To continue my travel budgeting series around Asia, next up is Myanmar!
Myanmar can be a wild card when it comes to budgeting. Although you can research and read blog posts like the one you’re currently reading about what to expect, you can never be too sure when it comes to this country. Prices are constantly changing, as well as the information on Myanmar as a whole.
I wrote up a post on 12 things to know before you go to Myanmar, and it’s a good reference to base your 2017 and later travels. I came across so many posts from 2014 and 2015 in my research, and almost all of them were already out of date.
In terms of what you need to know for budget, the most important tips are the following:
- Contrary to what most older articles on Myanmar will tell you, there are plenty of ATMs around the country, and you don’t necessarily have to get out all the money you need before you arrive. With that said, if you’re from America, you may have some issues because a lot of American banks still have an embargo on Myanmar.
- You won’t be using US dollars. I kept hearing that I would be asked to pay in US dollars for bigger items, such as accommodation and transport. This was never the case throughout my time in Myanmar in 2017. However, I still always recommend travelers carry some US dollars with them, it’s a good backup currency in case of emergencies.
- Accommodation is the most expensive item you’ll come across, with the budget options ranging from $14 (for a dorm) to $20-$30 for a double room in a guesthouse. If you’re traveling with another person, it’s usually cheaper to split a double room since dorms are so expensive.
Now that those few updates are behind us, let’s get on to travel budgeting for Myanmar in 2017.
In Myanmar I went to Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Pyin oo Lwin, Kalaw, Inle Lake, and Hpa-an.
Note: All prices are in US dollars, and I rounded when necessary to keep things nice and easy. Please note as well that this is the budget for one person in Myanmar. Although I was traveling with one other person the whole trip, so accommodation came out cheaper than if I was traveling by myself.
The currency in Myanmar is the Myanmar Kyat, and the conversion rate (in 2017) comes to about $1 US = 1377 kyat.
Time spent = 28 nights, 29 days
Accommodation = $148 (Averaged around $11.50/night)
Yangon (6 nights) = Free on credit card points. Half of a private double room (share bathroom) at Hninn Si Budget Inn & Hotel Bond. Would’ve been $11/night ($44 total) and $12.50/night ($25 total) respectively without credit card points.
Bagan (5 nights) = $12.50/night ($62.50 total). Half of a private double room at New Wave II Guesthouse.
Mandalay (3 nights) = Free on credit card points. Half of a private double room at Hotel Victory Point. Would’ve been $12.50/night ($37.50 total) without credit card points.
Pyin oo Lwin (3 nights) = $10/night ($30 total). Half of a private double room at Tha Ha Zar Ta Hotel.
Kalaw (2 nights) = $12.15/night ($24.30 total). Half of a private double room at Golden Kalaw Inn.
Inle Lake (2 nights) = $14/night ($28 total). One bed in a 14-bed mixed dorm at Song of Travel Hostel
Hpa-an (1 night) = $3.60/night. Half of a private room (share bathroom) at Mount Zwegabin Monastery.
Okay, you may think these prices are still quite cheap, and they are relatively. If you’re used to the rest of Southeast Asia, however, these accommodation prices can add up quickly.
One of the nicest aspects about accommodation in Myanmar is that breakfast is included almost everywhere. I personally love being able to start of my day where I’m staying with a nice breakfast.
Yangon by far had some of the worst accommodation in terms of how dirty both of the places I stayed at were. Hotel Bond was slightly nicer and had an upstairs balcony that was good to sit out on to look over the hustle of Yangon.
Hotel Bond also had much better WiFi than Hninn Si Budget Inn, where the WiFi was pretty much non-existent. All of the staff were very friendly at both places though, so that went a long way as well.
The nicest places I stayed were Hotel Victory Point in Mandalay and Song of Travel Hostel in Inle Lake. Unfortunately, either myself or my partner were incredibly sick at both of those locations, so we didn’t get to enjoy them as much as I would’ve liked.
Hotel Victory Point was fancy for a budget hotel. It was a high rise that had huge windows and squeaky clean rooms. It also had a rooftop bar and restaurant with a pool (okay, really it was a bathtub), and live music or traditional puppet shows every night.
Song of Travel was a super clean hostel and they had everything you could want as a traveler. Cheap food and drinks, guided tours (although they cost extra) every day, and a social atmosphere.
I had to stay an extra day in Pyin oo Lwin because of how sick I was. Again, I didn’t see much around town because of that. This cut down my time in Kalaw, but I made it there for New Year’s Eve, and celebrated with the owner of my guest house and other travelers on the roof.
I had a 360-degree view of fireworks being set off everywhere, including by my hilarious guesthouse owner. It was wonderful.
The coolest accommodation experience was my last night in the country, when I was able to stay at the monastery on top of the hill in Hpa-an with a small donation of 5,000 kyat.
After a strenuous hike in the burning Myanmar heat, I made it to the top just in time for sunset and somehow got my own dusty private room at the monastery. It was complete with puppies and monkeys, beautiful views, and a few other friendly travelers.
I also had three night buses that were a tad treacherous but saved me some money on accommodation. I generally took night buses when it was the only feasible option (i.e. Yangon – Bagan, Pyin oo Lwin to Kalaw, and Inle Lake – Yangon).
And finally, I did a three day, two night trek which was all inclusive from Kalaw to Inle Lake as well. That one is mentioned under the MISC category of this post instead of accommodation.
Transportation = $91 ($3.15/day)
With seven taxis, five buses (including three night buses), one train, one scooter rental, one e-bike rental, a few boat rides, and one horse-drawn carriage, I experienced a little bit of everything in Myanmar.
