In 2014, when we first decided to go to Myanmar for a two-week holiday, we had so many questions. It’s not the kind of country that either of us had any general knowledge about. We had one set of friends who had been the year before, but they did super-luxury guided tours throughout their trip so their costs were not going to be similar to ours.
So we muddled through and set our budget as we went. Now that we’ve been there, though, we can answer our own questions with confidence!
*Disclaimer: It’s been over two years since we went to Myanmar and things in that country change pretty fast. Take these costs as an approximate and maybe add a few US dollars to each price.
What’s this about perfect American dollars?
- You do still have to have perfectly crisp and uncreased American dollars almost everywhere you go (we saw a guy get turned away at a hotel because his money had a slight fold).
- Keep American dollars for paying for accommodation; the guest houses tend to prefer US$ to kyat.
TIP – Bring a page of thick card stock paper per person. Fold in half then put money inside. Use an elastic to secure it and keep this bundle inside the cover of a book, preferably a journal or hardcover.
Where’s the best place to exchange money?
- The airport has reasonable rates for changing money into kyat, unlike what the Lonely Planet says.
- We found that the best places to change money were at the airport and in the main city centre in Yangon (both with pretty equivalent rates).
How much does it cost to travel in Myanmar?
- Our combined costs as a couple averaged US$99.76/day, but we didn’t try too hard to keep things cheap. When travelling, we usually have some splurge days balanced with some austerity days; in this case we also had the cost of a flight and some souvenirs for family.
- Accommodations when we went were almost without exception US$25/night for a very decent double room, usually with air conditioning included. The most expensive night was US$28. When we went in 2014, there weren’t many options for hostel dorm rooms or anything cheaper than that.
- The cheapest 2-person meal (including drinks) was US$3.00 and the most expensive was US$13.00 (and that was a fancy place).
How expensive is transportation in Myanmar and how does it work?
- For short trips, splitting taxis to save money doesn’t make sense in Myanmar—they charge by distance AND by “weight” – eg. per person. Our average taxi ride from the amazing Motherland Inn 2 guesthouse in an inner city suburb to the city centre in Yangon was US$2.50 for two of us.
- For long trips, though, it’s definitely worth sharing. There were heaps of people finding each other to share long-haul taxi drives.
- A “luxury” (eg. you get fluffy blankets and they blast the aircon) overnight bus from Yangon to Inle Lake was about US$20 for two of us. We also had to pay a US$20 entrance fee upon arrival in Inle Lake.
- From the airport, the taxi drivers will definitely overcharge you. If you wait for other travellers to come out and join you, the drivers will get nervous that you’ll convince everyone else to haggle, so they’ll take your price just to shut you up.
- A flight from Mandalay to Yangon was US$103/each, booked through the guesthouse in Yangon (so we assume they took a bit of commission).
How much does the average activity cost in Myanmar?
- A day’s hike with a guide in Kalaw was US$25 (for about 6-7 hours).
- Try to blend in with the crowds at the entrances to the Shwedagon Paya (past the stairs with all the vendors, just as you get up into the open space) in Yangon, otherwise you’ll have to pay US$8/each admission, which goes straight to the government.
- A day’s tour on Inle Lake cost about US$8 for two of us. We had 4 other people on our boat so that made the cost lower.
How common is haggling in Myanmar?
- We got so used to the prices that by the end of two weeks, we were stubbornly haggling over what amounted to 20 cents AUS.
- That being said, Myanmar people are not interested in haggling. They’ll just leave if you try too hard! (some exceptions are at the souvenir shops, but even then they’re not trying to get you to negotiate)
- Ultimately, the taxis that agreed to our lower offer usually got lost along the way!