In Depth Tour of Burma
Burma

Buffalo cart in Chin state
  • TRIP TYPE: Cultural Tour
  • TRIP GRADE: Easy
  • TRIP STYLE: Hotel
  • TRIP LEADER: Local Leader
  • GROUP SIZE: 2 - 10 people
  • NEXT DEPARTURE: 07 Jan 2021

Details

Our In Depth Tour of Burma is a cultural tour with day walks to explore this fascinating country. You have time to visit the main must see places to Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake as well as venturing to more remote places in Chin and Shan states.

In Chin state you visit hill tribe villages around the small towns of Mindat and Kampalat as well as walking up Mount Victoria known locally as Natma Taung.

In Shan state we explore authentic hill tribes (Akha, Lisu, Eng, Wa, Loi, Wahu and Palaung peoples) easily accessed from the town. Kengtung is one of the few places left in Asia where it is possible to see these hill tribes wearing their traditional clothes and embracing their tribal culture.

In Shan state we drive from Kengtung through beautiful countryside of rice paddy fields and forest to visit the former British hill station of Loi-mwe (1,591m). This town has a number of colonial buildings such as old British governor’s house and is centred around a lake.

With this trip you will also have time to explore the most fabled sights of Burma including the thousand temples of Bagan; the former capital of Mandalay and watch the sunset at U-Bein Bridge. At Inle Lake you take a long-tail boat to the hotel and along the way you are likely to see the famous leg-rowing fishermen and the floating gardens. In Yangon you will see the glittering Shwedagon pagoda and the colonial buildings from British times.

Throughout this itinerary you stay at mid-level hotels carefully selected and inspected by us.

We can tailor this trip to suit your specific requirements from hotel accommodation to excursions to length of time available for your holiday. You have the option to join one of our fixed date departures or to have a private tour tailored to dates that suit you.

Route Map

Itinerary

Arrive in Mandalay

Sightseeing in Mandalay

Breakfast

Ayeyarwaddy River View in Deluxe room with River view

A driver will be sent to collect you on arrival at Mandalay airport and to bring you back to the hotel. Please provide travel plans on booking and we will arrange the pick-up and transfer. A tour briefing will be given in the afternoon.

The centre of Mandalay is dominated by the large Fort surrounded by a moat. Mandalay Palace was the primary royal residence of King Mindon and King Thibaw, the last two kings of the country. The complex ceased to be a royal residence and seat of government on 28th November 1885 when, during the Third Anglo-Burmese War, troops of the Burma Field Force entered the palace and captured the royal family. The Fort once contained the royal city and fabled Glass Palace however these were destroyed during World War Two.

At sunset you will go to Mandalay Hill where there is a magnificent panorama view of the city, the Irrawaddy, Mingun and pagoda-covered hills of Sagaing. Before dusk you will start to climb through one of the three roofed stairways leading up to the 236 metre high hill with 1,729 steps. Along the way there are shrines and viewing platforms. The walk up should talk about 45 minutes however if you are feeling less energetic you can also drive most of the way up instead.

Sightseeing in Ava, Sagaing and Amarapura for U- Bein bridge

Breakfast

Ayeyarwaddy River View in Deluxe room with River view

Around Mandalay there are many interesting remnants of several former Royal capitals dating from different periods in the regions history: Ava (Inwa), Amarapura, Sagaing and Mingun.

In the morning you drive to Ava (Inwa), this was the capital of Burmese kingdom for more than four hundred years until 1841. We take a small boat over to an island on the Irrawaddy river and explore this area by horse drawn cart. There are numerous crumbling pagodas and other remains of a former royal city including the teak monastery of Bagaya Kyaung; Nanmyin Watch Tower known as the leaning tower of Inwa and the Royal monastery temple named Maha Aungmye Bonzan.

After Ava you drive over a bridge on Irrawaddy to visit Sagaing once the capital of an autonomous Shan kingdom during 14th to 18th Centuries. Today this is a tranquil place where there are many stupas and pagodas covering these green hills overlooking the Irrawaddy river. This area is widely regarded as one of the main religious centres of Burma and is home to many Buddhist monks

Later in the afternoon we visit one of Burma's most iconic sights, U-Bein bridge, at Amarapura for sunset. This teak bridge is the longest in the world at 1.2 kilometres long and crosses Taungthaman Lake. Amarapura was once known as the City of Immortality and was briefly the capital of Burmese kingdom from 1841 to 1857. After this date King Mindon Min made Mandalay the last capital of the Burmese kings. Amarapura is known today for its traditional silk and cotton weaving and bronze casting.

