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Travel Tips

Traveling in Myanmar

Although the border only recently opened, the country has been hard at work to enable the best possible experience.  Traveling in Myanmar is quite easy and the country offers an experience that can hardly be put into words.

Here is my breakdown of a few important things to know before traveling to Myanmar:

PEOPLE

The people of Myanmar are very warm and open to tourists. Of course you should be respectful of them if you want to be treated with respect (like anywhere), but honestly they have one of the kindest demeanors I’ve encountered. The kids learn English in school and there are courses all around the major cities for technology, tourism, English, etc. The borders were only opened to outsiders in 2011 and they are working hard to get things ready for prime time tourism. Everywhere we’ve been (guest houses, pagodas, restaurants, trains, buses), doors were opened and an extra effort made to ensure we were happy and comfortable. There is an English speaking expert at nearly every place we’ve been, even taxi drivers will phone a friend just to be sure they are communicating to you properly.

TRANSPORT

You’ll have plenty of options within cities and between them to get from A to B, but I would recommend being  slightly selective on your choices.

To get between the major cities, I would recommend train only as a last resort. The rail lines have not been updated in decades, the cars are quite dingy, the ride is so bumpy you’ll be 6 inches out of your seat every couple of minutes, there are roaches and Mosquitos both in the sleeper cars, no a/c and fan use only if you’re lucky.

So what should you do?

The bus is excellent! In fact I would recommend using bus all over the country if you don’t want to fly. There is one carrier JJ Express which is exceptionally comfortable, air conditioned, offers screens at every seat (if you’re into that) and is the most modern option around. You can book tickets when you arrive at the airport or at the bus station within the city. I would keep an eye around online too, who knows, they could have online booking available soon…

FOOD

The food in Myanmar is kind of a melting pot.  I would say it’s a mix of Thai and Indian for the most part with a fair amount of Japanese  options (especially in Yangon). I recommend being overly cautious about meat consumption, and that of raw foods, ice, etc. there are tourist restaurants that will specify that everything is boiled, purified, etc. and in that case you’re probably fine.

MONEY

The local currency is over inflated, so everything in Myanmar is far more expensive than it should be. You can dig for deals, but it’s hard to find anything less than $15-$20pp per night in ok accommodations – most hotels are insanely priced and certainly not worth the money.  Food is still relatively cheap, looking at $2-$3 a plate in a decently priced place, but of course the more touristy places try and charge $6-$10. Again, not even close to worth it. After being in Thailand or any other country in south east Asia you will think it’s quite pricey. Hiring a motorbike for the day will run you $15-$20 or a taxi $30-$45 (depending on your negotiation skills on the street).

Also ATMs were only introduced in Myanmar over the past year, so the bank fees are quite high and many of them have very low limits on withdrawals. Some ATMs will only let you take out $50 and they charge a $5 bank fee to withdrawal money. KGB Bank lets you take out up to $500, so it’s a much better bet.

DRESS

The country as a whole is somewhat conservative.  The vast majority of the population is Buddhist, they pray often and wear very covering clothing, even in the hottest times of the year.  As a tourist, I understand we are not necessarily used to wearing floor length skirts and shirts that cover our shoulders in extreme heat, but remember you are in their home.  It is absolutely disrespectful to wear shorts and a tank top when visiting their holy sites (which most Pagodas and sights in Myanmar are).  Some sights will provide you with a floor length skirt to put over your shorts, some may ask you to go home and others may just look the other way.  In all three of those scenarios however, know that you will have offended some percentage of the local population and should make a serious effort not to do so when visiting.  General rules are – no spaghetti straps (as they put it), no shorts, and no shoes/socks in any temple (this includes Pagodas).  They have places to put your shoes when arriving at the temple, but it is definitely easier to be wearing sandals that just slide on and off when visiting many sites in a day.  Just my two cents!

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Do Not Miss Lists

Travel Blogging How To – DNM List

New to the travel blogging world? That’s cool – so are we! Although we are just passing our 30 day marker, we’ve learned a great deal so far and would like to share our HOW TO guide on setting up a travel blog and getting followers.

Ten steps to get you traffic and success with search engines:

  1. Optimize your site and make it SEO friendly.  This means that you are sure that headers and URLs are aligned with the content in your article and/or post.  If you are using something like WordPress (which we would recommend), install an SEO widget/plugin to assist you with optimizing content for search engines.  We recommend Yoast – you can read more about it here.  If you don’t use a site like WordPress that makes SEO friendly sites, you can read more about common practices here.
  2. Submit your site to search engines.  This means going the extra step to let them know you are a working site that is feeding content to the internet world.  One easy source that will submit you to 20 sites at once is the Search Engine Submission – AddMe.
  3. Determine what type of content you will be providing to the world and stay somewhat consistent (unless of course you come across something amazing that is a must share).  For instance: we are specifically sharing travel tips and donotmisslists for each city and country we visit on our one year trip around the globe.  We ask users for input and try to provide relevant information based on needs and suggestions.  Also, since our tips are based on personal experience we try to differentiate from your average aggregated information site.  Try and think of ways to make your content original and useful – this is how you will engage users and keep them around!
  4. Within your posts, the best thing for your users and traffic in general is sharing links to other valuable resources/sites.  This creates connections for Google and other search engines to recognize and it also provides your users with more valuable information/resources.  The more you link and connect to other sites, the better.  This is as important as providing regularly updated, relevant content.
  5. Tags are another way to have your posts rise to the top in Google search results.  Add tags to every post, video, photo, etc. to ensure that you’re posts and images are being found when the search terms are used.
  6. Remember that people like pictures and videos more than anything.  Be sure to take original photos/videos when possible and including them in your post.  Ideally users will read your content, but the average browser notices a picture/video first – so often times that is what brings them in…
  7. Once you have established valuable posts on your site be sure to include SHARE links to all relevant social media sites, so that readers can share your posts with others.  Again, if you opt to use something wonderful and easy like WordPress (download and customize responsive themes here), you can embed another widget/plugin for this.  There are a few great ones to choose from here.
  8. Now, you too should be sharing on Social Media since it is a great way to get traffic and share with all those you already know and are connected to.  Go ahead and set up Social Media pages for your site, if you have not already (there is a constant debate about which source brings the most traffic, but if you are unfamiliar, you can read what these gurus have to say, here).  You can even take it a step further by producing some sort of print handouts for those you meet on your journey (or even just as a leave behind in places you find relevant depending on your blog content).  Although it seems old school in the digital world, we still find business cards are useful for many interactions.
  9. After you’ve made every effort to get your site indexed organically and distributed via Social Media you can move on to submitting your top posts to Social Bookmarking Sites.  There are a myriad across the web, but the ones that we’d recommend starting with are StumbleUpon, Reddit, and Digg.
  10. Once your blog has been up and running for 90 days you should have enough traffic and credibility to consider monetization if it is something you are interested in.  There are many known ways of monetizing a blog, but this short list should get you going – here.

 

Thanks for reading and good luck setting up your blog!