Where to stay in Myanmar
Foreign visitors are only allowed to stay in officially licensed accommodation in Myanmar, which means that in some towns there are only one or two options available. Advance booking is advisable, particularly from November to March, as tourist numbers have swollen in recent years and the stock of accommodation has not yet caught up. In some key tourist destinations, particularly Nyaungshwe (for Inle Lake), Nyaung U (for Bagan), Mandalay or Bagan, it is not unusual for budget accommodation to be completely full on a given date.
Grading: The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (www.myanmartourism.org/hotels.html) grades hotels on a scale of one to five stars, with establishments displaying their grade on a plaque at reception.
Like hotels, guest houses must be licensed. It’s a time-consuming and expensive process, which is one reason why few new guest houses have opened in Myanmar despite soaring tourist numbers. Many of the existing guest houses in places such as Nyaungshwe have, however, been building new blocks to increase the number of rooms which they offer. Guest houses typically offer a range of accommodation, with or without private bathroom and with or without air-conditioning. Single occupancy is sometimes charged at only half the double room rate, but more often at around three-quarters.
Resorts: There are a number of upmarket beach resorts in Myanmar, the most popular with foreigners being at the lovely Ngapali Beach. Others are located on Chaung Tha and Ngwe Saung beaches, and in the Meik Archipelago in the far south (an area which can only be entered with a special permit). Note that, like large hotels in general, many upmarket resorts are owned either by the government or by cronies who have been subject to international sanctions.
Unique accommodation: Many monasteries are willing to take in guests for a night or two, although a donation will be expected. In some parts of the country, such as around Kalaw and Nyaungshwe in the east, this allows tourists to undertake multi-day hikes (given that camping is not allowed). In other parts of the country, monasteries are more of a last resort used by those travelling without reservations and unable to find a bed for the night. In March 2013 the government announced plans to officially allow monasteries near Inle Lake to take tourists, in order to take pressure off other accommodation.
Homestay accommodation: It is illegal for locals to have foreigners stay in their homes, although exceptions are made in some parts of the country. Typically this is in rural areas where hiking is popular, such as around Hsipaw in the north where it is possible to stay in a village home as part of a two- or three-day trek.