Machu Picchu Tickets: Top 10 FAQ’s Answered

Between trying to translate the official government's website to deep-diving into travel forums for hours on end, figuring out how to buy tickets to Machu Picchu can be as exhausting as the trek up. Let's make life a little easier for you...

MACHU PICCHU TICKETS ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

 

 

  1.    How Can I Buy Machu Picchu Tickets?

You can get your Machu Picchu tickets online (#3), at the ticket offices in Cusco & Aguas Calientes (#4 & #5), or you can ask your hotel in Lima or Cusco to purchase them for you (they will sometimes charge you a couple dollars more). If you are planning on trekking, most treks include a Machu Picchu entrance ticket, which they will purchase for you.

 

  1.     How much do Machu Picchu Tickets cost?

Tickets for foreigners are 152.00 Peruvian Soles (about $45USD), and 64.00 for Peruvians. If you buy in person (#4 & #5), then you can get student discounts but you will need a valid ISIC card.

 

  1.     How do I buy Machu Picchu tickets online?

You can buy Macchu Picchu tickets online through the official Government site: http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/

 

  1.     Where can I buy Machu Picchu tickets in Cusco?

You can buy Machu Picchu tickets in Cusco at the official DRC office on Avenida La Cultura 238, Condominio Huáscar. Most hotels will also get them for you if you ask.

 

  1.      Where can I buy Machu Picchu Tickets in Aguas Calientes?

There is a ticket office at the Machu Picchu Cultural Centre right off the main square on Av. Pachacutec where you can buy your tickets. You cannot buy tickets at the entrance to Machu Picchu.

 

More Machu Picchu: Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me: Cusco and Machu Picchu Tips

 

  1.     How do I get tickets for Huaynapicchu?

When you purchase your general Machu Picchu admission, tickets to Huaynapicchu are offered as an “add-on”. Keep in mind that you must book in advance (see #8) because tickets for Huayna Picchu are limited.

 

  1.     What does my Machu Picchu ticket include?

The entrance ticket to Machu Picchu includes admission to the main site and ruins, which hosts several hikes on top. It does not include transportation up the mountain from Aguas Calientes (this cannot be booked online, and must be booked the day of if you want to take the bus up; It can also be hiked for free). It does not include access to Huaynapicchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, which must be purchased as add-ons when you buy your ticket. Food and water is available on the mountain for purchase.

 

  1.     When do I need to buy my Machu Picchu ticket?

As popular as Machu Picchu is, there is no need to buy your tickets far in advance. If you are traveling on a tight and fixed schedule, we recommend buying it just a couple days before. Many travelers buy their ticket no more than two days in advance. If you want to see additional sights on or around Machu Picchu that are not included in the general admission ticket (such as Huaynapicchu and Machu Picchu Mountain), then you will want to book those with your ticket at least two weeks in advance.

 

  1.     My name is spelled incorrectly on my ticket- is that a problem?

Many people receive their tickets and notice their names are spelled incorrectly. For whatever reason, this is incredibly common, but not a problem at all! Even though you must show your ID with your ticket upon entrance, you will not be denied entrance or have any issues if the spelling of your name on your Machu Picchu entrance ticket isn’t exactly the same as the correct spelling in your passport. There is no need to buy a new ticket.

 

  1. When I try to buy my ticket online, it says "Operation Denied"- what do I do?

This is very common when foreigners try to book Machu Picchu tickets online. First, make sure you are using a Visa credit card: Only Visas will work. When you try to book your ticket and receive the “Operation Denied” message, you will need to email the call center at [email protected] They will ask for your name and booking code, and possibly the first/last 4 digits of the denied credit card. Once you have spoken with them and given the request, they can change something on their end to allow the booking to go through. If you get denied again, it is probably your credit card issuer. At this point, you will need to call your credit card issuer and have them on the phone while to try to book your tickets again to see if they are blocking it.

If you don’t have the time or patience for this, you are probably best off buying your tickets to Machu Picchu in person in Peru or asking your hotel in Peru for help.

 

***11. What's the deal with morning and afternoon passes?

As of 2017, there are no longer full day passes to Machu Picchu. When buying Machu Picchu tickets, you can either buy a morning pass, or an afternoon pass, or both. Buying both means you simply pay double the price; there is no discount for buying both.

 

Spend less time trying to buy Machu Picchu tickets, and spend more time crossing it off your bucket list.


The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Rio de Janeiro

The recent host city of 2014 World Cup games and the future 2016 Summer Olympics, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is all people have been talking about, and with good reason. The city looks even better than those screen-saver-worthy photos, and lives up to every bit of it’s lively, vibrant reputation. Rio is the tropical paradise of samba and beaches that they say, but it’s also a city of striking natural landscapes and rainforest, a fascinating mix of people, and has so many different layers to it if you’re able to move off the beach for a little and look around. Whether you want to visit for Carnival, the Olympics, or any other time you can, this city knows how to celebrate in a party-in-the-street-with-live-music-and-all-of-your-friends way that is so wonderfully Rio and happily infectious, you won't want to miss it.

 

The Ultimate Guide to Rio de Janeiro

 

We've written quite a few travel guides for Rio de Janeiro, and brought them all together here with any other essential tips that were missing. We present to you now, the master collection of them all: the Ultimate Guide to Rio de Janeiro.

 

Visas

Many travelers from North America, Europe, and Australia will need visas. Other countries may not. Brazilian visas cost anywhere from $80-160USD, and should be applied for at least 1 month prior to the start of your travels. This chart from the Brazilian Embassy will tell you which type of visa you need, if at all, and the amount of time it will allow you. This page shows the prices for each country, and has all of the requirements.

If you stay over your allotted time, you will need to pay a fee for each additional day (usually this is a few dollars per day, check online for up-to-date prices).

Keep in mind that the visa application process is fairly simple, but you should begin early as there are limited days for appointments. Even if the processing turnaround is just a few days, you may not be able get an appointment for a few weeks. Additionally, the consulates are known for a lack of organization. It's not unheard of for your passport to get lost during processing, sometimes requiring weeks before it is found. Plan ahead to avoid issues like this the day before your trip.

*Olympics Visa Waiver: From June 1- Sept 18, 2016, travelers from USA, Australia, Canada & Japan will not need visas and will be allowed to stay for 90 days visa-free. That means you can enter during that window with only your passport and travel throughout Brazil. No proof that you are going to the Olympic Games is required.

Getting There

Wondering how to get in, how to get out, and how to get around once you're there? Read our post about transportation in Rio de Janeiro here for everything you need to know.

 

Rio de Janeiro Weather

Rio has nice weather year round, but you definitely want to pack differently for summer and winter. Summer can get quite hot and humid, whereas you may be wearing pants some day during the winter.

The summer in Rio de Janeiro is from December to mid-March, with January and February promising the hottest temperatures (often over 105 degrees F). This is also the time with the most rainfall, so be prepared for some impromptu rain showers, varying from rainy afternoons to the occasional three-day-long shower.

The winter in Rio is from July to September, though of course it is never very 'cold'. However, if you show up wearing the same clothes as someone who visited in December, you'll certainly be surprised (and chilly). Average temperatures are around 75 degrees F during this time, which means a sunny day is still perfect for the beach, whereas other days it might be a bit breezy.

 

Once You’re There: Where to Explore

In Rio, you're going to be bouncing between the three different faces of the city: the beach, the rainforest, and the cityscape itself. What's so unique about Rio is that they intertwine with one another so beautifully, making it very different from most other major cities.

The Beach

Of course, the first stop on any trip to Rio is the beach, and rightfully so. You can read our guide to the city's most popular beaches here, with everything you need to know to experience them like a local.

Once you've sang 'The Girl from Ipanema' on the famous beach and crossed it off your list, there are a ton of smaller 'secret' beaches, as we call them, that most tourists don't know about. We've compiled our favorite lesser-known, hidden gems of tropical beaches here.

The Rainforest

The rainforest weaves throughout Rio de Janeiro, so you can access and explore the rainforest through different hikes in and around the city center. They all offer amazing views and incredible wildlife such as dense rainforest canopies, waterfalls, cliffs, and even monkeys right in the city.