The best time of day to visit U-Bein bridge is undoubtedly at sunset, with the dipping sun creating a spectacular vista and dramatic view of the wooden bridge.  You will board a private local row boat and venture out onto the lake to take in the sunset from one of Mandalay's most scenic locations.  As the sun goes down over the horizon you will observe silhouetted locals walking across the iconic bridge.

Sightseeing in Mandalay

Fly to Kengtung

Breakfast

Princess Hotel Kyaing Tong

In the morning there will be a guided tour around the city of Mandalay where you will see Mahamuni Pagoda; the impressive teak Shwenandaw monastery known as Golden Palace and craft workshops.

Mahumuni Pagoda is one of the three most important shrines in Burma along with Schwedagon in Yangon and the Golden Rock in Kyaiktiyo. Inside Mahamuni Pagoda is the world famous Mahamuni Buddha, this is 3.8m high and its shape is distorted from application of gold leaf over the years by pilgrims.

Shwenandaw is a beautiful teak monastery decorated with exquisite Buddhist carvings of mythical animals and dancing figures. This building is surrounded by teak platform supported on wooden pillars topped with marble lotus flowers. The monastery was originally King Mindon Min’s apartment complex and relocated from the Royal Palace in 1878. The building was reconstructed as a monastery dedicated to King Mindon Min’s memory on a plot adjoining Atumashi Monastery.

Mandalay is the cultural centre of Burma and has long been known as a centre of skilled craftsman and in former times supplied the royal courts. Whole sections of the city are devoted to production of devotional objects made of wood, jade, bronze or marble. You can visit workshops around the city for wood carving, marble sculpture, bronze casting, weaving and the creation of gold leaf.

In the afternoon you fly to Kengtung airport and on arrival you will have a transfer to your hotel.

Kengtung has both Burmese and Thai cultural influences forming part of the Golden Triangle that extends into Laos and Thailand. There are a number of 19th century Buddhist temples in Kengtung that are quite different to those found in other parts of Burma. However one of the main reasons for visiting the area is to see a large variety of authentic hill tribes (Akha, Lisu, Eng, Wa, Loi, Wahu and Palaung people) easily accessed from the town. Kengtung is one of the few places left in Asia where it is possible to see these hill tribes wearing their traditional clothes and embracing their tribal culture.

Sightseeing around Kengtung

Breakfast

Princess Hotel Kyaing Tong

After breakfast at hotel, we stroll around the local bustling market in Kengtung before driving out for 45 minutes to the ethnic villages of Pin Tauk area. At the trail head is the Lahu village of Pindauk where we walk to Akha villages of Nam Lin Mai and Nam Lin Hong. Later on we walk to Eng village of Wan Mai. Eng wear mostly black clothing and are well known for their custom of blackening their teeth. At Wan Pauk we can also visit the silver Palaung village of Wan Pauk.

Sightseeing at Wan Yut village

Breakfast

Princess Hotel Kyaing Tong

After breakfast we drive for two hours along a scenic road towards the Chinese border at Mong La. Unusual to the area around Kengtung, the Loi live in longhouses where multiple families share the same building. Loi lack the colorful traditional clothing of the other tribes, but they certainly lead a unique way of life.

On arrival at the road head we walk past an old wooden monastery called Mu Hein Tri Dragon and onto the Loi village of Wan Yut and Wan Seng to learn about their way of life and view the long houses where they live

Fly to Mandalay

Breakfast

Ayeyarwaddy River View in Deluxe room with River view

Transfer to Kengtung airport for the flight to Mandalay.

Fly to Bagan

Breakfast

Thazin Garden Hotel in Deluxe room

Breakfast at hotel, transfer to Yangon airport to take the flight to Bagan airport. After checking in at the hotel you have the rest of the day to explore this incredible place.

