independent

Thursday 24 April 2014

NEED TO KNOW

Getting there





As many hotels and airlines are still controlled by government, it is important to travel around Burma with a group practising responsible travel.

Sophie travelled with Intrepid Travel (01-524 0071; intrepidtravel.com), which only uses local suppliers who are not associated with the old regime.

It offers a 15-day Best of Burma tour from €2,095pp, not including flights. Allow €890 for flights via Abu Dhabi and Bangkok.

Essentials

The best time to visit is from November to May. Temperatures soar and the Monsoon season starts in June.

The local currency is the Burmese kyat (pronounced chat), and the only foreign currency readily exchanged is the US dollar ($1 = K852). There's no access to ATMs, and credit cards are not accepted.

Allow five weeks before you go to apply for your visa through the Burmese Embassy in London.

Vaccines for Hepatitis A and B, polio, typhoid, diphtheria and tetanus are advisable. Malaria is present in rural Burma in altitudes of less than 1,000m.

Five things to do

• Spend an afternoon in the Shwedagon Pagoda (pictured). The jewel in Rangoon's crown is this 2,500-year-old complex of temples, stupas and statues. It is the city's living heart from dawn to dusk, changing colour with every passing hour.

• Get on a bike and enjoy as many of the 4,000 temples of Bagan, which Marco Polo proclaimed as 'one of the finest sights in the world'.

• Rent a canoe on Inle Lake and sail around the floating markets and gardens

• Take a hike in Kalaw. Ask for Naing Naing to be your guide and be led away from the world as you know it.

• Cross U Bein Bridge, the world's longest teak footbridge, at dawn, and join the throngs of young monks bustling their way across.

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