 

The City: By Neighborhood

The city is divided into a few zones: The South Zone is where all of the attractions are, and is safest for tourists. One of the things we love most about Rio is that, in the South Zone alone, there are so many different neighborhoods and areas that have distinctly different feels. It’s like a massive sponge with infinite nooks and crannies, and there is always more to explore.

And this is where the real action is: divided by it's distinctive neighborhoods, here is a glimpse at the many vibes and attractions throughout the city to help you decide where to stay, and what to do and see in Rio de Janeiro.

Ipanema

You’ve heard the song ¨Girl from Ipanema¨ about the beautiful girls on a paradisiacal beach, and this is that Ipanema. This is the main tourist area with a ton of restaurants, bars and shopping, but it’s still beautiful, clean,  and you can actually find people who speak English. A lot of people like how safe and modern it feels, but it’s quite touristy (and an upscale part of the city) and the crowds and prices reflect that. This is the most beautiful (and popular) beach, and whether you stay here or not, you'll be spending time here. It also has a great farmer’s market on the main square and the Hippie Market on Sundays, where you can buy endless artisan crafts. You can get off the metro at the General Osorio square and walk in any direction and find fresh coconut water on the street, shops selling acai, and bars and restaurants where you can sit on the patio drinking a caipirinha and people watch. Don't miss watching sunset from the big rock on the beach, Arpoador.

Copacabana

This is a major beach spot for most young travelers to stay, and it's conveniently located to just about everything you'll need. It's the larger (and slightly less glamorous) version of Ipanema. The streets of Copacabana don’t have too much to see besides many tourists and shops catering to them, but like Ipanema it's a large area that's home to many hostels, hotels, restaurants, and some bars and clubs. There are many kiosks lining the long beach, and you can stop by any of them to have snacks and drinks. Usually live samba bands show up around sunset.

Leblon

High-end and beautiful, not a backpacker scene. This is the most upscale part of the city, and offers quiet leafy streets lined with modern apartments, nice cars, and tucked away restaurants. It's the best place to find high-end stores and fine dining, but otherwise it’s just a more expensive and residential version of Ipanema with fewer people on the streets (and a little less atmosphere). The beach here is at the end of Ipanema, and is notably quieter, cleaner and calmer. If you’re trying to get away from the crowds but want to be in a beach neighborhood, this is where you want to go.

Botafogo

More affordable than Copacabana, this is the first neighborhood away from the main beaches. Full of great local restaurants, laidback bars and a bustling neighborhood feel, this is where the locals go for atmosphere. Just get off the metro and you’ll start seeing it. Botofogo doesn't have a real beach, but the Botofogo Bay has breathtaking views of Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) to one side, and Christ the Redeemer towering over all of the buildings in the other direction. This is the where you'll go to access Sugarloaf and Praia Vermelha. Urca, the area near Sugarloaf, has become a new trendy place to hang out on the wall of the harbor with beers and appetizers from the bars across the street.  It's beautiful at sunset, with a panoramic view of the harbor and Christ statue. In this neighborhood you'll also find the Santa Marta favela, famous for the painting project: Every home is a different bright color.

Lapa

The nightlife central of the city, this is Rio’s biggest permanent street party. Weekday or weekend, the streets lined with bars and clubs are full of people playing live samba and dancing on the overflowing streets and sidewalks. Also home to a ton of street art and young bohemian residents, it can be a bit dead in the day but is always fun for a night out if you’re okay with a bit of grunge. There are a lot of people peeing on the streets, a lot of backpackers with dreads selling bracelets, and if you’re iPhone gets stolen it’ll probably be here, but there’s no place quite like Lapa. You can get a Caipirinha bigger than your head for $3 (to the right of the Lapa Stairs), and there are stalls on stalls of greasy late-night food (also incredibly cheap). During the day tourists flock to the famous mosaic Selaron Stairs and Lapa Arches, but both are also popular places at night to bring beers, hang out with friends, and definitely make some new unexpected ones. The last Sunday of each month hosts a popular street fair, and the bizarre Metropolitan Cathedral has a beautiful stained glass view from the inside.

Santa Teresa

Perhaps the most beautiful and casually cool area in Rio, the leafy hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa is a great place to wander around, despite being a little annoying to get to (you usually have to ask a few taxi drivers before one will agree to go up). Being on a hill, the views from just about everywhere are magnificent, and it’s basically the only spot you can find a high viewpoint that isn’t in a slum. Many of the classic homes are old and colorful, the street art is ever-present, and you can find adorable outdoor restaurants and bars (featuring everything unique or artisan you’re looking for), and even a one-screen movie theater. It really does have it’s own feel, and if you’re going to wander aimlessly anywhere, we recommend doing it here. Because it is a bit secluded, make sure to bring a map and avoid wandering with valuables on deserted side streets by foot. It's a nice area, but it's very easy to get lost and a tourist off the main road will stick out. You can climb the Lapa Stairs up to it, or walk up the hills next to the Gloria and Catete metro stations. Make sure to check out the amazing views from Parque das Ruinas, the shell of an influential artist's former home, and come for a romantic dinner or laidback bar night on the main roads.

Centro

The downtown district is madly buzzing all day, as the center where most offices are. Everything is cheapest here, from kilo buffet restaurants to knockoff Brazil jerseys and watches for sale on the streets. It’s very crowded and crazy, but perfect for buying anything you need at bargain prices, from electronics and such at the Uruguaiana market, or clothes, souvenirs, party decorations, luggage, and everything else imaginable at the Saara street market. You won't want to stay here, but visiting the markets is the perfect dose of downtown cheapness and madness, and it's also where you can find most of Rio's museums (the MAR Museum, CCBB & Museu Nacional de Belas Artes) and stunning Municipal Theater. Definitely avoid this area at night though, as it gets deserted and very dark (you can read more safety tips here).

Gloria / Catete

In between Centro and the beaches, these neighboring areas aren't usually major tourist destinations, but are beautiful (if a tiny bit grungy), often overlooked by tourists, and great areas for grasping more of a local vibe. Many of the buildings have old, colorful colonial facades, and while a bit dilapidated, are lovely to walk around and see on your way to the next spot. And you can walk up to Santa Teresa from here, or over to the Lapa Arches, and they both host many farmer's markets on the weekends.

Jardim Botanico

If you head up from Botafogo or Leblon, you’ll find yourself in the lush, feels-like-you’re-in-the-rainforest but also home to cool graffiti area around the massive Botanical Gardens (home to many species of plants, butterflies, birds and monkeys). It’s a very laidback but upscale area, and on the main road are a ton of amazing restaurants, cafes, and bakeries for foodies to indulge in. It feels a bit isolated in a good way, and you can walk and look at street art and winding streets for a long time. This is where you can find the beautiful Park Lage (yes, from the Snoop Dogg/Pharrell video), surrounded by rainforest and home to an art school. It’s also right near the Lagoon (Lagoa), so you can continue walking around that afterwards, or even stop and enjoy a meal or drink at one of waterside restaurants, bars and clubs.

Flamengo

More of a local feel than other parts of the South Zone, it has some casual corner bars with shirtless old men watching soccer and drinking cheap beer, and sometimes that’s exactly what you want to experience. There's a scene of younger Brazilians living there too, and some nice local restaurants. Praça São Salvador is a little square in the Laranjeiras neighborhood, and a great place to barbecue and drink beers in the sun on the weekends, or have drinks on at night. The Aterro do Flamengo is a large grassy stretch great for playing soccer and going for a run, and the end of it is home to the modern art museum MAM.

Barra de Tijuca / Recreio dos Bandeirantes

The residential Barra area west of the Ipanema and Leblon is also known for great beaches with surf, clear water, and white sand. However, there’s a bit of land between those areas and where Barra and Recreio actually start, so despite being part of Rio it usually requires a full day to make the trip out. If you're staying for a while in Rio though, this is a great way to avoid crowds and see the many beaches the city has to offer. Barra Shopping, a big American-style mall, is very popular with Brazilians (but may not be anything too unique if you have malls like this at home.

