We travelled to Myanmar during November 2015. At the time of travel 1000 KYAT = R12 or US$ 0,7
Many the articles and travel guides indicated that ATM’s are few and far between. They recommended that one takes a pile of brand new US$ bills rather than use local currency. So we armed ourselves with wads of unused dollar notes! Travel advice mentions that there is not at ATM on every corner, but they are well represented in large towns town and city centers.
Some interesting currency related scenarios arose.
We soon discovered that the local population, including everyone from hotels to taxis, markets and shops, thrive on the benefits of a tourist paying in dollars. One is either quoted a price in Kyat (the local currency) or dollars. When you do the conversion (we use an app that converts according to the daily foreign exchange rate) you find that the quoted US$ price is up to 40% higher than the Kyat price.
When they do the conversion they simply round the sum up in their favour e.g. 10 000 Kyat = US$ 10, gaining almost 30% in their favour. If you select to use a credit card you are charged the quoted rate plus an extra 3%, this being over and above your bank’s rate on a foreign transaction. I understand the charging of commission in the markets where one has the opportunity to bargain to rock bottom prices and their profit is probably very low, but this becomes the norm in nearly all retail outlets, restaurants and taxis.
We therefore recommend that you should rather exchange your $ for Kyat at the airport foreign exchange kiosks, or draw local cash at the ATM and use the local currency to pay for everything.
When doing this, do your calculations carefully on how much currency you may require as nobody will change back to $ outside the country. Rather spend all your cash before you leave. The same applies to Laos and Cambodia.
If you are using use Dollars, the notes must be clean and free of excessive folds and have NO nicks or tears, not even a 1mm tear or nick, they simply refuse to take it! By contrast, many of the local notes that we received were worn and filthy!
Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos all offer very good value to the tourist, but don’t be conned.