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First trip to Myanmar...Questions


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I am going on an organised trip of 10 days to Myanmar in March this year.

I already have a visa for Myanmar from the Embassy in Canberra

Took about 3 weeks.

We are coming from Sydney via transit at Bangkok on Thai Airways.

Here are some questions, if someone can help me with please.

Can you buy a bottle of alcohol at Suvarnabhumi/Bangkok airport and not have it taken off you boarding flight to Yangon.

What is the allowance for alcohol and cigarettes entering Myanmar.

How do customs at Yangon treat tourists entering at the airport.

Want to change to some local currency from AUD, the exchange rate at the airport OK or not.

Are there any Duty Free shops at the airport when leaving from Yangon.

Are the prices reasonable.

How much are cigarettes to buy in Myanmar, easy to buy.

On returning to Bangkok will be staying for 40+ days.

I have travelled to Thailand many times

Any help about Myanmar would be great.

Aussiep…..

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Hello aussiep

Some answers for you which might be helpful:

- Consider buying your booze on arrival in Yangon. Quick, easy, and cheap (in most cases cheaper than Bangkok airport).

You can buy your booze while you are waiting for your luggage near the baggage carousel.

Plenty of cigarettes available too, although I don't know the prices I believe they are very competitive.

Exchange rates at the airport (several official banks have booths there) are good and no difference to downtown.

I still advise people to bring USD in clean, crisp unmarked bills of varying denominations - more acceptable than AUD.

Outgoing duty free no problem either - good range and excellent prices. I normally buy alcohol on the way out to Bangkok from Yangon airport.

Can't recall the limits off hand but I haven't been pulled up on alcohol quantities in many years.

Hope this helps - might be other members who can advise on cigarette prices and whether anyone has recent experience of changing AUD in Yanon.

cheers

SVB

Hope this helps as a start.

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Hello aussiep

Some answers for you which might be helpful:

- Consider buying your booze on arrival in Yangon. Quick, easy, and cheap (in most cases cheaper than Bangkok airport).

You can buy your booze while you are waiting for your luggage near the baggage carousel.

Plenty of cigarettes available too, although I don't know the prices I believe they are very competitive.

Exchange rates at the airport (several official banks have booths there) are good and no difference to downtown.

I still advise people to bring USD in clean, crisp unmarked bills of varying denominations - more acceptable than AUD.

Outgoing duty free no problem either - good range and excellent prices. I normally buy alcohol on the way out to Bangkok from Yangon airport.

Can't recall the limits off hand but I haven't been pulled up on alcohol quantities in many years.

Hope this helps - might be other members who can advise on cigarette prices and whether anyone has recent experience of changing AUD in Yanon.

cheers

SVB

Hope this helps as a start.

Thanks for the reply.

This is just what i'm looking for.

I do have some USD but some might be a bit old and not all perfect.

The trip is all prepaid

I only want to change AUD to get on some local currency.

I have been known to smoke local tobacco from the north east of Thailand.

And will buy any booze on leaving Yangon.

Thanks again aussiep.....

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I agree with SVB that you definitely want to bring crisp new unfolded USD. But then, it's up to you.... You don't need to convince us, try your luck and report back how you fare with old USD, or with AUD in any state (new or obviously used). In fact, on my recent trip (came back tonight), taxi drivers accepted old USD notes with a grudge. Last year, they wouldn't have.

I do not agree with SVB that you can buy the booze while waiting for your luggage. The reason is that immigration has become so slow that your luggage is on the belt before you have passed immigration.

One little tip here: Look at the immigration queues. Some lead to one counter, others split and lead to two counters and are therefore twice as fast, so that you'll be through in half an hour or so.

I am surprised your visa took 3 weeks. Over here in Bangkok,you'll get it over night (same day with extra charge, if you have a ticket for the next day).

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Forgot to add: I don't know about quantities of booze or cigs, I don't buy or use that stuff.

Beer is another story (it's a basic food group). Myanmar Beer finds my approval. But I never take beer across borders, I always look for the local brew.

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I do not agree with SVB that you can buy the booze while waiting for your luggage. The reason is that immigration has become so slow that your luggage is on the belt before you have passed immigration.

