There are always last minute questions before setting off on a new adventure. We ask our tour leaders to answer the most frequently asked doubts among travellers, and to help you prepare for this trip!
What happens if I miss my flight to Myanmar?
The first thing to do is to get in touch with the airline, to study the best to solve the situation. Even if the next flight arrives a few days later than planned to Mandalay, no problem: only on the 3rd day of travel we will leave Mandalay and on the 4th day we reach Hsipaw, 200 km away from there.
Will I be given the contact of my leader before the trip?
Yes and, with your authorisation, your contact will be shared with the rest of the group.
Related: The Tour Leader Role
How will I know where to find my group at the beginning of the trip?
The leader will pick you up at Mandalay airport or, if this is not possible, you will have the transfer to the hotel waiting for you. Before starting the trip, you will also have the address and contacts of the hotel where we will spend the first nights.
When should I get to the city where the trip begins?
Ideally on the first day of the trip. If you arrive earlier we can help you to book the extra night(s) at a hotel; if you come later you will lose some activities, but you can still join the group.
What kind of luggage should I bring (backpack, trolley …)?
A backpack with a maximum of 12 kg (50 litres), including a smaller “attack” backpack with a maximum weight of 8 kg (about 10 litres). Trolleys and luggage that are bulky or difficult to carry are strongly discouraged (because it sounds harsh to say that they are prohibited).
How will I know what to do in my spare time? What if I get lost?
The leader of the trip is there for that. If you have an unlocked mobile phone, a local SIM card is cheap and easy to purchase in major cities. In case you are unreachable, the locals are always ready to help – many speak enough English to get you started.
How do I do laundry?
Given the low price (per piece or per kilo) the easiest is to resort to the laundry services in the lodgings where we are staying – and to give a push to the local economy. Important note: we do not recommend bringing new or valuable clothes on the trip, but if it is the case, the safest is to wash by hand.
Should I carry cash or card?
Ideally, you will need to carry a card to withdraw local currency (kyat, MMK) at the ATM machines and also have some cash (USD and/or EUR) for exchanging or making some extra payment of higher amounts. Most of the transactions in the country are made in cash, although more and more it is possible to pay with a card (plus fees).
How’s the food?
Given the geographical proximity, Myanmar imports many specialities from Thailand, China and India, with a mix of sweet and savoury flavours sprinkled with herbs and spices. It is common to use hot sauce in the food, but if you are not into this type of adventure, you can ask not to have it (“no spicy!”) or to bring it separately. The basis of the food is rice (also as pasta, be that noodles or vermicelli), but the diversity of ethnicities and cultures translates as varied gastronomy, where curries meet fish, meat and vegetarian options.
The most popular meals are mohinga (a soup with noodles, fish, ginger, onion, chickpea flour and coriander), Shan noodles (with a special sauce, served simple or with soup), to hpu nway (a creamy tofu, served hot, with noodles, crushed peanuts, spicy and coriander) and the salads. For drinking, beer or one of the wines produced locally are options to consider. Tea, however, is the drink always present at any table in the country.
What if I have a special diet?
Not a problem, we will take your diet (and possible food allergies) into account and ensure that you will still be able to discover the various flavours of Burma. And even if you are not a fan of eating rice, onions, garlic, ginger or tea leaves … we can always find a way!
Should I report any physical condition or chronic illness?
Yes, so that we are aware of any needed care and medications and also in the unlikely event that we have to relay this information on to health professionals.
What is the difficulty of the trekking? Should I do some physical preparation before the trip? Is the trekking challenging? What if I do not want to do it?
The trekking has medium difficulty. This means that you do not need to have trekking experience or be a sportsperson, but it helps (quite a bit) to have a minimum of physical preparation or an active lifestyle.
If you do not want to do the trekking tell us before the start of the trip (or as soon as possible). We’ll try to have you meet the group at the end of the day, sleeping with the host families in the ethnic villages, but that depends on whether we can hire a local driver. Alternatively, you can take a break at the hotel and explore the town of Hsipaw, with its traditional market, temples and peaceful pace of life.
What is the length of trekking and what clothes should I bring?
The trekking lasts 3 days, with the first day being the most extended (about 7h, with some climbs involved), the second is a bit less long and demanding (about 5h, as the body has already adapted to the effort) and on the third day we walk only in the morning, before resting next to a waterfall and returning to the hotel.
You should only take what is necessary for these 3 days of walking: comfortable clothes and shoes for the walk (1 or 2 changes of clothes), sleeping kit (pajamas, blindfold, earplugs and, if you have, portable sleep liner), bath kit (toothbrush, soap, small towel) and a warm piece of clothing (fleece, sweatshirt or light jacket) for the night when the temperature drops a bit.
How many nights are spent on night buses? How are these buses?
We spent 2 nights on night buses (on the 7th and 12th days). Typically (but depending on the operator) the buses have 4-seater rows (with the aisle in the middle), reclining seats, blanket and pillow for sleeping. Buses with toilets are not yet frequent, which implies making a couple of stops during the trip – which is also used for eating.
It is true that the quality of sleep on the bus cannot be compared to that of a hotel, but these trips allow us to optimise travel time and contact an everyday reality to many Burmese people who travel like this throughout the country. It also means having the chance to discover some of the country’s music and movie hits during these hours on the road, often beyond acceptable decibels!
Should I bring a sleeping bag with me?
No sleeping bag is required, but you may want to bring a portable travel sheet (sleep liner), in particular, to avoid the bed bugs that may exist on the blankets of night buses or homestays during the walk.
How long are we going to travel?
The duration of the trip is 15 days, with the first and last being the “airport days”. In all, we will visit 8 main locations, with several excursions and “mini-trips” inside the trip!
Do I need a visa? How do I get it?
For Portuguese citizens (and several other countries), yes. The visa is made online at http://evisa.moip.gov.mm, costs 50 USD and allows a stay (single entry) of up to 28 days in the country.
How are the lodgings?
Most nights will be spent in mid-range (3-star) hotels.
Are the WC’s private?
For the nights spent in hotels, yes. In the homestays they are shared between the travellers (and the host families) and in the night bus trips, the gas stations are used.
Should I tip local guides and drivers?
Tipping is not required, but certainly welcome – especially if the service provided was good. Remember that the average income is quite low and that some mere “change” can mean a much more comfortable week or month for a whole family.
Likewise, donations (or “almsgiving”) to the monks is a widespread practice in society, with its own rules. Begging is a growing problem and offering or buying from children is strongly discouraged.
If I want to extend my stay, where should I go?
We will be happy to advise you on some destinations and experiences, depending on your availability and interests. Some places to consider are the golden rock of Kyaikhtiyo, the beaches of Ngapali or Myeik, the caves of Hpa Na, the remote capital Naypyidaw or the ruins of the ancient Arakanese kingdom of Mrauk U.
Cover photo by Diogo Santos
Find out more The Wanderlust tours here!