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Burma (Myanmar)

Money & Shopping

Money & Shopping

The currency of Myanmar is the kyat, pronounced "chat". Prices can be displayed locally using the abbreviation of K (singular or plural) or Ks (plural) before or after the quantity and depending much on who is doing the writing of the sign. The ISO abbreviation is MMK. Pya are coins, and they are rarely seen, as their value has become increasingly insignificant, even with the largest coin of 50 Pya worth less than six US cents. UU Or euro in February 2014.

Foreigners are no longer required to pay in US dollars for hotels, tourist attractions, train and plane tickets, ferry trips and bus tickets. As of September 2015, the instability of foreign currency and the weakening of kyat mean that many places will declare prices in US dollars, although it is currently illegal to price prices in USD. The expatriate restaurants are usually quoted in US dollars despite the recent Central Bank measures that prohibit the excessive use of the dollar. According to the law, it is illegal for a Myanmar citizen to accept (or hold) US dollars without a license, but this law is largely ignored and US dollars are generally accepted. However, never insist because it can be dangerous for the recipient. FECs are still legal tender, but they are rarely seen and are worth very little.

Kyat can not officially be exchanged abroad, although money changers in places with large Burmese populations abroad like Singapore will often exchange anyway. Keep US dollars very clean and unfolded (or will not be accepted by hotels, restaurants and money changers) and discard the remaining kyat before leaving.

When exchanging dollars for kyat, keep in mind that even small imperfections can cause rejection of a note. Keep all US dollars in impeccable condition, and do not double them.

Foreign currencies

Visitors do not need to bring a large amount of cash when landing in Yangon, as there are now many ATMs that accept MasterCard and Visa cards at the airport [Mar 2014]. If you are in a hurry at the airport, there are many ATMs in Yangon. Look near shopping centers, large hotels and banks. There are around 10 ATMs in the Shwe Dagon Pagoda. You still need to bring dollars to pay for day-to-day expenses. Banknotes in US dollars must be new, unmarked and in perfect condition. Credit cards are increasingly accepted in luxury hotels and restaurants.

The smaller tourist destinations also have ATMs now (Bagu, Hpa-An, et al.), But not so many. Be sure to take a buffer out of Bagan, Yangon, Mandalay and Inle Lake.

In addition, some hotels in Yangon will make a cash advance on a credit card through Singapore. People have reported that hotels charge a commission that ranges between 7% and 30% and they may need to see their passport to process the transaction. For the citizens of the USA UU., It is also possible to receive funds from friends or relatives in case of emergency through the US Embassy. UU

Especially on holidays and Sundays, all the necessary money must be exchanged at the airport since the city's banks are closed. Money changers offer significantly lower rates (between 5 and 10% lower) to change US dollars. The easiest option is to change all your money required at the airport, since you can also exchange it for a negligible fee. Look around in different banks to get the best exchange rate.

The foreign currency chosen in Myanmar is the US dollar, although it can also easily change Euros and Singapore dollars in Yangon and Mandalay, but perhaps not further. Other options are the Chinese yuan and the Thai baht. The best rates are in Yangon and Mandalay.

Be sure to bring a combination of USD denominations when visiting Myanmar because the money changers will not give change and the USD20, 10, 5 and one dollar notes are useful for some entry and transportation fees.

Official and black market rates

Monetary controls have relaxed in recent times, and banks no longer exchange foreign currencies at the ridiculous rate they used to. Most banks accept US dollars, euros and Chinese yuan. Singapore dollars and Thai baht can also be exchanged at some of the larger banks.