Fair enough biggrin.png Buy your booze and cigarettes AFTER getting your luggage then.

Or before, if you clear immigration quickly. Some of us are quicker than others through immigration whistling.gif

Still very quick to buy either way. The point was the price is comparable or better than Bangkok depending on what you're after.

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I do not agree with SVB that you can buy the booze while waiting for your luggage. The reason is that immigration has become so slow that your luggage is on the belt before you have passed immigration.

Fair enough biggrin.png Buy your booze and cigarettes AFTER getting your luggage then.

Or before, if you clear immigration quickly. Some of us are quicker than others through immigration whistling.gif

Still very quick to buy either way. The point was the price is comparable or better than Bangkok depending on what you're after.

I don't know about the price, but you are obviously familiar with the split queues! thumbsup.gif

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I agree with SVB that you definitely want to bring crisp new unfolded USD. But then, it's up to you.... You don't need to convince us, try your luck and report back how you fare with old USD, or with AUD in any state (new or obviously used). In fact, on my recent trip (came back tonight), taxi drivers accepted old USD notes with a grudge. Last year, they wouldn't have.

I do not agree with SVB that you can buy the booze while waiting for your luggage. The reason is that immigration has become so slow that your luggage is on the belt before you have passed immigration.

One little tip here: Look at the immigration queues. Some lead to one counter, others split and lead to two counters and are therefore twice as fast, so that you'll be through in half an hour or so.

I am surprised your visa took 3 weeks. Over here in Bangkok,you'll get it over night (same day with extra charge, if you have a ticket for the next day).

Thanks onthemoon.

I know good USD is whats needed but have some good and used left from past trip to Vietnam and want to try and use them up.

And allways only have top quality AUD notes on trips.

Good tip about the immigration queues, Just like Swampy, before the queue system was updated.

The time quoted for a visa from Myanmar embassy in Canberra via the travell company is 3 to 5 weeks.

Cost $35 plus $20 courer $55 all up. Better then 2 trips to Canberra.

Was a bit of a hassle getting Thai tourist visa (3 days from Sydney) and Myanmar visa at same time.

Thanks for tips and advise..............aussiep

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Forgot to add: I don't know about quantities of booze or cigs, I don't buy or use that stuff.

Beer is another story (it's a basic food group). Myanmar Beer finds my approval. But I never take beer across borders, I always look for the local brew.

I found out about the booze and gigs, about the same as Thailand.

I'm also a local beer drinker beer Leo, beer Lao some good local beers.

Whats the best local beer in Myanmar?

TKS

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Forgot to add: I don't know about quantities of booze or cigs, I don't buy or use that stuff.

Beer is another story (it's a basic food group). Myanmar Beer finds my approval. But I never take beer across borders, I always look for the local brew.

I found out about the booze and gigs, about the same as Thailand.

I'm also a local beer drinker beer Leo, beer Lao some good local beers.

Whats the best local beer in Myanmar?

TKS

As mentioned above, the local beer is called "Myanmar Beer". The same brewery also brews Tiger Beer.

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You are allowed 400 cigarettes duty free entering Myanmar. Price of a pack outside the airport is 2500 kyat for 20 for a western brand, If you get local then they are much cheaper.

leaving 200 Western Cigarettes are USD19 in the duty free shop.

When entering the country they scan all luggage now at customs at Yangon Airport. Although I find that they are not really all that interested in what foreigners are bringing in and they normally only scanned my checked in luggage not my hand luggage.

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Hello aussiep

Some answers for you which might be helpful:

- Consider buying your booze on arrival in Yangon. Quick, easy, and cheap (in most cases cheaper than Bangkok airport).

You can buy your booze while you are waiting for your luggage near the baggage carousel.

Plenty of cigarettes available too, although I don't know the prices I believe they are very competitive.

Exchange rates at the airport (several official banks have booths there) are good and no difference to downtown.

I still advise people to bring USD in clean, crisp unmarked bills of varying denominations - more acceptable than AUD.

Outgoing duty free no problem either - good range and excellent prices. I normally buy alcohol on the way out to Bangkok from Yangon airport.

