Both tourist and business visas can be applied for online. The tourist visa has a duration of 28 days and takes no more than three days to get approved, while the business visa is valid for 70 days. You are required to submit a colour passport-sized photo, letter of invitation and company registration (certificate of incorporation) as part of your business visa application. The online business e-visa transaction fee is $70 and is non-refundable.
It is best to contact your in-country embassy before visiting Myanmar to ensure that you meet the requirements for a visa on arrival. It is important to ensure you have all the relevant documentation for a visa on arrival or you will be sent back on the same flight. A visa can also be applied for in advance through your local embassy. You must have a valid passport with at least six months remaining validity to enter Myanmar.
Myanmar is the national language and is used in business, government affairs, education and daily conversations. English was taught at a high level during the colonial era and is widely spoken, especially among the older generation. Studies show that as many as 100 different languages are spoken in the country. Most businesspeople and government officials speak conversational English.
People drive on the right-hand side of the road. Most business visitors have private vehicles and drivers. Taxis are widely available and fairly inexpensive. In order to ensure you are charged the going rate it is useful to learn a couple phrases, such as “bal lout la” (pronounced ba lou ley, meaning how much?) and “zey kyee yal” (pronounced sey chee tay, meaning expensive). When travelling to the administrative capital it is best to go by private car, as not many taxis are available in Naypyidaw. Domestic airlines offer flights to various local destinations. A round trip from Yangon to Ngapali, for example, costs around $200.
It is common practice to remove your footwear before entering someone’s workplace or home, but it is best to ask before entering. Removing shoes before entering a pagoda or temple is a must. A handshake is usually the first introduction in a business setting and is used in a greeting or a farewell. When handing over something like a business card it is polite to touch your right elbow with your left hand or vice-versa. While foreigners are not expected to wear traditional clothing, it is seen as a show of respect to wear a longyi. In a formal setting “U” should be used in front of the name when addressing a man and “Daw” should be used when addressing a woman; they roughly translate to Mr and Lady.
Power shortages occur on a daily basis, and many hotels, apartments and businesses have a generator as backup. Electrical outlets are generally 220-Hz AC type or C or F, the same two-pin system as Europe. Bringing an adaptor from home is recommended, as they can be difficult to track down.
The kyat is the local currency of Myanmar, and US dollars are commonly accepted, although it is important to keep them crease-free or they will not be accepted. As of January 2016, $1 was equal to roughly MMK1290. ATMs can be found across the country, but power supply intermittently affects service. Visa and Mastercard speed-point services are increasing steadily, but it is advised to carry cash.
While tipping is popular in the Western world, it is not common practice in Myanmar. Servers, porters and tour guides appreciate a small gesture, generally 1000 kyat will suffice. When visiting a religious temple or monastery it is a good idea to have some small notes available to leave as a donation.
Expect an abundance of rice or noodles with any meal. Chinese, Thai and Indian dishes feature on most menus. Bursting with flavour, mohinga, which includes split peas, fishcake and egg, is the national breakfast of choice. In recent years there has been a sharp increase in fine-dining locations and fast-food spots, particularly in the business capital of Yangon.
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