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Family Travel in Myanmar
Myanmar is full of surprises. It's a country steeped in Buddhist tradition, yet strife with inter-religious violence. At it's heart, it's a country full of friendly people trying to catch up with the rest of the world, and surprisingly delicious food! Family travel in Myanmar is both challenging and rewarding. It's worth a visit before the changes erase her charm.
A Visa is required for most nationalities to visit Myanmar, many of which can do this online in advance. At the time of writing (2017), 8 countries were Visa-exempt, and 100 countries were able to get tourist e-Visas. It's a quick and easy process, and our Visas were emailed to us in about 12 hours.
DO be aware of national holidays however! Our friends processed two of their Visas one morning, booked their flights, then applied for their kid's Visas that evening. It was the night before the full moon festival and everything was shut down for 4 days, so the kid's Visas weren't processed until after the very-long weekend.
We used the government site, and it worked just fine for us! It cost $50USD each, paid by credit card. The only annoying thing was the need to upload a picture. I took a picture with my phone of each of us against a white wall. There's a link on the application form that'll take you to a website to properly format the size of the picture. Luckily, the picture doesn't show up on the Visa, so you don't need to worry if the picture is awful!!
Visas to Myanmar are valid for 28 days of travel in the country. Once you've received the Visa, you have to enter the country within 90 days. I appreciated this! I like being able to do things well in advance to check 'em off my "to do" list! There are currently only 6 border crossings that will accept the eVisa, but they're the most common. They are; Yangon airport, Mandalay airport, Nay Pyi Taw airport, and three land crossings with Thailand (Tachialek, Myawaddy & Kawthaung).
Cost of travel in Myanmar
Myanmar can be as cheap, or as expensive, as you want it to be. At the time of writing (2017), $1 CAD = 1000 kyat.
A nice, midrange hotel with a pool, cost 50,000-70,000 kyat/night for a large family room. A small room in a hostel with shared toilet can be as cheap as 10000 kyat/night per bed. Breakfast is often included, but varies widely depending on the accommodation.
Street food is readily available everywhere in Myanmar, and incredibly delicious!! A meal isn't complete unless it's been served with some kind of clear broth. One of my favourite things to eat were the Shan noodles. It was served with pickled veggies, fried crispy bits on top, and a bowl of clear soup on the side. Unexpectedly, the soup was always flavourful and delicious! A bowl of noodles, or noodle soup, usually cost 1000 kyat each. A "set" meal, where you pick a meat curry, and then it comes with refillable veggie side dishes, was usually around 2000 kyat with meat/1500 kyat for veggies only. The most expensive meal of our entire trip cost 30,000 kyat, and we ate a lot of food! Plus, it was at a pretty touristy restaurant in Bagan, probably the most concentrated touristy area of the country.
There are a number of transportation options around the country. We stuck to private bus companies as much as possible, because the train system and airlines are owned by the government or Junta. The overnight train from Yangon to Bagan cost $18USD/person. The seats were big, and as comfortable as a sleeping bus can be, short of having a fully reclined bed. Most of the bus tickets I looked at were anywhere between $15-25USD, depending on the distance.
Yangon (and Mandalay) both have Uber and Grab cars. A short distance taxi in Yangon cost 1000 kyat, and a taxi from the airport was 13,000 kyat.