Ensure that foreign notes are:

  • Unmarked: no stamps, anti-counterfeit pen, ink or any other mark on them at all. Pencil can be removed with a good eraser, but any permanent marks will greatly decrease a note's value and ability to be exchanged.
  • Fresh, crisp and as close to brand new as possible. Moneychangers have been known to reject notes just for being creased and/or lightly worn.
  • Undamaged. No tears, missing bits, holes, repairs or anything of that sort.
  • Preferably of the new design, with the larger portrait, and the multiple-colour prints. Although, old-style USD1 are still commonly traded.
  • For USD100 bills, have no serial numbers starting "CB". This is because they are associated with a counterfeit "superbill" which was in circulation some time ago.

USD100 bills give the best exchange rate at banks. Changing USD50 or USD20 notes gives you a slightly worse rate of MYK10-20 fewer per dollar.

Kyat banknotes The notes of MYK50, MYK100, MYK200, and MYK500 are most of the time in a horrible condition, but are generally accepted when making small purchases. The MYK1,000 notes are slightly better, and when exchanging dollars into kyat, check that the banknotes you receive are in a generally good condition. If the exchange gives you kyat notes in horrible condition, you can ask them to exchange them for notes in better condition.

Exchanging money

There are a number of tricks and scams in Myanmar trapping tourists who carry US dollars. Sometimes, guest houses or merchants will try to pass you damaged or non-exchangeable bills in return. Always inspect all the notes when making a purchase and ask the seller to exchange the notes that you think you will have trouble using them in the future (this is perfectly acceptable behavior for both sellers and customers, so do not be shy).

Some moneychangers will also try sleight-of-hand tricks to exchange their good bills for damaged or smaller denominations. Other reports suggest that kyat can be counted and, somehow, some disappear from the table during the transaction. For example, after going through an elaborate counting process for stacks of ten 1000 kyat bills, some money changers will make some notes while counting the ten piles.

When changing the money, make sure that after the money is counted, no one will touch it until the deal closes. Also, do not allow your dollars to be withdrawn from your sight until everything is agreed upon; In fact, it is not even necessary to withdraw your dollars until you pay the kyats that you received. It sounds extreme, but ending up in a country where you can not access the savings you have, and that a good portion of your budget becomes useless (until you find more relaxed changers in Bangkok) can really hinder your plans.

Is it safe?

So, he travels around carrying hundreds, if not thousands, of US dollars stuffed into his pockets in a country where most people subsist on a few dollars a day. Everyone around him knows that if they could get the money in their pockets, they will be rich for life. What, you may ask, are the chances of someone trying to relieve you of your money? The answer: almost zero. There were very few cases of an assaulted tourist and only rare cases of theft. Myanmar is an extremely safe country for travelers. Some say it's because of the nature of people. Others say it is because the punishment for stealing a foreigner is draconian, while others say it is for Buddhism, which prohibits people from taking what is not given to them.

Outside of Myanmar, kyat is almost worthless but do make nice souvenirs. Make sure to exchange your kyat before leaving the country

Foreign Exchange Certificates (FECs)

Visitors to Myanmar were previously required to change USD200 into FECs upon arrival, but this was abolished in August 2003. FECs are still valid tender but should be avoided at all costs as they are no longer worth their face value (although a one FEC note has good souvenir potential).

Credit cards and ATMs

There are many ATMs throughout the country that accept international Visa and MasterCard. The bigger and more touristy the place, the more ATMs you have. The luxury tourist places (hotels, agencies, restaurants) already accept credit cards (and surcharges accordingly). Then, you can even pay with MasterCard at a store in the middle of Inle Lake for purchases worth more than USD100. But, nevertheless, paper money is the only way to pay in most places. If an ATM does not work, simply walk to the next one. In case you go to a remote area, leave beforehand in a city. The usual withdrawal limit is MYK300,000 with a processing fee of MYK5,000. In addition to ATMs, there are places where you can get cash with a credit card, but the rates are extremely uncompetitive (with premiums certainly not less than around 7%, and with quotes of 30% and more frequent). In case you run out of money, ask your taxi driver to take you to the CB Bank ATM.

Travellers cheques

Travellers cheques are not accepted in Myanmar. The only exception might be some especially shady money changer, but be prepared to pay an astronomical commission (30% is not uncommon).


