For most globetrotting families, Myanmar represents Southeast Asia’s final frontier. Only recently reopened to visitors after decades of isolation and oppressive military rule, it retains the flavor of a past era, its authenticity and culture preserved along with its spectacular natural beauty and shimmering golden pagodas. Traveling here isn’t plug-and-play … Myanmar’s tourism infrastructure remains a work in progress. The tradeoff is that going now means you’ll experience the country at its most untouched, before new development starts to creep in.
To get firsthand insight, we spoke with our vetted Myanmar travel partners, amazing Southeast Asia specialists with deep knowledge of the best places to visit, essential travel tips and more. Ready to plan a trip? We can make it happen — reach out to us for help!
Essential Myanmar Travel Advice for Families
What makes Myanmar special and different from other destinations in southeast Asia?
Myanmar is unlike any other country and traveling there feels like traveling back in time. Simple pleasures in life are still appreciated there. Toys might be bicycle tires instead of iPads and kids play outside and roam around freely.
Myanmar is a very safe country to travel with kids, and there are lots of activities and adventures for whole family. The population is young in the country, so there are lots of children around almost anywhere you go; they are very curious and like to make new friends and play games together even if there isn’t a common language. Most children are taught English in schools but lack opportunity to practice their English skills, so they are very keen to try.
What are the biggest reasons for families to choose Myanmar for a vacation?
People, people and people. Many travellers would agree that the Myanmarese (by Myanmarese we mean Burmese, Shan, Kayin, Kayah, Chin and other ethnic groups residing in Myanmar – there are 130 in total!) are perhaps some of the sweetest and most hospitable people they have ever met. You will be welcomed with genuine smiles, and if you go to typical local villages, people often show you around and even invite you for tea or a snack at their house. The common belief is that hosting a guest will bring good luck (karma) to the household.
After decades of isolation and military rule, Myanmar’s people are keen to embrace rest of the world. They no longer need to be worried about getting into trouble for talking to foreigners or making contact.
Beach and island paradise. Discover Myanmar’s pristine beaches and islands and swim and snorkel in clear, warm waters. The upcoming destination is an 800-island archipelago in the South where the first luxe eco-resorts have started to emerge. Here, you can take jungle walks, snorkel or dive by the coral reefs, paddle into mangrove forests and participate in sea turtle and coral reef conservation efforts.
Ethnic encounters. Trek and spend a night or two in a tribal village to experience how local families live and cope without the modern comforts that we are so used to and take for granted. You’ll sleep in private houses as guests of a local family and eat hearty home-cooked food.
When is the ideal time of year to go?
Myanmar is a year-round destination. From June to September, beach areas close due to monsoons, but inner country is pleasant and lush with verdant paddy fields.
The main tourism season is between November and February. This when hotel rates are also bit more expensive. If you travel during off-peak months, there are often great accommodation deals.
What ages are best for Myanmar travel? Is there a lot for toddlers and young kids to do, or is there more for older kids and teenagers?
For families with toddlers, it is usually best to get nannies to keep your kids busy for a while in order to enjoy moments of solitude and celebrate your holiday. We have tours that have been created for children from 5 to 6 years and up, which are interactive and interesting. These are always customized to each family’s interests and requirements. There are obviously more activities for older kids and teens who can ride bikes, hike and paddle.
What are the major places to visit and sights to see on a classic Myanmar itinerary?
These are the big 5 of Myanmar:
Yangon, an old capital built by the British. It was the most modern city in all Southeast Asia until 1950s and has the most colonial heritage buildings in the far east. A must-see highlight of the city is the 100-meter-tall gold-covered Shwedagon pagoda, which is one of the wonders of the world in our opinion.
Bagan, one of the greatest archeological treasures of Asia. More than 4,000 temples and pagoda ruins remain for visitors to marvel at. Explore hidden trails connecting temple groups to one another by horse carriage, mountain bikes or e-bikes, and enjoy a private picnic between the temples.
The most popular and spectacular experience in Bagan is to take a sunrise hot-air balloon flight over the ancient kingdoms.
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Inle Lake, a charming oasis nestled between two mountain ranges, home to interesting local markets, ethnic minorities, villages built on stilts over the lake and floating farms. This is great area for walks and cycling, kayaking or just visiting different cottage industries to see what the locals are making. There is also a Burmese cat island on the lake where you can meet purebred Burmese cats.
Mandalay, the last kingdom of the Burmese before the colonial period and often called the cradle of Burmese culture. Near Mandalay you can visit several earlier kingdoms, cycle to villages, take day trips to swim in waterfalls and hike to limestone caves, and cruise up the Irrawaddy River to find rare river dolphins.
Ngapali Beach, Myanmar’s premier beach destination by the Bay of Bengal. Ngapali is a popular place to end the Myanmar tour and has great flight connections from all the other main destinations. It is known for beautiful bays and beaches and swaying coconut palms.
There are plenty of quality accommodations available to suit all tastes. No nightclubs or jet skis are found here — Ngapali has retained its fishing-village charm and until now has managed to escape from mass tourism developments.
How long should people spend in Myanmar to get a good taste of the country?
The minimum time for a Myanmar trip is around one week, which will give you a taste of what the country has to offer. The average trip duration is two weeks, enough to cover the main highlight destinations (Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake, Mandalay) and to unwind for a few days at Ngapali Beach.
Myanmar can be easily combined with Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, but we like to say less is more. Spend less time on transit and at airports and more in the destinations enjoying quality time with your loved ones. Reserve time for immersing yourselves in the local culture and unique ways of life.
Is it easy to get around?
The road network has improved greatly in Myanmar during the past 10 years, so it is now more comfortable to drive between destinations. The best way to get around is by air. The British built 70 airfields across Burma, of which many are still being used. There are daily flights between the main destinations, so you can conveniently get around without needing to spend days on the road.
Are there any special considerations or caveats for families?
Just check that you have the needed vaccines for traveling to tropical countries; consult your family doctor. Be prepared with clothing from tropical summer wear to cool fall evening temperatures, and bring along your preferred sun lotion, which is often not so easy to find.