How To Budget For a Trip to Myanmar

So how do you budget a trip to Myanmar? Very, very carefully is my advice, because as I said in the previous post on carrying money in Myanmar – if you run out you don’t have very many options. There are rumors that a rare high end hotel will give you a cash advance charging somewhere between 10% and 30%. Well it’s cheaper than flying to Bangkok which is your other option. Seriously, yes it’s pretty bad.

Working Out A Myanmar Budget

Do how have I budgeted my up coming trip? Pretty much I came up with a figure and added in a LOT of slack. I am traveling to Myanmar in November 2012 which may well be it’s busyest season for many , many years.

After a LOT of research and checking returning tourists opinions I came up with the following ballpark prices:

Hotel: $20-$35 night – for a double. This is the area that is going up very fast – as hotel prices are very much a reflection of supply and demand.  How bad this is very unclear and I hope that we will paying in the $20-$25 range, although I have already booked a $48/night hotel in Yangon for the first few nights. We are also taking sleeping mats in case there is literally no room at the inn. You cannot stay with locals, or camp in Myanmar, or indeed some hotels (they must have a foreigner license). So if we end up on the floor we will have some padding.

Food: 10,000 kyat for 2 people for each of lunch and dinner (breakfast is included in the room rate of most hotels). That’s about $10 – but I’m quoting kyats because I needed to budget not just an overall amount but also for the money that I’d change to dollars (large notes, in my case Euros) and those that I’d spend directly – US$ in a range of denominations. These seem resasonable prices for meals on the streets or local restaraunt. Note we could pay a GREAT deal more (think $40+) eating in tourist restaraunts, but that would also increase the likelihood of us getting ill (really, always eat locally with the locals for the cleanest food), plus it includes a beer or two.

Taxis/ Local transport: 5000 kyat. We don’t live in a tropical climate, and neither of us feel particularly fit so we are budgeting some local transport, it appears 2000kyat will get you a taxi across town in Yangon so I assume this will work in smaller towns too.

Longer Haul Transport 10,000 kyat. This is a bit harder to estimate but given that we will be in country for 28 days I believe that I’ve OVER estimated this based on 15,000 kyat for a long-haul bus (e.g. Yangon – Bagan) or $9 for a train (Yangon – Moulmein). To come up with the average I assumed that we would spend significant money on a long-haul trip every 3 days so 2x 12,000 kyat plus 7,000 for a taxi (many bus stations seem to be remote, the trains are my preference and are more central but more expensive so that should average out!

Water/Miscellaneous 1000 kyat / day

Government Fees : total around $100 for two – all the major sites e.g. Bagan, Mandalay, major pagados have a compuslory tourist fee. These haven’t changed much and I just added up the reported fees of every conceivable place we may go to – we probably won’t get to them all, and I’m quite keen to avoid paying if at all possible

Average Daily Spend in Myanmar

All of  the above taking the hotel at $35 addus up to $75/day. I rounded this up to $100/day for two people.  Then I added on two extra items:

$600 for Balloons over Bagan (2 people). We’re keen to do this – but also know we should have booked months ago, so we will try out luck stand by when we get to Bagan.

$500 for internal airfares (each hope around the country seems to be around $110 – so this is two flights for two people) .
We may very well not take any flights, but we will have the money with us.

It all adds up to around $4000  of which approximately $1000 we may change to kyat.

What Are Others Spending In Burma

I know someone else who travelled in September/October as a couple and ended up spending $60/day for two. I also know that if you use local agents to arrange a trip you can easily be spending upwards of hundreds a day (some of the better hotels are $200-$400 range). This option is still much cheaper than booking a trip with an overseas tour company though – where you will probably be paying around $200/day per a person.

Figures current October 2012 

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  1. Anca on December 28, 2012 at 6:16 am

    I wish I read your blog before my trip to Burma. It contains many useful informations. You should post the link on many travel forums.

    • Elisabeth on December 28, 2012 at 9:29 am

      I link to it when someone asks the question – but spamming forums has never worked as a promotion tactic 🙂

  2. Bruce on January 6, 2013 at 3:17 am

    Great advice. I’m about to go, so have similar change AU$ to US$ than to Kyat issues.

    The big change is… ATMs are now available for foreigners using Mastercard!
    CB Bank has ATMs in many cities including Yangon International Airport.
    Limit of 300,000 Kyat with 5000 transaction fee.
    (Still to be confirmed as todays post on Tripadviser under “ATM” found the ATM in their hotel only gave a maximum of 100,000.)

    So I am considering travelling with less US$ & pay with Kyat.
    Any comments?

    CB Bank Mastercard info
    ATM locator
    CB Bank youtube videos
    – their ad & first Mastercard withdrawal by Foreigner in Yangon

    • Elisabeth Sowerbutts on January 7, 2013 at 11:36 pm

      That’s expensive – nearly $6 fee for $350. Also if they are really dispensing 300,000 – then that would have to be 10,000 notes and even then 30 notes is quite a lot for an ATM to count at one time. In 28 days in Burma I NEVER saw a 10,000k note – so they could be challenging to cash. I suspect the 100,000 limit may be more on the mark – unless they’ve suddenly printed a LOT of 10,000 notes.

      You need to us US$ directly for all hotels, trains, government fees, so you’ll still need to carry about 50% of your budget in kyat

      Also that long list of ATMs = not very many outside of Yangon and only a few in Mandalay. I’d hate to walk Moulmein looking for the single ATM for example – it’s a town of about 30,000 people!

      I think it’s a nice backup – but I wouldn’t rely on them until they’ve been up and running for a while. The country is very, very safe, I never worried about having $1000’s on my person and in my luggage.

      • Bruce on January 8, 2013 at 1:03 am

        If you consider the cost of exchanging our local money to US$ and then to kyat, it is cheap.

        In Australia, the margin on the exchange to US$ is over 3%. Using Mastercard or Visa to do the conversion at their exchange rate (about mid rate), the main cost should be just be that 1.67% withdrawal fee on 300,000.
        I use free cards that have no foreign exchange or withdrawal fee, and deposit my money into the accounts, so no fee to withdraw my own money in local currency when travelling.

        Using the ATMs should be cheaper & easier if you otherwise needed to buy US$. At least there is no hassle with the state of your US$ this way.

        Both Mastercard & Visa are now accepted in Myanmar ATMs, with at least 2 bank’s ATMs taking VISA cards. Yes, locations are limited, but the change has only just begun. Being able to withdraw local money on arrival at Yangon International airport is handy.

        As you say – a good back up. Better than heading home early if you run out of money, as some report. Could also exchange kyat back to US$ at a major bank if short of those.

        This should halve the money I carry on me, especially on the two weeks on the way to Myanmar.

        So budget accommodation won’t accept local money?

        Thanks for enjoyable writing, interesting information, great photos & tips.

      • Bruce on January 8, 2013 at 1:20 am

        Yes – you raise an interesting issue about the bills issued by the ATMs… a voice of experience.

        I wondered about the denominations – likely to be larger than useful. Of course, you should be able to pop inside the bank to get them changed. Some report being able to change for smaller bills at exchanges.
        I am used to ATMs dispensing a maximum of 20 notes. No one has yet confirmed the actual limit, or notes issued. Time and experience will tell. Just glad to have a backup.

        (Rang Yangon to book a room from end of January. The mistakes in communication caused a lot of laughter, but I think I have a booking. Loved your piece about not needing to book. A 73 year old world traveller from an island in Auckland harbour told me today he sleeps at the airport, rather than trying to find a room. He spent 3 nights in Brisbane International last month.)


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