I have to say this is part of the trip I do not enjoy. So many factors have to be considered. So what to pack for a trip to Myanmar? A seasoned traveler will aim to take as little as possible, and this is normally our general idea…but it never quite went to plan. Here is a few tips and pieces of advice from our trip to Myanmar.
First things first…What type of bag do you take to Myanmar?
We purchased two 60Litre Backpacks for our trip to Myanmar. They were by far the most used and resilient type of bag to take on this type of trip. If you are visiting and staying in several locations and travelling by public transport as we were, you need a bag that can be thrown around, pushed under cabin beds and that can be carried and not wheeled (wheeling a suitcase on dirty terrain is alot harder then slinging a backpack on your back). Of course if you are unable to carry such a large backpack or are travelling on an organised tour where you have the luxury of your bags being carried for you then its up to you what you choose.
Walking in the dark…?
By far the most used piece of equipment we brought with us was our torches. We used them constantly in Bagan once dusk fell, strapped to our bikes, held while walking along the street and even early morning if you are setting out to watch a sunrise. Also handy for dark and steep staircase in the temples.
We also used it in cities where street light wasn’t available. Always useful to know where your stepping (or stepping into).
Remember there is such a thing as laundry service…
I still have a lot to learn in regards to packing clothes. On a 3 week trip to Sicily last year I took an entire suitcase full of clothes, shoes and around 10 bikinis. Unfortunately our suitcases got lost somewhere in Rome and we didn’t receive them back until a few days before the end of our holiday. I learnt how to survive with two pairs of underwear, one pair of shoes, a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. If I can do it you can do it.
Since Myanmar is a Buddhist country its important to respect local culture, so string tops, short skirts and low cut t-shirts are a no go here. Leave them at home. All packed clothing should match and be interchangeable for both men and women. For myself I packed a below the knee skirt, three pairs of long trousers (think mosquitos/ and they change into shorts), five shirts or blouses (breathable), two pairs of shoes (make sure they are sturdy and good for walking, mine are Merrells and a pair of flip flops!), five pairs of underwear, five pairs of socks, two bras, a wrap or scarf or sarong and a bathing suit is all you need. Throw in a pair of earrings, a watch or bracelet and you are all set.
NB: Sometimes it can get cold at night so bring a light fleece or jumper. Its useful for early morning starts or those really cold air-conditioned coaches.
With washing services offered in all the places we stayed I hardly used half of my stuff. Also with the purchase of a traditional longyi I cut down on the need for bottoms. My partner also packed far too much. He also bought a traditional longyi for a man and wore it almost the entire time during our trip. His tip….back only two pairs of underwear as he went around pretty much all of the time commando!
Do you really need to bring all those toiletries?
Unless your travelling to the Antarctic or the Outer Hebrides don’t bother packing toiletries. Every country will have a supermarket where you can pick up shampoo and toothpaste. Take a toothbrush, deodorant (if so inclined), razors, shaving foam, comb, brush, extra sunscreen, soap and another little bottle of whatever you can’t live without. That’s it.
Don’t be a diva and bring your GHD’s or your hairdryers. Your hair along with every other women’s hair will look a mess. It’s part of travelling.
A sun hat – especially during the hot months you will need some protection from the sun so wear a hat to prevent heat stroke and a nasty headache.
Insect repellent – Myanmar is a high risk Malaria country. So make sure you take plenty of insect repellent with you. We took both the 50% deet and the insect wristbands. Also be aware of Dengue Fever. As someone who suffered from it post Burma trip I can’t urge you enough to cover up and spray yourself constantly!
Diarrhoea tablets – the likelihood is no matter how careful and clean you are you will get a jippy tummy. Bring plenty of Imodium and re-hydrating tablets. Our doctor advised us the best way to not get sick is a shot of vodka every morning!
TISSUES! I can’t stress enough how important it is to always carry a few packs of tissues or a roll with you in your day pack. Sniffles and sneezes may strike you at any moment as well as the jippy tummy I mentioned…and you sure as hell don’t want to be stuck in a public toilet with no toilet paper! Just saying…
Travel documents, passport and money is a given. If you forget those well….you may as well give up now.
Something to keep you amused. Unless you fly from place to place in Myanmar you’ll be in for some long train or bus journeys. Although I would normally suggest bringing your kindle its at your own risk if it goes missing. Either make sure your travel insurance covers your highly priced possessions or leave them behind. I’m sticking to an old fashioned paperback and my small old ipod nano. Although I’m pretty sure I’ll be staring out the window 90% of the time…
TIPS & WARNINGS
Leave your jewellery at home. That heirloom ring is not worth taking in case it gets lost of stolen.
Forget about smelling nice. Perfume is not a good idea. Not only will you get so hot you won’t smell it but you’ll also a calling card for every mosquito in the area to take a bite of your perfumed flesh.
Really think about what your putting in your hand luggage and make sure they comply with airline policies.
If you can bear it, stay away from jeans. They absorb dirt (and odors), are bulky and take days to air dry. Cotton and khaki are the way to go.
We have a small first aid kit that fits neatly in one of our backpack pockets in case of emergencies. You can pick one up from any chemist or pharmaceutical shop like boots for under £12.
If your like me and love taking pictures make sure you bring enough memory cards and a spare battery. Sometimes it may not be possible to charge all your electricals if there is limited power supply so bring a back up battery to keep you going.
NO HOTELS OR HOSTELS HAVE SAFETY DEPOSIT BOXES – So please bare this in mind when taking technical equipment or expensive cameras. Unless you want to risk leaving them in your room you are forced to carry with you all the time.
Ultimately – when considering what to pack for a trip to Myanmar – just ask yourself do I really need it?