Because the airports are such a long way from the city centres ALWAYS try and share the taxi to the town center. Most airports are some 50 to 80 kilometers out from the cities and the Taxi drivers know that there is no alternative and charge appropriately.The taxi tariffs for these distances are high.. I learned very early to ask any europeans (if any) on the flight if they would care to share the Taxi to the City centre upon arrival. I found all the travellers that I asked were more than happy to share a Taxi to save the excessive costs. I also found that the majority of travellers that I spoke with were NOT aware of the huge distances that the airports were from the city.
This really worked out fine for me on ALL my flights and the more who share, the lower the costs...and its a great way to meet fellow travellers.
When we visited the Mahamuni paya, we were immediately accosted by a very friendly "monk", who grabbed us and took us to the front of the queue to see the procession of young people participating in some coming of age ceremony, and my husband was taken up to place some gold leaf on the Buddha image I was disallowed to go near.
After the unsolicited "tour" was completed, he asked if we would like to give him a "donation" for the temple. I had seen a sewn in mesh purse until his robe at some point, which quite full of notes, obviously indicating that he was not an authentic monk.
Unique Suggestions: I asked him where the nearest donation box was located, and that I was more than happy to place some money in that if he showed me the way. He did not insist, and was more than "happy" to oblige. We left a donation in the box.
Fun Alternatives: There is no sinister harm or danger in this "trap", just the principle factor!
Proved to be an expensive experience. I suspect that we not only subsidised the Kiwi's long trip to his country home, and his wife's imminent accommodation cost at the recommended hotel. I didn't see it coming.
After landing in Mandalay, we were approached by a Kiwi expat while we waited for our luggage. Mundane chatter later, he suggested that we share a cab to Mandalay. He also recommended a hotel, telling us that, although he was going home to his farm, his wife was arriving at Mandalay later that day. So, we set off for the 40km trip to Mandalay - believing that the fare was US$15 for the trip. When we arrived at the hotel, were told that the fare was PER PERSON, and were pressured to cough up US$30, which was refused, and downgraded to US$12 each.
We subsequently found out that the fare is actually a flat US$15. He clearly knew what was going on, and, I gather, we virtually paid his taxi fare to his property. I guess paying someone US$1 per day is exploitation - which he was quite happy to brag about. We were snagged and landed.
Well somehow we did not have to pay fees around Mandalay but we did not escape paying the fees for Sagaing and Mingun.
Our taxi driver paid for them on the road up to Sagaing Hill just after the bridge. I guess there was no other way around.
We had to pay in US dollars and they wanted to see our passports and wanted to know our nationality. We didn't have our passports but husband and brother could remember theirs. I couldn't but it did not seem to matter.
Alright - I should not have done this but I did! We visited the Mahamuni pagoda and it was raining very heavily. At the pagoda although I did not know it at the time a number of orphan boys spend their time there! One of the boys posed for me and I gave him a lolly- the next thing I was surrounded! Obviously, I did not have enough to give everyone a lolly! I tried :(
Beware - there are some very distressing beggars at this pagoda!
Unique Suggestions: Either ignore the obvious beggars or make sure you have at least twenty items of food!
(Some people would argue that this only encourages begging - I have yet to make my mind up- next time I think I would not encourage the boys).
En este pais donde el budismo tiene tanta importancia y que esta lleno de templos y monasterios, en los que por respeto a sus costumbres tienes que entrar descalzo , el betel es un "enemigo" al que tienes que ir sorteando a cada paso
On this country where the Biuddhism is so important and that is full of temples and monasteries where due to their habits you must go in with the bare feet, betel is an enemy that you must avoid on each step
There are amateur tour guides at many tourist attractions in Mandalay. Basically they strike up a conversation with you and before you know it, they are explaining the history of every nook and cranny whether you want to know or not. Afterwards, you'll be asked for a 'present'. Mandalay Hill is a hotspot for this because it is difficult to escape - there is only one way up and the tout knows this. They will follow you and keep talking.
Unique Suggestions: Go to each place intending to get the services of a guide and budget, say, $5 for a short tour.
Fun Alternatives: Say immediately that you don't want a guide. This worked well. We couldn't afford guides because we were running low on cash. The lack of credit card acceptance was taking its toll!
We took a taxi from Mandalay to Amarapura and the driver asked us if we'd mind stopping for a minute or two while he picked something up from a friend. "Sure", we said, "no problem" and off we went. It was on the way of course. Surprise, surprise, his friend just happened to be a souvenir vendor ;-) I had to laugh - it's the oldest trick in the book.
Unique Suggestions: I had a look around the store and watched some of the craftsmen for a little while but I never bought anything. I was having a few cash budgeting problems at the time in credit card-shy Myanmar and statues and embroidery just weren't in my budget. There were no hard feelings and no hard sell though so it's all good. I guess the moral of the story is to keep in mind that you might be led on a little side trip if you go somewhere by taxi.
We went to an Indian vegetarian restaurant, which is mentioned in the Mandalay section in the Lonely Planet Burma book.
Please, please don't bother, this is rip off city. They've put their prices up, the food is average-poor and it's full of other people reading the Lonely Planet book. Not very lonely at all in fact!
Fun Alternatives: There's far better authentic Burmese vegetarian food, at 1/10 of the price, on the main road, by the turning for this restuarant.
There is a tourist ticket that will get you into most all of the sites in Mandalay but not the Ancient Cities. It costs $10 and is probably worth it if you're going to be taking in the sites as it will be cheaper than paying each time you want to visit something. Of course if you're from Myanmar you don't have to purchase this!
Some Trishaw drivers (mostly well dressed, English speaking) are allocated for driving you around town by the Guesthouses. They sometimes 'cheat' you by asking for very high prices, sometimes they will drive you to other places than the suggested ones because they seem too far away. But I made the experience that other drivers will drive you abywhere you want for even lower fares.
Unique Suggestions: Please also use other drivers some metres further down the guesthouses (most of the time there are many 'unemploeyed drivers waiting the whole day for customers). It seems to me that some advantaged drivers get most of the jobs and earn a lot (!) of money from tourists while the 'rest' stays almost unemployed. I felt very bad observing this inequality (which is so normal in third world countries). One time I asked an nonofficial driver around the corner to pick me up at 4 am to go to the pier (to take the fast boat). Whereas the GH driver refused to wake up that early in the morning the other was waiting there in time. When I found out that it would take ages to get to the pier I stopped a pick up with some othe r travellers. The driver was very sad to loose me a s a customer, but did not start an argument. I gave him the full amount of money we had agreed upon(that was half the price the GH driver would have asked for during the day). Suddenly the driver felt on his knees and helt up his hands to thank me...I was so embarrassed that I brought this person into a situation like this to be grateful for half a dollar. Please be more generous with these people. ..sometimes travellers are very harsh, because they often get cheated, but most of the people are very humble and grateful.
Fun Alternatives: Try to spend ypur money equally !! Do not give all your money to one driver, one shop or one Guesthouse.