Grand, yet decaying, colonial buildings, streets teeming with a mosaic of people of all origins, street vendors on every corner hawking aromatic and diverse wares—Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, is a city that thrives on its contrasts.
Founded in the early 11th century by the Mon people, Yangon’s transformation from a small fishing village to a well-known colonial outpost began with the second takeover of the British in 1852. Known as the ‘garden city of the East’, ‘Rangoon’, as it was named then, was hailed as a city on par with the finery of London. Since Burma’s independence in 1948, the city has lost much of its British cultural influence but has also expanded greatly. Until 2005, it served capital of Myanmar, but since then until today it remains Myanmar’s largest city, with 5 million inhabitants, and is the country’s main economic centre.
In Myanmar, a localized variant of Theravada Buddhism is often practiced. In Yangon, a must-see is the Shwedagon Paya, which serves as the most important religious site in the country. Another notable religious site is the Sule Paya, or Sule Pagoda, which is an oasis of peace despite being set right in the middle of Yangon’s busiest intersection.
The culture of Myanmar has always been a tantalizing mishmash of several influences, from ethnic Burmese to Chinese to Indian. Within Yangon, it’s easy to find mosques, churches and temples just a stone’s throw away from each other – and it’s equally easy to sit down for a meal composed of an Indian-inspired curry and Chinese-style noodles. What unites all Yangonites is their resilience, humility, and their willingness to always greet visitors with a smile.
- Believes in concept of face
- Women should wear modest clothing
- Avoid public displays of affection
The city lies at the convergence of the Yangon and Bago rivers, in Lower Myanmar. It features a tropical monsoon climate, with two seasons—a long rainy season lasting from May to October, and a dry season lasting from November to April. Average temperatures range from 20 – 35 degrees Celsius.
The cityscape of Yangon is dominated by Shwedagon Paya, an awe-inspiring 99-metre tall Buddhist temple that was constructed with, among other treasures, diamonds and gold plates.
Those who love nature and wildlife should consider a half-day or full-day trip to Hlawga National Park, located around 35 kilometres north of Yangon. Its wildlife park is composed of 818 acres of forest, home to at least 21 species of mammals, 145 species of birds and 8 species of reptile.
Before you go
- Language: Burmese
- Currency: Burmese kyat (mmk)
- Time Zone:Burma Time (UTC+06:30)
- Voltage: 230
- Electric Socket: Type C/D/F/G
- easily available at many local shops.
- good for 30 days each and are available in denominations of 1,000, 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 kyat.
- banking hours are from 10.00am to 3.00pm daily.
- you may get a better exchange rate converting U.S. dollars or euros (bring the crispest, cleanest bills you can)
- U.S. dollars are used interchangeably with Burmese kyats, with U.S. dollars being used for bigger transactions such as settling your hotel bill, buying train tickets and paying entrance fees.
- Wet tha chin: Preserved minced pork accompanied with fluffy white rice.
- Panthay khauk swe: Generous blend of spices, chili and juicy chicken is a classic of the city.
- Meeshay: Rice noodles come in a clay pot, drenched in meat sauce and served with a clear soup (usually of chicken stock and scallions) and a variety of fresh vegetables.
There is no tipping culture in Myanmar, but you are welcome to show your appreciation for good service through small tips.
Taxis: let the driver keep the change after rounding up the fare to the nearest dollar. However it is likely you will negotiate a fare before getting into the cab, in this case no tip is required.
Restaurants: Rounding up meal bills would be a good way to show you enjoyed your meal and your service. In higher end restaurants at 10% service charge is often added to the bill, and there is no need to tip above and beyond this amount.
Hotels: give the bellman about 50¢ to $1 for helping you with your bags, and consider leaving a similar amount daily for the maid who helps clean up your room.
- Suggested Vaccinations: hepatitis A and typhoid
- Hygiene: Avoid untreated water or ice made from it, and examine preparation methods and general hygiene conditions before buying food from street vendors.
- Health: You should go to Yangon if you need anything more than minor medical help, and to Thailand for serious matters.
- Safety: Myanmar is a relatively safe country, but take the usual precautions of protecting your valuables by keeping them in your hotel safe.
Emergency Line: 199.
Victoria Hospital (private): Address: No.68, Taw Win Road, Yangon; Tel: (+95) 1 666 128
Yangon General Hospital (public): Address: Anawratha Road, Yangon
Tourism Board: Address: 77-91 Sule Pagoda Road, Yangon; Tel: (+95) 1 252859.
- Hello (in general):nei-gaung-lah
- Excuse me. / Sorry. sorry t-sate-lout
- Thank you: kyei-zù tin-ba-daal
- You’re welcome: rah-par-taal
- Good morning/ Good evening min-ga-la-ba
- Goodbye: swar-tot-maal
- How much is this?: beh-lau-leh?
- Cheers!: (Toasts when drinking): cheers cheers
- Bon appetit!: sar-kya-raung
- Where’s the toilet?: Ay-na sar sai a baalmar shi
- Help!: kueh-bah
- I understand: kya-wantaw narr-lai-par-taal
- I don’t understand:na-maleh-ba-bu
How to get into this area, and how to get around it!
Yangon International Airport, 30 minutes north of the city centre, is the city’s airport with flights coming in both from domestic airport and from several international destinations such as Hong Kong, Thailand, Korea and Singapore. Get to the city in a taxi and pay a fixed rate of $8 or 8,000 kyat. There are buses serving the general area around the airport, but not the airport itself, therefore to avoid getting lost it is advised that all visitors take taxis to the city.
A wealth of train lines connect Yangon to the rest of Burma—note that most trains leave very early in the morning (at 2-3am) and arrive at their destinations late at night. Fares for trains going to both Mandalay and Bagan range from around $30-50 depending on level of comfort desired.
An interesting way to get to Yangon is via passenger ferry. This takes a while but can be a fun way to experience life on the river—for example, the trip from Yangon to Mandalay takes around 5 days upriver while the return trip downriver takes 3 days.
Boat services run to Mandalay from Bagan. Expect the trip to last around 10 hours and cost about $40.
Taxis are by far the most convenient mode of transport in Yangon. Note that the usual practice is to negotiate the price to be paid before the trip, but luckily Myanmar drivers very rarely overcharge their passengers. Expect to pay a minimum fare of 1,500 kyats, with an additional 500 kyats added per increment depending on how far your destination is.
The bus network in Yangon is quite good, however all the signage is written in Burmese and you may find it difficult to get around. Fares cost no more than a few hundred kyat. Note that most routes start or end on the eastern side of the Sule Pagoda, so that’s where to go if you’re looking to catch a bus.
These used to be the main form of local transport, but have now become rarer and can only be found in abundance around the markets. A sample fare is 4,000 kyat for a return trip from the city centre to the base of Mandalay Hill, and you may be able to hire one all day for around 10,000 kyat.
Bikes are a fun and easy way to get around the huge city of Mandalay—as long as you’re experienced and know what to expect from Southeast Asian traffic, you’ll be fine. Expect to pay around 1,500 kyat per day to rent a bicycle, and if you want to get a motorcycle instead, it should cost you 10,000 kyat per day.
Things to see
The top locations to visit in this destination.