Bagan is truly one of the wonders of the world and a highlight of any trip to Burma. Across a 40 square kilometres area of savannah landscape you will see 2,230 temples and pagodas with their gilded cupolas sparkling in the sun. When King Anawrahta ascended the throne in 1044 founding the first Burmese dynasty, Bagan steadily developed into a powerful kingdom. Anawrahta converted to Theravada Buddhism and the ‘golden period’ of Bagan commenced when many temples were built most notably Schwezigon pagoda. Under King Kyanzittha temple construction continued at a rapid pace with Ananda being one of the most famous.

By 12th Century Bagan had a population of half a million although by 13th Century the city fell into decline. The old palaces and houses have disappeared as they were made out of wood although a few remnants of old fortifications survive such as 9th Century Tharaba gate. The temples and pagodas were left to the elements and further damage was caused by the earthquake of 1975 that destroyed over half of the remaining religious buildings. What remains today is glimpse of Bagan at its height of power however is a remarkable footprint of glorious period of Burma’s history.

After discussion with your guide you can decide which of Bagan’s many temples and pagodas to visit. Please note you must remove your shoes before entering any of these religious sites. The most impressive and important temples and pagodas to visit are as follows:

  • Shwezigon pagoda built by King Kyansittha. Schwezigon derives its name from Jeyyabhumi ‘Golden victory’ with its magnificent golden stupa. After Schwezigon we visit some of Bagan’s many temples and pagodas by horse drawn cart.
  • Gubyaukgyi (Wetkyi Inn) temple has fine 12th Century mural paintings, frescoes and base-relief works.
  • Htilominlo temple is a massive structure at 150 feet tall with frescoes representing 28 Buddha of the future.
  • Ananda temple has the best preserved masterpieces of Mon architecture and nearby brick monastery, is one of the few surviving from Bagan period.
  • Gawdawpalin is one of the largest and most impressive monuments in Bagan
  • Shwegugyi temple is of transitional in style between the early and late Bagan period.
  • Thabyinnyu temple is known as the highest monument of universal science
  • Dhammyangyi has a unique of double Image of Buddha. Myingabar Gubyaukgyi, meaning "great painted cave temple" is known for its exquisite mural paintings.

Drive to Mindat (7 hours)

Breakfast

Mountain Oasis Resort

There is an option this morning to go for a sunrise balloon ride over Bagan (October to March only and must be booked in advance). The flight will last about 50 minutes and the direction is dictated by the wind. From the basket there is a sensational view of the many pagodas and temples scattered over the Bagan plain and the Irrawaddy river as the sun rises in the sky.

After breakfast you take a boat across Irrawaddy and then drive by four wheel drive vehicle to Pontaung Ponnya for lunch. This place is a hilly region in Chin state known as home to several nats (local spirits) and where your driver will give an offering for a safe trip. Afterwards you continue your drive along the picturesque road through Chin state.

The Chin state is bordered by Rakhine State in the south of Burma, Bangladesh in the south-west, Indian states of Manipur in the north and Mizoram in the west. This is a sparsely populated, mountainous state and remains one of the least developed areas of Burma. Chin ethnic group make up the majority of the state's half a million population. Chin women are well known for their tattooed faces, this tradition started to avoid being chosen as concubines by Burmese kings. Mindat town and surrounding villages are mainly Christian and in this area you will see Catholic and Baptist churches and the occasional Buddhist temple.

After six hours of driving we reach Mindat located at 1,480m in southern Chin state. Mindat is a small town surrounded by pine forest and is pleasantly cool. In the evening you will be welcomed by a traditional Chin tribal dance.

Sightseeing around Mindat

Breakfast

Mountain Oasis Resort

Today we visit the villages near Mindat to find out more about their traditions, culture and way of life. In these Chin villages there are sub-tribes called Yin Duu, Daai, Ngagah (Panga), Makkan, Uppriu and Mouin tribes. In Pan Au village you will see Mouin tribe where the men are well known for their hunting skills. The traditional houses in this village are decorated with skulls of different animals hunted from the forest and also sacrificed animals from animistic ceremonies. When animals are slaughtered, the sacrificial ritual is carried out on symbolically engraved wooden posts. The women from Mouin tribe have tattooed faces and play songs on a bamboo flute using only their nostrils.

