Myanmar currency and money exchange

Card usage is not accepted in Myanmar, that sentences used to be widely known for past few years to tourists preparing a trip to Myanmar. Now the situation is much different. Below is our latest updates about money usage why travelling in Myanmar (Burma).

Myanmar (Burma) Money and currency

Myanmar’s national currency, the KYAT (pronounced chat, and abbreviated MMK) is divided into the following banknotes: K1, K5, K10, K20, K50, K100, K200, K500, and K1000. The exchange rate is about US$ 01 ~ MMK 1340.
Travelers should ensure they arrive in Myanmar with some travel budget portions in US dollars, as ATMs are quite popular in main cities yet very hard to find some in smaller cities. The ATM machines are often installed in front of main hotels. The travelers can withdraw money in US$, SGD, and Bath Thai. Online payment is now accepted, too. Most of the online payment gateways are operated by foreign organizations with international secure standards. The processing fee is running from 3 - 5%. Despite those facts, Myanmar is the country where "cash is king". Every seller welcome cash and you should not rely on a single money source, keep some cash in your pocket in both USD and local Kyat.
However please pay at attention when bring US notes with you:
  • The US$ notes must be new.
  • The US$ notes torn, marked, folded will not be accepted.
  • The US$ notes having series before 2003 backward may not accepted.
  • You are allowed to bring up to US$ 5000 in cash per person to enter Myanmar.
Burmese money, Kyat, is accepted widely regardless of the note conditions.
Money changers are reluctant to deal with damaged notes at a remarkable lower rate. US dollars can be changed at Yangon airport, banks (which give the best exchange rates) and some hotels (which charge more but can be handy in a pinch). Black market money changers are prolific on the streets of major tourist hubs, but generally, give a much worse price for KYAT.

Credit cards & travelers cheques

HIT Myanmar confirms that card usages are now popular in main visiting destinations of Myanmar. The sellers charge a small portion around 3.5% on each transaction for processing fees and their card welcome attitudes are various. A credit card is now usable in main cities of Myanmar such as Yangon, Mandalay etc. Most of the hotels accept credit card payment. The fee is widely known at 3.5% per transaction.
Some websites even allow Online payment by credit card with the high secure standard. However, the processing fee is about 5.1%, rather higher than neighbor countries such as Thai land or Vietnam (about 3%).

Exchanging money in Myanmar (Burma)

The $100 bill gets a slightly better exchange rate than a $50 or $20, and so on. And supposedly the exchange rate is marginally better early in the week (Monday or Tuesday). We’ve also been told that exchange rates sometimes fluctuate with poppy season too!
It’s safest to change money at banks, hotels, and shops, rather than on the street. The money changers standing around just east of the Mahabandoola Garden in Yangon have a reputation for short-changing new arrivals for several thousand kyats.
Never hand over your money until you’ve received the kyat and counted them. Honest money changers will expect you do this. Money changers give ready-made, rubber-banded stacks of a hundred K1000 bills. It’s a good idea to check each note individually. Often you’ll find one or two (or more) with a cut corner or taped together, neither of which anyone will accept. We heard from some travelers that Yangon money changers have asked for a ‘commission’.
Many travelers do the bulk of their exchanging in Yangon, where you can get about K100 more per dollar than elsewhere, then carry the stacks of kyat for a couple of weeks around the country. Considering the relative safety from theft, it’s not a bad idea, but you can exchange money elsewhere.
Also, when paying for rooms and services in US dollars, check your change carefully. Locals like to unload slightly torn $5 bills that work fine in New York, but will be meaningless for the rest of your trip.

Spending money in Myanmar (Burma) while travelling

Myanmar (Burma), once the cheapest country in Southeast Asia, has recently been subject to some hefty price hikes due to a boom in travel to Myanmar.
At a pinch, shoestring travelers can get by on a budget of approximately US$40 a day for a cheap guesthouse (no aircon and dubious hygiene) in high season, travel on local buses and meals at local street food stalls and tea houses.
Travelers wanting access to air conditioned hotel rooms, meals at western-style restaurants and taxi rides should budget closer to $120 per day. Luxury hotels in Yangon and Bagan can be as expensive as anywhere in the western world.
Tipping as known in the West is not customary in Myanmar. HIT Myanmar encourages some tips for the people getting involved in your services if you find satisfied enough. The tipping is not compulsory though little extra ‘presents’ are sometimes expected (even if they’re not asked for) in exchange for a service (such as unlocking a locked temple at Bagan, helping move a bag at the airport or showing you around the ‘sights’ of a village).
It’s a good idea to keep some small notes (K50, K100, K200) when visiting a religious temple or monastery, as donations may be asked for. Also, you may wish to leave a donation.
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