All visitors to Southeast Asia must be in possession of a valid passport, with at least 6 months unexpired validity from the date of your departure from the area. A visa or visa on arrival (VOA) must be obtained before entering Myanmar. Although VeloAsia may facilitate the securing of visas, it is ultimately the responsibility of each individual traveler to ensure that they are in possession of any necessary and valid visa and/or documentation and VeloAsia assumes no responsibility for the consequences of any failure to comply.
When traveling in a developing country, preparation is our hedge against unexpected but common issues that may arise during a trip. Enclosed in your pre-tour packet is our tour guide, a booklet which provides useful information about Myanmar and your tour, please read this and other enclosed documentation carefully to prepare for your trip. Despite careful preparation and planning, please be prepared for events which may change plans.
Myanmar remains one of the few countries in Asia still using paper, not electronic tickets. If you have domestic air travel with us, your air tickets will be given to you by our staff, who will be at the airport in Yangon on the day of your arrival to join VeloAsia.
Due to airline restrictions luggage is limited to a weight of 20 Kilograms per person. Your passport, travel documents, jewelry, money, camera, fragile items and any medication should be hand-carried and not checked in. On domestic flights, each passenger is allowed one piece of hand luggage. When planning your packing, please bear in mind that on your trip you may be constantly on the go, staying in a new hotel at least every other day and you'll want to pack lightly for mobility and convenience as well as have a day pack for your van. Please remember to retain your travel documents and any hand baggage.
Transport and Travel
Some road conditions in Myanmar are still quite poor and travelling by car, bus, and bike can be bumpy. Most available cars and coaches are quite old and therefore not in perfect condition, however rest assured we will always do our utmost to arrange cars or buses of the best possible local quality available for your transfers and tours.
Health and Medical
Malaria occurs throughout Myanmar, though is rare in the typical places we travel. Please research and take appropriate measures. While no immunizations are formally required, malaria prophylaxis is often recommended. As well as typhoid, hepatitis, tetanus and Japanese encephalitis vaccinations. Drink only bottled or boiled water and food should not be purchased from sidewalk vendors. Insect repellent should be brought, especially up-country and in wooded areas. Recent news articles have mentioned a general increase in Dengue fever risk in SE. Asian countries. All travelers are required to have medical-evacuation insurance. Hospitals in Myanmar are inadequate for advanced medical care. Although a few private clinics may provide emergency care, in the event of serious illness or injury, medical evacuation to Bangkok or Singapore will be recommended.
Todd Hanson has also lead our Turkey and Vietnam tours, but Myanmar is his first love and has lead our tours there for over a decade (the latter which are his clear favorite).
A Seattle native and U.C. Berkeley graduate in English Literature, Todd compliments our tours with a rich background of readings about our destinations.
Plan to bring enough US cash for your trip (in mint-condition bills), there are no ATM machines, credit cards are not widely accepted, and foreign currencies (other than US dollars) and travellers cheques are not accepted in Myanmar. If you intend shopping for souvenirs, you will need to ensure that you are carrying sufficient US Dollars in small denomination notes that are in mint condition.
Only payment for extra charges in larger hotels may be made by Visa and MasterCard. Payment for extra charges at the Governors Residence may be made by Visa or MasterCard (Note: American Express is not accepted in Myanmar nor much of Asia). On tour your expenses will be limited to visa on arrival fees (US$25), some meals, souvenirs, airline departure fees, and gratuities (about $20-50 per day for your guide, about half that for your driver).
Myanmar currency is known as the 'kyat' (pronounced 'chaat'). The market rate was about 900 to one USD as of July 2012. Dollars may be changed into kyat at the local market rate at airports. Major hotels and a few restaurants will charge in USD but most other expenses in Myanmar will be in kyats.
Telecommunications & Internet
Your mobile phone will not work in Myanmar. An inexpensive, international handset may be rented at an airport kiosk in Yangon upon arrival. The rental service, Yadanarpon Teleport, is located within the airport terminal where mobile phones with international capability may now be rented as well as GSM SIM cards* for your own handset (note that you may not currently use international roaming in Myanmar). Current rental rates from this vendor as of September, 2011 are $4/day for phone and $2/day for domestic SIM card, in additional to pre-paid cards from US$12 to $50 for international. Coverage is quite good along the "classic" route (not remote areas).