Favelas

Portuguese for 'slum', these shantytowns and communities covering the hills of the city are an infamous aspect of Rio. There are thousands of favelas in the city alone, and represent how a large percentage of the population lives. For those interested in learning more about Rio's favelas, which ones are safe to visit, and tours that will help you understand their history and role in the city, read our complete guide to Rio's favelas here.

 

Where to Stay

Based on the descriptions of neighborhoods above, you can choose a neighborhood that appeals to you. Most tourists stay in the 'South Zone', most commonly in Ipanema or Copacabana. You'll be near the beach, get all of the classic Rio vibes, and enough people will speak English. This area is safe and very easy to get around. For a higher end experience, stay in Leblon (basically an extension of Ipanema, but a bit further out). For a beautiful retreat further from the beach, stay in the artsy hills of Santa Teresa (but keep in mind that you'll need to take a taxi to get in or out). For a stay full of the city's best nightlife and a more bohemian, downtown crowd, stay in Lapa.

Booking.com and Agoda are two reliable sites with a ton of our favorite hotels and hostels on them.

***During the Olympics, a lot of people will choose to stay in areas closer to events (such as the typically out-of-the-way Barra neighborhood), and you should check out a map to see which area is best based on the events you will attend.

 

The Best Things to Do & See

If you have just a short trip and want the highlight reel, we've listed our ten favorite sights and sounds of Rio. Read our list of the best places and experiences you really can't miss here. (Though the neighborhood guides above offer a much more extensive list for when you're through with the first 10!)

For the best photo spots and impressive views from every different part of the city, check out our guide to Rio's best views here. Rio is a city known by it's dramatic views, and they are what truly make you realize why it was named 'The Marvelous City'.

 

What to Eat

Rio isn't known as a food capital, which makes it even more important to know what is good and what isn't. Here are the classic dishes and types of restaurants to experience that we know any traveler can appreciate.

Açai: You know it, the Amazonian superberry, blended into an amazing frozen treat. Try it in any fruit juice bar (they're everywhere, Bibi Sucos is a nice one in Zona Sul, but anyone will do). It's very sweet here, so order 'sem acucar' if you want the au natural version.

Caipirinha: Brazil's national drink, this cocktail of sugar cane rum (cachaça), lime, ice and sugar is sweet and strong. Try a caipiroska if you prefer vodka instead of rum, and play with the fruit options. Caipirinha maracuja (passionfruit) is always a popular one, but some places go wild with exotic amazon fruits (such as the upscale Palaphita Kitch at the Lagoa).

Churrascaria: A classic Brazilian barbecue restaurant, they serve unlimited meat right off the grill. Porcao in Flamengo is a wonderful high end choice, Estrela do Sul is a more affordable local spot in Botafogo.

Feijoada: A stew of black beans with various meats, this is the quintessential Rio dish, usually served on Sundays with tons of family, friends and live music. It's simple and classic, and the atmosphere usually surrounding a feijoada is probably the best part. (Bar do Mineiro in Santa Teresa does a great one in a classic setting, and they have a full bar).

Kilo: These restaurants have buffets where you pay by the kilo. They usually have Brazilian staples like rice, beans, meats, fish and salads, and range from high end to very affordable. More affordable ones for backpacker budgets can be found in areas like Centro and Lapa (Nova Lapa is a great deal), whereas ones in shopping malls, Ipanema or Leblon can get pricy very quickly (Fellini is one of the nicest).

Rodizio: All-you-can-eat is a popular theme in Rio de Janeiro, the antidote to everyone's dedication to a perfect beach body. Try pizza rodizio (Broz is affordable and delicious), sushi rodizio (Dombri Edo in Everest Hotel is high quality, mid-price), or a churrascaria.

Snacks on snacks: The traditional Portuguese word for the nonstop fried snacks you'll find literally everywhere. In every bar, restaurant, and street corner juice shop, Brazilians are ordering thousands of different fried snacks. Try: pão de queijo (little cheese-filled balls of bread), empada (stuffed pastry like an empanada), pastel (an airy fried crisp filled with meat or cheese, your choice), pipoca (street-side popcorn with giant pieces of bacon in it), coxinha (fried teardrops of shredded chicken, com catupiry means it also has cream cheese), kibe (an Arabic fried thing with spiced shredded beef inside), tapioca (a bizarre amazing crepe-like thing that is made on the street, can be filled with any sweet or savory filling), & bolinho de bacalhau (fried balls of cod; the fish flavor may not be for everyone, but it's a local favorite). On the beach, make sure to eat quiejo coahlo (grilled haloumi-style cheese) and esfihas (an Arabic-styled empanada).

 

Carnival

Rio de Janeiro's claim to fame: Carnival. Truly one of a kind. We've been around the block a couple times a lived to tell the tale, anyone thinking of going absolutely should and can read our complete Rio Carnival guide here.

 

The 2016 Rio Olympics

For those Olympics-bound, make sure to read the Visa Waiver section above to see if you are exempt from getting a visa during this time. Keep in mind the 'winter' season when packing. Despite the pitfalls Rio has certainly had in putting on the Olympics, and the overall public disapproval, it's a great opportunity to support locals (think shopping and eating at small local spots, buying souvenirs from individuals rather than at big chain stores) and glimpse the energy in the city. Do be aware of protests and keep a distance, and make sure to read our safety tips before you go. Otherwise, enjoy and share your photos and stories with us after!

 

Safety

You can read up on our essential Rio safety tips in our safety guide here. It's plenty safe to travel to Rio, but there are a few things you need to be aware before you do so that you can count on a smooth trip.

 

Additional Info

Here are the rest of our Rio guides that you travelers may need:

And for those of you planning an extended stay:

 

Sit back, relax, grab a caipirinha and enjoy 'The Marvelous City' like it was meant to be enjoyed.

We hope our Ultimate Guide to Rio de Janeiro helps you make the most of your trip, and we always love to hear your feedback. Feel free to share additional questions or thoughts in the comment section below!


10 Different Peru Itineraries for Every Type of Traveller

Going to Peru, are you? We've already told you where we think you should go, so all that's left is telling you how to do it. With a lot of thought and input from our travels around Peru, we've created the perfect Peru itinerary: meaning, we've created several of them, based on the time you have and what you're interested in.

So, no matter who you are or what you're into, there is a Peru itinerary in this post that is perfect for you. We guarantee it. (And for those of you thinking, I can't be hemmed in by your rules and itineraries, we've thought of you too, you rebels. DIY Peru itinerary at the bottom with a list of spots and the time to allow; don't let anybody tell you what to do!).

 

10 different itineraries for every type of traveler

 


Our travel style is to move slowly and allow time for spontaneity, but we know life doesn’t always come with unlimited vacation days, so we’ve presented some comfortable itineraries that work for pretty much everyone and will let you get a real feel for each spot. Some have more spots packed in, some have fewer, so you can do you. Pace is a very personal choice.

And what are those titles of each Peru Itinerary below, you might ask? We decided to title our itineraries because, let's be honest, blogs are the new travel agents (not sorry), and it was fun for us. Roll with it, and please let loose with a few of your own. [Punny name suggestions very welcome in the comments section.] Vamos!

 

Peru Itinerary: 1 Week

The timeframe most have to work with. In one week, you can realistically see one destination really well, get a great feel for two, and check off three if you’re determined to make the most out of it. Here's how.

 

Peru 1 week itinerary

 

Doing Machu Picchu the Right Way

 

Less Travel Time

(Cusco + Sacred Valley + Machu Picchu)

Sure, you can zip in, get a selfie, and get out, but is that really traveling in the truest sense? This is for those of you who say nah. Spend 3 days in Cusco city (Inca culture + trekking + mountains + llamas + Machu Picchu), and with 1 day being a day trip to the Sacred Valley of the Incas (Inca ruins + tiny Andean villages + more nature + way more llamas). From Cusco, you will trek to Machu Picchu. You have 4 days to trek including 1 day on Machu Picchu, and can choose between the easy backpacker favorite, the Inca Jungle, a 4-day version of the classic Inca Trail, or one of the more intense Lares or Salkantay journeys. Your trek will include a train back to Cusco, where you can fly out. (Trek details here).

Read more about Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu here.

