Currency, Exchange Rates and Banks
The use of foreign bank and credit cards in Myanmar at point of sale is currently limited, although Visa and Mastercard ready ATMs are increasingly widespread in major cities and tourist spots.
The kyat (pronounced as ‘chat’) is the official currency of Myanmar, abbreviated as ‘K‘ and usually placed before the numerical value (i.e. K500). Kyat come in notes (no coins) of value K50, K100, K200, K500, K1000, K5000 and K10,000.
The US dollar is widely used as an alternative currency, particularly for larger purchases. Foreigners are often expected to pay in dollars for hotels, flights, train tickets and access to historical sites. If payment is made in kyat for these transactions, it may sometimes be at a worse rate.
When paying in dollars, change will sometimes be given in kyat. Smaller purchases, such as taxi rides, buses and meals are quoted and are almost always paid for in kyat (Some high-end hotels and restaurants quote meal prices in dollars).
You should expect to exchange roughly half the money you take to Myanmar into kyat. If you are spending more than a few days outside of Yangon, Mandalay or Naypyidaw, make sure to exchange enough money before and it can be difficult to change money outside the main cities.
Dollar bills should be brought to Myanmar in differing denominations: take plenty of $10, $5 and $1 bills to pay for hotels, flights and historical sites, and take $100 or $50 bills for exchanging to kyat.
Important note! US dollar bills taken to Myanmar must be in PERFECT CONDITION.
Blemishes of any kind – creases, marks, and folds may result in getting a far worse rate of exchange or the money may not be accepted at all. Also, pre-2006 dollar bills or ones with the letters AB and CB at the start of the serial number (at the top left corner of note) may not be accepted.
Euros are generally accepted as an exchange currency and do not have to be in pristine condition. It is therefore advisable to carry US dollars in a safe, flat folder – not in a wallet.
Unsurprisingly, the exchange rate is subject to a degree of fluctuation. Check XE.com for the latest rates.
Money can be changed at banks in the downtown areas of larger cities and at most major airports, including Yangon, Mandalay, Naypyidaw, Bagan and Thandwe (for Ngapali beach). Located in the centre of Yangon (the city which most visitors begin and end their journey), Farmer Authorized Money Changer is open 7 days a week; it can be found opposite Traders Hotel in the middle of Sule Pagoda Road.
You can also head to the popular Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scott Market) if you want to change money over the weekend.
Until recent government reforms, it was necessary for visitors to Myanmar to change money on the black market in order to get a reasonable exchange rate. This is no longer the case; you can now get a good exchange rate at banks and official money exchanges.
Banks, ATMs and Credit Cards
Kyat can now be withdrawn using international bank and credit cards in Myanmar, but currently only Visa, Mastercard, Maestro can be used. The biggest providers of compatible ATMs are CB (Co-operative) Bank and KBZ (Kanbawza) Bank. There are no international banks at the moment, and local banks are in the process of becoming part of the international banking system.
There are now over 200 Visa- and Mastercard-ready ATMs in Myanmar, although these are all concentrated in urban and tourist spots (you will not be able to find any in rural areas). For ATM cash withdrawals, there is a K5000 transaction fee, and a withdrawal limit of K300,000 per transaction. Depending on the conditions set by your own bank at home, you may be allowed multiple withdrawals per day.
KBZ Bank has a country-wide network of ATMs that accept Visa and Mastercard. Yangon locations include Yangon airport; Bank Street (downtown); Junction Square and Taw Win Centre shopping centres; and many City Mart supermarkets. Outside of Yangon, KBZ has ATMs in major cities and tourist spots.
CB Bank also has ATMs that accept Visa and Mastercard at major centres throughout Myanmar, with many in Yangon. These include ATMs at Yangon airport and major retail outlets such as Junction Square, Junction Centre; Taw Win Centre; Yankin Centre; and Bogyoke Market. Yangon hotels with CB ATMs that accept Visa include Chatrium; Parami; Inya Lake; and Governor’s Residence.
Union Pay (Chinese payment network) cards are accepted at an increasing number of ATMs and point-of-sale outlets.
Traveller’s cheques are not generally accepted in Myanmar.