- The largest city in Burma (Myanmar), with a population of almost 4.4 million.
- Also known as Rangoon, it was Burma’s capital until 2006. While the capital is now Naypyidaw, Yangon remains the country’s commercial and business hub.
- Known for its diverse colonial history and associated architecture.
- Nickname: The Garden City of the East
- Currency: Kyat (MMK). Note: US dollars (USD) are preferred at many places, and some hotels will not even accept local currency.
- Spoken languages: Burmese (English speakers are hard to find outside of tourist areas).
- Best time to visit: from November to February (not too humid or wet).
- Arriving via airport: By taxi 8000 kyat, by public bus (#51) 200 kyat.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel accommodations in Yangon tend to be more expensive than in other South East Asian countries. Budget accommodations can be found outside the city centre (in the Pazundaung and Botataung townships) and will set you back about $20/night. Mid-range and high end hotels tend to be located in the City Centre or Kandawgyi Lake areas. Keep in mind that electricity is still rationed in Yangon, so you may only have power about 50% of the time – most hotels have their own generator, however.
- Taxis in Yangon are relatively inexpensive and, unlike in many countries in the region, you don’t get slapped with an automatic tourist surcharge. Keep in mind, however, that the cars are usually in rough shape – Myanmar has been called “The Place where Toyotas go to die.”
- There is a train network in Yangon, but it is not convenient for getting to tourist destinations. However, at just $1 a ride it can be a cheap way to explore the city.
- City buses are available and safe to travel on. They are not recommended for tourists, however, as English is not well understood and you may not be able to figure out which bus to go on (and when to get off).
- A common way to explore Yangon is by bicycle. Many hotels and shops rent out bikes for cheap – armed with a city map, you can easily see many of the sites in the tourist areas.
- Foreigners are not allowed to drive in Myanmar (while on a tourist visa), so you will not be able to rent a car or motorcycle yourself.
- Drinking age is 18.
- Nightlife is fairly limited for visitors. Local beer bars can be found everywhere, but will not likely have English speaking staff – drinks tend to be very cheap, however.
- Most of the nightclubs in Yangon will be found in the five-star hotels in the city centre.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Shwedagon Pagoda is the single most important religious site in Myanmar. Originally built in the 6th century AD, and later re-built numerous times, this beautiful structure is a must-see.
- Mailamu Pagoda, located on the outskirts or Yangon, is overlooked by many visitors. The Pagoda rests in a large park and is surrounded by large colourful statues depicting the life of Buddha.
- First opened by the British in 1906, the Zoological Gardens contain a wide array of different local animals. Shows, such as the Snake Dance and Elephant Circus, are put on for visiting foreigners.
- Explore the covered walkways leading from the surrounding hills to the Shwedagon Pagoda.
- Kandawgyi Lake Park is a relaxing setting in the city. Take a stroll along the boardwalk, which offers great views of the lake and the garden.
- China Town has a variety of shops and side streets to explore. Walk around the stalls, and pick up a unique souvenir or two.
- Make sure you give the Dallah Ferry a try. Dallah is a small village on the other side of the river from Yangon. While the ferry will be packed, it feels more like a trip to the floating market with all the vendors aboard.
- Two things to look out for in Yangon: tap water and malaria. Make sure you drink bottled water, and take your malaria medication.
- Where to find good cheap eats: while street food is a wonderful experience in most South East Asian countries, this is not the case in Yangon. Aside from the fruit stalls, almost all the food is deep fried and the sanitation is highly questionable. Stick to major restaurants, preferably inside hotels.
- Dangerous areas: Yangon is a safe place, and petty crime is rare. It is still a major city, however, so use common sense and watch your surroundings when walking alone at night.
RECOMMENDED YANGON GUIDE BOOKS
Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days
- Vientiane, Laos
- Jakarta, Indonesia
- Bali, Indonesia
- Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Singapore, Singapore