Budget travel in Myanmar is currently in a state of flux. Prices are constantly changing and like everyone else, I was hearing differing reports on what to budget for each day in the country. Having just recently returned from a two week stint in Myanmar, I can shed some light on the status of budget travel in Myanmar / Burma.
I spent a total of $313 in 14 days (Saturday to Saturday), which comes to $23.60 daily spending. I feel like it turned out much cheaper than expected, but here are a few things that affected my spending which you should be kept in mind before assuming the same will be true for yourself:
- I was able to see three locations in total, Yangon where I flew in, Kalaw-Inle Lake, and Bagan. Spending more time in each location, I missed out on Mandalay, but traveling at a faster pace would have left plenty of time to squeeze it in as well.
- The group I traveled with varied from 3-5 people, so I never had to deal with the expense of traveling solo. Doing so would surely have been much more expensive as the dorm options were scarce and single rooms where commonly near the price of a double. I was also able to split other expenses such as boat trips and taxis.
- I went in the hottest month of the year and therefore, the low season. Besides Yangon, most guesthouses had space available, which helped some with bargaining down prices.
- I managed to get a great rate of 850 when exchanging Dollars for Kyat in Yangon, but risked getting scammed. I very common occurrence.
- The lone souvenir I bought was a 300 Kyat rice picker hat. If you’re a shopper, unlike myself, plan accordingly.
Normally, activities can constitute a major portion of you costs, but Myanmar turned out to not be so bad. I’d say that I was able to hit all the main activities in each respective region, while still keeping my budget in check. During the 3-day trek to Inle Lake, for example, I only spent 13k Kyat a day, much less than normal. Also, after the initial entrance fee to Bagan, you can explore all the temples as much as you’d like for a full week (I spent 2 days) before having to shell out anymore money.
Modes of Transportation/Transit
Moving from city to city, I avoided traveling by air and train. I did this for two reasons. One being that they were both significantly more expensive; the train was pricier even though it was slower (tourists pay 10 times the rate of locals). Also, both options are regulated by the government and put some money in it’s pocket, something I was keeping to a reasonable minimum. Long bus rides it was then, but prepare for some dizzying rides along zig-zagging mountain roads. Book early or you’ll be relegated to the back where I, unfortunately, had to put the puke bag to use. Bus stations are also commonly outside of town and a 5-12k Kyat taxi to and fro is necessary.
Like I mentioned earlier, I was always able to share a room, which cut down on costs significantly. Yangon was the most pricey at $33 for a triple with a private bath and A/C, while other locations ranged from there to a minimum of $6 per person. A solo traveler we encountered was able to get a bed for $3 after showing up in the middle of the night (long buses commonly leave in the afternoon) and asking for half price. It’s always worth a shot to ask.
Meals were relatively cheap, but not as much as say, Thailand and Cambodia. The cheapest plates were vegetable fried rice for 1,000 Kaht and went up from there. A traditional Myanmar dish in a simple restaurant, usually a curry, was a minimum of 3,000 Kyat. Luckily, many of the restaurants cleaned their dishes in “boiled water. Success Guaranteed.” A beer ran you anywhere from 600 Kyat in the city, to double that in smaller towns, but another real expense, liquid wise, was water. We went in the hottest month of May and bought 2-4 bottles a day just to stay hydrated. Bagan was the real killer, hitting 44 degrees Celsius during our stay.
Actual Prices I Paid in Inle Lake
Entrance to Inle Lake Region – $5
3-day Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake (including bag transfer) – 37k Kyat
Full day boat tour of Inle Lake – 13k Kyat (2.6k/person split 5 ways)
24 hr bike rental in Inle Lake – 1k Kyat
Ferry transport for 5 people and bikes across Inle Lake – 7.5k Kyat (split 5 ways)
Camera fees for other Pagodas around Inle Lake – 500 Kyat
Bus from Inle Lake to Bagan – 13k Kyat
Actual Prices I Paid in Bagan
Entrance to Bagan – $10
Horse carriage back and forth to Bagan temple for sunset – 4k Kyat
24 hr bike rental in Bagan – 1.5k Kyat
Bus from Bagan to Yangon – 15k Kyat
I normally don’t travel with a hard copy of any guidebooks, but in Myanmar my travel companions had the following guidebooks. Research can rarely be done on the internet so the books did come in handy.
Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma)
Lonely Planet Southeast Asia: On a Shoestring