Walk to Lote-pe and Kyardoe villages

Drive to Aye village

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Aye Camp

After breakfast we drive an hour to Chi creek where we walk for a couple of hours up to Lote-pe and Kyardoe. Both of these are traditional Chin villages where you will have the chance to observe and interact with the locals. After a further hours walk we arrive to Makee creek where we meet the vehicle for the drive to Aye village.

Walk up Mount Victoria (Natma Taung)

Breakfast and Lunch

Pinewood Villa

After breakfast we drive from Aye village to the Base Camp of Mount Victoria known in Burmese as Natma Taung to start the walk up to the summit. Natma Taung National Park straddles the high mountains of the Chin state, an area of wilderness what encompasses mist forest as well as rhododendron forest. Bison, deer and reputedly leopards live in it, as well as a myriad of birdlife. It is perhaps most famous for its range of orchids that can be seen growing in the trees.

The trek to the summit at an altitude of 3,053m is a gentle hike taking about 3 hours from Base Camp. There is a good path that winds its way through the forest, climbing to the top of the main ridge before contouring its way northwards to the summit. The rhododendrons are out in late November and December, making the walk spectacular at this time of year. There are many flowers as well as lichens, mushrooms thriving in the wet, misty conditions. A golden pagoda marks the top and there are wonderful views, through breaks in the mist, back down to the Irrawaddy to the east and the coastal plains in the west. After walking back down to Base Camp we drive down to Kampalet for the night.

Drive to Bagan (7 hours)

Breakfast

Thazin Garden Hotel in Deluxe room

Today we drive back to Bagan along the road which meanders down through teak forest to the lower land before you enter into Yaw Region. Along the way we pass by Saw, Seik –Phyu and Chauk towns before arriving back to Bagan.

Fly to Heho

Drive to Inle Lake and boat trip to hotel

Breakfast

Golden Island Cottages Thale U in Superior room

Breakfast at hotel, transfer to Bagan airport to take the flight to Heho airport. From Heho we drive to Nyaung Shwe, known as the gateway to Inle Lake, where we stop off at Red Mountain vineyard for a tour and wine tasting. Afterwards we will board a long-tail boat for the transfer to your hotel on Inle Lake, along the way you are likely to see the famous leg-rowing fishermen and the floating gardens. Traveling on the lake is an exhilarating experience and a chance to observe the unique traditions of the Intha people. It is advisable to pack a waterproof jacket and warm clothes as it can be chilly sightseeing around the lake. Your lunch and dinner will be at local restaurants.

Boat trip to Sankar

Breakfast

Golden Island Cottages Thale U in Superior room

Boat then drive to Heho airport

Fly to Yangon

Sightseeing in Yangon

Breakfast

Hotel M

We take a final boat trip across the lake this morning to return to Nyaung Shwe.  A car will be waiting for you for the transfer back to Heho airport. You fly to Yangon airport and on arrival you will have a transfer to your hotel.

In late afternoon, you will visit the famous Shwedagon pagoda. This is the best time of day to come to Shwedagon as much cooler and it is serene place to watch the sun set over Yangon. You will also see Burmese coming to pay their respects at this sacred place after finishing their day’s work. Shwedagon shimmers above the city of Yangon and is known not only as the religious centre of Yangon but is also the cultural and spiritual heart of Burma itself. An estimated 60 tonnes of gold adorn the pagoda and at the top of the stupa the hti (umbrella) is believed to contain more than 7,000 diamonds, rubies and saphires.

Sightseeing in Yangon

Breakfast

Hotel M

Late morning you will be driven to Yangon train station for the journey on the circular train around Yangon city. This is a good introduction to Burma and the city of Yangon and allows you to meet commuters as they go about their daily lives.

After lunch we explore central Yangon where we organise a guided sightseeing tour. The first stop is Bogyoke Aung San (Scott) market where one can find Burmese handicraft as well as precious stones like rubies and jade. From the market we walk to Sule pagoda and then passing the old British colonial buildings along the way to the riverfront.

Fly home

Breakfast

Transfer to Yangon airport for your flight back home.  End of trip.

