We’ll keep this post short and to the point: if you’re on the “greatest hits” loop in Burma (Myanmar) ie Yangon -> Bagan -> Mandalay -> Inle Lake -> Yangon, and are travelling between November and February, then the answer to the question of whether you should book in advance for high season travel is most likely a yes. If you’re travelling with a family, you need to book right now.
We’ve now heard from a few travellers who are either having difficulty sourcing affordable places online or, on arrival in “tourist hotspots”, are finding rooms harder to come by than they expected. Inle Lake in particular continues to be problematic, while in Bagan, where there is a semi-decent supply of rooms, rates are (even by Burma standards) disproportionately high for the standard.
So here is what we suggest you do:
a) Contact the hotel direct (email or phone). This is how you’ll get the best rate. Doing this, however, may involve multiple calls and emails to nail everything down. Check our (slowly) growing section for independently reviewed guesthouses and hotels in Burma (Myanmar) — including places that are probably not in whatever guidebook you’ve been sweating over. All the direct contact details are there.
b) If the hotel or guesthouse says they are full, check with an online travel agent like Agoda (our booking partner) as the hotel you are after may have rooms allotted there. Note that while they guarantee their online rate is the lowest you’ll find online, it may be more expensive than a walk-in price — but there’s no point having a cheaper walk-in price if the hotel is full.
Bear in mind that for the vast majority of locations in Burma, nothing can be booked online, so once you stray off the above “best of” it’s a crapshoot.
While I’m on the topic of rooms in Burma, if you’ve not been to Burma before, the rooms are NOT good value for money. On my previous trip earlier this year the cheapest room I had was in Yangon for $18 — it’s now $27. Expect to pay roughly double what you’d pay in Thailand for a similar standard — thanks in part to Burma’s double pricing system for hotels where foreigners pay considerably more than locals do.
What have I done given I’m heading there next week? I just booked two nights in Yangon and will figure it out from there. I’ve got more flexibility than some as I’m going for a research trip and most of my travel will be to places that are not represented at all online — but for most, some advance booking would be prudent.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 28th October, 2013.