Where To Stay

28

Nov
2021

Where To Stay

Posted By : admin/ 22 0

Accommodation options in Myanmar cover the full spectrum, from boutique luxury to run-down guesthouses. While the big city  hotels tend to be characterless, international- style blocks, the more appealing places are  those with a Burmese atmosphere, where local handicrafts, art, and building materials enliven the interiors. Hotels of all grades are expen sive by Southeast Asian standards. Reluctance on the part of the government to  grant new trading licenses, coupled with the sudden spike in demand when the tourism boycott ended in 2010, has ensured a chronic  short age of rooms across the country, partic- u larly in the more popular visitor destinations  such as Bagan and Inle Lake. Numerous new  hotels are being built, and licenses for exten- sions to existing guesthouses fast-tracked by  the government, but there remains a dearth of accommodations in all categories.

Hotel Grading

Accommodation licenses in Myanmar are issued by the Ministry of Tourism, which grades hotels in the country according to a star-rating system of one to five stars. Every establishment is obliged to display its grade plaque in reception. Only a handful of ultra-luxurious places in Yangon make the five-star category, whereas, at the other end of the scale, there are numerous one-star hotels.

The ministry does not publish its grading criteria, but the stars give a fair reflection of a hotel’s standard. Not all hotels and guesthouses achieve star status, however. And just because an establishment does not display a plaque, it does not mean that it is not licensed.

Luxury and Business Hotels

The recent rise in foreign investment in Myanmar, in particular from Singaporean chains, means that the coming years are likely to see a sharp rise in the number of luxury hotels in the country. For the time being, however, capacity barely keeps pace with demand, and falls well below it at the height of the tourist season between November and March, when rates soar.

Myanmar’s top five-star hotels are nearly all in Yangon. Places such as the Strand and the Chatrium (see p202) are on a  par with other Asian counter- parts, with international-grade  facilities, standards of service, and comfort. Popular with both visiting business clients and foreign tourists, the five-star hotels all occupy landmark properties downtown. Rooms are spacious, richly furnished, and centrally air-conditioned. Flat-screen TVs and in-room Wi-Fi are the norm, and the  complexes include state-of-the- art leisure facilities such as large  outdoor pools, gym, and spa, as  well as a choice of restaurants, cafés, bars, and, in a few cases, glamorous clubs attracting the rich and famous of Yangon.

Only slightly less luxurious are business hotels, which are to all intents and purposes five-stars, but with fewer frills and lower tariffs. Some business hotels lack a pool, but the rooms are always very comfortable. If

you are making your own reservation (rather than staying as part of a package tour) it is worth knowing that the best rates for high-end hotels are always posted online; booking in person or over the phone invariably means being offered the far higher “rack rate.” As with high-end hotels in other  countries, extras such as mini- bar purchases and in-room  phone calls can add significantly to the final bill.

Note that payments made by card will incur an additional charge of 5 per cent or more, so it is better to settle in cash (usually in US dollars).

Boutique Hotels

In recent years, a handful of small-scale luxury hotels have started to appear in Myanmar, where the emphasis is as much on bespoke designer style as comfort. As well as being more compact, boutique places tend to favor Burmese aesthetics, fusing traditional woodcarving, stone sculpture, art, and crafts with contempo rary chic. The effect can be memorable, but so can the prices: places such as Bagan’s Hotel @ Tharabar Gate  , Mandalay’s Hotel by the Red Canal  , and Yangon’s Governor’s Residence ) are in particularly high demand in peak season from November through February and their tariffs reflect this. Resort Hotels Large self-contained hotels that are a destination in themseves are few and far between in Myanmar, although this is bound to change over the coming decade as areas such as the Myeik (Mergui) Archipelago  are developed for tourism. Boasting pools, stylish  accommodations, smart restau- rants, and sports and games  facilities, Myanmar’s few bona fide resort hotels tend to be situated on the shores of Inle Lake. Places such as the Aureum Resort and Spa and Inle Lake View make the most of their spectacular situation, with chalets on stilts or facing the waterfront. Ngapali beach, in the northwest state of Rakhine, is the other place where resort hotels tend to dominate. Set in the shade of mature palms, the likes of Amazing Ngapali, Sandoway, and Bayview  offer beautiful swimming pools and sea views from their luxurious designer chalets, only a few steps away from the surf of the Andaman Sea.

The dividing line between a boutique hotel and a resort is often a fine one, depending on the amount of effort that has been put into the decor, and  many places categorize them- selves as “boutique resorts.” This  is the preferred option among foreign tour operators, which is why these places tend to be full of tour groups. Bookings are usually made through agents, or via email or telephone, rather than online reservation systems. Payment is in cash (US dollars).

Conventional Hotels

The “conventional” category used in the listings   refers to a class of upper- and mid-range hotels that are lacking the kind of glitz that may appeal to foreign tourists.  Sometimes dubbed “Chinese- style,” they are often intention- ally bland to appeal in the main  to visiting Chinese business- people, with rooms in simple,  motel-style chalets or multi- storied blocks. The furniture and fixtures are usually worn and smell of cigarette smoke, but the tariffs are more affordable.

Guesthouses, B&Bs, and Budget Hotels

Small, family-run hotels, guesthouses, and what might be classed as B&Bs or homestays (allowed in a few places where no other accommodations are available, such as in the hill tracts and ethnic minority villages of the north, see p200) are in short supply across the country. While standards of cleanliness tend to be high and the welcome warm, prices are, as a conse quence, prone to inflation. When booking a room on spec, always check the quality of the plumbing, the thickness of the mattresses, and the airconditioning, which can vary greatly. Many mid-range  hotels also offer different cat- egories of rooms and it is always  worth comparing these if vacancies are available.

