country for Europeans. Less than 50 euros per day are spent
NOTE: A nice thing to do if you have more days is to move from Bagan to Mandalay by sailing on the river. Depending on the boat you take, it can take 11h or 2 days (you make an intermediate stop to sleep), but it could be worth it.
Burma: 12 days itinerary
- Day 1: Milan-Bangkok-Yangoon flight
- Day 2: visit of Yangoon
- Day 3: Flight to Inle Lake and tour of the village
- Day 4: trekking
- Day 5: trekking
- Day 6: boat trip on the lake
- Day 7: visit to Pindaya + flight to Bagan
- Day 8: Bagan
- Day 9: Bagan
- Day 10: Bagan
- Day 11: Bagan- Yangoon- Bangkok flight
- Day 12: return flight to Milan
Where to sleep in Burma
- Mother Land Inn (2) (Yangoon) is a backpackers hostel with private rooms. Nice situation. You can also have lunch and dinner. Book in advance!
- Remember Inn Hotel (Inle lake) is a very comfortable and nice hotel with a garden and roof terrace. Great breakfast. They organize trips on the lake and trekking
- Bagan Thande Hotel (Old Bagan) The most convenient area for visiting the main temples. Opened in 1922 this colonial riverside hotel is truly beautiful, with large rooms, swimming pool and magnificent views. You have breakfast / lunch / dinner in the shade of a huge tree overlooking the river. By booking in advance you get good prices (about 60/70 euros for a double with breakfast). It is possible to book the balloon trip and / or the river trip and rent the bikes.
- Ostello Bello Bagan (New Bagan) This hostel opened a few years ago as a branch of the first and most famous Ostello Bello in Milan and has already become an institution. If you want to spend little money and stay in the center of Bagan this is the perfect option.
Where to eat
- The French Touch (Inle lake) is a patisserie / bakery with wi and nice environment
- Bagan Thande Hotel (Old Bagan) The restaurant overlooking the river is nice and good.
What to see in Burma
The city itself is quite insignificant. But the Shwedagon Paya alone is worth the trip to Burma. It is the most important religious monument in the country and is of extraordinary beauty. It is truly large compared to most temples in Southeast Asia and has a strong visual and emotional impact. It is worth going there both in the morning and at sunset, when the sun illuminates the pagodas with incredible light and all the people gather there to pray. It is a unique experience that leaves you speechless.
Inle lake is very large and suggestive (it is more than 20 km long), it is animated by floating villages, markets, stupas and pagodas. To visit it, we base ourselves in the (cute and lively!) Village of Nyaung Shwe and from there we set off for trekking to Kalaw and to explore the lake by boat. We did a 2 day trek in the mountains above the village and it was a very nice experience because we were able to sleep in a house / stilt house in a village hosted by a local family. In these villages we live as in the 800th century, without electricity, without water in the house and without heating, we cook with fire and we live on agriculture and livestock, something that seems light years away from our way of life. Yet these people seem very happy, probably more than us who have everything and we always manage to complain. I think that these experiences, albeit limited in time, are essential to make us reset the scale of values from time to time. As long as we are in our country, in our comfort zone, it is difficult to realize that we can live better with much less. The lake is also gorgeous! You can take trips of varying duration depending on the time you have (you can negotiate the price and duration directly with the boats on the docks).
From Inle we then went to visit the rock pagoda of Pindaya with its 9000 golden buddhas.
Is a dream! An endless expanse of temples (over 3000!) On the bank of the Ayeyarwady River. It made me relive the same emotions I felt when I went to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It takes at least 2/3 days to visit it well, in peace, fully enjoying its wonder. I recommend that you rent bikes and explore the plain by cycling between the temples.
The sunrises and sunsets are absolutely NOT TO BE MISSED !!! We lurk on the highest temples and enjoy. At dawn, in addition to the wonder of the rising sun, there are also 10 hot air balloons that depart from New Bagan and pass over the temples creating an absolutely breathtaking postcard view. In Bagan I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises of my entire life. In between temples, stop at the village of Myinkaba where they produce lacquer and you can see the enormous craftsmanship behind it. A boat trip on the river at sunset is also worthwhile.
Balloons over Bagan (Balloons over Bagan) costs $ 300 per person and must be booked at least 1 day in advance. We didn't, but it might be worth it, it's a unique experience.