Last Modified: 07 Jul 2014
Trip code: TTRB
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
Travel to Burma and uncover a place quite unlike any other country in South-East Asia. From the busy streets of Yangon to the floating villages and old temples of Inle Lake, a journey through this time-warped country will have you sharing tea with hospitable locals, exploring floating gardens and trekking along a pilgrim trail to one of the holiest sights in Burma. Now is an exciting time in Burma's history and the perfect time to visit this golden land.
Table of Contents
- The best value journeys on the planet! On a Basix trip you can expect amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions that you may not want. Which means budget (1-2 star) accommodation, plenty of free time, activities that are optional and the freedom to choose meals to suit your budget. On some trips you may be camping and required to set up your own tent. You'll also have access to a group leader to offer advice and help you uncover the region's hidden gems. On a Basix journey, the way you travel is all a part of the adventure. Depending on the destination and the itinerary, you could find yourself travelling on anything from a donkey to a bus or a private safari vehicle. These trips are ideal for first-time travellers seeking fun and independence with the support of a group leader. They're also ideal for independent travellers looking to make the most of their travel time with minimum hassle and maximum experiences.
Days 1-2 Yangon - overnight train
Min Gala Ba! Welcome to Burma.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the evening of Day 1.
You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
We head out for an orientation walk around the busy streets of Yangon. Enjoy free time in the afternoon to make your own discoveries - such as visiting some of the other important temples and pagodas or shopping at the Bogyoke Market. A popular highlight is a visit to the Schwedagon Pagoda. We then transfer to the central railway station and board a train for Bagan
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 3-4 Bagan
After an overnight train we arrive into Bagan. We’ll jump on bikes to ride around some of Bagan's 2200 pagodas. We love the Buddhas at Ananda Phaya, whose expressions change depending where you stand; and Tayokye Pyay with panoramic views at sunset.
There is free time to explore the Nyaung U market - one of the more interesting markets in the country.
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 5-7 Mandalay
Board our public ferry before dawn and cruise up the Ayeyarwady River to Mandalay (ie. you’ll spend a lot of time waving to locals).
(Due to the unpredictable nature of water levels on the Irrawaddy River between February and May, it is possible on the very rare occasion that some ferries may be cancelled during that period. Some of these cancellations may take place at the last minute and often without warning. If this is the case we will travel by road between Bagan and Mandalay.)
Take an optional trip to Mandalay Hill for a sunset view over town or a half day trip up to the hill town of Maymyo
There will be plenty of free time in Mandalay to visit some of the surrounding elaborate pagodas or temples around town
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 8 Kalaw
En route to Inle Lake, stay in the chilled town of Kalaw.
Perhaps set off on some of the hikes in the area.
If you'd prefer to chill, there's plenty of 'teashops' serving chai (Indian-style tea) where you can enjoy great interaction with the locals.
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 9-11 Inle Lake
Consider yourself warned: the roads to Nyaungshwe are terrible. But we’ll make it up to you with a boat trip on Inle Lake where you’ll meet the famous leg-rowing Intha fishermen. Haggle over some of Burma’s famous lacquerware at the Ywama floating market.
Journey to the highlands of the Shan State to spend a couple of nights at the township of Nyaungshwe
Included is a full-day lake tour by long-boat, visiting some of the local villages, exploring unique temples and monasteries and meeting the famous local leg-rowing fishermen from the Intha tribe
In free time, enjoy walks in the surrounding countryside
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 12-13 Kyaiktiyo/Bago
We transfer to Heho and catch a flight to Yangon. We then head to Kyaiktiyo and spend the night on the hilltop alongside the incredible balancing rock - one of the country's most holy and moving sites. Afterwards drop in to Bago to see the reclining 55-metre-high Shwethalyaung Buddha before returning to Yangon.
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 14-15 Yangon
You might notice it’s a little quieter in Rangoon than the other cities. That’s because it’s illegal to toot your horn unless it’s an emergency. This gorgeous, crumbling, charming, dilapidated city is like an ageing beauty queen (without all the botox).
Spend free time further exploring the city. Perhaps find your own way to the monastery of the Reclining Buddha (Chaukhtatgyi Paya), visit the National Museum or do further shopping at Bogyoke Market
Hotel (1 nt)
- TTRB- Single Supplement (TTRB)
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
The official currency of Burma is the Kyat (MMK) - pronounced 'chat'.
The best place to change your money is upon arrival at the airport, as the exchange rate is now locked to the USD. If you need to change more money your tour leader will be able to help you to do this at the many places available, but please note that it is hard to change money outside of Yangon and Mandalay. ATM machines are now available in Yangon and to a lesser extent Mandalay. We however advise that you bring plenty of cash for your trip as the reliability of the ATM’s are still unknown, due to power cuts and the newness of the service. It is still not possible to use traveller’s cheques at this time.
You need to bring cash in US dollars. The notes should be crisp and perfect with no folds or marks and should be no older than 2006. Bring high denominations because when you exchange into local currency you get a higher exchange rate. The best exchange rates are in Yangon so it's best to try and get all your money changed there.
Carrying cash is relatively safe as long as you take the usual precautions. It's best to try and budget a daily rate and do all your money exchange on the day you arrive in Yangon. Burma is quite an inexpensive place to travel so a budget of US$40 per day for food and drinks is plenty.