Dates & Prices

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2021

Dates Trip Leader Price Single Supplement: Room/Tent Availability
Dates 07 Jan 2021 to 24 Jan 2021 Trip Leader Local Leader Price US$3,395pp Single Supplement:
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US$595pp / NA
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Dates 28 Jan 2021 to 14 Feb 2021 Trip Leader Local Leader Price US$3,395pp Single Supplement:
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US$595pp / NA
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Dates 25 Feb 2021 to 14 Mar 2021 Trip Leader Local Leader Price US$3,395pp Single Supplement:
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US$595pp / NA
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Dates 28 Oct 2021 to 14 Nov 2021 Trip Leader Local Leader Price US$3,395pp Single Supplement:
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US$595pp / NA
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Dates 02 Dec 2021 to 19 Dec 2021 Trip Leader Local Leader Price US$3,395pp Single Supplement:
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US$595pp / NA
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For private and bespoke trip, please contact us

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What's Included

  • Internal travel in private car or minibus with driver.
  • Private transfers including airport collections.
  • Sightseeing with Burmese cultural guides and private vehicle.
  • Twin share rooms at all locations.
  • Breakfast (B) only at all places on itinerary apart from Breakfast (B) & Lunch (L) & Dinner (D) on Day 10 and Breakfast (B) & Lunch (L) on Day 11.
  • Rubberised luggage tags posted to you before departure.
  • Full financial protection for all monies paid to us through our membership of Association of Bonded Travel Operators Trust (our ABTOT membership number is 5365) and having an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (our ATOL number is 10921).
  • Pre departure support and advice from The Mountain Company by email, phone or face to face meetings in London. After booking with us we will send our comprehensive "Burma Pre Trip Information" notes.

What's Not Included

  • International flight to/from Yangon.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Burma visa.
  • Lunch and evening meals at all places on itinerary apart from Day 10 & 11.
  • Balloon ride in Bagan (cost for standard service is US$295/ GBP245 per person).
  • Tips (guidance on amounts included in our "Burma Pre Trip Information" notes).
  • Other items not listed in "What is included"

Accommodation

Hotel M in Yangon

Hotel M is located only a few kilometres from Lake Inya in an exclusive residential area of Yangon. This hotel has well-appointed 38 rooms with wooden parquet floors and teak wood furniture.

The rooms have en-suite bathroom with shower and facilities such as tea & coffee making, complimentary wifi and safe deposit box. This property has a swimming pool and complementary membership to their fitness club.


Ayeyarwaddy River View in Mandalay

Ayeyarwaddy River View has a wonderful location overlooking the Irrawaddy river in Mandalay. We suggest you visit their Sky bar and restaurant on the roof top in the evening for sunset or early morning for sunrise for the view over the Irrawaddy.

Their Cafe Ayar is on the ground floor of the hotel near their swimming pool where they serve traditional Burmese and International food. There is also a spa and fitness centre. Given availability we use Deluxe room with River view, these rooms have air conditioning, safe deposit box, tea & coffee facilities and free wifi.


Thazin Garden Hotel in Bagan

Thazin Garden Hotel is located in New Bagan and is surrounded by ancient pagodas and ruins. The buildings are built in traditional Myanmar style using teak wood and there is an attractive garden with flowers and palm trees. There is a swimming pool with pool side restaurant.

There are 67 Deluxe Rooms with some rooms having pagoda view and others garden view, all of the rooms have air conditioning and private verandah. The main restaurant serves supper under a flood lit pagoda. Breakfast in the mornings is served at the upper floor dining hall. There is also a spa centre for massage and beauty treatments.


Golden Island Cottages Thale U at Inle Lake

Golden Island Cottages Thale U is located in a quieter part of Inle Lake on the eastern side near the village of Thale U. This is a floating hotel built on stilts on the lake. The cottages are constructed from bamboo and furnished in a traditional style, they all have a private outdoor deck with scenic views of the lake.

The rooms have en-suite bathroom with shower and bath, tea and coffee facilities and mosquito netting over the bed. Golden Island Cottages are operated by the hospitable Pa O people and revenue is used for community development.


Princess Hotel Kyaing Tong in Kengtung

Princess Hotel Kyaing Tong is located in the centre of Kengtung town so you can walk to the market, lake or to restaurants. This is a basic hotel although is currently the best available in Kengtung. The rooms have en suite have air conditioning and there is complementary wifi.

Mountain Oasis Resort in Mindat

Mountain Oasis Resort is a simple lodge and provides a basic level of accommodation. This hotel is perched on hillside surrounded by pine trees and is a short drive away from the small town of Mindat.

