Things to Do in Yangon, Myanmar | Yangon Travel Guide
“Lost” can mean stranded or it can mean discovery. So there’s an art to “getting lost”… successfully. Although I’ve had my share of the good, bad and ugly in travel, so when things go wrong , I like to take that as an opportunity for discovery.
11 Things to Do and See in Yangon
Yangon is a culturally unique city and unlike Southeast Asian countries I’ve been to- same same, but very different.
If you’d like to know what you can do and see in Yangon, read this list. They were things I did enroute to finding and getting to the Shwedagon Pagoda.
1. Monks taking alms
Early in the morning, you may see a procession of monks walking through the neighborhoods, taking alms from locals. The neighborhoods take care of the monks by giving them food in exchange for blessings.
2. Eat Pe Byeok
Pe Byeok is a traditional Burmese breakfast of seasoned lentil beans with a slice of naan bread. It’s simple but very tasty. You can find this pre-made in grocery stores or occasionally on restaurant or hotel menus.
3. Catch the Local Bus
Why take a taxi to your location, when you gain much more cultural interaction by taking the bus. Tourists often feel reluctant to take local transportation, like a bus. Transportation in a foreign country can operate differently and with potential language barriers, many travelers don’t feel confident they can tackle it. Additionally, Instead, many fear they will get lost.
When I first observed crowded buses in India, the mere thought of attempting to ride them, felt stressful. They were practically splitting open with people and I didn’t know the Hindi language, system of paying or knowing the bus stops to get off at. I had no clue where my backpack would fit in such a compacted crowd and I was terrified of being lost and stranded in a random village, without a notion of how to find my way back. Those imaginary stresses felt overwhelming. Until I tried it.
Sure, I made mistakes and there was initial stress. But I also found my way, learned from observing others, asked locals for help and discovered tricks getting around the language barrier! Today, I see public transportation as an adventure vs my enemy.
4. Explore the streets on foot
You discover so many things, when you explore the streets on foot. You can see some of these things through a taxi, but when you’re on the streets it’s a completely different feeling and you get time to take things in and really see things.
Watch my video to see my curious bamboo seller and the mysterious man, who looked like he was a “drug dealer”.
5. Make Friends
Befriend and make small chit-chat with locals, who are just as curious about you as you are them.
6. Ask Questions
When you don’t understand a culture, it’s easiest to just find a local and ask questions. Curiosity isn’t an illegal activity. While you might hit a language barrier, your curiosity could be the key to unlocking a cultural mystery.
Luckily I asked questions and discovered my “drug dealer” wasn’t a drug dealer after all.
7. Seamstress Alley
Exploring the alleys and streets near the Shwedagon Pagoda uncovers many tiny markets and vendors. I found a seamstress alley, where women make custom Burmese clothing.
8. Betel Nut
A highly addictive chewing tobacco, whose effects are the equivalent to drinking a beer. You’ll see red stains on the sidewalks and usually that’s a sign of its use. Each betel nut hawker is likely to have their own mixture or flavors.
9. Sculptor Shops
Near the Shwedagon pagoda you’ll find sculptor shops and the artwork is incredible. Craftsmen work in the open for all to see.
10. Monk Boutique Shops
Even monks need to dress and there are shops that sell items for monks from begging bowls, spiritual books, slippers, bags and saris. Check out the monk boutique shops and learn how to wrap a sari and lungi.
11. Shwedagon Pagoda
Over 2,600 years old, the pagoda is the most sacred Buddhist monument defining Myanmar culture. It’s said to house artifacts of the Buddha. Admission: $5.00 USD for foreigners. Hours: 4:00 am – 11:00 pm. Shwedagon Pagoda Official Website. English-speaking guides roam the complex. You can hire them to show you around the temple and tell you about the history. More information here.
Safety Tips for Solo Travelers in Yangon
Myanmar has long had a distrust of their government when it comes to currency, so keep crisp bills. There are ATMs available now, so I would avoid black market money changers, who are known to switch money or cheat you out of dollars. Always check your change and avoid getting torn bills, as you will not be able to use them.
Also, you’ll find Buddhist monks with begging bowls which request $1. I feel like they’re fake monks.
As a female solo traveler, I felt safe, even at night. But always practice street smarts wherever you go.
Getting Around in Yangon
Yangon has limited options for getting around. There is a taxi and public bus. Getting to the airport, it’s easiest to book a hotel with an airport pickup and drop off (this is what I did). There is a bus station where you’ll find a variety of long-distance and overnight buses to take you onward.
Where to Stay in Yangon
Motherland Inn 2. Spacious rooms with options of air conditioning or fan and shared toilet. Old building, basic facilities but clean. 8 minutes from a grocery/department store. Bus stop across the street. Inn has a free airport pickup. 2 miles from Bogyoke Market. Location: Lower Pazundaung Road, Pazaundaung Township