Hotels will generally exchange money during office hours only. You can change money at the airport upon arrival.
You can spend US$ along the way in Burma - some places will accept it but don't rely on this. It's best to get local currency. If you have any kyat left over at the end of your trip you can change it back into US$ at a hotel, or at the airport when departing.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Although can be difficult to source we advise you to carry small notes of local currency each day to make tipping easier.
The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest US$1. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest US$2-US$3 per day for local guides.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest US$1-US$2 per day for drivers.
Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$2-US$4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
In total, we recommend you budget approx US$5-US$10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
At your group meeting on Day 1 your tour leader will discuss with you the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members. This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing when and what is an appropriate amount to tip.
Please don't tip with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult
All departure tax should be included in your flight ticket.
ACCOMMODATION AND BREAKFASTS IN BURMA:
As tourism infrastructure is starting to develop, you may find the accommodation standards to be lower than in other Asian countries. Since Burma has recently become a popular tourist destination, pricing is also inflated due to demand, and at times our hotels can change as bookings are bumped by hotels charging a higher price to other travellers. Please be patient with any last minute hotel changes, and please be aware that often although the price of the accommodation is quite high due to demand, some hotel standards can be quite basic.
The standard of hotel breakfasts provided in Burma also often does not meet the expectations of many of our travellers. It is certainly not up to the high standards encountered elsewhere in Asia. The food provided in Burma is often basic and plain. Tourism is still in its infancy and much of the country's tourism industry is still learning how to cater for the needs of foreign tourists. We ask you for your patience and understanding with regard to this.
Please provide passport details at time of booking with exact name as per passport (including middle name), as these are essential for booking services on this trip.
There is a company which operates hot air ballooning flights in Bagan. Such flights only take place around sunrise for about an hour and are entirely subject to suitable weather conditions, especially low wind conditions and good visibility. In the hotter times of the year, the number of passengers who can be carried within required safety parameters reduces considerably. Intrepid Travel do not organise or book these balloon flights, and we recommend that you book well in advance to travelling, due to the popularity of this activity. The one company running these flights is called 'Balloons over Bagan' - http://www.easternsafaris.com/balloonsoverbagan_home.html.
As at March 2013 the cost of such flights was about US$300. Such flights are not a part of any service offered by Intrepid and any participants will be required to sign indemnity releases provided by the ballooning company.
Although all attempts are made to secure air tickets for our groups, due to the way in which airlines in Burma manage their seat allocations, last-minute changes to internal flights are common and our groups may be re-booked on to an earlier or later flight times than originally scheduled. There may also be instances where the group has to be split over different flights throughout the day. In the event that this happens, group members could be unaccompanied on the flight, but will be assisted by additional tour escorts on departure and arrival at both ends. We appreciate your patience with this unavoidable situation.
Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
Hotel (13 nts), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
Trishaw, Boat, Overnight sleeper train, Bus, Plane, Bicycle, Ferry, Longboat, Truck
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
Yuzana Garden Hotel
No.44, Signal Pagoda Road
Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township
Phone: +95 (1) 248944
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please refer to the emergency contact section below for who to contact depending upon your starting location.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
Yuzana Garden Hotel
No.44, Signal Pagoda Road
Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township
Phone: +95 (1) 248944
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance
If your country of residence has a Burma embassy the process should be straight forward. But for some nationalities you may be requested to provide a letter of invitation from a local Burmese ground operator. In such cases please contact Intrepid to attain this letter and we will forward to you.
If you are a New Zealand client please note that you will need to send your visa application through to the Myanmar Embassy in Canberra Australia.
Visas on arrival to Burma are currently unavailable. You should obtain your visa prior to departure.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. We recommend at least a 1.5litre capacity. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Please avoid the purchase of bottled water by using the chemically sterilized water stored in the purpose-built storage tank or in water jerry cans in your overland vehicle. You're free to refill your bottle as many times a day as you like.
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Rare instances of dengue fever have been reported in this region. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
Some hotel balconies don't meet UK standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
Please note that helmets are not always provided for sightseeing on bicycles.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
ELEPHANT PERFORMANCES & ELEPHANT RIDING:
During your visit there may be opportunities to ride elephants and see them perform. While we believe it's important to give our travellers a choice and respect each individual's decision, we recommend that Intrepid travellers bypass this activity. Professional wildlife conservation and animal welfare organisations, including the World Animal Protection, advise that contrary to common belief, captive elephants remain wild animals and despite good intentions, unfortunately many venues are unable to provide the appropriate living conditions elephants require and this ultimately impacts their well-being. While there is some merit in the argument that the money that you pay for the activity goes towards keeping the elephants and their mahouts employed, we know that it also fuels demand for elephants to be captured in the wild or captive bred. We thank you for your support in improving the welfare of these majestic creatures. Further information is available on the below link:
We also recommend you visit the wonderful colourful 'Do's and Don'ts for Tourists - How you can visit Myanmar responsibly': www.dosanddontsfortourists.com
This fabulous booklet', illustrated by a wide range of Myanmar cartoonists, will help you respect the traditions and customs of Myanmar, helping make Myanmar a better place for people to live and a better place to visit.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Carbon Offset C02-e 843.00 kgs per pax.