Myanmar (or Burma) might not be a common destination among travelers and backpackers, but this Southeast Asian country is going through rapid transformations as it opens up to tourists more and more each year. It’s been referred to by bloggers and journalists as Asia’s ‘forgotten paradise’ and once you visit you will easily see why. But the real questions you might have initially are: Is it safe to travel to Myanmar now? Is it really a great experience traveling or backpacking in Myanmar as a female? Is it an ethical decision to go? I plan to answer, in this Solo Female Travel in Myanmar guide, these questions and more.
Table of Contents (skip directly to the info you're looking for)
- 1 Is it ethical to travel to Myanmar?
- 2 Safety in Myanmar – Is it safe to travel in Myanmar?
- 3 Travel Insurance
- 4 When to Travel in Myanmar – Best time to visit Myanmar
- 5 Accommodations in Myanmar
- 6 Visas
- 7 A quick guide to Solo Female Travel in Myanmar
- 8 Money in Myanmar
- 9 Food in Myanmar
- 10 Top Destinations in Myanmar
Is it ethical to travel to Myanmar?
You might wonder if traveling to Myanmar is ethical right now, with the Rohingya people (one of the many ethnic minorities in the country) fleeing the country since 2017 due to discrimination. It is definitely good to be informed about the situation and political tensions. To travel to Myanmar is a personal decision, but you should take into consideration that the political decisions of the government are not reflective of the inhabitants of the country.
In any case, Myanmar is a very special country. It offers affordable prices, beautiful ancient temples, an incredible mix of culture and traditions, breath-taking views and kind people. Traveling or backpacking in Myanmar is not as popular as in Thailand or Vietnam, but the upside to this is that the sites and temples are as amazing yet less crowded. You might realize that going on a trip to Myanmar, regardless if you choose to go with your suitcase or backpacking, Myanmar is the next thing on top of your wish list! The spirituality of Myanmar makes the trip perfect for solo female travel. I would freely call Myanmar, Asia’s ‘Up and Coming’ Destination for Solo Female Travel.
Safety in Myanmar – Is it safe to travel in Myanmar?
Wonder why such a paradise hasn’t been popular over the past few years? Well, Myanmar only became a democracy in 2015, and it was long isolated and an off-limits destination. While the tourists are not flooding the country to the extent that they are in Thailand, it could be an excellent choice for a quieter and less crowded trip. If you want to explore temples and countryside, Myanmar makes a great solo female travel destination.
The ethnic crisis, which the country is currently undergoing, would be unlikely to affect you as a tourist. Overall, Myanmar is a safe country to visit, and backpacking Myanmar is an experience in itself, especially thanks to the friendliness of its people and the adventure of getting off the beaten track. As a predominantly Buddhist country, violent crime against the person is low making it relatively safe for solo female travelers.
Check out this post: A guide to solo female travel guide in Southeast Asia
To be honest, tourism is actually starting to boom in Myanmar more recently and so it may be better to book your trip sooner rather than later!
Just be aware that, even though most parts of the country are safe, there may be some areas to avoid. Borders, especially with China, Thailand and Laos, should mostly be avoided. Remember that situations are changing all of the time and you should certainly check your government’s Foreign Office recommendations before embarking on any travel.
Be smart! Avoid political demonstrations, read about the current situation and do not go trekking alone.
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This is an important point; you should always get travel insurance, but especially when going backpacking in Myanmar solo. World Nomads is always a good option, offering a good ratio between quality and price.
When to Travel in Myanmar – Best time to visit Myanmar
In terms of when to go to Myanmar, just take into consideration that, between March and June, it can get very hot. High season is between November and February, and Christmas time (December) is a fantastic time to visit. Traveling during the high season might mean (relative) crowds at some temples (such as Schwedagon Pagoda) and some popular destinations in the country, as well as struggling to find good, affordable accommodation.
Accommodations in Myanmar
In Myanmar, you can find all kinds of accommodations from luxury hotels, such as the Belmond Governor’s Residence in Yangon; The Hotel @ Tharabar Gate or Heritage Bagan Hotel in Bagan, and many others in Mandalay, Inle Lake and other areas. The areas previously mentioned are the ones that tourist visit the most, but there are other off-the-beaten-path places to visit as well. You can also find great mid-range alternatives or budget friendly ones. Check below the rates and availabilities on Booking.com
Backpacking in Myanmar: What to know about Budget Accommodation
Being less popular than other destinations in Asia makes finding decent accommodation, while Backpacking Myanmar, that little bit more challenging. Installations are hit and miss in terms of hostels, even if you can find good options in Bagan, Inle and Mandalay. The standard of hostels wasn’t the same as what I found in Thailand. Generally, the best option is to stay in family run guesthouses, or even homestays, which is a good way to get to know their traditions and the country’s people better!
