Money Exchange in Myanmar.
Last update: Aug 16, 2021
Dual-currency and Dual pricing.
Myanmar is one of the Asian countries which use a Dual-currency money system. Dual-currency means the common use of 2 different currencies in one country. For example, in Siem Reap, Cambodia, one can use US-dollars for everything because Cambodia is a dual-currency country, where even the ATMs dispense dollars. In Myanmar however there are no dollars bills dispensed but only kyat notes; the use of dollars is much more limited than in Cambodia.
Dual-currency can be used to enable dual pricing. Dual pricing systems are usually intended to make foreign tourists pay more than locals, and for foreign tourists, many hotels, and all airfares are payable in dollars. Burmese nationals pay a lower price, in Kyats.
Myanmar is not the only Asian country using dual pricing; the Taj Mahal for example has a 40 Rupees entry fee for Indian nationals, and a slightly higher 1000 Rupees fee for foreigners. Sigiriya rock fortress in Sri Lanka is 30 dollars for foreigners, 60 times the entry fee for the locals. In Thailand the National Parks also use dual pricing, and foreigners usually have to pay 5 or 10 times as much as locals to enter a park. The Thai entry fees are shown in Thai script, and thus not obvious to the western tourist.
For example, when booking airline tickets online, foreigners pay in dollars at the high foreigner rate. Flights can be about 20 to 40 percent lower for Burmese people. Myanmar people can choose the option "Myanmar National" and pay the lower rate for people with a Myanmar passport.
Foreign tourists can nowadays also pay hotels and guesthouses in kyats but - not at the lower rate for Burmese citizens. Many Burmese people cannot afford the luxury hotels for foreign tourists, and stay in local guesthouses and hotels. These cheap hotels do not have a license to allow foreigners to stay there.
The railways are the exception, because trains have the same price for foreigners as for Burmese citizens. Tickets are payable in kyats, which makes train trips very cheap.
Similar to hotels, some restaurants also use dual pricing. Restaurants in Yangon and Bagan have an english menu for foreigners, with appropriate foreigner's pricing, and a menu written in Burmese with local pricing. Appropriate pricing mean that the western tourist usually pays more, though he will never get to know this unless he reads Burmese. The popular "restaurant street" in Bagan has many restaurants geared towards tourists, with food like hamburgers, pizza, avocado salad, and these are more expensive than the simpler restaurants that serve local food. These Burmese restaurants are cheaper, serve only local food, and are often overlooked by western tourists.
Until 2012 the kyat had both an official and a black-market rate; but fortunately, the complicated black-market has vanished many years ago. The official rate was about 6 kyat per US dollar, and the black-market rate somewhat higher at 840 kyat to the dollar. Which explains why travellers changed money on the black-market. On 2-April-2012 the Burmese central bank officially floated the kyat and normal money exchange became legal.
Currency exchanges (Forex).
Since 2014 there are many money exchange counters throughout towns in Myanmar; they will change euros, US-dollars and Singapore dollars to kyat and vice versa. At all border towns Thai Baht can be exchanged. This is also possible in Yangon and Mandalay but usually not elsewhere.
Since 2013 there are ATMs but it might be smart to bring some cash money - if only as a backup. And notice that changing cash can be done without commission at quite good rates in most towns and villages in Myanmar; and thus the exchange of cash is always a better deal than using an ATM.
One of the limitations of the ATMs is the maximum withdrawal of 300.000 kyats, because 300.000 kyats is only about 200 US dollars or 190 euro. One can make a maximum of three withdrawals per day, but the ATM service fees will add up, and your home bank will add a fee as well.
The main banks with exchange desks and international ATMs are the KBZ Bank, AGD Bank and CB Bank. KBZ or Kanbawza Bank is the largest bank and has the most ATMs and exchange desks; they have probably more ATMs than AGD Bank and CB Bank together. There are no major international banks in Myanmar at the moment, except ANZ (Australia and New Zealand) bank and a few Thai and Chinese banks.