 

The Classixxx

Average Travel Time

(Lima + Cusco + Amazon)

This is a great way to see (what we believe to be) two of Peru's best spots in just a week. Spend 1 day in Lima (art + seafood + museums + beach). See a few sights, eat amazing ceviche, wander Barranco, and stock up on anything you need for the trip. Next, head to Cusco for 3 days (Inca culture + trekking + mountains + llamas + Machu Picchu). That's enough time to see the city itself and take the train for 1 day at Machu Picchu. From here, you're going to the Amazon for 3 days (rainforest + exotic animals + indigenous tribes). Puerto Maldonado is the closest entry point to Cusco, with access to Manu National Park, or you can visit Iquitos and enter the rainforest from there. If you're flying, it doesn't make much of a difference logistically: choose which appeals to you more.

Read more about Lima, Cusco and the Amazon.

 

The Culture Trip

Average Travel Time

(Lima + Cusco + Lake Titicaca)

So, you want culture do you? Spend 1 day in Lima (art + seafood + museums + beach). See a few sights, eat amazing ceviche, wander Barranco, and stock up on anything you need for the trip. Next, spend 3 days in Cusco (Inca culture + trekking + mountains + llamas + Machu Picchu), which is enough time to see the city in 2 days and take the train to Machu Picchu for 1 day. Then, you can take the train or fly to Puno (huge lake + folklore + ancient cultures + handicrafts), where you will find Lake Titicaca. Allow 3 days (including travel time), and explore Taquile Floating Islands and sail in a reed boat.

Read more about Lima, and Cusco.

 

Spring Breakers: Peru Edition

Average Travel Time

(Lima + Mancora/Arequipa + Cusco)

Maybe you're young and fun, and want to know the best way to go pretty crazy in a week and come home with some stories. There's something for you, too. Spend 1 day in Lima (art + seafood + museums + beach) where you'll stay at one of the major party hostels like Pariwana or Loki, then head to Cusco for 3 days (Inca culture + trekking + mountains + llamas + Machu Picchu). Take the train to Machu Picchu on one of these days, and once again stay in a hostel like Pariwana or Loki for a hot mess of a good time. Cuidado with the blood bombs.

Summer: If you're visiting during Peru's summer, you'll fly up to party beach town Mancora for 3 days (surf + partying + beach + great seafood) to finish out with a bang. Loki del Mar is the only place to be here, and is practically a mini-resort for backpackers.

Winter: If you're visiting during Peru's winter, Mancora might be sleepier than usual. No worries. Hop on over to Arequipa for 3 days (food + volcanos + "the white city" + trekking + Colca Canyon), a huge backpacker hub known for even wilder bar crawls and party hostels than Cusco. Stay at the Flying Dog to be at the heart of it all.

Read more about Lima, Mancora, and Cusco.

 

Peru Itinerary: 2 Weeks

The difference between one week and two is monumental; and we're in the camp that believes the longer you have, the better the experience. Two weeks is a great amount of time to really explore a few destinations and see a great variety of this country's extremely diverse sights.

 

Peru 2 Week Itinerary

 

Treks on Treks

Average Travel Time

(Lima + Arequipa + Cusco + Huaraz)

Nepal, New Zealand, Peru: Major players in the trekking world. If you're all about that trek life, you've come to the right place. We hoped you've trained though, because two weeks of trekking isn't for the faint of heart. From Lima, head to Arequipa for 3 days (food + volcanos + "the white city" + trekking). Trek the Colca Canyon, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and home to the Andean condor and impressive Inca terracing. For a lighter trip, do just 2 days trekking the canyon and 1 exploring Arequipa city. From here, fly to Cusco. Allow 7 days in Cusco city (Inca culture + trekking + mountains + llamas + Machu Picchu), which gives you 2 days to acclimate and sightsee, then 5 days to trek to Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail is medium difficulty, Lares is more advanced, and Salkantay is the most challenging (more about these treks here). If you want to do a less conventional trek, check out Ausangate. It won't lead you to Machu Picchu, but you can always take the train for a day after the trek (and the trek itself is a pretty incredible secret as of now). From Cusco, do 3 days in Huaraz (snowy mountain peaks + glacial lakes + trekking). You can do a multi-day trek, or base yourself out of the city and visit different sights each day. Head back to Lima for 1 day, and grab some delicious seafood before heading home. (If you want to skip Huaraz and trek a destination outside Lima such as Marcahuasi (camping on ancient ritual ground + amazing rock formations + 3-hour trek), you can do so in 2 days. This trek can also be great for adjusting to the altitude at the beginning of the trip, and is great for those who want some DIY camping with their trekking. Here's a list of our favorite treks outside Lima).

Read more about Lima, Marcahuasi and Cusco.



 

Southern Peru Sampler

More Travel Time

(Lima + Ica + Arequipa + Puno + Cusco)

A trip for those of you active folk who want to pack in a lot. Spend 1 day in Lima (art + seafood + museums + beach), then head south to Ica for 4 days (including driving time). Pick one of these as your base, and plan day trips to Huacachina (desert oasis + sand dunes + sand boarding), Paracas (marine reserve + penguins + boat tours), and the Nazca Lines (ancient drawings the size of football fields). Continue south to spend 3 days in Arequipa (food + volcanos + "the white city" + trekking + Colca Canyon), then go east for 3 days in Puno (Lake Titicaca + folklore + ancient cultures + handicrafts). From Puno, take the train or fly for 3 days in Cusco (Inca culture + trekking + mountains + llamas + Machu Picchu), which includes time for sightseeing in the city and taking the train to Machu Picchu.

Read more about Lima, Ica, and Cusco.

 

Awesome Nature

Less/Average Travel Time

(Cusco + Amazon + Huaraz )

From Lima, go to Cusco for 7 days (Inca culture + trekking + mountains + llamas + Machu Picchu). One day to explore the city, one to explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas (don't miss Maras!), and you'll have 5 days to trek to and visit Machu Picchu. Here's where you choose the nature you want to see. You can trek to Machu Picchu, and have a choice of the fun and easier Inca Jungle Trek, the mid-level Inca Trail (with tons of ruins on the route), or the more advanced Lares and Salkantay which offer the most impressive nature of them all. They can all be done in 4 or 5 days including a day on Machu Picchu (more about these treks here). Or, if you're willing to break out of the typical pattern, embark on the 5 day Ausangate trek which promises the craziest scenery of them all (including the rainbow mountains). However, this trek doesn't go to Machu Picchu, so you will need to take the train for a day trip afterwards (which is a perfectly fine way to go). After trekking through these amazing places, head to the Amazon for 4 days (rainforest + exotic animals + indigenous tribes). You can bus to Puerto Maldonado which gives you access to Manu National Park, or fly to Iquitos and enter that portion of the Amazon (we recommend Iquitos, personally). Spend a day or even half in the city, and the rest in a lodge in the Amazon. Then, head to Huaraz for 3 days (snowy mountain peaks + glacial lakes + trekking). You can embark upon a multi-day trek, or use the city as a base and do day trips, whatever mood you're in.

Read more about Cusco and the Amazon.

 

Peru Itinerary: 3 Weeks

Three weeks is a wonderful amount of time- you'll have a real connection and understanding of the country by the time you leave. This gives you two options of what to do with your extra time: add in a few more sites, or do one of the two week itineraries with a 7-day bolster of free time spread throughout for whatever spontaneous adventures and downtime with new friends you want. There's no right or wrong way, it's all just style. Here are the three week Peru itineraries for you guys who want to use it to see more.

