What to pack for Myanmar (Burma)

Burma trip September 2014

It started with a map of the world, and you’ve narrowed it down to Burma. You’ve spend hours poring over books, films and, of course, blogs. You know your journey inside out and back to front; it will be the holiday of a lifetime. But if you’re anything like me, working out what to pack is a bind and an unavoidable barrier between you and adventure.

Whether it’s a suitcase that heaves with outfits for every occasion, unnecessary medical supplies (just in case), or chunky novels you imagine yourself reading during your vacation, it's so easy to get it wrong.

The truth is Burma is pretty hot, three pairs of jeans, two roll neck jumpers, and a pair of heels (just in case) is excessive. Consult your GP or a travel clinic about vaccinations. Try not to pack a library; lugging travelogues may provide inspiration on the plane, but unless you’re tacking on a few months strung up on a hammock (lucky you) it’s a bit of cultural overkill.

Pack your regular essentials, but what else?

What to pack for Burma (Myanmar)

1. Clothes

Boat to Inle Lake_112205

This is a broad one. Ask yourself three questions: Where are you going? When are you going? What are you doing? If you’re heading into the northern mountainous areas in February it can be especially cold at night. In fact, November to February can get chilly in most places in the morning (think 2 degrees in Kalaw), and hotels don’t have heating. However in April the mercury can tip to the forties. The rainy season is wet – no surprises there – so pack a waterproof. But, there will be many clearer hours, so take clothes that dry quickly. If you’re planning a walk, even a half-dayer, take sensible shoes (no, flip-flops aren't sensible).

Finally, even if it is really hot, we recommend covering shoulders and knees to be respectful; if you’re visiting religious sites this should be a given.

2. Money matters

It's only possible to get Burmese kyat in the country itself. US dollars are the most widely accepted currency to exchange once arrived, but not just any US dollars will do. They must be pristine. Seriously. No creases or crumples – there’s a good chance they won’t be accepted.

There are ATMs in the main tourist areas, but they can be unreliable. Take a nice flat money belt, keep your dollars crisp and exchange them at the official counters – this is where you’ll get the best and most reliable rate. While Yangon airport is a good bet, bear in mind that the counter closes at 3pm. No panic, there are plenty in Scott Market. If you are planning to use your card at all, let your bank know before you go.

3. A shoe bag


This does actually sound like one of those ridiculous things you’d panic pack, but you’ll be pleased you did. Burma (Myanmar) has lots of lovely temples, you may want to spend a few hours exploring, dipping through the door on one side, and exiting through another. In all of the temples you will need to slip off your shoes, so to avoid backtracking to the entrance, having them on your person will save you time.

4. A torch


These days most people have their phone to hand as a torch. But occasionally power outages happen in Burma; if your phone’s out of juice and you’re somewhere rural, you might find it trickier to get around. Headlamps are useful for hiking, too.

5. Protection from the sun


Burmese people protect themselves from the sun with thanaka paste

If you’ve ever been carried away on the blissful rays of the holiday sun, in blissful ignorance of your faded sun cream you’ll know that this should be top of your list. Pack a sun hat too, and sunglasses. It sounds like a simple enough thing to pack for every holiday ever, but when you’re full of beans about your holiday it can be easy to forget the essentials.

6. Your accommodation written in Burmese and English

Morning market (2)

This may not be something you can get before you arrive, but it is something worth having once you get there (most hotels have business cards, anyway). Holidaying should be all about exploring, not getting lost when you’re flagging a tuk tuk, ready to rest your feet from temple touring and take a dip in your resort's pool.

As a team that has travelled across Burma (Myanmar), we'd love to help you plan - whether that's picking hotels, planning your route, or packing your suitcase (or all three...) Get in touch.

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