After the long delay, as we waited on the airplane for officials to take extra Covid precautions, we disembarked the plane, and headed through customs. We had no issue getting our visa on arrival (you apply online ahead of time). After officially entering the country, you go through the arrival doors. If you turn left and walk a few meters you will see the official currency exchange place. I always avoid exchanging currency in the airport, but in Myanmar it is different. The Myanmar currency, called Kyat (chat) is a closed currency. This means that you cannot buy the currency abroad, and it is illegal to take the currency out of the country. The currency exchange place at the airport is run by an official bank in Myanmar KBZ. In order to exchange money in Myanmar you need absolutely PERFECT US dollars. They will give you a better rate for the $100 and $50 bills, so you don’t need to bring smaller bills. They are INCREDIBLY PARTICULAR about the bills being perfect. I tried to use a $100 bill that was perfect in every way, but they refused to exchange it because of a small slice in one corner that I couldn’t even see.
They will count the bills out for you, and give you the total in Kyat, and then you are expected to count the bills yourself. Make sure to do this, because two of my US $100 were so new that they stuck together, and they missed one of the bills in their count (this was clearly a mistake and not them trying to take advantage of us). I pointed out that two bills were stuck together and they apologized and corrected the total. You will feel rich after this, I guarantee. Currently the exchange rate from CAD$ to Kyat is $1= 1200 Kyat, and the most commonly used bills in Myanmar are 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 and 5000. Meaning that the largest bill I had in Myanmar was equivalent to having a $5 Canadian bill. The exchange booth employee handed me a pile of bills that was at least 1 inch thick!
After exchanging our money, we found a cab to drive us to the city centre. I had read that it would cost about 10,000 Kyat to get a cab to the city centre, but it was about 3am by this point, so there was very little room for negotiation and we were exhausted, so we ended up paying 20,000 Kyat which is about $15 Canadian.
There is also a bus you can take to the city centre, but not in the middle of the night. This costs 500 Kyat.
The cab ride took about 30 minutes, and the guy drove so fast! It was a bit scary to be quite honest. the driver had a bit of difficulty finding our hotel (Hotel Balmi), but thanks to maps.me I was able to direct the driver.
We had no trouble checking in to the hotel (we totally recommend this hotel, the staff became great friends with us, but we will write about that in a later post).
We had a shower and immediately passed out after what had been 3 days of travel!