Pagodas as Far as The Eye Can See
Myanmar has been shrouded in mystery for many travelers over the last half century, but has recently opened its arms and begun to welcome tourists wishing to experience this vast land with glistening, golden pagodas as far as the eye can see. However, Myanmar is much more than meets the eye and on this trip, you will get a chance to discover Yangon and get a taste of local life, explore the serenity and diversity of Inle Lake, wander among extensive stretches of fields filled with ancient pagodas in Bagan, visit the newly opened Chin State with many distinct ethnic tribes and unique customs…the adventures are boundless!
Day 1 : Yangon Arrival
Welcome to Myanmar! Yangon is Myanmar’s capital and although it has experienced a tumultuous past, it is quickly rising and becoming the commercial as well as artistic hub of the country. Upon arrival at the Yangon airport, you will be welcomed by your English speaking guide and then transferred to your hotel in the city. Depending on your arrival time, you can explore the city or get some R&R as you adjust to the new time zone.
Included Activities : Airport arrival transfer; Free time; Shwedagon Pagoda at sunset
Day 2 : Yangon
After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll meet our guide for a tour of Yangon as we hitch a ride on the Circular Train to travel like locals. You will get to see Yangon’s hustling and bustling city life, its more modest suburban life as well as some of its rural farming landscapes.
Included Activities : Circular train ride; Yangon city tour; Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda;
Day 3 : Heho – Pindaya – Inle Lake (Travel time approximately 5 hours)
Breakfast will be early this morning in order to catch an approximately one hour flight to Heho. Upon arrival in Heho, we’ll proceed to the Pindaya Caves which are ensconced in a limestone ridge overlooking an adjacent lake. Inside the cavern, there are 8,000+ images of Buddha arranged to form a labyrinth throughout the various cave chambers.
Included Activities : All transfers (land, air and water); Pindaya Caves; Shwe U Min Paya; Free time
Day 4 : Inle Lake
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel after which we’ll pay a visit to the 5-day market. This is a great opportunity to witness the daily life of some of the Burmese minority groups. Next, we’ll depart for the Indein Pagoda complex by motorized boat. Upon exiting the lake, a narrow canal with a scenic natural environment will lead us to a Pa O tribe’s village. From there, we’ll follow an old, covered path on foot to a 13th century monastery and the remarkable ruins of hundreds of ancient pagodas, some of which are being devoured by the local vegetation. The elevated main stupa area of this complex offers a breathtaking vista of the surrounding vicinity.
Included Activities : All transfers (land and water); 5-day floating market; Indein Pagoda complex; Pa O tribal village; Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda; Nga Hpe Chaung; Free time
Day 5 : Taunggyi (Travel time approximately 1 hour)
After two serene nights on Inle Lake, we’ll begin to make our way to Taunggyi and on the way, pay a visit to the Aye Thar Yar vineyard to taste some local wines as we enjoy the beautiful tableau of verdant grape vines.
Included Activities : All transfers (water and land); Aye Thar Yar vineyard & wine tasting; Kakku ruins; Shwe Phone Pwint and Sulamuni Pagodas; Taunggyi Myoma Market; Free time
Day 6 : Kalaw – Mandalay (Travel time approximately 4 hours)
Another fun-filled day awaits you after breakfast at the hotel. The train ride from Shwe Nyaung to Kalaw will allow you to mingle with local Shan province travelers and perhaps strike up a conversation as you take in the sublime terrain passing by. Once we reach Kalaw, we’ll grab a quick lunch and then continue the adventure as we drive to Mandalay with plenty of stops to stretch your legs.
Included Activities : All transfers (land); Free time
Day 7 : Mandalay
Mandalay is the last capital of Myanmar and the best place to find traditional arts and crafts. Our day will start with a tour of the city beginning with a visit to the Mahagandayon (‘City of Immortality’) Monastery in the township of Amarapura in time for the morning alms offering. This tranquil ceremony is a chance to learn about Burmese Buddhism practices.
Included Activities : All transfers (land); Mandalay city tour; Mahagandayon Monastery; U Bein Bridge; Mahanumi; Gold leaf-making workshop; Kuthodaw Pagoda; Mandalay Hill; Free time
Day 8 : Mount Popa – Bagan (Travel time approximately 6 hours)
This morning we’re off to Bagan by private mini-bus. En route, we will visit Mt. Popa which is known as an abode for nats (spirits) – a collection of 37 magical spirits both feared and honored by some Burmese people. Get ready for a hike as we climb 777 steps to Mt. Popa’s summit. At the peak, you can have lunch at a restaurant which offers jaw-dropping views over the lush greenery surrounding the mountain.
