With a new government in power, and a young and dynamic population of more than seven million people, Yangon is once again a magnet for those who dream of a better life. Change in Myanmar won’t happen overnight, but Yangon is leading the way.
Yangon International Airport is about 15km north of the city centre, and taxis are available (on a prepaid voucher system) in the arrivals hall. The number of flights to Yangon has expanded in recent years, putting pressure on the airport’s limited facilities. Last minute changes of departure gate — the terminal has only about a handful — are not uncommon, and the facility is ill-equipped to deal with larger planes. A terminal extension is under construction.
Myanmar remains a cash-based economy and credit cards, although welcome in fancier hotels and restaurants, are still not widely accepted. The authorities are trying to encourage people to use the local currency (the Myanmar kyat), but US dollars remain popular. ATMs are now available, but not always operating, so it’s advisable to bring plenty of cash. Any US dollars should be in mint condition. Bills with tears, folds or creases won’t be accepted.
Tourist and business visas can now be issued online for arrivals through Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw. A tourist visa costs $50, while a business visa is $70. Those on business visas can stay for 70 days from the date of their arrival, while tourists can stay for 28 days.
Myanmar people will probably want to try their English skills, but when taking a taxi, ask your hotel concierge to write your destination in Burmese. Alternatively, hire a driver for the day. Try not to be too disorientated by the fact that while everyone drives on the right, the cars are right-hand drive – a bizarre legacy of military rule. The traffic is not quite on the scale of Bangkok or Jakarta, but it’s busy, and increasingly jammed, so schedule appointments accordingly.