Myanmar is easiest to get around by bus. The trains are notorious for breaking down and are considered to be even more dangerous than the buses (and when you’re talking about the night buses, that’s saying something).
The only train I took was the three hour circle train around the outskirts of Yangon, which was an interesting experience and one that I would recommend.
The buses were different every ride as with most buses in Asia, and unfortunately only one or two had a bathroom on board.
I rented an e-bike to get around Bagan, as that’s the easiest form of transport for tourists who want to see a lot of temples. Between the areas of Nyaung-U, Old Bagan, and New Bagan, the temples and pagodas are spread out and take some time to get to.
My one scooter rental was in Hpa-an to get to the start of the monastery hike that was outside of town.
I took a horse-drawn carriage when I first arrived in Bagan, after an overnight bus in the wee hours of the morning. It was cold, but a carriage was cheaper than a taxi so I took the former.
Share taxis are a big thing around Myanmar when buses don’t go everywhere. You can just book one through your accommodation and they’ll find people to fill it up for you. Or as what happened when I took a share taxi to the border, they couldn’t find anyone else so I got a private taxi for the price of a share taxi.
Another aspect to note is that taxis don’t use meters in Myanmar and that’s normal. Just make sure to agree upon a price ahead of time and you’ll be fine.
Besides accommodation, transportation was my most expensive expenditure during this trip.
Food =$88 ($3/day)
Although I wasn’t a huge fan of the food in Myanmar, there’s no denying how cheap it was. On average I paid around US $1.50-$2 for every meal if it was street food or from one of the local open-air eateries.
If you choose to only eat in proper restaurants or hotels, you’ll find those prices go up exponentially. Also in the more touristy areas, like Bagan, items were overall more expensive so food prices went up by a dollar or two as well.
It did help the budget to have breakfasts included in every accommodation. This meant we only had to pay for two meals a day, and sometimes less when we were sick and couldn’t eat anything.
Coffee = $18
This was an expensive splurge when you take into account that I had less than five coffees throughout my 29 days in Myanmar.
Most of this cost came from pricey hotel cafes that had good WiFi, when I had the worst WiFi at my hotel and needed to get work done. In fact, Yangon had the worst WiFi out of Myanmar, and I paid the price to get access to decent connectivity. A fancy hotel coffee would generally cost me US$5.
Most of the coffee outside of fancy cafes was disgusting instant Nescafe, which I try my best to stay away from. Therefore, I spent most of this month away from my bad habit and drank a whole lot of local green tea instead. Myanmar has such good green tea and it’s generally free at most eateries.
Smoothies/Juices = $4
Similar to coffee, I laid off the juices and smoothies in Myanmar. I only had a handful throughout the month. There just weren’t that many choices that were either appetizing or affordable. I mainly came across fresh orange juice, coconut juice, and carrot juice.
Alcohol = $9.50
There wasn’t too much drinking involved either on this trip. A lot of that had to do with the fact that I was sick for half of the time I was there, but Myanmar doesn’t have much a drinking culture to begin with.
These alcohol costs consisted of half a handle of rum (pictured below) and five beers. Beers were usually around $1.50 to $2 a piece. The rum was cheaper than a six-pack of beer.
Water (1000ML) = Averaged to $0.26 each/$5.50 for 21 bottles
I’ve never come across water cheaper than I have in Myanmar. 1000ML bottles would range from $0.20 to $0.35 each, and good thing too with how sick I was for much of the time.
MISC = $174
Breakdown of my miscellaneous purchases:
- E-visa fee = $50
- Longyi = $4
- Tailor for longyi = $2.30
- Three-day trek (all-inclusive) = $33
- Postcards & stamps = $5.50
- Inle Lake Fee = $10
- Bagan Archeological Fee = $18
- Entrance to Shwedagon Pagoda = $6
- Poncho = $0.75
- Plastic bag = $0.07
- Antibiotics = $11
- 1.5 hour massage = $14.50
- Movie = $2.50
- Laundry (3x) = $13
- Clothes = $8
- Souvenirs = $6.50
- Yangon scam (lame) = $27
Including everything, I spent about $19 a day, or $538 total for 29 days in Myanmar.
Surprised? I know I was with how inexpensive Myanmar really turned out to be. I thought for sure it was going to be one of the more expensive countries I’ve visited in Southeast Asia.
It is important to note, similar to Taiwan, that I was able to put quite a few nights accommodation on my credit card from left over points. That saved me a decent amount.
My miscellaneous costs were much higher in Myanmar. There are a few unfortunate hidden costs when traveling the country, like the “fees” they make you pay when entering touristy areas, such as Inle Lake and Bagan.
Laundry was more expensive than I pay back home, but that’s because most places charge by the piece since they wash everything by hand.
The most annoying expenditure from my miscellaneous costs was the scam I came across in Yangon. It was one of those experiences where it doesn’t sink in just how much of a scam it is until you get back to your hotel, and you’re like….right that was a rip-off.
In Yangon, if you meet a guy in a park who says he wants to show you around his village across the river, take you to a snake temple and bamboo village, it’s probably a scam.
All in all, I was really surprised once I totaled these costs to see how little I spent in a month. When I was there, it felt like I was spending so much every day, but it’s reassuring to look back on it now and see it wasn’t bad at all.
And for all of those naysayers who say they can’t travel because it’s too expensive, this post is for you! Even with airfare included, a month in Myanmar would probably be less than what you spend for a month back home.
To give you an idea, my rent alone for a one bedroom apartment in Portland was US $1,400 per month. I spent $862 less for the same length of time with everything included (i.e. food, extras, coffee, transportation, etc). And, I was able to experience a new culture that is very different from my own.
Let me know – did these costs surprise you? Do you have an interest in visiting Myanmar?
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