Internet is widely available at hotels with decent bandwidth, but is unreliable in remote areas. Please plan accordingly.
Electricity in Yangon and most of Myanmar is 220-230V. Electric power sockets come in varieties, including two round pins, English three-prong and round three-prong with dual US style outlets. Your Kindle, iPad, camera, laptop or other device should automatically accept 220v, but check your adapter's fine print. Sporadic power outages are common, but most hotels have generator backup.
What to Wear
Light clothing is adequate for Yangon and most low land tourist areas. High elevations around Inle Lake may reach near freezing at night during the 'winter' season but is usually pleasant during the day. Travelers should bring appropriate cold weather clothing. Revealing clothing is not welcome in this conservative and largely Buddhist culture. When visiting religious shrines and temples, modest dress is required and easily removable footwear is recommended since such sacred grounds must be visited only in bare feet (no socks). A sarong is handy for covering up before entering religious sites. Bring a hat and sunglasses, and umbrella for rainy season.
What to expect
This is not a luxury tour, as Myanmar remains an undevloped destination, but hopefully why you have come — for an authentic, deep cultural experience in a country closed off to the world for decades. You will be very safe, always looked after, and expect wonderful service, comfortable and a typically pleasant if not exceptional trip. However, Myanmar remains a primitive, undeveloped country with the inconveniences are random issues that arise with travel in such places.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Myanmar safe for travel?
Absolutely. Our past travelers always cite how warm and friendly the Burmese are one of their strongest impressions. Past tragic events associated with political unrest have been largely centered in Yangon and have never affected travelers. Almost all of our travel is in remote areas in the central part of the country, places tourists have visited for decades without any issues. Rather, almost every traveler on our Myanmar tours has been struck how tranquil the country is and how warm and gracious the Burmese are to visitors and whose hospitality we've been enjoying since 1999. We'd be happy to put you in contact with our past travelers for their impressions.
What is the weather like?
Daytime temperatures can reach the high 70s between September through December. In January through April, temperatures steadily climb and at lower elevations we can expect 80 to 90s F. Higher elevations like Kalaw Highlands and Inle Lake located at nearly 1,000 meters are temperate and cooler this time of year.
What are the daily rides like?
This is a moderately challenging ride with rolling hills, medium distances on poor condition roads with low traffic. There are no major passes and our support vehicles allow you to ride as much or as little as you would like. See the detailed itinerary for specific daily ride distance and elevation information. of course, as private tour you may ride as little or as much as you would like.
What are the options for a non-rider travel companion?
Our Myanmar trips are best suitable for non-cycling companions who do not mind a slow, leapfrogging van ride across the central region. If a non-rider wants to accompany a rider guest on this trip, they would need to spend many hours in the van but the support vehicle does stop every 10-15 kilometers allowing access to local villages and sites (where few other travelers venture). Photography opportunities are excellent throughout.
You will be moved by the wonderful people you meet along the way, many who live in poverty. It may be hard not to feel compelled to give something, but think about doing so will change the dynamic of your people encounters and those who follow you. If you do feel compelled to give, we recommend pens, simple to carry with you, useful and beyond the budget of most families. We never encourage giving money, candy or the like. For giving before or after your trip, we recommend these charities.
Good book to Pack?
We'll send you a reading list, but start with this one and there are two others below. Our tour begins in Inle, home to the Padaung ("long-necks") and one of our favorite reads is From the Land of Green Ghosts, written by a Pascal Khoo Thwe, born into a Padaung tribe who's life's odyssey lead him to a graduating college in England.
Pascal does provides a concise history of Myanmar in his book, for a comprehensive and contemporary book, the standout is The River of Lost Footsteps by Thant Myint-U, which like Pascal's book details a vivid personal history. The classic colonial-era read is Burmese Days by George Orwell, the "Quiet American" for Myanmar. Orwell spent five years in Myanmar working as a policeman for the British government.
Please call our reservations office in San Francisco at (415) 731-4377 or email firstname.lastname@example.org