Can't recall the limits off hand but I haven't been pulled up on alcohol quantities in many years.

Hope this helps - might be other members who can advise on cigarette prices and whether anyone has recent experience of changing AUD in Yanon.

cheers

SVB

Hope this helps as a start.

I would like to add that AUD are increasingly acceptable for exchange in Myanmar. The best place to exchange AUD is the moneychanger near the Thai embassy on Pyay road. You can catch a cab right there from the airport. Tell the driver you want to go to the Thai embassy, then go there to exchange your AUD. The moneychanger is located behind the embassy on the same alley where the consular section is located. You'll see the sign for the moneychanger right behind the outside waiting area of the embassy. The rates there are good for AUD and the other 8 currencies they exchange.

Otherwise, USD, EUR or SGD are exchangeable at the airport. I haven't been to Yangon airport since April 2013 so can't say if more currencies are accepted at the airport moneychanger since then as the land borders have opened in August last year, every time I've been to Myanmar since then I've gone overland, much more fun and also my business is in Kayin state hence it's much closer, more practical and cheaper for me to arrive overland from Thailand than go to Yangon first, but anyway, I digress.

Another option is to withdraw local cash in Kyat (maximum 300,000 Kyat per withdrawal, which equates to something like AUD 350 or so, plus a 5,000 Kyat withdrawal fee) from CB Bank and Kanbawza Bank ATMs. There may be others that allow withdrawals from international cards, but these two banks are the most reliable.

You could also withdraw some USD or EUR from an SCB ATM airside at Suvarnabhumi airport OR exchange some USD or EUR for exchange to Kyat, also while in transit at Suvarnabhumi. Of course you could always avail yourself of the foreign currency ATMs in Australia, for example those operated by the Commonwealth Bank for the same purpose, but they do charge a commission.

My advice in your case would be, either do what I suggested in my opening line (taxi to moneychanger behind Thai embassy) or exchange say US$100 or 200 or 100 EUR (or more at your convenience) and then exchange this to Kyat upon arrival. You can then exchange your AUD to Kyat at the moneychanger I suggested later on.

Indeed you'll have problems with old, dirty USD notes. Although other currencies shouldn't be in too bad a condition either, they are somewhat less fussy about this. That's why I've suggested exchanging EUR rather than USD (these days it's almost as easy to change EUR as USD in Myanmar, at least in the larger cities) since even slight tears or small markings on USD notes (the type that notes given to you by Thai moneychangers tend to have) may render the notes useless for exchange in Myanmar, even if you tell them you need brand new notes or you are going to Myanmar, it's still possible that you won't be given what you need or the clerk misunderstands the meaning of "pristine condition" or something like that.

Edited by Tomtomtom69
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Hello aussiep

Some answers for you which might be helpful:

- Consider buying your booze on arrival in Yangon. Quick, easy, and cheap (in most cases cheaper than Bangkok airport).

You can buy your booze while you are waiting for your luggage near the baggage carousel.

Plenty of cigarettes available too, although I don't know the prices I believe they are very competitive.

Exchange rates at the airport (several official banks have booths there) are good and no difference to downtown.

I still advise people to bring USD in clean, crisp unmarked bills of varying denominations - more acceptable than AUD.

Outgoing duty free no problem either - good range and excellent prices. I normally buy alcohol on the way out to Bangkok from Yangon airport.

Can't recall the limits off hand but I haven't been pulled up on alcohol quantities in many years.

Hope this helps - might be other members who can advise on cigarette prices and whether anyone has recent experience of changing AUD in Yanon.

cheers

SVB

Hope this helps as a start.

I would like to add that AUD are increasingly acceptable for exchange in Myanmar. The best place to exchange AUD is the moneychanger near the Thai embassy on Pyay road. You can catch a cab right there from the airport. Tell the driver you want to go to the Thai embassy, then go there to exchange your AUD. The moneychanger is located behind the embassy on the same alley where the consular section is located. You'll see the sign for the moneychanger right behind the outside waiting area of the embassy. The rates there are good for AUD and the other 8 currencies they exchange.