Tipping is generally not practiced by the Burmese themselves. However, given the widespread poverty in the country, tips are certainly appreciated if you have received exemplary service. Tips billed to a credit card are almost never sent to service personnel. If you wish to tip, be sure to give it in cash to the person who has served you.


It is not possible to be comfortable with less than 25 USD / day (May 2013). Foreigners will probably be charged, including camera, video, entry, parking and area fees. Most managed tourist sites charge for carrying cameras of all kinds in the region. Double rooms with private bathroom are almost always more than USD20, in Yangon a double room without bathroom costs USD20. Dorm beds cost around $ 10 (or $ 8 if you agree to lose a lot of value) (September 2015). While you can not save on accommodation, you can save on food. Street food can get as low as USD0.30 for 2 small curries with 2 Indian breads, 1 USD for a normal (vegetarian) dish. Even in tourist places like Bagan dishes cost less than 1 USD (vegetarian) and 2 USD (meat). A Burmese beer project (5%) is around 600 kyat, a bottle of Burmese beer (650 ml) costs about 1,700 kyat, a bottle of Mandalay beer (6.5%, 650 ml) about 1,200 kyat.

What to buy

  • Antiques. Buying antiques and antiques in Myanmar is at best a legal gray area with the adoption in 2015 of the new law on antiquities, and often illegal for any object over 100 years. The penalties include prison and fines. It is advisable to avoid buying antiques as a tourist unless you are ready to obtain a Ministry of Culture export permit when you leave and you have enough knowledge to avoid counterfeiting. Also note that replicas and counterfeits are commonplace in the Bogyoke market and other anitque stores frequented by tourists. It is illegal to export religious antiques (manuscripts, Buddhas, etc.)
  • Art. Myanmar's art market has exploded in recent years, and the works of local artists have performed well in Yangon and Mandalay. Visit the numerous galleries in Yangon to get an idea of the available works. Art is often related to Buddhism and the difficult socio-political situation, as well as to more traditional Victorian influences such as markets, old women smoking cigars, members of tribes and monks. There are many cheap / mass-produced and derivative works at Bogyoke Market.
  • Gemstones. Myanmar is an important source of jade, rubies and sapphires (the granting of a license to the French on the ruby mines at Mogok was one of the causes that led to the Third Burmese War) and these can be obtained at a fraction of the cost. that would be cost in the west. Keep in mind, however, that there are many forgeries for sale amidst genuine things and, unless you know their gems, shop at an official government store or risk being cheated. The Bogoyoke Aung San Market and the Myanmar Gems Museum in Yangon have many authorized stores and is generally a safe place to purchase these stones.
  • Lacquer ware. A popular purchase, which is transformed into bowls, cups, vases, tables and various items, and is available almost everywhere. The traditional lacquer production center is Bagan in central Myanmar. Beware of fraudulent lacquerware, however, which is poorly made, but seems authentic. As an indication, the more rigid the lacquer, the poorer the quality; the more you can bend and twist it, the finer the quality.
  • Tapestries. Known as kalaga, or shwe chi doe. There is a long tradition of weaving tapestries in Burma. These are decorated with gold and silver threads and sequins and generally represent tales from Buddhist scriptures (jatakas) or other non-secular objects of Burmese Buddhism (mythical animals, hintha and kalong are also popular themes). The tapestry tradition is disappearing, but many are made for tourists and are available in Mandalay and Yangon. Burmese tapestries do not last long, so be careful if someone tries to sell you an old shwe chi doe.
  • Textiles. The textiles in Myanmar are impressive. Each region and each ethnic group has its own style. The chin fabrics are particularly impressive. They are woven by hand in intricate geometric patterns, often in deep reds and mossy green and white. They can be quite expensive, maybe USD20 for the fabric to make a longyi (sarong).

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Burma (Myanmar) - Travel guide