The Republic of the Union of Myanmar is commonly known either as Burma or simply Myanmar. However in every case the currency is the same – the kyat. Hence you may see this currency referred to as the Burmese kyat instead of the Myanmar kyat, but in fact the two are one and the same. Hopefully this should clear up any confusion you might feel over the various names! You will often see the currency shortened to a simple K before the amount, although it is sometimes seen as Ks if the amount is plural, i.e. more than one kyat.
There are lots of coins and banknotes available for this currency. It is a decimal currency and this means it has 100 subunits. In this case they are known as pya. Unusually while there are no coins denominated in pya, there is one banknote denominated in this fashion, as the 50 pyas note. Aside from that there are also 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 kyat notes.
There are actually very few coins that are used, but these are the 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 kyat coins.
If you go back in time you’ll find the first use of the kyat occurred between 1852 and 1889. The kyat disappeared when Britain took control of Burma however, and at this point the Indian rupee was chosen as the official currency.
It would not be until the latter years of the Second World War that the kyat was re-introduced. This was in 1943 and even then it was only temporary, as things turned out. At this point the rupee came back but it would not be this way for ever. In 1952 the kyat was brought back once again and this time it stayed – or at least it has until the present day. It has been devalued a few times since the Fifties but it has always remained in place so perhaps it will remain so for the foreseeable future now as well.
It used to be rather challenging to get hold of the kyat but things have become easier in recent times. They are quite particular on which banknotes they will exchange if you take other currencies to Myanmar to exchange for the local currency. Generally speaking the best currency to take in this respect is the US dollar, but you must make sure the bills are current and in good condition, otherwise you may find they are not accepted.
When it comes to changing any cash make sure you only ever use official banks or money changers. You will find some at the airport when you arrive but they also exist in built-up areas. It is not easy to use cash machines as they don’t usually accept foreign cards, so don’t think you can rely on this method to get the cash you require. Just take foreign cash in good condition and head for the nearest money changer when you get there. Furthermore when you are getting ready to go home, don’t take lots of kyat back with you and expect to change it at home as you probably won’t be able to. Change it all back (or at least as much as you are able to) prior to boarding the plane.
As you can see, the basic rule of thumb is to decide how much cash you will require while in Myanmar, add some on top for safety and then change that amount into US dollars to take with you. Furthermore if you are in doubt about the quality of the US notes you get, make sure you get new ones or at least ones that are in good condition. The last thing you want is to get stuck there with little to no money to work with.
You can do this by using a basic currency converter. Some online converters don’t include all the world currencies so make sure the kyat is included on the one you normally use. If not, keep searching until you find one that does have it.
If you do think you may visit Myanmar in the near future you can get plenty of information about the country, visas, consular information and so on from the official embassy website. This is at http://www.myanmarembassylondon.com and it is for the Embassy of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar London.
You can search for the latest travel advice from the UK government by searching for Burma on its website. At present some areas in the north and west of the country are not advisable to visit, but you just never know whether this could change at any point. Terrorism is a more pronounced threat in this country than it is in other countries, so you should bear this in mind and consider whether the area you wish to visit will be safe to go to.
In terms of keeping your money safe, there isn’t much official information in terms of crime in the country. However some have said that petty thefts have increased in recent times due to the situation in the country. It is probably wise to assume you may be a target and to minimise the risks accordingly. For example, you should not take out any more cash than you really have to. If you are staying somewhere that has a safe in the room, make sure you use it. Storing your personal belongings in there rather than carrying more with you than you have to would be a smart idea.
Myanmar is in the south eastern part of Asia and borders several other countries. From the North West in a clockwise direction these are Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. The remainder of the country’s border from the southern tip to the area where it meets Bangladesh faces the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal.
The capital of the country is Nay Pyi Taw. You may also see this written as one word. This has only very recently been decided and indeed the capital is still under construction as it was chosen as the site in 2005. The name was selected a year later and it was eventually incorporated in 2008. It isn’t often that you come across a capital city that is less than a decade old!
There are various zones in the city and one of these is dedicated to hotels. You will also find a newly built shopping area and market, not to mention other areas that are designed for recreation purposes. The new status of everything makes the city quite unique and it is fascinating seeing a capital city that is this new. It also boasts a zoo and even has a safari park. The park enables you to see a variety of animals in the wild that are viewed from a buggy tour.
There is still much we don’t really know about this country, but it certainly has a lot of attractions that will bring in the tourists. It has its fair share of natural sights too, such as the Ayeyarwady River. You can take a cruise along stretches of this to enjoy the superb sights and sounds that will greet you.
As you might expect of a country that has a long coastline along its western edge, there are beach resorts here that are popular too. Ngwe Saung is one of them, otherwise known as Silver Beach. This is several miles long and offers a stunning and relaxing place to kick back and enjoy the good weather. There is also a small island known as Lovers’ Island that you can wade over to see when the tide is out. It’s well worth waiting for low tide to do it!
One of the main sights many tourists like to see is a religious one known as Shwedagon Paya. This is a pagoda and it stands over 100 metres in height, making it easy to see from far around. It is one of the major landmarks in Yangon City and is centuries old. It is arguably even more spectacular at night than it is during the day, because it is lit to display the gold exterior at its very best. It is quite amazing and you cannot help but be impressed by its size and presentation. It is just one of the many religious sites you can see in Myanmar.
Regardless of whether you call it Myanmar or Burma, the country does have some amazing sights and destinations to add to your to-do list if you visit. Just make sure you have plenty of US dollars with you to change into the local currency of the kyat when you arrive!