Words and pictures John Pond

UPON ARRIVAL – Items of value and currency in excess of US$2000 are supposed to be declared and taken again on departure, but in practice things are made quite easy for tourists.

EXCHANGE RATE – It is recommended that travellers do not change money at the airport as the rate is much lower than in towns such as Yangon.  US dollars are the best currency for exchanging and the Euro is becoming popular too, especially in Yangon.

INTERNET – This is still in its development stages and not reliable.  Connections can be extremely slow at times, so patience is required. Most hotels now have some internet terminals and in cities like Yangon, Mandalay and Nyang Shwe (Inle Lake), you will also find some small internet cafes.

MOBILE PHONES – These will not work in Myanmar as it has no roaming agreement with any country.  US$20 SIM cards are available to visitors.  These work with any GSM handset and are valid for 30-days within date of activation.  Prepaid cards of US$50 are available for purchase within the country and have 90-days validity after activated.

POWER OUTAGES – This is quite common but most hotels have their own generator.  Myanmar uses 220V, and a mixture of flat 2-pin, round 2-pin or round 3 pin plugs.  It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor.

ENTERTAINMENT – For those seeking a taste of the local culture in the evenings, head to a tea shop, beer hall or night market where the locals gather to relax and socialise.

BURMESE CUISINE – The main ingredient is usually rice and the curries tend to be not as spicy as those from India or Thailand.

NATIONAL LANGUAGE OF MYANMAR is Burmese, of which there are over 80 different dialects spoken.  The written language uses an amazing looking script based on ancient Indian characters.

WATER – It is not advisable to drink tap water but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere.  The majority of hotels provide a complimentary bottle of local mineral water per person in the room.  Some minor stomach problems are always possible when travelling in exotic countries.

For full details www.cruising.com.au – Cruisco or call (02) 9492 8520.