What we spent in Myanmar: a budget breakdown
Myanmar was the start of Matt and I's six month journey home, so we knew that we had to budget from the get-go. But it was difficult to know how much we'd end up spending – no friends or family had recently visited the country and our guidebooks were outdated.
With that in mind, this detailed report is designed to help you plan your spending and so you can see how much it really costs to travel Myanmar.
Exchange rate used for this guide: £1 = 1900 Kyat (K) and $1 = K1460.
All costs are for two people.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
One of your biggest costs will be accommodation. There are reasonably priced guesthouses and hostels, but they aren't as plentiful as elsewhere in South East Asia. Also, the quality in some of the cheaper options can be a bit shoddy, so sometimes it pays to spend a little more.
On the flipside, both food and public transport are generally cheap, apart from internal flights. It's generally most cost effective to book internal flights with a local travel agent - either when you get to Myanmar or via email prior to your arrival.
Note that we went on a two night hiking tour near Hsipaw, and so the below averages take this into account. For example, we don't divide our food and accommodation budget by 27 days, but by 25 days, as our 'Activities' category includes the costs of the trek.
Total spend: K2,156,334 / $1,475.68 / £1,132.38
Average daily spend for two people: K79,864 / $54.65 / £41.94
Our Cost breakdown
Accommodation: K889,901 / $609 / £467
When researching accommodation during our planning stage, we were shocked to find that some towns had barely a handful of places listed online. Many of them were either luxury hotels, or guesthouses that didn't seem worth the price tag. Fortunately, we did some digging and found reasonably priced places to stay, and the majority of our bookings were made whilst in the country over the phone, email or via Facebook. It's now far easier to book accommodation in advance, or at least browse your options online.
Note: our accommodation budget does not include the night we slept on an overnight bus or our nights spent in the jungles of Shan state on a guided hike, so we've updated the averages accordingly.
Average cost per room per night: K37,079 / $25.37 / £19.45
Most expensive accommodation: Saw Nyein San Guest House at K60,130 / $41.15 / £31.52 per night
Least expensive accommodation: Hotel 82 in Mandalay at K28,932 / $19.80 / £15.17
Transport: K418,400 / $286.33 / £219.29
Trains are incredibly good value in Myanmar, especially if you request the lowest economy class. For a couple of hours, the hard wood seats are fine, plus there's generally more going on. The cushioned seats in first class are, however, most necessary for long journeys - look after your backside!
Buses are a little more expensive but a comfortable option for overnight journeys. Motorcycle taxis (seikeh) and tuk tuks (thoun bein) are the cheapest options for short trips, with standard taxis being more expensive, although most have meters.
Our costs also include the day that we rented a motorbike around Pyin Oo Lwin.
Note: I have included our flights from Bagan to Yangon in this section. At $193.46, they weren't cheap, and you'd save a lot of money by making this journey via sleeper bus.
Average cost per day excluding our flight: K5421 / $3.71 / £2.84
Average cost per day including our flight: K16736 / $11.45 / £8.77
Food: K526,300 / $360 / £275.77
Food is cheap in Myanmar: a bowl of Shan noodle soup can cost K1000 / $0.68 / £0.52 - or even less. Prices rise in restaurants that cater for Western tourists and in hotspots such as Bagan.
Average cost per day: K21,052 / $14.41 / £11.03
Activities K142,000 / $97.18 / £74.55
It's easy to go a couple of days without 'doing' something in Myanmar: it's frequently fascinating to just wander. Yet, we spent money on the activities that were important to us. These included things like the entrance fee to the Shwedagon Pagoda, exploring Bagan on an e-bike, and one of our highlights - our three day hike with Mr Bike.
Average cost per day: K5,259 / $3.59 / £2.76
Miscellaneous: K179,733 / $123 / £94.35
This category covers things like laundry, a SIM card and our visas – all essential for travelling Myanmar for an extended period of time!
Where did we spend the most?
Unsurprisingly, Nyaung U (Bagan) and Nyaungshwe (Inle Lake) were the most expensive places we visited. It costs more to eat out and our accommodation in Bagan was the priciest of everywhere we stayed.
Yangon and Mandalay have a wide range of accommodation and eating options so can be as cheap, or expensive, as you like. The rest of the towns we visited were reasonable and suitable for the budget traveller.