 

Peru 3 week itinerary

 

Awesome Nature 2.0

Average Travel Time

(Cusco + Amazon + Huaraz + Ica + Lima)

Peru is packed with wild feats of nature that will literally make your jaw drop. Scroll through these 10 photos, feel your mind blown because you haven't heard of half of it, and come back. We'll wait. So yea, we're guessing you want to see some of those crazy places don't you? Here's how. Your first destination will be 3 days in Ica (desert + sand dunes + marine reserve). We recommend staying in Huacachina for 2 (desert oasis + sand dunes + sand boarding) and doing a day trip to Paracas for 1 (marine reserve + penguins + boat tours). From here, make your way to the Cusco region for 8 days (Inca culture + trekking + mountains + llamas + Machu Picchu). One day to explore the city, one to explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas (don't miss Maras!), and you'll have 6 days to trek to and visit Machu Picchu. Here's where your personal decision-making comes in. You can trek to Machu Picchu, and have a choice of the fun and easier Inca Jungle Trek, the mid-level Inca Trail (with tons of ruins on the route), or the more advanced Lares and Salkantay which offer the most impressive nature of them all. They can all be done in 4 or 5 days including a day on Machu Picchu, which gives you a day to rest when you return to Cusco (more about getting to Machu Picchu here). Or, if you're willing to break out of the typical pattern, embark on the 5 day Ausangate trek which promises the craziest scenery of them all (including the rainbow mountains). However, this trek doesn't go to Machu Picchu, so you will need to take the train for a day trip afterwards (which is a perfectly fine way to go). After trekking through these amazing places, head to the Amazon for 4 days (rainforest + exotic animals + indigenous tribes). You can bus to Puerto Maldonado which gives you access to Manu National Park, or fly to Iquitos and enter that portion of the Amazon (we recommend Iquitos, personally). Spend a day or even half in the city, and the rest in a lodge in the Amazon. Then, head to Huaraz for 3 days (snowy mountain peaks + glacial lakes + trekking). You can embark upon a multi-day trek, or use the city as a base and do day trips, whatever mood you're in.

If you've been busing between these places, the three remaining days will have been used to get around. Able to fly? You'll have a few days to spare, and we recommend using them just outside of Lima so you're close for your flight home. Adventurous souls can rent a tent and sleeping bag, and visit Marcahuasi for 2 days (camping on ancient ritual ground + amazing rock formations + 3-hour trek). It's a journey you won't forget, but this post will explain why we suggest it for seasoned and confident travelers only. Want something more comfortable? Check out these other spots, and allow some city-time in beautiful Lima (art + seafood + museums + beach).

Read more about Cusco, Amazon, Ica and Lima.

 

All Ancient Everything

Average Travel Time

(Lima + Caral + Puno + Cusco + Inca Trail + Choquequirao + Kuelap/Trujillo)

Love history, archaeology and ancient cultures? The Incas aren't the only ones who left a fascinating mark on Peru, and this route will take you through some of the countries most impressive archaeological sites. Arrive in Lima for 2 days total (art + seafood + museums + beach). Spend one day at the city's best museums, and visiting the Huaca Pucllana in Miraflores. On the second day, take a day trip to Caral (first city in Americas + archaeological site). Next, head to Puno for 3 days (Lake Titicaca + folklore + ancient cultures + handicrafts), where you can visit the floating islands and get insight into the Aymara culture. From here, go to Cusco for 8 days (Inca culture + trekking + mountains + llamas + Machu Picchu). You will spend the first one in the city acclimating and sight seeing, and the next two exploring the Sacred Valley of the Incas. From here, embark on the original Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu, which will take 5 days (shorter variations are available). Afterwards, you can visit the unique ruins of Choquequirao, reachable by 5 day trek. Lesser-visited, well-preserved yet slightly grown over, it is the wild "undiscovered" version of Machu Picchu. Finish off with a quick two day visit to one of two remarkable spots: 2 days for the Kuelap fortress of the Chachapoyas culture, or 2 days for Chan Chan outside the city of Trujillo, an entirely clay city of the pre-Inca Chimu Kingdom.

Read more about LimaCusco, and the Inca Trail.

 

Peru Itinerary: 4 Weeks

 

They said be a traveler, not a tourist, and you said, sure. Congrats. Four weeks is a beautiful amount of time. Our first recommendation: have your itinerary in mind, but plan/commit to as little as you have to. With four weeks, you'll certainly meet people and see places you won't expect, and there's no greater shame than missing out because you have every day planned to a T and can't change it. Our opinion, take it or leave it. If you prefer to plan more, then the upside is that you'll save money on flights and know you'll see so much of the country.

 

Peru 4 Week Itinerary

 

Many travelers who want a month-long itinerary for Peru are backpacking more of South America, and may be coming from a neighboring country and need to adapt a bit. We present to you a loop based from Lima, and the amount of time to spend in each place for the classic Peru backpacking experience. You can pick it up wherever is convenient. Or, if you've been around the block a bit and don't want to go where all the other travelers are, take us up on the DIY itinerary option. We have a list of places, in order on the loop based in and out of Lima, and how long to stay. You can't see all of them in a month, but you can pick and choose.

 

The Classic One-Month-in-Peru Backpacker Route

Average Travel Time

(Lima + Ica + Arequipa + Puno + Cusco + Iquitos + Mancora + Huaraz)

Spend 2 days in Lima (art + seafood + museums + beach), then go to Ica for 4 days (desert + sand dunes + marine reserve) where you will spend two in Huacachina (desert oasis + sand dunes + sand boarding), one in Paracas (marine reserve + penguins + boat tours), and one in Nazca (massive ancient drawings in the desert). Then go to Arequipa for 3 days (food + volcanos + "the white city" + trekking + Colca Canyon), up to Puno for 3 days (Lake Titicaca + folklore + ancient cultures + handicrafts), then to Cusco for 8 days (Inca culture + trekking + mountains + llamas + Machu Picchu) during which you'll spend two in the city acclimating and sightseeing, two doing day trips to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and four trekking to Machu Picchu (descriptions of different treks here). Next, fly to Iquitos for 4 days (rainforest city + exotic markets + animal conservation centers) where you will spend one day in the city and 3 at a lodge in the Amazon (rainforest + exotic animals + indigenous tribes). Then fly to Piura, where you will take a van down to Mancora to spend 3 days (surf + partying + beach + great seafood), then travel down to Huaraz for 3 days (snowy mountain peaks + glacial lakes + trekking).

Read more about Lima, IcaCusco, Iquitos, and Mancora.

 

The DIY Itinerary

Step 1: Reference our list of Where to Go in Peru to get an idea of the various spots and what they offer. Read it? Inspired? Dale.

Destinations & How Long to Stay:

Lima (art + seafood + museums + beach): 2 days for the city itself. 1 day each for day trips such as Caral, Lomos de Lucumo, Lunahuana. 2 days for Marcahuasi, 2 days for southern beaches, 2 days for Rupac. (More about Lima here).

Ica (desert + sand dunes + marine reserve): 1 day per destination within Ica, you can make one of them your base. Includes Huacachina (desert oasis + sand dunes + sand boarding), Paracas (marine reserve + penguins + boat tours), Nazca (massive ancient drawings in the desert), and Pisco (Pisco brandy-making region). (More about Ica here).

Arequipa (food + volcanos + "the white city" + trekking + Colca Canyon): 3 days.

Puno (Lake Titicaca + folklore + ancient cultures + handicrafts): 3 days.

Cusco (Inca culture + trekking + mountains + llamas + Machu Picchu): 2 days for the city, 2 days for the Sacred Valley of the Incas, 4-6 days to trek to Machu Picchu, 1.5 days to train to Machu Picchu, 5 days for Ausangate Trek, 5 days for Choquequierao Trek. (More about Cusco here).

Amazon (rainforest + exotic animals + indigenous tribes): 4 days. Visit either Puerto Maldonado or Iquitos, spend less than a day in the city itself and the rest in a lodge within the rainforest. You can also sail along the Amazon on cargo ships from one destination to another, takes anywhere from 3- 8 days depending on distance and direction. (More about the Amazon here).

North Shore Beaches (surfing + partying + great seafood): 2-3 days per beach. Punta Sal (local beach + surf spot), Mancora (popular backpacker party beach), Lobitos (surf spot), Chicama (longest left in the world), Chan Chan (an ancient clay city on the coast), Trujillo (colorful colonial city + beach + reed boats). (More about Mancora here).

Gocta Falls (amazing waterfall + green nature): 2 days.

Cajamarca (Andean culture + colonial city + farms + crazy Carnival). 3 days.

Kuelap (ancient ruins 1,000 years older than Machu Picchu): 2 days.

Huaraz (snowy mountain peaks + glacial lakes + trekking): 3 days. 7 days for Huayhuash trek.