Included Activities : All transfers (land); Mt. Popa hike; Nat Museum; Bagan artisan workshops; Free time
Day 9 : Bagan
Bagan is probably one of the most iconic places in Myanmar thanks to its vast stretches of verdant fields that are dotted by thousands of ancient Buddhist temples. It is so extensive that one day is not enough to take it all in. We recommend starting your visit of Bagan by renting an electric bike to explore the area. If you’re feeling sluggish after your travels, you can laze about at the hotel. The choice is yours! Your guide will be there to point you in the right direction.
Included Activities : Free time; Optional activities (At your own expense)
Day 10 : Bagan
Your second day in Bagan can be spent as you please, but we recommend delving into more of the temples as there are so many to see, each one with its own unique features. You might also choose to float through the sky in a hot air balloon for a bird’s eye view of the awe-inspiring landscapes and structures that characterize the region.
Today you will have the option of floating above the temples in a hot air balloon at sunrise. This activity needs to be booked in advance and can be purchased at check-out. It typically sells out months ahead of time, so there will be no way to sign up while on the trip.
Included Activities : Free time; Hot Air Balloon ride (At your own expense); Optional activities (At your own expense)
Day 11 : Kanpetlet (Travel time approximately 6 hours)
Today we will head to the Chin State, which recently opened up to tourists. It is an ethnically diverse area with fertile valleys and lush flora covering much of the province. It is also home to various tribes with rich traditions that few outsiders have had the chance to observe because this part of the country had been closed for many years until recently.
We’ll journey along the Irrawaddy River to Chauk to peruse the local morning market. Then onward across the river and through Seikphyu and Kazunma Villages where we’ll have a lunch break. As we approach the Chin State, you’ll start to notice a change in scenery and climate. The regal and densely forested mountains will provide some relief from the heat. Don’t worry; you’ll have plenty of stops for photo ops as we make our way into this uncharted territory. We’ll make a quick stop in the village of Saw to stretch our legs and have a spot of tea and end in Kanpetlet where we’ll settle in for the night in the cool climate well above sea level.
Included Activities : All transfers (land); Chauk morning market; Seikphyu, Kazunma and Saw Villages; Free time
Day 12 : Mindat (Travel time approximately 4 hours)
This morning, we’ll head to Kyardo Village to see more local life in the Chin State, which differs greatly from most of the country. You’ll have a chance to visit locals’ homes, see their traditional dress and observe their way of life. Get a glimpse into their religion, which is deeply rooted in animism and shamanism. You also may have the chance to meet some of the women from the local tribe who still practice facial tattooing. We’ll finish our day in Mindat where you’ll have the evening to yourself to freshen up and relax after an eventful day.
IMPORTANT : The Chin State recently opened to foreigners (in 2013) and because of this, there is only one hotel in the area we’ll be visiting. This hotel only has hot water from 5-7 PM and in the case that there is not hot water available, buckets of hot water will be brought to you. Electricity will also be limited. The hotel is located in the hills and it will be chilly, so please bring a jacket for warmth.
We have chosen to visit this area because it is rare to find ‘real’ hill tribes that have not been exploited by tourism in Southeast Asia. Most hill tribes have become extinct or they have started to pander to tourists. These hill tribe areas are only 88 miles away from Bagan, but it will take about 6 hours to get there due to the rough road conditions. Additionally, when visiting the villages, please be respectful when taking pictures. Many of the women still practice traditional face tattooing in these tribes and although it will be exciting to see, please be polite and respectful and always ask permission to take a picture! Once more accessible roads are built from the village to Bagan, the people in these villages will be more reachable by tourists and sadly, will likely be exploited for tourist money. You will be some of the few to have the chance to see these villages and their unique customs before they become diluted for the masses. Due to these circumstances, please understand that you may experience slightly uncomfortable lodging with minimal hot water and electricity.
Included Activities : All transfers (land); Chin villages; Free time
Day 13 : Bagan (Travel time approximately 5 hours)
After breakfast, let’s visit Mindat’s local morning market to take in its sights, sounds and smells. This is a great opportunity to experience the meeting of different local cultures in one place. We’ll return to Bagan, but on the way there will be a stop at the Pone Taung Pone Nyar mountain range where you’ll find small stupas and Nat shrines at the summit. You can also have a cup of tea at the tiny tea shop there before we head back to Bagan. On arrival in Bagan, you can get some last photos of the temples or just hang out at the hotel.
