1. Traffic in Yangon (or Rangoon)
Yangon is not, as one may assume, the capital of Myanmar, but it is the country largest city.
The population is nearly 6 millions and being an important commercial centre, the traffic can be a problem, with the peak hour around 6pm. Take measures in order to avoid getting stuck in the traffic around that time.
2. Iconic place to visit: Shwedagon Pagoda
Shwedagon Pagoda is the most famous religious site in Myanmar, more than 2000 years old, popular amongst tourists and pilgrims.
It’s opened daily from 4 am to 10 pm but I would recommend that you go later after 4pm, because the sunset view is spectacular.
The place is amazing, rich in history and culture that’s why the best tip that i can give to anyone is to take a guide from the entry (freelance locals are waiting and they don’t take more than 10$ for their service).
The entry fee is 8$.
3. Go for a 3hr ride with the Circular Train
For only 1$ (how cheap right?) you can take a train from Yangon Central Railway Station that will take you all around the city.
Yes, there is no AC and the seats can be a little uncomfortable, but you’ll get to interact with the locals (friendly people) and observe how life sparkles in the markets that you’ll see along the way. You can even use it as an hop–on hop–off if you want to take pictures or you are tired and just want to grab a taxi to go back to the hotel.
4. Don’t discuss politics
It’s better not to mention to any local about the anglo-burmese war (from 1852) or about the current conflict between the Buddhists and the Muslims. Those are definitely big”no-no” topics in discussing to the people of Myanmar.
Best thing to eat is their national meal, called mohinga, which is basically rice noodles cooked in a fish curry.
Best thing to drink: tea = laphet (traditional fermented tea leaf)
The Burmese people also eat the tea (which you’ll not see in other Asian countries), at every corner of the street you’ll find a kiosk selling hot laphet.
6. Don’t accept damaged notes
If you receive as change banknotes that don’t look quite ok to you ( ripped, damaged) please don’t accept them. Later you’ll not be able to buy anything /or change the notes back into your currency.
Also if you are bringing dollars to change there you should make sure that the notes are in good condition, otherwise they will not be accepted.
7. Respect people’s prayer time and meditation
Shwedagon Pagoda is also a pilgrimage place for Buddhists so you’ll often see people gathered together for praying or meditation. They will be barefoot most probably and bending down on their knees.
Tourists are supposed to limit the noise level, remove their shoes in front of the temples, don’t point their feet at the Buddha statues, dress decent (covered shoulders for ladies) and try not to bother locals by taking flash photos when they are meditating.
8. Don’t touch the monks
I think i said this in a post before :). Yes, they are nice people and they will accept you to take pictures of them or together but as soon as you try to just touch their shoulder they will step back fast. Don’t put yourself in this position cause you’ll probably feel embarrassed.
9. Burmese numerals
Even if some of the locals do speak English it’s still easy to get lost because everything around you it’s written in Burmese (including the numbers), so if you are trying to catch a certain bus, it can only be a lucky guess to try to read the number.
10. Visit Yangon’s Chinatown
This place has been active since the British expanded Yangon in the 1850s, and is located in the center downtown.
Here you can try the local food, grab a snack, there are all sorts of barbecue, fruits (pomelo is amazing). You can also go for shopping – gold, leather, crafts, gems – all of good quality/price.