The first thing you’ll notice in Myanmar is the fast pace of change in the country. If you’ve never been there, you’ll have to rely on noticing that your guidebook is out of date. The most reliable source of information for Myanmar is on the web. But even still, information there will quickly become obsolete.
It is no longer wise to exchange money on the black market. It was once advantageous for the traveler to get chat, the local currency, from men at the main square. Now the banks and exchange offices are giving fair rates. Black market money changers are now known to cheat customers. You’ll find a bank and official money changers at the airport. Their offered rate is competitive.
Money changers and banks only accept brand new, crisp, US dollars. Don’t take anything but. Know that a slightly higher exchange rate is given for $100 and $50 bills, less for $20s and below. Take this advice seriously (about the unmarked, unfolded, unworn US currency).
Myanmar has a dual-currency thing going with foreign tourists. It’s typical to pay for food and bus fares with local currency. Accommodations charge in US dollars. This is when denominations of 20 come in handy.
Yes! There are now ATMs in Myanmar. They are becoming prevalent in Yangon, not sure about Bagan and the rest of the country. Know that ATM fees are reportedly about $5 per withdrawal. (Cash is still your best bet.)
Internet speeds are improving and availability of Wi-Fi is becoming more common. However, by world standards, connectivity and speeds are well below average. Don’t expect to do much beyond checking your email. Even uploading a photos to instagram or Facebook can prove to be a challenge.
Prices are going up. Increased tourism numbers are pushing up the demand for accommodation. You’ll hear repeat Myanmar backpackers lamenting the increases, but despite what you hear, it’s not expensive. A budget guesthouse double can still be snatched for $20. If you’re comparing prices with neighboring Thailand or prices that local Myanmar citizens pay, or with the prices travelers paid two years ago, then yes, it is more expensive. But a reasonable budget traveler can still get around Myanmar on $30 per day.
Visas are getting easier to obtain. I know bloggers are not getting rejected anymore from visiting. I think the same goes for journalists. Just be honest on your application form. I received my visa from a private travel company in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The embassy there no longer processed visas, but had outsourced that task. Read up on the website of your local Myanmar embassy or research if you qualify for a visa-on-arrival.
For my week in Myanmar (not enough time, by the way) I used the 5 Dollar Traveller’s Budget Guide to Myanmar. It was published in mid-2013 and is, most crucially, up-to-date. The guide is primarily a handy resource for traveling Myanmar on the cheap. There is good information on accommodation, food, and transportation for the major stops on the travelers circuit. It also helps travelers get a more local experience in Myanmar.