VIDEO: Tips for Dealing with Currency in Myanmar | Burma
Are there ATMs in Myanmar? What types of dollars does Myamar accept or reject? What are the best places to exchange your money? Why type of Burmese money should you not take?
I think one of the hot topics with anyone interested in traveling to Myanmar is money.
“No, sorry” she leaned, sliding my hundred dollar back to me with a polite smile. “It is marked”.
I didn’t know what she meant. I had tried to get the freshest and newest looking dollars possible. She pointed to a marking on the back of the bill. There it was. Someone had discretely stamped it as some type of authorization, similar to the way American sales people like to hold up a fresh bill to the light to examine it’s authenticity before striping it with a highlighter to see if affects counterfeit paint.
Who turns away a hundred dollar bill?
I’m sure it’s heartbreaking on both ends.
Myanmar’s corrupt currency history
Although I’d heard about U.S. bills being rejected for slight misdemeanors, it still seemed kinda nutty that a developing country would reject a hundred dollar bill. At the time, I didn’t know their history with currency.
In earlier days, the government used to mess with the people. They’d change the currency on them. If they felt too many people were getting rich, they’d announce that the currencies of the highest denomination — like the hundred dollar bill– would be taken out of circulation. Hundred dollar bills lost their value. All that money was lost.
The government would also change their own currency denominations based on whim, like a leader’s lucky number. So eventually that the Burmese realized the one currency whose value couldn’t easily be changed on whim was the American dollar.
Distrusting of the government and banks, many Burmese withdrew their money and started keeping their American dollars in large books, to keep their dollars pressed, safe and pristine. (Listen to an NPR audio story explaining this)
Today, many Burmese still prefer to safeguard their money in their homes.
Tips for Dealing with Currency in Myanmar | Burma
What is the currency in Myanmar?
Myanmar is a cash-based country, so you can forget your credit card unless you’re doing online hotel bookings.
The Burmese generally equate the dollar to the kyaat; so you can use your dollar to buy things if you don’t have kyaat. However, you’ll probably want to save your dollars for bigger expenditures like paying for a hotel, attraction entry fees, tours or long distance buses. Smaller things like groceries, souvenirs and food you’ll want to pay for in kyat.
What types of dollars do the Burmese accept or reject?
Yes. Without a doubt. A good rule of thumb is to get dollars which are crisp, unblemished, unmarked, not worn, or creased in a sharp or worn manner. Watch my video to see which of my bills got rejected.
Where can you get U.S. dollars?
My top recommendation is to get them at your local bank, so you don’t have to worry about paying additional conversion rates or commission rates. I worked with my local bank to get the best bills I could get.
Can you get U.S. dollars in Thailand?
Banks and money exchanges in Thailand are iffy. I’ve tried three Thai banks and either they wouldn’t do the exchange or were limited in U.S. dollars and thus, declined me (whether that was true or not, I don’t know). A Skinny Escape recommends some money exchanges in Thailand.
Where is the best place to exchange your money in Myanmar?
In the past, there’s been recommendations to get your currency exchanged at the black market. Those times are over. The country is making great headway as far as getting better rate exchanges, ATM’s, etc… , so I’d probably advise against it.
When I went in this past summer, the exchange rate I got at the airport was very close to the dollar. I was a happy camper. When I return-exchanged my kyat at my guesthouse, I actually got a few pennies more than what I initially exchanged them for! Unfathomable.
So I’d recommend airport exchanges and hotel/guesthouses, whichever you feel will have the best rates.
Are there ATMS in Myanmar?
Ordinarily, I think many of us would prefer to to stick our card into an ATM and withdraw kyat vs. go through the worries that our dollar bills may not be good enough for exchange. The good news is that Myanmar is getting more ATMs. Currently, I’ve noticed them at CB banks and at the airport.
…However, I still wouldn’t rely on them as my main source of currency.
Service fees, I’ve heard were around $5 to $6. Thailand charges around $5 ATM service fees, also, so just note… if you use the ATMS, take enough out to make it worth your while.
What types of Burmese money should you not accept?
Torn or burnt bills are unusable. It’s like getting a torn rupee in India. In my video, I show you what I accidentally got as well as, helpful tips which will help sort things out if you do get one.