Is it Burma or Myanmar? A lot of people ask this question, closely followed by “when did Burma become Myanmar?”. I can tell you that the Military Junta of the time changed the name in 1989 but both names are widely used both there and abroad. Our 2 week Myanmar family vacation was fantastic yet challenging at the same time. There are so many great places to visit in Myanmar with kids and I just wanted to see everything the country has to offer.
Looking back now I could have worked our itinerary a little better to ensure we spent less time travelling and more time sightseeing and enjoying all the great things to do in Myanmar with kids.
When I booked our trip to Myanmar I hadn’t really looked too closely at the geography of the country or what I would want to do while I was there. I knew I had 13 days and thought I would make the most of a 2 week trip, visiting all the main sights and flying in and out of Yangon.
Hindsight is a wonderful things and if I had my time over again I would tweak the itinerary a little to reduce some of the land travel and maximise our time ticking off the best things to do in Myanmar. Our itinerary included Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Inle Lake then returning to Yangon.
The best places to visit in Myanmar
What to do in Myanmar you ask?
The best Myanmar places to visit won’t change for me, I would still want to visit Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake, these are by far the most famous places in Myanmar. However, I would definitely advise that you fly in to Yangon and fly out from Mandalay or vice versa. This means much less travel time and a one way itinerary rather than the loop which we did.
There are many beautiful places in Myanmar, the temples of Bagan rival those at Angkor Wat, their much more famous neighbours but equally impressive. The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is breathtaking and the Burmese people hold this Pagoda in very high regard. A view of the Shwedagon Pagoda is a treat offered by the best luxury hotels in Yangon. U Bein Bridge in Mandalay puts on a superb show at sunset, the 100+ year old teak bridge runs for 1.2kms. Inle Lake, we dubbed the Venice of the East, it was mind boggling to see how life runs on a series of canals and a thriving little community going about their lives creating amazing jewellery, puppets, shan paper traditional umbrellas and incredibly expensive lotus leaf garments made from lotus thread.
While the buses were fine and the kids were great with all the travel time, there were white knuckle moments when I felt they were driving too fast for the weather conditions or just too fast in general. Maybe it was the weather conditions that I wasn’t used to which made me nervous. So one thing I would change in hindsight is the amount of time we spent on the road.
For all those reasons, I feel the itinerary below is the best itinerary for Myanmar for those travelling with kids. As you will see below, this itinerary goes in one direction and doesn’t double back on itself, I maximised the time in Bagan and Inle Lake because I feel these are the most interesting places in Myanmar to explore with kids.
Best 2 Week Myanmar itinerary
As much as we love to sightsee and explore new cities and places, I have to keep in mind what the kids want to see in Myanmar. They like to have a swim and a relax by the pool in the afternoon so this is what we do most afternoons. Some days it’s only for an hour, others it’s for a couple of hours. That way we see the Myanmar points of interest in the cooler hours of the morning and when it gets really hot in the afternoon we are having a swim and enjoying the sun. Then everyone’s happy!
Day 1 – Arrive Yangon
Day 2 – Yangon
Day 3 – Yangon – Travel overnight bus from Yangon to Bagan
Further reading: Things to do in Yangon with kids
Day 4 – Bagan
Day 5 – Bagan
Day 6 – Bagan
Day 7 – Bagan
Day 8 – Day bus from Bagan to Inle Lake
Further reading: Visiting Bagan Temples with kids
Day 9 – Inle Lake
Day 10 – Inle Lake
Day 11 – Inle Lake – Overnight bus from Inle Lake to Mandalay
Further reading: Things to do in Inle Lake with kids
Day 12 – Mandalay
Day 13 – Mandalay
Day 14 – Flight out from Mandalay
Further reading: Things to do in Mandalay with kids
You can tweek this itinerary a little if you decide to fly between locations or if you decide to fly into Mandalay and out of Yangon. I would then suggest you go Mandalay – Bagan – Inle Lake – Yangon. This would enable to you take the boat down the Irawaddy River from Mandalay to Bagan if that is something that really interests you.
I wish I had an extra day in Bagan to visit Mount Popa, its a little way from Bagan but definitely worth the trip. Do keep in mind that even though it is one of the popular Myanmar things to do, it is really dependent on what season you are travelling in. If the Irrawaddy River is low, the boat trip is very boring as the river bank is very high in many areas and you will not be able to see over the river bank. I think you can easily see Mandalay in 2 days and any extra days would be better spent in Bagan or Inle Lake.
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Do Australian’s require a visa to visit Myanmar? Yes.