Included Activities : All transfers (land); Mindat local market; Pone Taung Pone Nyar summit; Free time
Day 14 : Yangon (Travel time approximately 1 hour)
Bid farewell to Bagan and all of its beauty before flying back to Yangon with arrival in time for lunch. Upon arrival to Yangon, we’ll visit the General Aung San House Museum which is dedicated to the architect of Burmese Independence. This colonial-era villa is where the general’s daughter and Nobel Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, grew up.
Included Activities : Yangon transfer (air); General Aung San House Museum; Scott Market; Free time
Day 15 : Yangon Departure
Depending on your flight time, you will have free time on your own in Yangon before catching your flight back home.
Included Activities : Free time; Departure (At your own expense)
Peak Season 15-Day Tours (December and January)
Trip cost – $3,600 (See below for inclusions and exclusions.)
Regular Season 15-Day Tours
Trip cost – $3,200 (See below for inclusions and exclusions.)
I’m a single traveler. Will I be charged a single supplement?
Accommodation is on a double occupancy basis and if you are traveling on your own, you will be sharing a room with another traveler of the same gender. If there is no one of the same gender with whom to pair you, you WILL be required to pay the single supplement.
If you decide at the booking stage that you want a single room throughout the tour, you can purchase the “single supplement”. If you wish to purchase the single supplement you can purchase for an additional $850.
What is included :
- 14 nights accommodation (Double occupancy, breakfast included)
- Local guide throughout
- Private ground transportation in private mini-bus
- Most activities (As noted in itinerary)
- All breakfasts, 5 lunches, 1 dinner
- International airport arrival transfer
- 2 domestic flights
What is not included :
- Most dinners and some lunches
- Optional activities
- Alcoholic beverages
- International airport departure transfer
- International flight
- Supplementary insurance
Balloons over Bagan
Activity Cost – $350 This must be purchased in advance as this activity sells out very quickly. You cannot purchase this activity while on the trip. This activity must be purchased 5 months prior to the trip start date. If you decide to book this activity and it is 5 months or less before the trip start date please enquire by email with us before booking so we can check availability.
Each of our groups has a maximum of 12 travelers plus a local Burmese guide. We try to price our trips very reasonably while taking into consideration the small group sizes as well as what is included and the quality of the accommodation at which we stay.
When tour group sizes increase to 15-30 travelers, the general ambiance of the trip is less authentic and travelers tend to be less able to integrate into a society. Large tour groups also generally have less authentic contact with the locals. The more people in a tour group, the more the group experiences their own culture rather than the one of the country they are visiting.
Small group sizes are beneficial because they tend to allow for easier transport and communication. They are more mobile and can be more easily integrated into a social scene in Myanmar. A small group traveler is also less likely to be treated as a tourist ready to be exploited for his/her money. Additionally, small groups are more flexible as travel plans can be more easily altered en route. If the group discovers a special event or festival in Myanmar that they would like to attend, and this is not covered by the original tour itinerary, it is possible to change the itinerary. A small group size also means that travelers will receive more individual attention from their tour guide. As a small group, it is easier to come to an agreement and for the tour guide to change reservations if necessary.
Small groups are low impact in Myanmar because they don’t introduce a large number of foreigners to a local scene where they can have adverse impacts on the local society and other travelers. For example, a large tour group can take up all the seats on a local bus or fill an entire restaurant forcing locals and other travelers away from their preferences.
While in Myanmar, most activities are included in the trip cost while others are optional and will be at your own expense. These optional activities and excursions are not included in the trip cost. Please see the itinerary tab for some possible optional activities and excursions. Most of them can be arranged with short to little notice and the local guide will be able to help you make necessary arrangements. Optional activities include, but are not limited to : electric scooter rides, hot air ballooning, cooking classes and more!
Myanmar’s currency is the Burmese kyat (MMK) and while USD are sometimes accepted as legal tender, MMK are used more frequently. The most convenient and efficient way to deal with money is to exchange US dollars for Burmese kyat. The best place to exchange money is at the airport or at the bank. These places offer the best and fairest rates and can be found throughout the country. If exchanging currency at other places, expect a poorer exchange rate and/or a supplementary fee. Please note that you should never exchange money on the street because this is the easiest way to get scammed. Your best bet is to stick to legal exchange establishments.
Plan on taking plenty of $1, $5, and $10 bills for smaller purchases and $50 and $100 bills to exchange for kyat. Larger denominations tend to get a better rate.
