Population and People
Myanmar's population is about 60 million and expanding rapidly. Bamar or Burmans make up nearly 70% of the population, while a variety of other ethnic groups make up the rest. They include a diverse group of Kachin, Karen, Mon, Rakhine, Shan and Wa, plus a sizeable number of regional migrants such as Chinese, Indian and Thai.
Myanmar's national language is Burmese, also known as Bamar. English is the first foreign language among the wider population, although Chinese is also widely spoken in urban areas and Thai is quite well understood in Eastern Myanmar.
Myanmar's official religion is Theravada Buddhism. It was introduced in Burma from the 6th century, but was only adopted nationwide from the 11th century. It is enhanced by traditional animist beliefs and Brahmanist practices long imported from India to form a fusion religion. Nat worship or the worship of spirits is also very common in Myanmar. There are also sizeable minorities of Muslims, predominantly in the west, and Christians, scattered throughout the country but particularly in ethnic minority regions.
No vaccinations are required for entry into Myanmar. However, it is recommended that all visitors be innoculated against typhoid, tetanus, and hepatitis A and B. It is not wise to drink tap water. Prescription drugs are obtainable in urban areas. Precautions against malaria are not necessary for Yangon and Mandalay and other major urban areas, but are recommended when visiting remoter provinces. Travellers should consult their doctor or travel centre before leaving for Myanmar.
Rice and noodles are the staple diet for most Burmese. Local specialities include curries, a variety of soups, and traditional beef, pork and poultry dishes. Fresh seafood is also available and is especially popular with visitors travelling to the coast. Chinese, Indian and Shan cuisine are also common in Myanmar, as is a variety of western cuisine which can be found in abundance in Yangon and Mandalay.
All urban areas have minimum electricity (230 volts). Many places are equipped with private power generators. Most sockets found in hotels are French-style two-pin or British style three-pin, but larger hotels can provide an adaptor on request.
Myanmar offers a wide range of handicrafts, such as silverware, pottery and jewellry. Religious themes and scenes of daily life feature strongly in oil paintings and intricate carvings made from sandstone, marble and some of the country's tropical hardwoods. Perhaps most attractive to visitors is the exquisite lacquerware finished in Burmese patterns. Also popular are the colourful puppets. In true Asian tradition, open marketplaces are an integral part of Burmese life. These markets sell everything from mainstream and exotic foods, clothes and electrical appliances, to hundreds of longyi, the multi-purpose sarong worn by many Burmese women and men. Even for non-shoppers, the markets offer a fascinating glimpse of daily life and culture. Bargaining is possible in markets and with street sellers where no fixed prices are displayed.
There are currently two international gateways to Myanmar. Yangon International Airport serves the capital of Yangon and Mandalay International Airport acts as a popular gateway to the northern areas of Myanmar.
Airlines currently servicing Myanmar include local carriers Myanmar Airways International, Air Bagan and Mandalay Air, as well as international carriers Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Silk Air, Malaysia Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Air China, Air India, China Airlines, . There are also several budget airlines, including Air Asia and Jetstar Asia.
Direct flights to Myanmar are available from Bangkok, Saigon, Hanoi, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Kolkata and Taipei.
Domestic flights are available between Yangon and a number of provincial destinations. Most popular is the circular route through Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake, operated by Mandalay Air and Air Bagan. It is also possible to fly to Bhamo, Kengtung, Lashio, Mawlamyine, Myitkyina, Nay Pyi Taw, Pathein, Putao, Sittwe (for Mrauk U) and Thandwe (for Ngapali Beach). Hanuman does not recommend travel with Myanma Airways, both due to its safety record and government ownership. Air Mandalay is probably the best all-rounder, although Air Bagan also has a very modern fleet.
US$10 for international flights from Yangon or Mandalay, payable in cash on departure. There is no departure tax for domestic flights.
Passports & Visas
One-month tourist visas, costing US$20 and requiring one passport-sized photograph, are available through Myanmar embassies and consulates worldwide.
Visas on arrival have been trialled on certain routes, including arrivals from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, as well as Guangzhou..
The Kyat is Cambodia's official currency (US $1 = 818 kyat), but US dollars are widely accepted.. International credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard are not widely accepted and ATMs are in short supply. It is advisable for guests to use US dollars cash for convenience, but only clean bank notes from 2006 onwards are acceptable. However, it is to be hoped that all this will change with the economic liberlisation and political reform process that began in 2011.