The property has a number of cabins and each room has a simple bathroom although hot water and electricity are only available at set times. There is a good viewpoint near the dining room.


Pinewood Villa in Kampalet

Pinewood Villa i is a simple lodge and provides a basic level of accommodation at a similar level to Mountain Oasis Resort in Mindat. This hotel is a short drive away from the small town of Kampalet. There is a good view from this hotel.

Practical Information

Clothing and Equipment List for Burma tours

Footwear:

  • Comfortable shoes i.e trail shoes or trainers.
  • Flip flops or sandals for easy removal during temple visits.

Travel clothes. You will need casual clothing as follows:

  • Lightweight waterproof jacket.
  • Casual long sleeved shirt.
  • T shirts.
  • Lightweight trousers.
  • Fleece or woolly jumper/sweater (in winter months from December through to March it will get cold during the evenings when in hill stations of Kalaw and Pindaya).
  • Socks and underwear etc.

Please carefully read Cultural Consideration paragraph for dress code when visiting religious sites.

Headwear:

Personal Equipment:

  • Toiletry bag include toilet paper, soap, towel, toothbrush, etc.
  • Headtorch. Useful during power cuts.
  • Backpack for day trips. Recommended size is 15 to 20 litres.
  • Water bottle.
  • Sunscreen and lipsalve with a high SPF.
  • Insect repellent.
  • Books, phone and cards etc.
  • Power adapter.
  • Umbrella
  • Camera with spare batteries and memory cards.
  • Insurance certificate.
  • Hand sanitizer. We suggest you keep this in your day pack.
  • Duffle bag (or backpack) for your personal gear. Bring a small combination padlock to secure the bag.

Personal first aid kit:

Please bring personal medications and other items you might use regularly such as:

  • Any personal medications.
  • Malaria prophylactic tablets.
  • Spray on insect & mosquito repellent.
  • Plug in insect & mosquito repellent (for your bedroom at night).
  • Plasters and blister treatment (Compeed patches are the best).
  • Anti-septic cream.
  • Analgesics (paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin).
  • Throat lozenges.
  • Diarrhoea treatment (Immodium) and oral rehydration salts (Dioralyte).
  • Antihistamine cream and tablets (Cetirizine or loratidine)

Internal flights in Burma

All internal flights in Burma are in Economy with 20kg of baggage allowance not including hand luggage. These airlines often operate a circular network which means that depending on your itinerary the flight may go via one or two airports before reaching your final destination.

Please be aware that flight times are not confirmed by the airline until a few months before departure date. We will reconfirm your flights on your arrival to Burma and obtain the latest timings. However even after reconfirmation your flight times may change again without warning therefore a certain degree of flexibility is required for travelling in Burma.

British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice to Burma includes concerns over the safety standards of some airlines operating in Burma but does not offer any guidance on individual airlines. However the EU does not currently include any Burmese airlines on its list of banned carriers from operating within the EU.

Cultural information for Burma tours

For those of you who are visiting Burma for the first time we have provided some cultural information to help you fit in and feel at ease:

  • Burma is a conservative and as this country was closed to tourists for so long, it has been influenced less by Western culture than the rest of Southeast Asia. It is best to cover as much of your skin as you can while in public in order to be respectful of the local culture and not to attract too much attention to yourself.
  • When visiting religious sites you should wear trousers and long sleeved shirts as shorts and sleeveless tops will cause offence. Ensure your shoulders and knees are covered.
  • You should remove shoes and socks before entering a pagoda or monastery.
  • When you sit down your legs should not be stretched out and your feet should never face the Buddha.
  • When visiting a monastery or gompa it is customary to give a donation for its upkeep.
  • At hot springs, rivers and lakes where it is pleasant to take a dip, it is fine for men to go bare-chested while bathing but they should not go nude. Women should try and be as modest as possible in these situations.
  • Displaying physical closeness in public places is frowned upon in Burma, never kiss in public.
  • Do not purchase antiques although it is always a good idea to buy arts & crafts from local shops around heritage sites.
  • Do not give presents (sweets, pens etc) or money to children as this will foster dependence and expectations of gifts from future travellers.

Local customs are well explained on the website Dos and Don’ts for Tourists run by the Burmese government and Burmese Tourist Federation.

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