Budget hotels generally offer the poorest value for money, especially those popular with foreign backpackers. Often with small or no windows, old-style air-coolers ratherthan modern air-conditioning, and blighted by unpleasant odors from their tiny bathrooms (if they have them), the rooms may be stuffy and cramped. When traveling on a tight budget, always ask to see the rooms before parting with any money.

Homestays

It is against the law in Myanmar for foreign visitors to stay in the homes of local people. Exceptions, however, are made in some parts of the country such as Shan State – notably between Kalaw and Inle Lake, and around Hsipaw – where trekking is a popular activity,  but where no other accom mo- dations are available. Trekkers  wishing to undertake two­ or three­stage routes are allowed to stay overnight in the villages of ethnic minority people along  the way  . All the nec- es sary arrangements will be  made by your guest house or by the travel agent hired to organ ize the trek.

Staying in Monasteries

Many monasteries accept guests for a night or two in exchange for a small donation. In the rural hinterland of Inle Lake, this enables tourists to undertake multistage hikes, an arrangement formally ratified by the Ministry of Tourism in March 2013 to ease pressure on beds in the area. Elsewhere, monas teries may serve as a last resort when the only other lodgings in the region are occupied. Monastery visitors should not expect much in the way of creature comforts beyond shared bathrooms and a thin cotton mattress or straw mat to sleep on.

Booking

Given the shortage of rooms, it is essential to book as far ahead as possible – at least a month, or more, in advance. Reservations may be made verbally by telephone (although the English spoken may not always be fluent, and the cost of calls extremely high), or directly by email or through the hotel’s website. Either way, it is wise to ask for confirmation via email, and to reconfirm the reservation a couple of days before the intended date of arrival. Always check the rate in advance. Most upscale hotels expect full payment at the time of booking. Some of the less  expensive places require pay- ment at check­in, while others  waive payment until check­out.

Travel agents in Myanmar will be happy to make all the necessary arrangements on behalf of travelers. Charges for this service vary: larger agents have access to discounted rates that they may hand on in part to clients, which can work out  cheaper even after their mark- up. In addition, many hotels in  Myanmar accept bookings via the website agoda.com, and some smaller guesthouses even insist that guests make reservations this way.

Prices

Tariffs are high compared with other countries in Southeast Asia as a result of the shortage of accom modations. A very  basic budget room in down- town Yangon can cost upward  of US$25–30 per night, and a threadbare mid­range one more than double that. At the high end, rates are even more inflated: a room in one of the landmark five­star hotels in the November–February peak season can cost US$500–900, excluding government taxes.

Bargaining

It was once easy in Myanmar to haggle down the cost of accommo dations – vacancies were plentiful and alternatives close to hand. Far from being able to negotiate a reduction, visitors are now more likely to find the rate has increased since the time of booking. If demand is high, many hotels, particularly those in tourist areas, will adjust their tariffs accordingly.

Taxes

Service charges of between 5 and 10 per cent are routinely collected on rooms in luxury hotels and resorts, in addition to  the flat­rate 10 per cent govern- ment tax. These amounts tend  not to be included in the price quoted at the time of booking. These taxes do not, however, apply to cheaper places.

Tipping

Although tipping didn’t use to be customary, the practice has gradually become more widespread over the past few years. If a staff member has been particularly helpful, a gratuity of a few US dollars will be welcomed. Bear in mind that upscale hotels already levy a service charge of 10 per cent on top of the bill.

Checking In

When checking in, foreign visitors are required to fill in government forms listing their passport and visa details, date of arrival in Myanmar, and onward itinerary. Some places also insist  that you hand over your pass- port for the duration of your  stay, although they can usually be dissuaded from doing this if you are firm enough. Ask to have a look at the room you have been allocated before any money is handed over, as it will be easier to change at this stage than later. Some hotels require payment in full and in cash at check­in; the balance for any extras will need to be paid when checking out.

Facilities for Disabled Travelers

Visitors with mobility problems will find high­end hotels more straightforward than budget ones. Luxury places tend to  have wheelchair­friendly lug- gage runways to their lobbies,  spacious elevators, and help for any heavy lifting. Beyond that, however, disabled travelers can expect no dedicated facilities. Staying in cheaper hotels can mean endless stairs, cramped lifts, and small bathrooms with only squat toilets and no tubs.

Facilities for Children

Very few hotels in Myanmar offer dedicated facilities for kids; those that do tend to be the most expensive five­stars, where “kid’s clubs” are sometimes featured on weekends. Nearly  all hotels, however, allow under- 12s to share a bed with their  parents for free, or charge a small amount for an extra bed or cot. Babysitter services are available in some hotels. Upscale places are likely to have extensive grounds and gardens with areas where youngsters can let off steam, as well as swimming pools with special shallow sections for children.

Recommended Hotels

The hotels in this guide have been selected across a wide price range and represent the most commendable options in their location and category. Value for money, quality of furnishings, facilities, the overall setting and atmosphere, and the warmth of the welcome  have been taken into consider- ation. The best of these are  high lighted as DK Choice. The prices listed are those charged by the hotel during the high season from November to February for a double room, inclusive of all taxes. Hotels are listed by region (further divided into towns) and by price range.

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