*IMPORTANT : US dollar bills for exchange in Myanmar must be in PERFECT CONDITION! Bills should not have blemishes of any kind. There should be no creases, marks, folds, tears, etc. Bills that are not in pristine condition may be exchanged at an unfavorable rate or not accepted at all. Also, bills that are pre-2006 or without the letters AB and CB at the start of the serial number may not be accepted. We suggest carrying US dollars in a safe, flat folder rather than in a wallet. Euros are also generally accepted as an exchange currency and typically do not have to be in as good condition as USD.
Please understand that we do NOT advise travelers on what currency to bring with them to Myanmar and it is the responsibility of the traveler to decide on his/her own. Please weigh the pros and cons of exchanging to another currency on your own by checking with your bank and the exchange rates online.
Although there are a good number of ATMs where you can withdraw local currency, it is best not to rely on this as your main source of funds as foreign cards may or may not be accepted at any given machine and machines often have power issues that may sometimes cause them not to function properly. If you do withdraw cash from an ATM, expect a withdrawal fee of approximately $3 ~ $5 USD in addition to whatever fees your bank may charge. ATMs in Myanmar will accept cards with the Visa and MasterCard/Maestro logos on them. Most ATMs can be found in the more touristy areas such as Yangon, Mandalay and Inle Lake.
Some hotels and finer restaurants will accept major credit cards (Visa and MasterCard only). Be prepared to have to pay a credit card processing fee as well as a foreign transaction fee every time you use your credit/debit card. Please note that American Express and Discover are not accepted in Myanmar. We recommend calling your bank before you arrive to let them know that you will be traveling to Myanmar, so they do not put a hold on your card.
Once you arrive in Yangon, you will need to exchange some money at the airport. We recommend exchanging a fair amount of money at the airport for the sake of convenience as the exchange rates at the airport are quite good. You can later exchange more as needed.
We suggest bringing or having access to anywhere from $900 – $1300 USD while on the trip, either in cash and/or on your debit card. WE HIGHLY ADVISE BUDGETING MORE MONEY THAN YOU EXPECT TO SPEND IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY.
There are plenty of souvenirs to be found in Myanmar. There are countless souvenir shops in many of the places we’ll be visiting. You can spend hours browsing for that perfect souvenir. Local craft markets can be found as well. These creations will make a special gift for your loved ones – or yourself!
A good rule of thumb in responsible traveling is to buy locally. Keep in mind the source of the souvenirs. It is obvious that some are not from Myanmar at all, but clearly marked “Made in China” or some other foreign country.
If you have a smart phone, it will likely work in Myanmar depending on your service provider, but it is not guaranteed. Coverage may be spotty in the more remote areas. Be sure to check with your provider to get informed about data and call roaming and whether or not your phone will work while abroad. You also may consider contacting your service provider to learn about what kind of international plans they offer for calls, texts, and data.
In general, most hotels and restaurants in Myanmar will offer wifi. Internet cafes can be found in cities and towns and are quite inexpensive. Internet speeds in Myanmar are not what you may be used to at home, especially in rural areas such as in Chin State where connection may be weak if not absent. Please keep this in mind when using and trying to connect to the Internet.
What to Bring
Temperatures in Myanmar in the end of December/early January are generally quite hot and are in the 70s – 80s°F with little rainfall. The days are still somewhat long, but are shortening with daylight lasting approximately 11 hours.
Below are a few things that we suggest bringing to make your trip more comfortable :
- Mosquito repellent (DEET strength)
- Thin shawl/scarf (to cover shoulders in temples)
- Diarrhea medicine
- Motion sickness medicine (if needed)
- Hand sanitizer
- Bathing suit
- Comfortable walking shoes with good traction
- Flip flops
- Small backpack or across the shoulder bag for the day
- First Aid kit
- Light, warm jacket (for cooler weather in Chin State)
- Ziplock bags (to protect your electronics in unfavorable weather)
While Myanmar has had a turbulent past, most places on the tourist path are now considered safe for travel with low crime rates, violent and non-violent. Petty theft is also rare, but not unheard of. Locals know that the penalties for stealing, particularly from foreigners, can be severe. Those who do get their belongings stolen or have had something bad happen to them usually have acted irresponsibly. In most cases of theft, drugs and alcohol are usually involved. If you steer clear of illegal and irresponsible behavior, you most certainly will have a very enjoyable and safe visit to Myanmar.
Gun violence and armed robberies are not common in Myanmar.
The water is safe to brush your teeth with, but it is not recommended for drinking. The bottled water is very cheap, but please make sure to recycle. As in many Southeast Asian countries, Myanmar has a very serious plastic waste problem, but unfortunately, there are not many water refill stations. One thing you can do to help alleviate the plastic problem is to turn down plastic bags when making a purchase and to place the items in your purse/daypack.
