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A basic travel guide for your first time in Yangon!
What You Need To Know About Yangon
Yangon is Myanmar’s biggest city boasting a population of over 7 million people, and was also the country’s capital up until 2006. Yangon which is located in the south, was under British rule from 1852 to 1948, and it was during this time that the city was actually known as “Rangoon.” Yangon was largely developed as a city during the period of British rule.
Due to its British occupation, Yangon has the reputation of boasting the highest amount of colonial infrastructure in all of South East Asia. However, in present day, most of it is in a state of disrepair. You can literally walk down one street thinking you are about to get crushed to death by a building that might collapse and then next second turn a corner and be in front of a beautiful pagoda or park. The city is full of many contrasts, which in our opinion is great and makes it interesting to explore.
For travellers, Yangon is an attack on the senses. Everything is full on. There is people from all backgrounds all over Asia wondering the streets, as well as non stop noise, street food stalls and traffic everywhere you look. Expect to see stray dogs and a lot of poor people. Some places will be dirty while others clean and some areas of town will look like complete shit holes. But to be honest, that’s how South East Asia likes to roll. So you better get used to it.
Yangon also gets really fucking hot and humid, and also because the infrastructure in all is a little shitty, you can expect the odd black out. So be prepared!! But the great thing is, the city gives off a great vibe and there is plenty to do and see. Things that you must check out include the Shwedagon and Sule Pagodas, Kandawgyi Lake and of course have a feed along 19th street. For a seasoned traveller, Yangon is loads of fun. Have a read of our What To Do In Yangon article for more info.
Yangon is a great place for about 3 nights, which is plenty of time to walk around the city and get a good grip on the culture of it all. Yangon has an international airport and is well connected to other parts of South East Asia. It’s a great place to either start or end your Myanmar adventure.
Top Tips For Your First Time
- Stay in Downtown Yangon, that way you are amongst all the action.
- A taxi from the airport should only cost around $10 (US) or less, so don’t get ripped off!
- The locals are super friendly and trustworthy, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Be sure to use the local currency (kyat). Only tourists hotspots take US dollars and only if they are in pristine condition.
- Credit cards are rarely accepted. But don’t worry, there are ATM and currency exchange counters all over the city.
- Expect regular power outages.
- Expect to sweat…..alot!
- Tipping is not customary.
- Green tea is served free with most meals.
- 19th (BBQ) street has the best atmosphere in the city to eat and drink.
- The Esperado Hotel has a great rooftop bar to enjoy views of the city.
Where To Stay In Yangon
In our opinion there is only one area of town to stay while in Yangon, downtown! If you look at a map, ‘downtown’ is basically anywhere around the Sule Pagoda. Amongst the buildings in the downtown area, you will find a plethora of guest houses and hostels. Most offer anywhere from $10-$30 a night, depending on your room requirements. These can be booked online from websites such as Hostel Bookers and Hostel World.
Staying in the downtown area means you can easily walk to a lot of the main sights such as the Local Market and the Sule Pagoda. This is also the best area of town to enjoy the local street food. You can also expect around a $10 taxi ride to get here from the airport.
Getting Around Yangon
The best way to enjoy Yangon and also the cheapest, is to walk. The city is basically a grid network (the British were good for some things), so it’s really easy to navigate. It’s hard to get a feel for the place if your not walking around sweating your balls off and dodging dog shit on the pavement.
If you are fat, lazy or just plain useless, then just hire a taxi driver for the day. It will cost you barely anything. Just remember to negotiate a price before you start. They tend to hassle you for this anyway and they will ensure you see the main sights of the city.