Of course there are plenty of other tiny gems waiting for you to discover them, but you'll be pretty covered for a few trips with these alone. If you'll be coming from Ecuador or Bolivia, you can easily see on a map where to pick up the route and adapt it. Keep in mind that you will only have the option of land transport between many of the more remote destinations, so calculate that time into your schedule accordingly.

 

We told you: we have a Peru itinerary for everybody.

We hope you found the perfect Peru itinerary for your travel style. I would say alpaca your bags as well, but I think we've planned your trip enough; you can take it from here, right? (no? not ready? read more on Peru or hit us up in the comment section below). Buen viaje, muchachitos! Can't wait to hear which itineraries you choose.

 

 


#6: Stories from Year 1 of The Borderless Project l Parque de la Reserva (Parque de las Aguas), Lima, Peru --- The Borderless Project

Where to Go in Peru (Hint: It's not only Machu Picchu...)

Yes, Peru is home to Machu Picchu. Bucket list topper, profile picture backdrop, Wonder of the World. We get it, it's a dream, and there's no shame in admitting you know Peru as "the place where Machu Picchu is". But Machu Picchu is only one of about a hundred incredible destinations in this Andean country, and we're here to show you just a handful of them that warrant as much (if not more) attention. So yes, your bucket list just got longer. Here is our guide on where to go in Peru, and the best places you won't want to miss.

 

Where to Go in Peru

 

Where to Go in Peru

 

1. Cusco

Of course, the first place that comes to mind, and easily the most popular destination in all of Peru: Cusco! Cusco is the region where you'll find bucket list wonder Machu Picchu, but that's actually a few hours outside the city itself-- and there's with a ton to see in between. The cobblestoned city of Cusco is nestled high in the Andes, and it's tiny streets are bursting with a mix of colonial architecture, Inca ruins and ancient Andean culture. Open air markets sell handmade alpaca sweaters and comfort food, and right amongst the tourists walk locals in traditional clothing with llamas in tow. The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a beautiful region with, you guessed it, a ton of Inca history (and even more ruins). Treks pass through here on the way to Machu Picchu (Salkantay, Lares, Inca Trail, etc.), plus there are a ton of spots worthy of their own day trips (Maras salt flats, Moray ruins, the ancient town of Ollantaytambo, the Pisac town market), and additional trekking areas (make sure to check out the Ausangate trek- you'll climb over Peru's unbelievable rainbow mountains).

 

Where to go in Peru Cusco
Photo by The Borderless Project

 

Maras Salt Mines, Cusco: Where to Go in Peru ---The Borderless Project
Photo by National Geographic

 

Where to Go in Peru: Ausangate, Cusco --- The Borderless Project
Photo by Sungate Tours

 

Magnificent as Cusco is, you have to go out of your way to escape the crowds. The secret is out and the numbers of tourists only increase. For those truly passionate about the sights and not concerned with getting "that typical Machu Picchu picture", consider visiting somewhere less typical and equally impressive. South of Machu Picchu lies Choquequirao, a "sister" site to Machu Picchu. It has very similar architecture and history, however arriving at Choquequirao feels like being the first one to discover it. There are no trains, no buses, no flights, just a weeklong walk with a guide and a donkey carrying your things until you arrive at the site.

 

2. The Amazon

Easily the second most popular spot in Peru (and a personal favorite of ours), the Amazon rainforest needs no introduction. When I first came to South America I had no idea how easy it was to travel to the Amazon, despite being such an exotic destination worthy of every superlative thrown its way. A two-hour flight from Lima and you too can walk amongst anacondas and sloths, trek under the dense rainforest canopy, and meet local tribes in a world where the flora and fauna is one of a kind. There are three main cities in Peru that function as entry points to the rainforest, with each providing access to various national parks and lodges deeper within the Amazon.

 

Iquitos is the largest, and a world away from anywhere else you'll go in Peru. Of the Amazonian cities this arguably has the most to offer within the city itself (a wild market selling everything to grilled bugs on a stick to alligator meat, a manatee rescue center where, yes, you can pet them, and streets that seamlessly turn into untamed jungle, for starters). From Iquitos, you can do multiple-day stays in nearby jungle lodges like we did, or travel further to the very remote and virtually untouched Pacaya Samiria Natural Reserve.

The-Amazon-Where-to-Go-in-Peru-The-Borderless-Project

Where to Go in Peru Iquitos
Photo by The Borderless Project

 

Puerto Maldonado is the Amazonian city nearest Cusco, and most convenient for those hoping to visit these two spots in a shorter time frame. It provides access to Madre de Dios, as well as the official titleholder of the most diverse region of the entire world: Manu. Because the tourism industry here is a bit less developed than Iquitos (and Iquitos is quite untamed itself), these spots are generally a bit harder to access and those with less time may want to contact a tour guide in advance for help planning. Of course, if you're willing to put in the effort, you'll certainly be rewarded.

Pucallpa is the third Amazonian entrance point in Peru, and perhaps the least ideal for travelers. The city essentially runs as a logging and transportation hub, and doesn't warrant much exploration itself. However, it will soon offer access to the new Sierra del Divisor National Park. Plus, it sits right on the river like Puerto Maldonaldo and Iquitos, making it a convenient spot to hop on the cargo/transportation ships traveling along the Amazon. These ships are a very affordable way to get between destinations in the Amazon, are loved by most backpackers, and are generally unappealing to most other travelers. You'll get a hammock to yourself on a deck covered in about a hundred of them, and pass your days reading and watching the jungle around you until you reach your next stop.

 

3. Lima

The capital city of Lima, Peru has long been used as a stopover on the way to Cusco and nothing more, but as Henry's hometown (and one of Megan's favorite cities in the world) we know there is so much more to it than meets the eye-- and we're excited for/dreading when everyone else realizes it. Sitting on the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean, the city of Lima is the best seafood destination in the entire country, and has been named the best culinary destination in the world for several years in a row now. Think lots of art (everything from Mario Testino's house to gorgeous street murals), surfing, ceviche, salsa clubs set in old victorian houses and even a cat park. And that's just inside the city itself. Popular neighborhoods to visit in include modern Miraflores, artsy Barranco, and neighboring Callao. (For more on where to go in Lima, read our Lima Guide.)

 

Lima's Beaches

 

Where to Go in Peru San Bartolo Lima --- The Borderless Project
Photo by The Borderless Project

 

South of Lima in the Sur Chico area, you'll find even better beaches than the city's own, and popular summer getaway destinations with the country's best surf. Check out Punta Hermosa, San Bartolo and Pico Alto during summer months (December-February).

 

Lima's Highlands

Go inland and you'll find Lima has some incredible highland regions, with impressive natural landscapes, sprawling empty spaces, great treks, and tiny little towns a world away from the big city below. Unlike the tourist center of Cusco here, you'll find highland culture that isn't for show-- in fact, you'll likely be the only foreigner in some of these places. Bring your Spanish phrasebook and prepare to see a side of Peru that few tourists do. Marcahuasi is hands down the most impressive and overwhelming place to experience, ideal for backpackers and seasoned travelers: trek to an ancient ritual site where you can camp amongst unbelievable views. Viñak is a comfortable getaway great for couples or families, in one of the most remote areas of Lima (the only place to stay is Refugio Viñak, they include transportation). Huancaya is a gorgeous natural reserve with series of waterfalls. Rupac, often called the Machu Picchu of Lima, is an astounishing set of pre-Inca ruins that you can trek to and camp at, and is actually perched above the clouds (aka, expect to see the sunrise/sunset of a lifetime). Lunahuana is a popular local spot for adventure sports such as white water rafting and bungee jumping.

 

Where to Go in Peru Marcahuasi Lima --- The Borderless Project
Photo by The Borderless Project

 

Lima's Ruins

Love ruins? Perfect. Between the highlands and the coast are several spots that history buffs will actually drool over. Caral is the oldest city in all of the Americas (literally...the first city), and Pachacamac is an enormous archaeological site shrouded in mystery.

