While in the past the Republic of the Union of Myanmar was considered almost a no-go zone, it is gradually becoming a popular destination for independent travelers and those seeking a bit of adventure. Here you can find interesting temples and historical sites, a varied cuisine, plenty of outdoor adventures in the jungle and beautiful beaches to the south.

The stunning Kyauk Kalap

The stunning Kyauk Kalap

However, Myanmar is only just starting to become a popular tourist destination, so there isn’t a lot of tourism infrastructure, especially compared to neighboring Thailand. It can be a bit daunting to start planning a trip here. To help you get started, here is a list of important things to consider before you book those tickets to Yangon.

Do I need a visa?

As of June 2012, citizens of EU member states and the United States can receive a visa on arrival, which will allow you to stay in the country for up to 28 days. However, as with visiting any foreign country, you should check the embassy website as these things can change depending on the current political climate.

The imposing Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

The imposing Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

How do I get around?

Many visitors to Myanmar get around on transportation arranged by tour operators, but if you choose to make your own way, get ready for an adventure. While the cities are often congested with motorbikes and taxis, it’s possible to travel between cities on buses and also on ferries along the many rivers and tributaries.

How you get around will depend mostly on where you choose to go and your comfort level. Traveling on a two-day river cruise can be a wonderfully relaxing experience, but getting around Yangon on the back of a moto-taxi may not be for everyone.

Any health concerns?

Since Myanmar has both a tropical climate and questionable infrastructure regarding healthcare and hygiene, you’ll need to do some preparation in terms of staying healthy. You should avoid drinking tap water, take malaria prophylaxis, and consider getting vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis, which is present in some areas. For minor health problems, you can visit a pharmacy and ask for medication by its brand name. It may be a good idea to consider purchasing travel medical insurance before your trip just to be completely safe.

What’s the food like?

Myanmar’s cuisine is known for being spicy, flavorful and varied. Since many different ethnic groups call Myanmar home, you can find all sorts of different types of local and regional dishes. You can also find a wide variety of interesting ingredients that you may not be able to find at home, such as different spices and all varieties of noodles.

In particular, some dishes not to be missed include athouq, a light spicy salad usually consumed at the beginning of the meal, and Shan rice noodles, which are served with a spicy curry. There is also a liberal use of coconut and tamarind. Just remember to pack some breath mints, as Myanmar has the highest per-capita consumption of onions in the world.

Now that you’ve got the basics down, there’s nothing stopping you for heading off the beaten track and exploring all Myanmar has to offer, from the jungle to the seaside!

Sophia Guida has been living in Lima, Peru off and on since the beginning of 2012, where she works as a freelance writer/photojournalist and takes every opportunity to explore the areas left out of the guidebooks. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.