Burma forum

Book now or wait until arrival?

  • Jamois

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd February, 2012
    Posts: 4

    I'm a single traveler going to Burma for the first time. I have not made any arrangements in country and I'm starting to worry if I can do that when I get there next week. I figure it's not really peak season right now, or is it?
    I got one offer from an agent for a 12-day tour (Yangon-Mandalay-Bagan-Inle) for $2,400. It's really more than I want to spend but I don't want to be left without options. Should I splurge now or can I wait until I get there in 7 days?
    Any advice would be appreciated

    #1 Posted: 22/2/2012 - 01:27

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  • SBE

    Click here to learn more about SBE
    Joined Travelfish
    14th April, 2008
    Location Global Village
    Posts: 1921
    Total reviews: 5
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    I'd say wait. You don't need to book a tour in advance, and that price looks pretty excessive to me, even if you fly Yangon->Inle ->Mandalay->Bagan->Yangon. Does it include a chauffeur driven car and very upmarket hotels? If not then you can do it a lot cheaper on your own.

    Do book your accommodation in Yangon before you arrive though. You'll probably need to spend a whole day in Yangon on arrival in order to change money and arrange onward transport but you should be able to fit in a visit to Shwedagon too.

    You can ask guesthouses to phone ahead and book accommodation for the next place as you go. They're quite used to doing this and usually already have the all the relevant phone numbers.

    If you're planning on using internal flights to get around can buy your flights when you're in Yangon at a travel agent. Many guesthouses can get you your flight or bus tickets too but they do charge a commission so you'll be paying slightly more for the service. If you're planning to fly somewhere the next day it might be worth asking your guesthouse to reserve a flight for you... but I'm not sure they'd be able do it if you don't actually put money on the table. They should be able to get you a seat on a bus next day if not. Get the most comfortable bus option you can because distances are long and it's hot season. Some buses have both A/C and no extra plastic chairs in the aisles these days so they are relatively comfortable. The A/C on newer buses not only works but is generally set to maximum freeze position, so you'll need a warm jacket or a blanket and possibly socks.

    Tours are very easy to arrange once you're there. A whole day tour of Bagan on a horse and cart with a driver/guide with should cost under $20, as should a boat tour of Inle Lake.

    In Myanmar, if you ask a university student studying for a degree in molecular quantum physics what they want to do once they graduate, they'll almost certainly answer "I want to be tourist guide". In fact, I've yet to meet a single university student who's expressed an interest in any other career option there. Reason: you earn a lot more guiding tourists than being a university professor. There is no lack of wanna-be guides in Myanmar so you don't need to hook up with one before you arrive.

    #2 Posted: 22/2/2012 - 04:39

  • Royalsithu

    Joined Travelfish
    15th February, 2012
    Location Myanmar / Burma
    Posts: 23

    Hi! Jamois
    March is the peak season in Myanmar tourism . So you should make in advance for your hotels and some transportation . For your Visit our big four ( Yangon , Inle , Mandalay , Bagan ) , 2400 US dollars is too expensive . There are freelance tour operator and some local run travel agent . Here is some contact for your trip : mthsya@gmail.com
    he can be arranged your trip with low price than your travel agent that you offered .
    Have a good time in Myanmar !

    #3 Posted: 22/2/2012 - 07:04

  • KirstyB

    Click here to learn more about KirstyB
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Global Village
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    No point in repetition by I would echo SBE's advice. :-)

    #4 Posted: 22/2/2012 - 08:35

  • Jamois

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd February, 2012
    Posts: 4

    Thank you SBE! I first started to panic when I couldn't get a room in Yangon. I finally found a hotel for the first night so hopefully I'll get my whole itinerary arranged soon after I arrive. Looking forward to my visit!

    #5 Posted: 22/2/2012 - 17:03

  • Royalsithu

    Joined Travelfish
    15th February, 2012
    Location Myanmar / Burma
    Posts: 23

    Hi! All of the hotels are not used to make and don't have more contact for other destination .You have to try by yourself . I don't think you can do for hotels and air tickets by yourself on arrival but If you'll be lucky ........
    Bus tickets is OK but have to go to some Travel agent for your flight but it will make your visit time .
    Be OK in everything for Myanmar !

    #6 Posted: 23/2/2012 - 07:45

  • Jamois

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd February, 2012
    Posts: 4

    On another site where I posted the same question a traveller wrote that s/he saw many others in Burma who were having trouble booking flights/accomodations. But I think they were trying to do so on-line rather than visiting a travel agent.

    I got an offer from another agency for a 10 day tour (include accomodations, flights, driver & guide) for under 2,000 US. I think it might be a good deal. Any other thoughts?

    #7 Posted: 23/2/2012 - 16:49

  • SBE

    Click here to learn more about SBE
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Global Village
    Posts: 1921
    Total reviews: 5
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    Hi Jamois.