All other nationalities I suggest you go through the Myanmar Online Visa website and follow the bouncing ball and pay at the end.
The online e-visa process cost us AU$60 per person.
Is it safe to travel to Myanmar?
Yes definitely, we found Myanmar to be very safe. I never at any time felt threatened or scared for myself or the kids. The Burmese people are very kind and friendly. There are areas of Myanmar that you will not be able to visit for various reasons but for Australians I recommend you check the Smarttraveller website for all up-to-date information regarding conflict zones. There is no issues travelling to the destinations listed above.
Tourism has been encouraged in Myanmar since 1992 however tourists have only really been visiting in reasonable numbers since about 2012, this is after 50 years of military imposed isolation. Many of the land border crossings are still closed so if you are wanting to cross the Myanmar border by land make sure you research it well.
I also prepared a Myanmar Travel Tips post, this includes all the things I learnt while I was there which will make your trip run a little smoother.
Best time to visit Myanmar?
The best time to go to Myanmar is between December through to February, this is when the least amount of rainfall is recorded and the temperatures are mild and not too hot. You are best to avoid May through to September, this is monsoon season and you can expect a lot of rain. March to May in Yangon you can expect temperatures up to 40 degrees, areas around Bagan and Mandalay will be hotter.
We travelled to Myanmar in early October. We saw a little bit of rain (some torrential downpours) and had a few storms in the early evening and sometimes overnight. We did do everything we wanted to do as the weather was reasonable enough. I did find the sunsets and sunrises weren’t as spectacular as I had expected them to be due to the cloud cover. Most days were very warm and humid. You can still go to the best places in Myanmar, just take an umbrella and be prepared for rain.
Getting around Myanmar
Fly – flights are available to Mandalay and Yangon and from smaller regional airports across Myanmar and international flights from across Asia, you can book direct or with travel agents on arrival in larger cities. Flights are generally between US$50-$100 each way for local flights;
Bus – we travelled all around Myanmar by bus, a combination of day and overnight buses are available. There are various levels of comfort from local mini buses to VIP luxury coaches, where you will be provided with a meal, blanket and pillow but be warned there are no toilets on board. You will need to wait until the bus stops which it does a few times each trip. The bus is very cost effective, you can get direct buses from Bagan, Yangon or Mandalay.
We got the bus from Yangon to Bagan, Bagan to Mandalay, Mandalay to Inle Lake and Inle Lake to Yangon. Doing the itinerary outlined above will reduce your time on buses, it eliminates one overnight bus ride.
What to pack for Myanmar
When travelling in Myanmar always dress respectfully when planning to visit any temples. Shoulders should be covered as with your knees, comfortable long travel pants are ideal. I had a skirt that fell to just below my knees and that was fine at nearly all the temples we visited. I had one request I wear a longhi (wrap around skirt) which was provided for a small fee.
I also suggest you carry a shawl, I had a pashmina wrap with me at all times. I was asked to wear it once when I had a t-shirt with a cross over back on, it actually just slipped my mind when I put that particular top on but the shawl was just fine. There doesn’t seem to be an issue with kids, however our 13 yr old daughter was asked to wear a longhi over her shorts a couple of times.
Wear comfortable clothes the day that you are doing the long boat tour as you will be getting in and out of the boat regularly. If you wear long light pants that will assist with avoiding mosquito bites as well.
Budget for visiting Myanmar
Like all South East Asian countries you can get away with spending as little as US$20 per day if you wanted to. However with us being a family of 5 and we were closer to US$80 per day, including accommodation, food and tours. We could have done this a lot cheaper had we not eaten at the hotel, on a good note all hotels in Myanmar come with breakfast included. Overall Myanmar is a very budget friendly destination however I’m not the best person for making or sticking to budgets!
The currency in Myanmar is Burmese Khat. You will be unable to exchange money prior to arrival in Myanmar. Take USD with you and ensure they are brand new notes with no bends or creases or any visible marks on them. I had many the Burmese would not accept. The exchange rate is lower in both Bagan and Inle Lake, I got the best rate at a bank in Yangon. ATM’s are plentiful however not on Inle Lake so go prepared if staying on the lake.
What did we think of Myanmar?
We loved Myanmar and would return there in a heart beat. The kids really enjoyed it even with all the overnight bus rides. The kids loved the people and found them to be very kind, welcoming and pleasant. Its a very budget friendly destination and I recommend going there soon before it get overrun with tourists.
I highly recommend a trip to Myanmar. Have you been to Myanmar? Do you have it on your bucketlist? Tell me in the comments below.
Sal, Craig & Our3kids.