Ask Lonely Planet: Currency caution in Myanmar

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Redwood National Park is home to several of the world's tallest trees. Photo / Supplied
Redwood National Park is home to several of the world's tallest trees. Photo / Supplied

I am inquiring about any monetary restrictions in Myanmar. Are credit cards able to be used there, and are there restrictions on the amount of foreign cash you can bring in/take out? - Lenva Shearing

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

Myanmar has a smattering of ATMs, none of which accept overseas cards. Credit cards are largely useless, with only a few high-end hotels in Yangon and Mandalay accepting them. These do sometimes give cash back, albeit with a hefty surcharge.

This means you'll have to bring all the money you need with you. Although Myanmar's currency is the Burmese kyat, pronounced "chat", the US dollar acts as an alternative currency - the only foreign currency exchanged and accepted. Note that any sum in excess of $2000 should be declared upon entry.

Most guesthouses and hotels accept payment in the greenback. Government-run services such as archaeological sites, museums and ferries are also normally paid for in US dollars, while meals, bus tickets, taxi rides and market purchases are usually quoted in kyat so you'll need to exchange some currency.

Bring US dollars in pristine condition, as nobody will exchange notes with even the slightest of wrinkles or tears. Be vigilant when receiving change in US dollars, too, as some folk may try to foist torn bills on you.

Until recently, the official US dollar-to-kyat exchange rate was just a fraction of the black-market rate. Now Government-backed banks and airport bureau de change will purportedly sell kyat at market rates.

A good place to exchange money is Yangon, where you should receive favourable rates at hotels, shops, travel agents and restaurants.

Be wary of exchanging cash on the street. The bigger the bill, the better the rate.

Lonely Planet's Myanmar (Burma) guidebook has more information on money matters.

In August or September we plan to travel from San Francisco to Vancouver, or vice versa, and would appreciate your suggestions on what to see and do. We will have four to six days. Also, what is the best way to travel that route? - Cheryl Clarke

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

This is a classic North American journey, which we recommend taking by hire car (from San Francisco to Seattle) and train (Seattle to Vancouver).

You can encounter some of the biggest drawcards by sticking closely to Route 101, which often hugs the coast. Although the total driving time is about 20 hours (about 1600km), the scenery and fascinating stops will prove that getting there is half the fun. Lonely Planet's USA's Best Trips outlines the journey.

Leaving San Francisco, you could opt for an inland detour along Highway 29 through the wine-soaked Napa Valley to the hot springs resort of Calistoga. Joining Highway 101, you'll be on target for Redwood National Park, a World Heritage Site home to several of the world's tallest trees.

Continuing into Washington, make a beeline for Olympic National Park, one of North America's last great wilderness areas. Don't miss the Hoh River Rainforest, a Tolkienesque maze of moss-draped trees.

Among arty Seattle's many highlights are its Art Museum and Capitol Hill, a funky hill-top neighbourhood. Here, board the Amtrak train to Vancouver.

In Vancouver, indulge in some lip-smacking hawker food at the night market in Chinatown, and stretch your legs on a stroll around Stanley Park.

Car Rental Express compares agencies and can be useful for finding deals. Also, Amtrak's Coast Starlight links San Francisco and Seattle daily.

- NZ Herald

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