    It's hard to say because I don't know what level of comfort you're looking for or what kind of hotel you already booked in Yangon. I stay in budget guesthouses, not 5* hotels! Last December, apart from a couple of nights in A/C beachfront accommodation ($30), I didn't pay more than $15 a night anywhere. I think I'd have trouble spending $1,000 for a whole month in Myanmar, even with flights! I didn't fly anywhere last time so I'm not up to date on current air fares but I took a couple of flights in December 2010 and both tickets cost under $100... that entire trip cost me about $700 I think and I was there almost 4 weeks.

    Check out Kirsty's recent detailed trip report too. She didn't do the same itinerary as you but it gives you a good idea of transport and accommodation prices in Myanmar.

    http://www.travelfish.org/board/post/burma/17499_burma-southern-circuit---yangon---malawmiyne---hpa-an---golden-rock--kyaikhto-kinpun----bago

    Both of us are backpackers though, maybe you want to stay in more upmarket hotels? Have you got a link to that agency? It would help to know exactly what are they offering for $2000. What standard of accommodation and where exactly will they be driving you in that chauffeur driven car?

    There is a definitely a shortage of tourist accommodation in Yangon nowadays and I saw people without a booking getting turned away from the guesthouse I was in too. One of my own reservations somehow got lost the second time in was in Yangon on my last trip. It was just before New Year and the guesthouse was of course full, but they fixed me up with alternative accommodation nearby (same price) and even paid for the transport to it. It wasn't quite as good value for money as the place I'd reserved but it proves that there are rooms available, even at the busiest time of year if you know where to look. Not every place is listed in LP.

    I'm surprised Royalsith says March is peak season because it's not the busiest time of year anywhere else in the region... Christmas and New Year are, because that's when most westerners are on vacation. Chinese New Year is already over and Buddhist New Year is in April. Off the top of my head I can't think of any reason why early March would be peak season. It should be less busy than when I was there and I did not have any trouble whatsoever booking onward (bus) transport and places to stay from my guesthouse in Yangon. Every guesthouse I've ever asked has been willing to phone ahead to book accommodation for me. Sometimes the line is down, but there's never been a refusal to try and I've never been charged for this service either... and they have phone directories and they know which places are popular with their guests too. If you're traveling with a guidebook (which I don't) the relevant numbers will probably be in there too. I'm not sure why Royalsithu said this:

    "All of the hotels are not used to make and don't have more contact for other destination .You have to try by yourself . I don't think you can do for hotels and air tickets by yourself on arrival but If you'll be lucky ........"

    Maybe I've just been extraordinarily lucky never once having a problem doing this?! Maybe the staff in the hotels he/she uses are exceptionally unhelpful? Who knows, it's a big mystery why Royalsithu is so adamant that you need to use the services of mthsya@gmail.com.

    Another thing that strikes me is that it's going to be hard to hook up with other travelers if you're on a guided tour. It'll be just you and the guide most of the time. A lot of people travel to Myanmar independently, partly because it gives them an opportunity to spread their wealth around better. When you do a tour you're spending the majority of your money on one tour operator and/or the government. At least three quarters of the independent travelers I meet in Myanmar are first timers and they all seem to manage to get around OK without the aid of a tour operator so there's no reason why you wouldn't be able to too! It's not as if you're going anywhere that needs complicated logistical planning to get to.

    In the end it's up to you though. Depends on whether you've done much independent traveling in SE Asia before and how time strapped you are. If you've only ever been on package tours then maybe Myanmar isn't the best place to start. Thailand is a lot easier and more comfortable for transport. However, if you've already done some backpacking then it shouldn't be an insurmountable challenge for you. Arranging things on the ground does of course cost you some vacation time. eg If that travel agent can arrange a connecting flight to Inle on arrival then you'd save a day and two nights in Yangon.

    BTW, new this year.... you can now change money at the airport and last time I looked the rates are as good or better than in town. Check exchange rates on this site before you go though. http://www.irrawaddy.org/ Both dollars and euros are easily changed in Yangon, higher denominations get better rates. You still need absolutely pristine notes though, that hasn't changed.

    Hope you have a great trip!

    #8 Posted: 24/2/2012 - 05:42

  • Royalsithu

    Joined Travelfish
    15th February, 2012
    Location Myanmar / Burma
    Posts: 23

    Hi!
    March is signed as peak season in this year because most of the tourist interested and came to Myanmar . Hotels are also offered March is peak season in their contracts .
    Finally , I would to advise to make reservations in advance .
    with regards ,
    Royal

    #9 Posted: 24/2/2012 - 22:14

  • Jamois

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd February, 2012
    Posts: 4

    Thanks again SBE for the helpful and detailed advice!

    I did decide to wait until I get there. The tour they offered seemed nice, and I may actually decide to book a similar one after I get there, but it was kind of expensive and they required sending a deposit by overseas bank transfer, which is kind of a hassel.

    Although I'm not exactly a backpacker and I prefer mid-range accomdations, I've never been one to plan every moment of my trip. I kind of like to be more spontaneous. And I don't need to see everything in Burma on my first trip either. Just being there, even making travel plans is part of the adventure for me.

    Jamie

    #10 Posted: 26/2/2012 - 02:11

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