Local habits & travel information


Minorities
Myanmar is a vast country and consists of about 135 etnic groups. There are 8 major races, Bamar, Shan, Karen, Rakhine, Chinese, Mon, Kachin, Indians and Chin. They all have their own traditions, dialects and culture.

Greetings
The greeting 'Mingalabar' is not an original Burmese greeting, but widely used nowadays. You can press your hands together in prayer and a slightly bow. It is greatly appreciated if you answer the greeting in the same way. Take off your hat or cap to show respect.

Behaviour
Burmese people are very friendly. It is considered improper to lose one's temper or show emotion in public. According to Buddhist custom you shouldn't touch someones head, also not of a child. Spiritually the head is considered to be the highest part of the body.

Language
Burmese is the official language. The script is derived from South India. Teaching English was banned in school from 1966-1980, so this generation doesn't speak English. The younger, urban population speaks English, up country English is not widely spoken. 

Temple habits
As a woman; don't touch a monk or shake hands. Wear appropriate clothing, covering knees and shoulders. You shouldn't point your feet at anyone or at a Buddha statue. Footwear should be removed upon entering temple complexes, and it is polite to remove footwear when entering a house. Buddha statues are 'washed' by pooring some water. You should do this to the Buddha statue of the day you were born. In Myanmar the calendar counts 8 days. Wednesday, the day that Buddha was born, is divided in 2 days, one before noon, one after noon.

Clothing
Both men and women mostly still wear a traditional 'longyi', a long sarong. Each region has it's own style and traditions. In urban areas young people start to wear more and more 'Western' clothes, pants and shirts.
As a tourist you are supposed to respect their habits. Don't wear shorts, short skirts and cover knees and shoulders. Bringing a sarong can be useful. If travelling to Inle Lake, the Shan Hills and Rakhine State, particularly during the Winter season the nights can be chilly due to altitude hence it is advisable to bring a warm layer for the evenings.

Thanaka
The yellowish-white thanaka is commonly applied to peoples faces. It is made of wood that comes form several trees and some water. Apart from cosmetic beauty, thanaka also provides protection from sunburn and gives a cooling sensation.
Plugs and voltage
Myanmar has 220-230 Volts AC. It is advisable to bring a torch/flashlight because power cuts can occur throughout the country. Myanmar uses the British 3 pin socket system as well as the round 2 pin system but as sizes vary, you are advised to carry a multi-purpose adapter. Power cuts are frequent particularly in the months April – September. However most hotels do have reliable power back up although this often does not power the air-conditioning to full strength. Some destinations (Ngwe Saung and Mrauk Oo) have no regular power supply and hotels operate with generators only.

Internet and mobile phones
More and more parts of the country have access to the internet. Especially in the tourist areas hotels usually have WiFi. In rural areas, access might be restricted.
Myanmar has embraced mobile phone rapidly. You can buy a SIM card for little money in tourist areas and at airports.
Shopping
Myanmar is particularly renowned for its lacquer ware, precious stones and jewelry. Lacquer ware is available most notably in Bagan but also in Mandalay and Yangon. Precious stones and jewelry can be purchased from any of the approved shops and government shops that populate Yangon, Mandalay and all other major towns and cities. The silk weavers, tapestry maker, carvers of wood, ivory and stone, silversmiths and bronze-casters are largely based in Mandalay. Bargaining is essential for all souvenirs shopping, if travelers are to obtain reasonable prices. Possible price reductions of up to 30% are not uncommon.
Jewelry is generally not up to international standards for design and workmanship and buyers should check that 'gold' is not, in fact, gilded silver. All gem and jewelry purchases should be made through a government-authorized dealer, who must issue an official receipt, which is required for export of such items.
Please do not buy antiques or religious statues, since the origin is doubtful and they cannot be exported. Visitors are advised to ignore touts who may approach them to exchange foreign currency, or to sell gems of dubious quality as such offers, although apparently attractive, are breaking strict laws.
Exports of antique, archaeologically valuable items, Buddha images and gems without an official dealer’s receipt, is strictly prohibited.

Tipping
Tipping is quite common in Myanmar today. Salaries are low and tips are much appreciated for additional income.


Opening hours
Shops: Tue-Sun 10:00am – 17:00pm
Museums: closed Monday
Authorities: mostly Mon-Fri 9:30am 16.30pm
Banks: Mon-Fri 10:00am 14:00pm
Hla Day means beautiful in Burmese. It's a shop in Yangon offering beautiful products, like bags, jewelry, toys and other local products, capturing the unique flavours of Myanmar design by locally sourcing all materials and celebrating traditional skills.  Hla Day is a social enterprise, working with Myanmar artisans, disadvantaged groups and small local businesses to design, develop and sell quality handmade products with a contemporary twist.
They provide a sustainable market placeto support the livelihoods of many, struggling to overcome disability, exclusion and poverty. All profits generated will only ever be reinvested in diverse ways that empower our community of producers.