Language: The official language is Burmese.
Currency: Myanma Kyat
Time Zone: Myanmar Time = GMT+6.30
Tipping: Tipping is not customary in Burma, however it is common.
Burma - an Introduction
In 1898 Rudyard Kipling wrote of Burma 'It is unlike any land you know about', and not much has changed more than 100 years later. Still largely undiscovered, tourism here is slowly picking up but there is very little of the western world. Burma's location between Asia and the Far East gives the country a curious cross between Indian and Chinese culture, only adding to its uniqueness and mysticism.
For that reason, embarking on an escorted tour to Burma is like stepping back in time. Yangon is the country's largest city, well known for its colonial architecture. The gold, diamond encrusted Shwedagon Pagoda is the key attraction here and at 99 meters high dominates the skyline, especially at sunset when the light brings it to glittering life. As legend has it, it's more than 2,600 years old, making it the oldest historical pagoda in the world.
Bagan is another must-visit on Burma's barely trodden tourist trail. Its vast plain of 4,000 temples, stupas and ruins dating back to the 11th century unravels as far as the eye can see and its sheer size makes it the largest concentration of Buddhist structures like this in the world. Needless to say that sunset here makes a breath-taking view; try to catch it on your Burma tour.
The last Royal capital of Mandalay is usually on touring itineraries, as is Inle Lake. Long tail boat is a popular way of accessing the lake.
Escorted Burma tours are a great way of exploring this unchartered country with the peace of mind that comes with travelling in a group. In addition to a tour manager and local guide, Burma tours will include scheduled flights from the UK and internal flights, hotel porterage, transfers and traditional transportation and accommodation with most meals.
Tips & Advice
Burma is a stunning country filled with a fascinating history and culture; here’s just a few places to go:
Burma's largest city is a far cry from its origins as a little fishing village. The sparkling Schwedagon Pagoda temple covers the skyline at 98 meters above the cityscape and other temples such as the Sule Pagoda span across the city. The Chauk Htat Gyi Reclining Buddha is one of the biggest in the world. After exploring these grand sights, you might like a spot of lunch or dinner at Scott Market or Chinatown.
The most important and well-preserved pagodas reside here, Bagan is up there with the likes of Cambodia's Angkor Wat or Java's Borobudur. The Ananda Temple and the Tayoke Ryay temple are only two of the beautiful temples in the city. Sit back and absorb the wonders of this ancient city or visit the bustling Nyaung Oo market. Then perhaps visit traditional Phwar Saw Village.
A haven for culture and architecture, Mandalay hosts the remains of the old Royal City and the Mahamuni Pagoda. Wander over the U Bein Bridge across the Taungthamen Lake, or sail down the Ayeyarwddy River to Mingun. Mingun is rumoured to have the biggest, uncracked, working bell in the world.
You can admire the five golden Buddha images at Phaung Daw U Pagoda and visit the floating farm in the Inle Lake. A trip to Indain via boat is also a must.
Tips & Advice
One of the benefits of travelling on an escorted tour is that you'll be in the safest hands when it comes to holidaying in unknown lands. To help you have an enjoyable holiday in Burma, take a look at these useful tips and advice provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO):
Health and Travel Insurance
Before leaving for your tour of Burma it is wise to check with your GP if you will need any additional vaccinations and preventive medical treatment.
You can get routine treatment in Mandalay and Rangoon, but in places other than this health care may not be available. Avoid intrusive examinations as there are higher levels of HIV and Hepatitis than in the UK, and hygiene standards may not be as good. Most tours offer the chance to purchase one-trip travel insurance at the time of booking.
Only drink bottled or boiled water and avoid having ice in drinks.
Muggings, burglaries and petty thefts have been reported to be increasing in Rangoon. Expatriate's homes and hotels have been targets, so be especially careful with your belongings.
Violent crimes against foreigners have occurred, so take the usual precautions.
Local Laws and Customs
When visiting Buddhist religious areas, respect religious customs and don't wear shorts and sleeveless tops. Remove shoes and socks before going into a pagoda or monastery.
Drug trafficking can result in a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and the death penalty.
Homosexuality is illegal in Burma, but these regulations are rarely enforced.
Burma works in collaboration with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES). In excess of 800 species of animals and plants are prohibited from international trade and 30,000 are rigorously controlled. When contemplating whether to buy exotic souvenirs, such as those constructed from turtles, take into account the restrictions under CITIES.
A visa is required to travel to Burma and can be applied for at the nearest Burmese Embassy or Consulate. Contact the Burmese Embassy for further information. Some tour operators offer a visa service but may charge an administration fee. If unsure, check at the time of booking.
From the date of arrival in Burma, your passport should be valid for a minimum of 6 months.
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are not accepted for entry into Burma but are accepted for exit from Burma.
Any other nationality looking to visit Burma must contact the local embassy to check visa requirements.
To find out more about visiting Burma, check out the official tourist board website at tourismburma.com