Be aware that you will be approached by money changers on the street downtown Yangon. They are not that persistant though and can be shaken off by a "no thanks" or putting up your hand.
How legal they are would be questionable.
Myanmar is a very Buddhist country and you will see monks, nuns, and novices dressed in their traditional robes everywhere you go. This is not what I want to warn you about.
In touristy places (which in Yangon means mostly around Bogyoke Market and Zawgyi restaurant) you will see young kids (boys and girls) dressed in robes begging for money. These kids are not real novices. The robes you can buy everywhere and they know that tourists are really susceptible to this get-up.
Monks too are not allowed (by their religion!) to ask for money. For nuns it is slightly different since they don't get as much support from the population as monks. But even then, it is better not to give any money. After all, most of you are not buddhist, so why give...
Many people advertise themselves are independent agents or tout their abilities to get good prices. But I recommend that instead of selecting these unknown individuals, go for established tourist agencies. Also if you do not receive a reply to your query within 48 hours from Yangon ( accounting for time difference), do not trust the individual.
Unique Suggestions: My recommendation is
MyanmarTourex. Excellent help, arranges everything for you.. in that the nuisance factor is taken care of.. such as domestic flights with yangon airways or air mandalay, pick up service and hotel reservations and provides a car and a driver for the entire day.. all at extremely attractive rates. My brother and I calculated that there was no way in the world we could travelled in such comfort ( if we had organized ir ourselves) for the money we paid for the services to MyanmarTourex.
Having said that, i have used the services of Eithwe who is no longer in Yangon and her agency numerous times. Su Yee put me on to Ayerwarry Tour and Travels who were able to get me a nice room (large top of the line) at Yuzana Garden HOtel for 35 usd per night.
For Jewish visitors, I recommend,
Fun Alternatives: MyanmarTourex Travel Agency. I had to write to them to commend and criticize some of the services , an immediate reply by email was forthcoming...
for Jewish Visitors,
This is actually a ploy to engage you in conversation and can be an entre to "would you like to exchange some money?" to "would you like a postcard/map/lacquerware?".
Some of these people may be young girls or young girls with a baby and they will follow you wherever you go-it can be quite distressing as they are obviously quite desperately poor and they will be in places where you may want to reflect on the atmosphere/ambience such as Shwedagon Pagoda or be concentrating on buying something else such as Bogyoke Market.
Unique Suggestions: Depending on the situation we gave 1000 kyat-other times we used the phrase, "no buy, no sell". This was especially when we found the situation intolerable because once we gave to one we were immediately surrounded by others.
Fun Alternatives: Always smile - don't lose your cool and never ever shout!!
Shwedagon Paya is a beautiful place and really must be experienced.
On the down side, the complex is crawling with bogus monks, money changers and tour guides, all of whom are keen to help you part with some cash.
This particular spot in the complex was a hot spot. We were 'ambushed' by a guru here that we later nicknamed 'the telemarketer' because he was very difficult to get rid of. It can be annoying if you are sightseeing with an unwanted tout in tow.
Unique Suggestions: All of these people are just trying to make a living after all. if you're not keen, just smile and shake your head and move on. This worked most of the time.
About 500 meters from the Sule Pagoda, this little fella rushed up and urgently gave us plastic bags. He then disappeared. Bewildered, we walked on and the closer we got, the more we understood - the bags were for our shoes (forbidden inside the pagodas). I laughed out loud - the little rascal got us and good on him I thought. We paid our 10 kyat (1 cent) each and off he scurried to find another customer, very pleased with himself.
Fun Alternatives: At some other pagodas, the attendants at the front take 'special care' of your footwear and then try to cajole a tip out of you. If you carry your own shoes around, you've nothing to worry about. I'd rather pay this young entrpreneur here myself....
This isn't really a tourist trap. But I thought I'd include it here. I didn't see nearly as many beggars as I thought I would. If you're in a giving mood or the person stikes your fancy and you would like to give a small donation you might want to save some small notes in a pocket that you can easily pull out a 10 or 20 Kyat note. I did this a few times. But of course you can't give money to everyone that asks or you would be totally hounded! But I like to give once-in-a-while.
On arrival in Yangon,....(Rangoon) try your best
to avoid turning over 300 dollars in US Travellers cheques for which they will give you paltry and
miserly FEC script money which nobody wants...worth
only about 330 kyats to the dollar.
Better change your dollars before you go to Burma
and get 430 to 438 kyats currently (rates will
fluctuate and are subject to change)
For further information: email@example.com
from Marc, VT
There's a great little market behing the tiny shops on main street in Bagan. Don't go to the tourist shops or buy all that crap for sale on the sides of the walkways up to the pagodas- it's all overpriced.
See my article in my travelogue section about bargaining for ideas.
There were pretty girls positioned in front of some of the higher end shops. At least I felt they were higher end. I assumed they would be expensive. hahaha
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