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The Business Traveler’s Cheat Sheet

When you’re looking to cut the right deal, you need to ensure that you’ve got Yangon at your fingertips.

This is our guide to help you cut through the confusion in Yangon so you can concentrate on getting the business right.


Useful Tips

There are few other things a business traveler in Myanmar (Burma) should know. We’ve grouped these together here for ease of use:

Money

There are a few ATMs in Yangon that accept overseas cards, but there are none in the rest of the country. You’ll want to take fresh, pristine dollar bills and lots of them if you want to survive. Some of the top hotels accept credit cards (for a steep 6%+ admin fee); nowhere else does. Black market deals for currency changing don’t yield much of an improvement in rate and often get the traveler ripped off in the bargain.

Telephones

You’ll need a local SIM card to make a call as international providers still aren’t hooked up to the local network. The network is both unreliable and expensive to use to make overseas calls.

Health

Before you travel, talk to your doctor about the appropriate vaccinations.

Travel

Many areas of Myanmar are restricted to outside travelers; if you’re going further afield than the tourist highlights of Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, and Inle Lake, check to see if you need permits before booking flights etc.

In general, Myanmar’s business community is welcoming, relaxed and switched on. Yangon is a reasonably safe city and while it’s sensible to take precautions with valuables, you should have a great trip.


Places to Stay

A great business hotel offers a certain amount of class in addition to facilities that make meetings a sheer pleasure. We’ve picked the 3 of the finest options in Yangon for you to wow your clients.

The Governor’s Residence

The Governor’s Residence is an exquisite colonial period building surrounded by a serene moat. It’s a boutique hotel so it’s not perfect for large meetings but it is the perfect venue for intimate chats or small group gatherings. Check rates and availability.

The Strand

The Strand is a completely renovated colonial era building. It’s clearly a cut above; you can tell by all the tourists sneaking in for a peek at the interior. It has fantastic meeting facilities with a fully wireless network and projector system. Business support is superlative. The rooms and dining facilities are counted among the very best in all of Myanmar. Check rates and availability.

Traders Hotel

Traders is part of the Shangri-La group and as you might expect it’s extremely well kitted out for meetings and events. They even offer Myanmar-themed events where guests can drink traditional beverages and eat local food. They are even presented with local clothing to wear. During meal breaks, cultural awareness displays such as dancing and music from many different tribes can help seal the deal by making your guests as comfortable as possible. Check rates and availability.


Car and Van Rental

Myanmar doesn’t recognize an International Driving License nor does it recognize any individual Western country’s license. If you need to drive in Myanmar, the best bet is to hire a local driver before you hire a car (they won’t rent a car to anyone without a local license).

If you’re going to be in the country for a while, you can always go through the arduous process of applying for a local license with the Department for Myanmar Road Transport and Administration in Yangon. There’s no test; just hand over a copy of a valid international license, 3 passport photos and a copy of your passport. Then in about a fortnight, you can pick up your local license.

Other than that there are several companies that offer rental in Yangon. Some of these are international brands (such as Rent-a-Car). while others are more local. Once you have someone with the right license, it shouldn’t take more than an hour or so of paperwork to get underway.

Expect to pay around $30-40 a day for a small car and substantially more for a larger vehicle.


Business Meals by Budget

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Le Planteur is one of the finest restaurants in Yangon today. French and Indo-Chinese tastes are combined into something truly special. The small colonial building is a bit out of the center but it’s worth the trip. It’s said that Mick Jagger and the President of Switzerland have graced its dining hall. It’s not cheap but it is the perfect location to close a deal.

The Mandalay Restaurant at the Governor’s Residence is the other great business lunch spot. There’s a slightly broader mixture of European and Asian foods. The highlight is the open garden dining area with a fantastic view of the Residence grounds. It’s ideal for both small intimate dinners and larger business lunches.

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La Nacha’s is a new addition to Yangon’s nascent restaurant scene. It’s a combination of European and Thai cuisine. The food is very reasonably priced if not quite as astounding to look at as the big budget options. However, the service can be a little hit and miss, so you might want to skip this place if your deal depends on the meal.

La Maison 20 is a simple place with 3 set menus to choose from. The focus is on local food in a fine dining setting. It’s a nice way to keep a local colleague feeling comfortable but special. It’s not the place to close a deal but the environment is perfect for a little relationship building before you get to the crunch.

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L’Opera Italian Restaurant and Bar. This place is probably best for its pleasant views of Inya Lake. The food is a little on the average side but the atmosphere makes up for that. Make sure to book ahead because it does get busy. It’s a pleasant place for an ordinary working lunch but definitely not the right place to court a signature for the dotted line.

Monsoon is an Asian restaurant offering dishes from around the region. It’s in a lovely colonial setting. The staff are genuinely attentive and you won’t be kept waiting for ages. The downside is that the food quality is extremely variable. Some dishes are fantastic and others flavourless. To ensure that you and your guest(s) don’t get stuck with something inedible, you’ll want to eat Asian style with a variety of dishes everyone can help themselves to.

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Ah Seng Chicken Rice is not a place for clients but it is a lovely way to dine with colleagues in your own business. It’s cheaper than cheap and offers the best pavement café experience in Yangon. The eponymous chicken rice is a must try. The standard of hygiene also appears to be significantly higher than in some of the surrounding areas.

SabaiSabai is a Thai restaurant. Not too much in the way of frills but excellent food.The portions are absolutely huge. It’s a nice place for a couple of junior executives to chew the fat over a great lunch. There’s a small garden outside where you can get a little privacy if it’s not pouring down rain.

Craving something else? No worries, we have you covered. Check out our comprehensive list of restaurants, bars, and cafes in Yangon.


Places to See

If you need to take a few day trips to impress clients or build up relationships in that nice casual Asian style, you’ll want to include these places on your itinerary:

Shwedagon Pagoda

The Swedagon Pagoda is the crowning jewel in Myanmar’s crown. It’s a 2,500-year-old Buddhist temple that brings you as close to Burma’s soul as is humanly possible. There’s a wonderful onsite museum full of artifacts and the complex is studded with gold and jewels. Experts go in the early morning or in the evening to beat the heat and enjoy the lights and shades of the sun breaking on the horizon.

The Circular Railway

If you’d like to see the whole city and give yourself a chance to talk a little business, the circular railway is the perfect way to do it. It costs less than $1 for two to ride the whole network and you can see every interesting thing in the city from the line.

Botataung Pagoda

This is another 2,500-year-old pagoda and this time with a relic of the Buddha inside (a hair from his head). It’s not quite as old as its history suggests, because it was gutted during the World War II air-raids and then completely rebuilt. Many of the cultural treasures of the original pagoda were rescued and it is a testament to both the ancient and the modern Burmese Buddhist culture.

Musmeah Synagogue

It can be easy to forget the contribution of other cultures to Myanmar’s history. That’s what makes the Musmeah Synagogue such a great place to visit. It’s a beautifully ornate place nestled within a district of Indian and Muslim shops. Such splendor and maintenance is particularly impressive if you consider that Yangon has a Jewish population of about 20 people.

Taukkyan War Cemetary

It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when looking to entertain a business colleague, but Taukkyan is very much worth a visit. It is a testament to those who died during the Second World War on the allied side pushing back against a Japanese invasion. It’s about 25 kilometers out of the city; there’s an ornate memorial to more than 27,000 soldiers who died in this part of the world trying to protect it from aggression.


For ideas on where to stay in Myanmar (Burma), be sure to check out our featured hotel recommendations.

Start exploring our What to See & Do section for more ideas on where to go and what to do while you're in Myanmar!

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