Otherwise, USD, EUR or SGD are exchangeable at the airport. I haven't been to Yangon airport since April 2013 so can't say if more currencies are accepted at the airport moneychanger since then as the land borders have opened in August last year, every time I've been to Myanmar since then I've gone overland, much more fun and also my business is in Kayin state hence it's much closer, more practical and cheaper for me to arrive overland from Thailand than go to Yangon first, but anyway, I digress.

Another option is to withdraw local cash in Kyat (maximum 300,000 Kyat per withdrawal, which equates to something like AUD 350 or so, plus a 5,000 Kyat withdrawal fee) from CB Bank and Kanbawza Bank ATMs. There may be others that allow withdrawals from international cards, but these two banks are the most reliable.

You could also withdraw some USD or EUR from an SCB ATM airside at Suvarnabhumi airport OR exchange some USD or EUR for exchange to Kyat, also while in transit at Suvarnabhumi. Of course you could always avail yourself of the foreign currency ATMs in Australia, for example those operated by the Commonwealth Bank for the same purpose, but they do charge a commission.

My advice in your case would be, either do what I suggested in my opening line (taxi to moneychanger behind Thai embassy) or exchange say US$100 or 200 or 100 EUR (or more at your convenience) and then exchange this to Kyat upon arrival. You can then exchange your AUD to Kyat at the moneychanger I suggested later on.

Indeed you'll have problems with old, dirty USD notes. Although other currencies shouldn't be in too bad a condition either, they are somewhat less fussy about this. That's why I've suggested exchanging EUR rather than USD (these days it's almost as easy to change EUR as USD in Myanmar, at least in the larger cities) since even slight tears or small markings on USD notes (the type that notes given to you by Thai moneychangers tend to have) may render the notes useless for exchange in Myanmar, even if you tell them you need brand new notes or you are going to Myanmar, it's still possible that you won't be given what you need or the clerk misunderstands the meaning of "pristine condition" or something like that.

Tomtomtom69.

Thankyou and to everyone for all this good advice.

aussiep

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They (for example the taxi drivers) used to prefer crisp USD notes over Kyat. No more so, as I can attest from my visit to Yangon last week. Taxi drivers will accept USD (even non-crisp notes) for a premium over the Kyat. MMK 2500 now translate to USD 3 in the taxi-drivers exchange rate.

It is a good idea to have Kyats now. Last year I didn't need any.

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They (for example the taxi drivers) used to prefer crisp USD notes over Kyat. No more so, as I can attest from my visit to Yangon last week. Taxi drivers will accept USD (even non-crisp notes) for a premium over the Kyat. MMK 2500 now translate to USD 3 in the taxi-drivers exchange rate.

It is a good idea to have Kyats now. Last year I didn't need any.

True, things have changed - on my first trips to the interior of Myanmar in 2004 and 2005 I brought only USD - for border runs to Tachilek prior to 2004 and as late as 2007 only Baht sufficed. However, throughout all my trips last year, I didn't need any USD anymore (except for two international flights originating in Myanmar). Last February I brought a combination of USD and EUR to exchange 100% for Kyat when I flew into Yangon. In April, I brought with me 90% of my funds in Euros and 10% in USD for exchange to Kyat (I ended up exchanging this stash in town, not at the airport though). When I started entering overland from Mae Sot to Myawady, I exchanged Baht to Kyat either on the Thai or the Myanmar side (usually I exchange on the Thai side as there's a shop run by an older Thai-Chinese lady who's very friendly and efficient I have become familiar with). Any further exchanges taking place on the other side of the Dawna range (i.e. from Hpa-an onwards) I would make sure I have with me a currency I know I can exchange (usually EUR, USD or SGD if I'm dealing with a bank) or I would just withdraw Kyat from an ATM.

In general, I would insist on paying with Kyat and not USD...even for hotels (for Yangon and some other cities, I would always pre-book a hotel, which can be paid for in your home currency via credit card on Agoda). Fortunately, Myanmar is now starting to switch to the Kyat more and more, with the entrance fee for the Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon officially changing to 8000 Kyat from 8US$ as of April 1st. For more info, check out www.elevenmyanmar.com

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On a certain level, it is good for the country that people are proud of their own currency. For a tourist, it is better if they accept an international currency.