Note: You need your passport (or a copy of it) at the exchange counters. All banks are closed on weekends, but many exchange counters are open.
Credit cards and ATMs
Most credit cards work in ATMs. Credit cards are also accepted by major hotels and can be used for booking them, and most airlines can also be booked with credit cards. However, do not count on always being able to use you credit cards even if staying in mid-range or rather posh hotels - Myanmar is not a modern country by any means and Cash is king.
List of currency exchanges.
Airport exchanges (everyday service, limited hours)
In many countries the exchange rate at the airport is not as good as the rates in the city, however this is NOT true for Yangon airport. Though there are small differences in rate between the exchange counters, the rate is usually very close to the exchange rate in Yangon town.
Usually the exchange counters are open until 11 PM in the new Terminal 1 of the Yangon airport. Terminal 1 is the international terminal, Terminal 3 is the domestic terminal. The old terminal 2 is closed for renovations. The new terminals are visible on OpenStreetMap.
When leaving Myanmar remember to change your kyats to US-dollars or to euro in the airport BEFORE going through immigration.
Yangon Money exchanges.
Bogyoke Aung San Market, which is opened from 9:30AM to 5:30PM and closed on Monday, used to be the best place to exchange money. Nowadays there are a few exchanges in Bogyoke Aung San Market, but also others all over Yangon city.
The best money exchange offices, in Bogyoke Market, and PCL Money Changer on Anawrahta Road are on the Yangon map: Yangon map
Mandalay Money exchange
Nyaung Shwe - Inle lake Money exchange
Nyaung-U / BAGAN Money exchange
Zone fees and budget for Myanmar
An eVisa for Myanmar is 50 dollars on the official government's website. Do not click on the Google Ads for visa service; all these third-party "services" cost more and take longer than the official site of the Myanmar government.
The following is a list of the Archaeological Zone fees. The Mandalay Archaeological Zone fee is the only one that can be avoided, for example by skipping the Royal palace and the Shwenandaw Monastery.
Yangon startup cost
Bagan startup cost
Inle lake startup cost
Mandalay startup cost
Tipping in Asia.
Tipping in Asian countries is rarely expected, and only done with small amounts. For example, in Japan it is considered offensive and quite rude to tip.
Money is not the most important thing in life for Burmese people. Only very few people believe that "Money makes the world go round". On the contrary, the national obsession of most Burmese is stupa building for making merit, from the giant golden Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon, to the many small stupas in all villages across Myanmar. So, sometimes Burmese people are surprised when you tip.
Burmese people are very reluctant to accept tips, because they do not like to be rewarded for a service. For example, in Bagan a caretaker or someone else will show you around, but refuse money. Instead, he will show you his paintings afterwards, and try to sell one to you. Selling a product is an honest profession, selling a service is not.
Nevertheless, a small tip of one or two dollars can make a waiter happy, and a few thousand kyats tip can make a taxi driver's day. And a small tip can be more rewarding than tipping in Europe where a tip is often received with indifference.
Magic fix for dollar notes.
One needs to arrange pristine dollar bills for Myanmar, so what to do if you get stuck with a note that has a small tear in it? In the US, or even in Cambodia, one can exchange a damaged bill at any bank. In other countries that will not work, because the US dollar is not the official state currency.
However, you can fix a small tear almost invisibly with a small piece of transparent tape (cello tape or scotch tape). There is even a special tape used for fixing rare manuscripts and books, which is very thin, and much more costly than normal tape. Both types will work though.
And what about a large tear in a banknote? Well, you can fix it with tape, but it certainly will not be accepted anywhere in Myanmar.
The Kyat is a non-convertible currency!
Note that the kyat is a non-convertible currency, and taking kyats out of the country is prohibited. Non-convertible means not exchangeable outside of Myanmar. Kyats cannot be exchanged anywhere outside of Myanmar, except at a few small exchange agents in Chiang Mai.
Money exchange links.