Myanmar is not known for having the best medical facilities, but if necessary, you will be directed to the best-trained doctors and international hospitals.
Tipping is not compulsory, but for many western travelers it is customary, especially on the more touristy paths. If you receive exceptional service from anyone, tipping is appreciated. Tipping can be done based on the quality of the service. Most who will be helping you make very little money and any tip is highly appreciated. Services and food are cheap, so the tip will usually only cost you a dollar or two if not less. If you do not receive good service, do not feel obligated to tip. Below are some suggestions when considering who and how much to tip :
- At restaurants and bars : Round up the bill to the next 1,000 kyat. (1,000 kyat ≈ $0.75 USD)
- Room cleaning/housekeeping : $1 per room per night.
- Hotel porter : $1 for luggage delivery on arrival and departure.
- Driver : $5 ~ $10 per day.
- Tour guide : $10 ~ $20 per day.
- It is not normal, or expected, for taxi drivers to be tipped.
The outlets in Myanmar are 230 volts (and 50 hertz) and most fit with the cylindrical two prong plugs commonly associated with Europe. You’ll also see some with the American-style plugs.
In your pre-departure notes, you will receive the name and address of the hotel in both Burmese and English as well as pertinent phone numbers. If arriving early, it will be the responsibility of each traveler to make their way from the airport to the hotel on their own. Otherwise, your airport to hotel transfer is included in the trip cost.
All visitors for tourist purposes need a visa to travel to Myanmar. Travelers from Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada and the United States must obtain a visa, which can be applied for online prior to arrival. Your visa will be single-entry and valid for a stay of up to 90 days. To apply online for the visa on arrival, please click on the link below :
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your travel dates.
If you are not a citizen of one of the above-mentioned countries, please check with the nearest Burmese embassy or consulate for information on visas and travel to Myanmar.
Once you have booked your flights, please forward your flight information to us. You will be given the hotel name and address in both English and the local language prior to arrival to show the taxi driver. Your arrival and departure city is Yangon.
*Please do not book any flights until you receive a confirmation email from us.
PEAK Season : December to February – The rainy season is over and it’s not so hot. Also, the rain clouds clear to leave lush green foliage, fast-flowing rivers and cascading waterfalls. This is the busiest time for travel in Myanmar.
SHOULDER Season : October & November / March & April – Temperatures will rise considerably, especially in central areas in and around Yangon. March to May, Yangon often reaches 104ºF (40ºC). Areas around Bagan and Mandalay are hotter. It’s cooler in the hill towns of Shan State. September and October are still soggy, particularly in central and southern areas, whilst Mandalay, in the north, will start to see less rain and steadier temperatures. All forms of transport are booked solid during Thingyan in April.
LOW Season : May to September – The hot weather and southwest monsoon starts mid-May and peaks from July to September. The dry zone between Mandalay and Pyay gets the least rain. Rain can make roads impassable in the more remote areas. Rain tends to fall in the afternoon and early evening with several resorts along the coast, including Ngapali Beach, closing down completely.
The hotels and accommodations in which you will be staying in Myanmar are handpicked by us. They are usually locally-owned or family-run hotels rather than big chains with hundreds of rooms and big crowds of tourists. We try our best to select accommodations with impeccable service as well as old world charm and that are centrally-located.
*Please note that the hotel in Mindat will be very basic. Mindat is located in Chin State which only opened to tourists a few years ago. This means that infrastructure for tourism (i.e. hotels) is very basic. Hotels in Chin State will not be at all similar to the other hotels that we’ll be staying at throughout the tour. Hot water will be limited to specific times of the day and rooms are no-frills with only the very essential amenities. This is only for two nights and afterwards, you’ll have been to where very few travelers have ever been before!
*All hotels subject to change.
We recommend that you purchase trip/travel insurance for your trip. We work with Travelex, which offers travel protection plans to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected. Travel protection plans include coverage for Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Emergency Medical and Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation, Trip Delay, Baggage Delay and more. Otherwise, you are welcome to shop around online for a provider and policy that best suits your needs.
For more information on the recommended plans or to enroll, click on the image below or contact Travelex Insurance Services at 800-228-9792. Globe Drifters’ reference location number is 09-0984.
The product descriptions provided here are only brief summaries. The full coverage terms and details, including limitations and exclusions, are contained in the insurance policy. Travelex CA Agency License #0D10209. All products listed are underwritten by, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company, NAIC #22276. 11.17 E7N
Below is information from the CDC and its recommendations regarding vaccinations for travel to Vietnam and Cambodia :
Price based on double occupancy. Single Supplement can be purchased for an additional $850.