It was the same in Europe: Every country used to have their own currency. Now I can travel with euros across so many countries, I think this is the best that has happened for both tourists and businesses. Alas, ASEAN has no policy of a common currency, which I think is a pity.

Talking about ATMs, some dispense USD and others MMK. Make sure you get what you want.

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On a certain level, it is good for the country that people are proud of their own currency. For a tourist, it is better if they accept an international currency.

It was the same in Europe: Every country used to have their own currency. Now I can travel with euros across so many countries, I think this is the best that has happened for both tourists and businesses. Alas, ASEAN has no policy of a common currency, which I think is a pity.

Talking about ATMs, some dispense USD and others MMK. Make sure you get what you want.

Unless there was a recent change in ATMs dispensing USD in Myanmar, this is a myth. All ATMs in Myanmar only dispense Kyat, as they should. My opinion is I would rather use Kyat as there's nothing difficult about exchanging a foreign currency into the local currency. If a foreign currency should gain traction in Myanmar it should be the Chinese Yuan or the Thai Baht, not the dollar (but in any case, nowadays Myanmar is moving fast away from the dollar and towards the use of their own currency). How would you feel if foreign tourists consistently started shooting their USD, EUR or whatever at you in say England? Personally, as a merchant I'd be willing to accept most major foreign currencies to help out tourists as a courtesy but as a matter of principle would generally only quote in the local currency and prefer to accept only local currency; local laws would also help me determine what I would need to do.

Most countries in the region and around the world are generally moving towards the use of either their own, or a regional currency (this is the case mostly in Europe and areas surrounding the Eurozone). For example, years ago in Greece the USD was an acceptable alternative currency to the Drachma, but nowadays the EUR has all but wiped out any USD acceptance there. In Poland, the USD was occasionally seen in the past but now the EUR is the second currency to deal with (I'm not quite sure if they've eliminated the Zloty yet and replaced it with the EUR yet but in any case, the EUR already rules either as a major or secondary currency in Poland). Turkey is much the same I believe.

In Asia, Vietnam has largely rid itself of USD and established everything in VND. While some merchants dealing with tourists may still continue to quote in USD out of convenience (or more likely, as a courtesy), payment must now generally be made only in VND (if USD is accepted it's generally for the convenience of the traveller and under no circumstances would any business such as a convenience store, supermarket, petrol/gas station etc. be able to accept USD - I've tried in the past and it didn't work). It's also virtually impossible to purchase USD (or any other currency) from a bank in Vietnam anymore without proof of travel to another country or another legitimate reason for acquiring these funds. Simply trying to purchase USD to "hold onto" whilst travelling or staying within Vietnam is NOT an acceptable reason and the banks will refuse to sell you USD in such cases. However, moneychangers continue to be free of these restrictions, at least in practice.

In Laos, USD and THB still circulate quite freely in major tourist cities but the government does have a policy towards the use of the Kip and this is becoming promoted more and more. Nowadays most prices are quoted in Kip though payment is still accepted in any combination of Baht, Kip or USD (or occasionally, EUR). For some reason, some embassies such as the Australian embassy in Vientiane either take only USD or Kip and not Baht although I wouldn't be surprised if in the near future they only accept Kip (just like in Vietnam where all payments are to be made only in VND).

I would agree with the idea of a pan ASEAN currency though, but that may be years off.

Edited by Tomtomtom69
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Thanks for the regional overview. I thought my first withdrawal by ATM last year was on a KBZ ATM and I got USD. However, I wouldn't swear to it ay more.

In Cambodia, I am pretty sure the ANZ ATMs still dispense USD. KHR is mostly used for small change, better than coins. Business quotations are in USD.

In Laos, I noticed that EUR is now accepted in addition to THB and USD by some restaurants.

ASEAN has no policy towards a common currency. I find that a pity, as I think the EUR is the best that ever happened to Europe (or the euro-zone, to be exact). There was a discussion of making one currency in Asia (JPY or CNY, maybe? Or SGD?) the currency of reference in Asia. Why do we (in Thailand) issue our business quotations to a customer in the Philippines or in Myanmar in USD? Wouldn't it make more sense to use an Asian currency?

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