Myanmar (Burma) is an expensive place to visit compared with the rest of South East Asia.
I assumed before we got there that the main reason is that, because of the lack of tourism, there aren’t that many hotels/guesthouses that can accommodate tourists, and therefore scarcity of supply = higher prices. Simple economic equation.
This is partly true, but as we travelled around the country, it became clear that many other forces were at work here.
Bribery and corruption is a huge problem in Myanmar. Almost everyone is in on it, and many hotel owners and taxi drivers told us that to get anything done, large bribes have to be paid to a large number of people. This goes from building roads, to opening a hotel, to getting a driving license.
There are also the “Government Fees”. These come in various shapes and sizes. There is a charge for all westerners entering various “zones”. Inle Lake and Bagan were two if these “zones”. There’s also an “exit tax” when you fly out of the country which isn’t included in your ticket. Although we didn’t fly out, this is apparently $10 each.
Another stumbling block for Myanmar is that you pretty much have to take all your money with you when you enter the country, as there are few ATMs, and they only dispense local currency. This is fine – all restaurants, shops, bus companies will accept kyat (pronounced chat), but hotels will not, and the exchange rate you get from different companies varies wildly (as does the service, but that’s a different story).
The People of Burma are also very particular about the US Dollars that they accept. They must have a date code after 2006, and be completely unblemished. Some people will accept a note folded in half, but most will kick up a fuss!
Overall, we were in Myanmar for just under two weeks, and averaged £30.26 ($50/K45,000) a day.
However, this figure is a bit of an anomaly as the last 4 days were spent in Mawlamyine, where we spent less than £20 a day. While we were travelling around the “hotspots” of Bagan, Inle Lake and Yangon, our average was around the £37 mark – much higher than anywhere else we’d been.
As always our budget was £40 a day, but it was a struggle in Myanmar to get under this on some days.
What we spent our money on
Well, the accommodation in Myanmar is pretty poor value for money – the least we paid was $15 for a tiny room with a shared bathroom (and breakfast). Even on a Thai Island, you get better value for money, and more choice.
Travel is also expensive. Almost all buses around the country are night buses – which drop you off at 4am. This means you save on accommodation, but the buses cost around $20 per person…which ends up at $40 for both of us – significantly more than we’d spend on a room.
Food, thankfully is cheap, and delicious. So it’s little wonder our food expenditure we very small. Also, breakfast was included in most hotels rates.
Finally, the “Government Fees”! Sadly, the government have imposed fees for all westerners entering various zones. In this, are the entry to; Shwedagon Paya, Inle Lake, Bagan Temples, and The Golden Rock.
We’re pretty annoyed that we gave money to a government that violates people’s human rights, and clearly shows no signs of stopping.
We also spent £155 on our return flights from Bangkok to Myanmar (the return we didn’t use!)
So there you have it – along with our review of Myanmar (mixed) it was also bloody expensive.
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