You can apply for a visa online only if arriving by air or crossing by bus from Thailand. The visa usually lasts 28 days from the date of entrance, but can be extended by 14 days for a small fee.
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A quick guide to Solo Female Travel in Myanmar
I found Myanmar surprisingly easy to travel as a solo female traveler. There are many trains and buses, which connect the places of most interest around the country. To save some money on accommodation, you can choose to take night buses or trains (these have sleeper cars). For buses, I recommend the VIP buses of JJ express, it is almost like flying on land. My preference for booking my transportation around Myanmar is 12go.asia. 12go.asia website is the fastest, secured and most convenient way to book your transportation during your Southeast Asia travels. They offer food, water and great service. Keep in mind that the distances between main cities are quite long and travel time can affect the amount you get to see of the country. Some parts of Myanmar can be also crossed by boat, which is an experience in itself, even if it’s pretty slow. Internal flights are the quickest but most expensive option.
Looking for safe and appropriately priced taxis as a solo female traveler? Download the GRAB app and order through this – you will always know where you taxi is and how much you will be paying. GRAB has been in Yangon since 2018 and is in operation in other popular Asian cities such as Bangkok and Phnom Penh. They also have UBER and LYFT. In Myanmar, however, make sure you have small notes in case they require cash payment.
Money in Myanmar
It is recommended to bring cash (either euros or dollars) and exchanging it upon arriving in Myanmar, since ATM fees can be very high. Also, take into account that in most places only cash is accepted and hotels and hostels that do accept cards which usually charge a surplus.
Food in Myanmar
Eat local! Not only is it very cheap, it is also very tasty. This is good news, because it means that, while backpacking Myanmar, you won’t have to skimp on food.
Curry is definitely a dish to try, and most dishes cost less than $2. It is made with either pork, chicken, beef, fried veggies and accompanied by a soup.
Shan Rice is basically rice cooked with turmeric made into a ball.
Tofu dishes, in some places you can find deep fried tofu stuffed with sauces and veggies, delicious!
Top Destinations in Myanmar
The most popular itinerary in Myanmar is the Yangon > Bagan > Mandalay route. This can be easily done in 10 days to 2 weeks for a more relaxed approach. If you have more time (3-4 weeks) you can consider including other areas such as Inle Lake and Hipsaw. You could also add on Napyidaw (the current capital), Bago and Maungmagan (for the beaches). Check out some of these great Myanmar Itineraries to help you to plan your trip. Here’s what not to miss in the main destinations…
Formerly known as Rangoon, Yangon is the largest city in Myanmar. It’s home to the famous glistening gold Schwedagon Pagoda. You might also want to visit the Sule and Botatuang Pagodas. Head to Bogyoke Aung San Market for a spot of shopping.
It’s too easy to fall in love with Bagan – the UNESCO world heritage site on the East Irrawaddy river. Bagan archaeological area is home to in excess of 2000 Buddhist monuments and holy sites dating as far back as the 11th Century. If you can afford it take a hot air balloon ride above the beautiful ancient temples and green planes.
North of Myanmar is Mandalay, another former capital. It’s the second largest city after Yangon. Walk to the top of Mandalay hill to the monastery and amazing views of the city. While you are there, don’t miss Sandamuni Pagoda, Kuthodaw Pagoda and Mandalay Palace.
Myanmar still feels authentic and adventurous. It is not a perfect country; poverty and corruption does exist. There’s still military controlling the country and Myanmar is the world’s second largest producer of opium. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating and intriguing country, and traveling or backpacking Myanmar, especially as a solo female traveler, will definitely be an experience that you won’t forget!
This is a guest post from Amy from the blog Templeseeker.com
Author Bio – Amy Trumpeter: Amy spends her time predominantly exploring Europe, North Africa and South East Asia. She has an MA in South Asian studies from The University of Manchester and is now based in Liverpool, UK with her husband and Patterdale terrier, Blake. Her interest in world religion means that she is frequently templeseeking! Always on the hunt for Cathedrals, Temples, Mosques and Historical sites, she loves to portray this in her work.
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