MummyTravels guide to Burma with kids
Since opening up to tourism just a few years ago, Burma – or Myanmar* – has been top of ‘must-visit’ lists galore. But it’s still firmly off the beaten track for many travellers, let alone if you’re travelling with kids.
In fact, the country is a fantastic destination to visit as a family: children are the centre of attention wherever you go, there’s a huge amount to see from beaches and boat journeys to historic temples and elephants, while it’s easy to discover on a budget or to get a taste of (nearly) five-star mod cons for less than neighbouring countries. If you’re not already tempted, check out my 12 reasons to visit Burma.
So after our visit in April when my daughter was three, I’ve created my guide to Burma with kids – including plenty of helpful tips for adults as well, from planning to our experiences in Bagan, Inle Lake and Yangon.
It’s not possible to fly direct from the UK, but there are plenty of routes serving Yangon – we chose Thai Airways via Bangkok, but it’s easy to travel via other South East Asian countries or the Middle East depending on your budget and airline preference.
Once you arrive, you’ll need to take internal flights or factor in time for long journeys by road, unless you’ve chosen an organised tour or river cruise along the Ayeyarwady. We flew with Air KBZ, but there are several options to choose from. My post on planning a trip to Burma has some more suggestions and details.
Where to stay
Tourists are only supposed to stay in licensed hotels and guest houses – if you’re used to homestays and AirBNBs, that’s not unlikely to be an option unless you’re heading far off the main tourist track. The main booking websites like Expedia and Opodo both have plenty of choice, although I found Asia Rooms (now part of Laterooms) had some good deals.
You’ll find global chains like Hilton as well as smaller local chains and various budget optioms. As we were travelling in the hottest months, I splurged on hotels with a good pool, free wifi and reliable air conditioning to ensure we had a cool place for a nap or break after exploring every day – my picks are listed in our two-week itinerary for Burma but it’s easy to find alternatives.
What to see
How long have you got? Burma’s size means there’s a huge amount of variety to discover outside the best-known tourist destinations – here’s my two-week itinerary for Burma, fitting in five different spots in a fortnight, at a suitable pace for a three-year-old. I’ve included a few alternatives as well but this gave us a fantastic taste.
Most trips will start in Yangon, although you can fly in to Mandalay’s international airport. You shouldn’t miss the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon though, a huge golden marvel which is one of the country’s most sacred Buddhist sites, but Bogyoke (Scott) market, Kandawgyi Lake and some of the colonial buildings are also worth seeing – these are my highlights of Yangon.
The endless temples of Bagan are deservedly one of Burma’s biggest attractions, and you really can’t visit without seeing them for yourself – the scale is astonishing, and the views are beautiful especially at sunset or from hot air balloon. You can cycle around the archaeological zone or with younger kids (especially if you’re visiting when it’s very hot), by air conditioned car. Do get a guide to help see some of the less visited spots as well as explaining the intricacies of the architecture, history and statues – ours, from Insider Journeys, was very family-friendly for our two days in Bagan.
The leg-rowing fishermen of Inle Lake are one of the iconic sights of Burma, and just getting from A to B on the beautiful lake is wonderful. But there’s a huge amount to see in the villages around the lake, from Burmese cats to temples and traditional crafts. Here’s my top five things to do at Inle Lake.
Venture up into the hills for a taste of colonial Burma at Pwin Oo Lwin, where the British had their equivalent of India’s hill stations – the botanical gardens are beautiful and it’s one of the coolest places to be in the hotter months.
The beach isn’t the first thing which springs to mind, but Burma’s west coast lies alongside the Bay of Bengal – part of the Indian Ocean, with the turquoise sea and white sand that you’d associate with this. The ‘biggest’ resort is Ngapali Beach, which is still very unspoiled and relaxed, or if you’re happy to drive, you could head to Ngwe Saung for a real barefoot experience.
What to eat
Burma’s cuisine changes depending where you are in the country, so it’s worth seeking out the local specialities – a peanutty tomato salad from Shan state and deep-fried snacks at Inle Lake, seafood in Ngapali beach, plus plenty of Thai, Indian and Chinese dishes.
Rice and noodle dishes are everywhere, along with fresh fruit, while there’s also quite a bit of Western food if you have more unadventurous small eaters with you. There’s also plenty of choice which isn’t too spicy, although it’s worth remaining wary – a squid salad in Ngapali beach almost blew my head off.
Plan your visit
Check out my post on planning a trip to Burma for details of everything from getting a visa to currency as you travel – and as I discovered, the country is modernising fast, so finding ATMs and WiFi wasn’t always as tricky as I’d expected in the main tourist centres.
I also recommend Lonely Planet’s Myanmar (Burma) travel guide
Share your tips – if you’ve been to Burma (with or without kids), please add any advice and links in the comments!
PIN FOR LATER: GUIDE TO BURMA WITH KIDS
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*My sister-in-law, who comes from the country, calls it Burma so I do the same.LIKED THIS? FOLLOW ME ON BLOGLOVIN