 

4. Arequipa

 

Often tying with the Amazon as the second most popular destination in Peru, Arequipa is time and time again a traveler favorite. UNESCO thought the city of Arequipa was so special that they named a World Heritage Site. Nestled between three volcanos, this Andean city is known for streets lined with white sillar buildings, comforting regional specialties (make sure to try rocoto relleno), and access to impressive natural sites and trekking destinations such as the Colca Canyon (home of the Andean condor and twice as deep as the Grand Canyon).

 

Where to Go In Peru Arequipa
Photo by Rough Guides

 

Where to Go in Peru Colca Canyon Arequipa
Photo by Tout Perou Blog

 

5. North Shore

 

Surf, sun, seafood, party, repeat: Welcome to Peru's North Shore. During the summer this is a popular place to go for locals and foreigners who want to party on the beach, or do a surf trip along the coast. It's closer to the Equator so the waters are usually much warmer than those in Lima, and it also makes a great stop on the way to Ecuador.

Mancora is the most popular spot on the North Shore, where backpackers tend to stay way longer than planned in party hostels on the beach (the hub of it all being Loki del Mar). The seafood is cheap and delicious, and you can surf, ride banana boats, or drink cheap cold beer all day long with a view. Trujillo is Peru's second biggest city, with colorful colonial buildings, ancient ruins, traditional fishermen sailing on reed boats, and some good waves.

 

Where to Go in Peru Chicama Chiclayo
Photo by Surf Forecast

 

Lobitos is a great surf spot without the crowds of Mancora, and Punta Sal is a favorite beach for surfing amongst local Peruvians. Chicama is perhaps the most famous surf spot of them all, a legend amongst surfers for boasting the longest left in the world.

 6. Puno

Rich in folkloric culture and an ancient history entirely its own, Puno is home to the famous Lake Titicaca. Straddling the border of Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable body of water and one of South America's biggest lakes. Handmade boats are made of the golden reeds surrounding the deep blue of the water, and various indigenous peoples live on the natural islands, man-made floating islands, and shores. It's perfect for travelers who appreciate the history and living culture of destinations like Cusco, though that's not to say they are interchangeable at all. Lake Titicaca is said to be the birthplace of the Incas, and remains a serene natural escape despite its tourist draw. Spend a night on Isla del Sol, and make sure to visit the Uros floating islands. While Puno is more of a gateway to the lake, it is famous for cultural parades and festivals throughout the year.

Where to Go in Peru Lake Titicaca Puno
Photo by Vaya Adventures

 

7. Ica

Just next to Lima is the state of Ica, a gem that often flies under the international tourist radar but holds a beloved position on the bucket lists of those in the know. Dry and arid, this desert region has a landscape quite different from the highlands and rainforest.

Huacachina, for example, is a small oasis in the midst of the world's largest sand dunes, stretching infinitely in every direction. Sand-boarding, dune-buggying, and watching sunset from the top of the dunes make it a backpacker must (and one of our favorite places in Peru). Nearby is Pisco, the eponymous city from which Peru's national spirit hails. Tour the region and try some of the country's best brandies.

In the neighboring Paracas Natural Reserve, the beautiful coast is home to penguins, sea lions, and dramatic rock formations jetting out of the sea. Several of the Nazca Lines are visible from the sea in Paracas, though a proper visit will allow you to see the massive unexplained drawings of animals stretching for miles. Furthest off the tourist track is the Cañon de los Perdidos, a dramatic canyon you can trek through.

Where to Go in Peru Huacachina Ica

Where to go In Peru Ica Cañon de los Perdidos
Photo by Paracas Explorer

 

Where to Go in Peru Nazca Lines
Photo by Ancient Summit

 

Where to go In Peru Paracas
Photo by Tout Perou Blog

 

8. Huaraz

 

Trekkers: don't stop after Cusco and Machu Picchu, because that's just the start of what the Peruvian Andes have to offer you. Breathtaking Huaraz is home to single and multiple-day trekking trails, set before a backdrop of snowy peaks, aquamarine lagoons, and glaciers. With a variety of routes and destinations, the impressive landscape here is reminiscent of many a desktop screensaver. Make sure to explore Huarascan National Park.

 

Where to Go in Peru Huaraz Laguna 69
Photo taken from Flickr

 

9. Chachapoyas

 

Some of the best places to go in Peru are "off the beaten path"-- and some are essentially no-names on the travel scene, failing to even elicit a, "I think I've heard of that...?". Enter: Chachapoyas. What? We'll tell you. Chachapoyas is yet another region with mind-boggling ancient history, and is home to two soon-to-be-notorious destinations. One is Kuelap, a pre-Inca fortress that is the largest set of stone ruins in the entire world, and pre-dates Machu PIcchu by over 1,000 years. Yea. So some people think it's just a matter of time before this becomes "the next Machu Picchu", and we think the impending construction of a cable car and direct flights from Lima will certainly have something to do with that. On the positive side, Machu Picchu is such a bucket list draw that it'll be a very long time before Kuelap is ever as expensive or crowded, so you should rush to visit before it changes, but you've got some time.

On the other end of the Chachapoyas spectrum we have Gocta Falls: South America's third-tallest free leaping waterfall. The international community only got wind of this jaw-dropping spot in 2005 when a German trekker visited. While locals have known about it forever, there has long been a folktale about a mermaid who protected the waterfall and would curse anyone who shared its location. No update on what became of the German guy, but we're glad he squeaked because it's a truly incredible sight.

Where to Go in Peru Kuelap Chachapoyas

Where to Go in Peru Chachapoyas Gocta Waterfalls
Photo by Aim Peru

 

The question of where to go in Peru is not one we take lightly: this country is full of unbelievable destinations steeped in history, culture, gastronomy, and beautiful people. Here's to the rest of the world realizing that it isn't just 'where Machu Picchu is'. (We'll be posting some sample itineraries next for those of you who want to know how to visit these spots).

Where is your favorite place to go in Peru?

 

Want more? We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube and Instagram! Throw on your backpack and wander with us daily!

 

 


The Ultimate Machu Picchu Packing List

Machu Picchu is one of those highly-anticipated trips that everyone wants to plan perfectly for, and packing is a huge part of that. In a dream world, someone would just tell you exactly what to bring and that would be the end of it...Based on our experiences traveling by train and trekking, we offer you our resulting Machu Picchu Packing List so there can be less stress and more selfies with llamas. (Plus: It's unisex!)

 

Ultimate Machu Picchu Packing List - Peru

 

We've divided our Machu Picchu Packing List into the different parts of the trip, since the experiences varies a bit for everyone. Whether you'll train or trek to Machu Picchu, we've got you covered (details on these various options here). Make sure to research the weather for when you plan to go, and adjust to the dry or rainy season accordingly! For starters, the wet season is November to March, and the dry season is April-September. (Those wanting the full weather low-down can read on here).

 

Cusco Packing List

 

Cusco Packing List - Peru

 

A packing list for while you're in the city of Cusco and the Sacred Valley. For those not trekking, ignore the trekking list completely and use this as your guide. Trekkers are recommended to spend about 2 days acclimatizing in Cusco before heading to Machu Picchu, so you guys will need both.

  • Clothing for each day of sightseeing (clothing that layers and is easy to take on and off; weather can change quickly here. We both stuck with jeans and tee-shirts, plus additional layers)
  • 1 Athletic outfit (in case you do any hikes, make sure to bring athletic pants and a tee)
  • Comfortable shoes for sightseeing
  • Rain jacket or poncho
  • Umbrella (during rainy season, this travel size is really convenient)
  • A cable lock (to use one the bags you'll be leaving in Cusco or Aguas Calientes while at Machu Picchu and/or trekking)
  • Lonely Planet Peru Guidebook
  • ATM and Credit Cards
  • Copies of your passport and cards
  • You a student? Bring your ID for discounts!

 

Cusco Packing Tips

  • Younger, backpacker bars are very casual and you won't need to dress up to go out.
  • Wanting to spend your days in llama sweaters and colorful pants? Then leave some clothes at home and stock up here! It's all handmade, cheap, sold in & near San Pedro Market and makes for great souvenirs afterwards.
  • There are some nicer restaurants here that you may not want to roll into in your athletic gear, but most won't need anything more formal than jeans. Leave the heels at home, girls, this is a city of cobblestone and carefree attire.
  • If doing a day trip to the Sacred Valley, most travelers choose to dress in more athletic gear as many of these tours include a bit of walking.
  • If you plan to visit a lot of Cusco's infamous churches, make sure to pack something modest for these visits.
  • Make sure to bring something warm for the evenings as temperatures drop quite a bit.

