Myanmar Country CurrencyBurma Country Currency
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Do you plan a trip to Myanmar? Accompany me on an Un tour to Myanmar in November 2018. The first five "Un-Tours to Myanmar" were astonishingly easy to remember, and I can't hardly look forward to sharing the Golden Land again..... I get one of the most frequently asked question about dealing with funds as a traveller in Myanmar (Burma).
Myanmar's a complex money market, but someday you'll get the knack. You will use a mixture of US dollar and Burma's Khat while in the countryside. The majority of our hotel, national flights, train and entry charges are in US dollar, while everything else (food, snacks, use, etc.) will be in the city.
Whereas in 2013 and 2014 many places would only pay US dollars, this has shifted in 2015 as the value of the indigenous dollar (Kyat) has fallen by 25% and the Chinese authorities do not want the indigenous people to use it. Up until recently (Nov 2012) there were no ATMs in Myanmar because of the financial penalties imposed on the state.
That means that you get all the cash you were expecting to put into the land, with practically no way to get funding once you ran out. It had to be in untouched, unlabeled, wrinkle-free US dollars (typically $100 bills). A number of these have evolved with the type of currencies that will be acceptable for conversion and the arrival of the first ATM.
However, I suggest that you take all the funds you are planning into the land in the form of payment in advance and use your Visa / Mastercard as a back-up. Together with US Dollar it is simple to change both Euro and Singapore Dollar at Yangon International Airports (& Mandalay) and at the bank. A few places will also trade Thai baht, although they might try a little harder to find them.
Money is royalty in Myanmar (Burma). While the Myanmar administration recently instructed Myanmar financial institutions to adopt more than the original exchange rates, imperfect drafts (or, more precisely, "almost certain") can still be refused or converted at a lower one. If you are a banker, your home will probably be able to give you the money you need before you leave, although it is a good practice to call them a few extra weeks to let them know that you need untouched invoices.
When they don't have what you need, they can place a specific order that can take a few day to a few week before they reach the bench. A number of vendors can tell you that this is no longer the case, as my local Canada vendors sometimes tell me.
When you are already in Asia, the best and least expensive way is at the change-over desks at the aerodromes. Bangkok's major airfield Suvarnabhumi is an ideal place to get the best US dollar. The Don Muang Bangkok International Air Asia Flying Station is also a good choice.
There may be a few places you need to try to get all the money you need, so get there early. The Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airports also has an ATM that spends US dollars in the departures area after arrival. It is violet and is next to a toggle switch. When in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, try swapping "Super Rich", but call early or in advanced, as they often leave later in the morning.
In order to make it as easy as possible, ask the cashier for "US Dollar for Myanmar". Maybe the nearest thing to a moneylog. Unlike the newer Lonely Planet, the best place to trade is NOT the darkarket. Best places for exchanges are at the airports (during normal opening hours) and at the bank.
Whenever I get to Yangon, there is always one visitor here or five at the barter counter who just want to swap $10 just to get a cab, then they swap the remainder on the downtown bourgeois. If you' re not really a little bit tardy, don't be that guy. There are now all over the countryside, and even smaller cities off the beaten tracks like Pindaya have a bank where you can change money.
There are also individual places for exchanges everywhere near a touristic resort (Yangon, Mandalay, Nyaungshwe (Inle Lake) or Bagan). Please be aware that most commercial banking is normally shut on the weekend and public holiday and during the Thingyan (the April Nautical Festival) for 1-2 week. Or you can trade at your guest house or your favourite jewellery store, although the course is probably less expensive (30 kyat/dollar less is fair) than what you would get at the school.
Don't trade cash on the street. It is a good way to get cheated, especially in Yangon, where the shadowy coin changer often hangs around near the Sule Pagoda or the Bogyoke Central Market. If you are leaving the state, you can change your Kyoto at the bank or airfield before withdrawing.
Remember that there is no interest outside Myanmar in replacing your additional Kiev, make sure you get it off before you go. Following the lifting of years of penalties in mid/end 2012, in November travellers began to engage in state-of-the-art global travel business with a CB Bank-Mastercard relationship that enabled them to withdraw from a handfull of dedicated ATM machines in the megacities.
Only a few month later, more bank opportunities for foreign nationals came with visas, a hand full of domestic bankers and more than 100 ATM machines in the state, making it even simpler to use. In other words, I've been hearing (and learning a lot about things blended about folks trying to use their Visa/Mastercard to try to draw money here.
When you make a withdrawal, the amount of the withdrawal commission is 5000kyat (about $4.00 US dollars, similar to most Thailand ATMs) and will be the amount in the area. Disbursement limits per trade are 300000kyats, but may vary from institution to institution. That is in additon to the foreign money change charges you have to make and the charges your bankapport.
Myanmar (Burma) has a partnership with Visa and Mastercard (and China's UnionPay). It is best, as always, to call your payment service provider and your local banking institution in order to let them know in time that you will be travelling, so that the likelihood of your payment being cancelled is diminished. Wearing Visa badges from two major cancer banking institutions (TD & RBC), my TD badges would not work until early 2016, so I can count on my emergency RBC-back-up.
Finding the Myanmar currencies is not as difficult as it may seem when you arrived. Myanmar is as diverse as the land itself, but with a little training you will navigate the land and the roads of Burma with the same easiness. You may be interested in my piece "How to Überstay Your Myanmar Visa" or one of my other pieces and photographic tales about Myanmar / Burma.