 

Machu Picchu Trek Packing List

 

Ultimate Machu Picchu Packing List - Peru

 

You have two options here. 1.) Leave your main luggage in Cusco and fit your stuff in a small backpack for the trek (and then leave some of that stuff in your Aguas Calientes hotel the day you're on Machu Picchu itself). 2.) Those traveling with a backpacking backpack can take items out to leave in their Cusco hotel/hostel's storage room, then bring that filled with only items for the trek. You will need to bring a small bag as well for the day you go up to Machu Picchu as big backpacks are not allowed (you can leave it in your Aguas Calientes hotel).

On many treks you will personally be carrying your backpack, so pack lightly!

  • 1-3 Athletic pants (fewer for short treks and dry season)
  • 1 Pair Athletic shorts
  • 1 Shirt per day (Short sleeves and tank tops for warmer treks/summer,  layers for colder treks/winter)
  • 1 Long sleeve shirt or athletic shell (1 for summer, two for winter)
  • 1 Fleece jacket or sweatshirt (Temperatures drop in the evenings significantly)
  • 1 Pair of socks per day (double during rainy season)
  • 1 Pair supportive athletic shoes or hiking boots (Merrell boots worked for both of us)
  • 1 Rain jacket or poncho
  • 1-2 Sets of pajamas/clean clothes for sleeping
  • 1 Set of underwear per day (plus three extra)
  • 1 Bathing Suit (there are hot springs on several trek routes and at the base of Machu Picchu)
  • 1 Pair Sandals (for evenings)
  • the equivalent of $100 USD in Peruvian Soles
  • Playing Cards (always a great way to make new friends on your group)
  • Notebook/Journal (for those writers among you who don't want to forget a thing)
  • *Trekking Poles (can be rented in Cusco)

We did the Inca Jungle Trek, which is known for being less intense and fun for backpackers. It includes a few optional non-trekking activities (rafting, ziplining), and the accommodation is in small hotels each night. Some other treks require camping, so make sure to confirm this before. If you will be doing a trek with camping, make sure to include the items on this packing list as well (and any others the guide recommends you bring):

  • Headlamp (essential every time we camp)
  • Warmer clothing for sleeping (ideally double layers)
  • Sleeping bag liner (since you'll be using rented sleeping bags)
  • Sleeping bag (can be rented in Cusco, may be included in your trek or not)
  • Toilet paper (always good to have your own stash, Coleman's makes a travel size)
  • Hand sanitizer (we keep it old school with keychain hand sanitizers)

Trek Packing Tips

  • Trekking during rainy season? Make sure to pack plastic bags or protective cases for all of your electronics, use trash bags to cover your things inside your backpack, and either bring a rain jacket or buy a cheap poncho in Cusco. The cheap ponchos are actually a great option as they can go over your daypack and protect your stuff, more durable ones can be bought online. Gaiters are also great to make sure your shoes don't fill with water, and water-proof gloves will keep your hands warm. Those expecting heavy rain should invest in a pair of waterproof pants to wear over tighter layers.
  • The different routes vary a bit. For example, the Inca Jungle trek takes you through hot parts of the jungle, whereas the Salkantay trek can take you through a snowy mountain pass. Factor these into the list above. If you are doing a colder route or trekking during the winter, focus on bringing a variety of pieces that you can layer to be prepared for all situations.
  • After the trek each evening, most people change into what they'll wear to sleep, so there's no need for any additional clothing. If you have a fun group like us you may hang out for a bit, but you won't be going anywhere you need to look nice.
  • Trainers or hiking boots? People do both on most of the treks, so it's up to you. Those on advanced treks such as Salkantay will want hiking boots, those on the Inca Trail or Inca Jungle can do either.
  • Even if your trek claims to "include everything", bring cash. On many of the cheaper treks, everything from drinks to various forms of local transport used along the way may turn out to be your responsibility to pay. Need new camera batteries or toiletries? See a souvenir you like? Most treks will pass some small towns, so you'll certainly need cash at some point, and (at the time of writing) none of them have ATMs or take credit cards.
  • The weather may be hot and sunny, but always wear pants. The mosquitos here (mainly on the Inca Jungle trek and at Machu Picchu) are some of the fiercest we've had the pleasure of encountering, tougher than the Amazon. I made the mistake of wearing shorts and had to change after 1 hour because I had about 50 bites. Don't make the same mistake!
  • *Budget travel tip: Buying things just for the trek that you aren't sure you need? Keep the tags on until you use them, pack them in individual packs to keep them clean and save the receipts. If you end up never needing to wear those waterproof pants, you can return them when you get home.

 

Toiletries (for trekkers and non-trekkers)

Trekking or training, Cusco and Machu Picchu require a few additional toiletries.

  • Bug Spray (live and die by Picaridin, the only one we've had success with and it doesn't melt plastic like toxic DEET)
  • Anti-Itch Cream (this Benadryl cream worked well for me, locals swear by Vick's)
  • Sunscreen (stay on top of it, that Andean sun is muy fuerte! The classic: this Neutrogena)
  • Benadryl or anti-histamine (the mosquitos on the trails here can cause some to react, so trekkers be prepared)
  • Altitude Sickness pills (Sorochi is popular, you can easily buy them in Cusco upon arrival or stock up before)
  • Small first-aid kit (if trekking)
  • Advil / Tylenol (if trekking)
  • Travel-size toiletries (If trekking)

 

Technology (for trekkers and non-trekkers)

The electronics you need to pack for Machu Picchu.

  • Camera & Charger (extra batteries for those camping on treks; we use this DSLR and a GoPro)
  • Enough memory cards (If you're trekking, make sure you won't run out of space)
  • Phone & Charger (A reliable waterproof case is great for trekkers during rainy season, we love this one)
  • Power bank (so you can charge your stuff even from the side of a mountain)
  • Adapters (outlets are two-prong, round and flat; those from countries without these will need a converter/adapter)

 

Machu Picchu Packing List: For the Day

 

Whether you trek or train, you will need to prepare a day pack to take to Machu Picchu itself. Here's our essential Machu Picchu Day Packing List:

  • Small daypack (full-size backpacks are not allowed, leave them in Aguas Calientes: details here)
  • Snacks (save time and money by bringing a full lunch, there is only one restaurant outside the park)
  • A lot of water (plastic bottles are not allowed inside, bring a re-usable bottle)
  • Cameras (tripods are not allowed to enter, selfie sticks are)
  • Money (for food, drinks, if you will take the bus back down)
  • Poncho/Umbrella (during rainy season and shoulder of rainy season)
  • 1 Jacket (especially if you plan to go for sunrise)
  • ID with name matching that on your ticket
  • Passport (optional, but they have a Machu Picchu stamp you can get inside it if you bring it!)
  • Entrance ticket!

 

Work your way through our Machu Picchu packing list and you'll be the most prepared out there. Pity the fool who forgot the Piciridin! (Or just, you know, share some and feel awesome and worldly on the inside). For more general Machu Picchu tips, home videos of our trekking experience (you read that right), tell-all stories and all other Machu Picchu travel advice from a Peruvian who's been four times (Henry) and an American who went once but got enough bug bites for a lifetime (Megan), you can find all of that here.

 

Want more? We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube and Instagram! Throw on your backpack and wander with us daily!

 

 

 


Fisherman on Inle Lake, Myanmar (Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake with Eversmile, Myanmar)--- The Borderless Project

Review of Eversmile Trekking Company (Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar)

We've shared our stories and videos from our Kalaw trek, but figured we'd do a full review of the trekking company we used for those considering booking one. Which, if you read The Borderless Project regularly, know is something we only do when we really love something. And we really loved our experience with Aki from Eversmile Trekking, so here are all the details.

 

Eversmile Trekking Tour Review Myanmar

 

Review of Our Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar with Eversmile

Tour Guide: Aki

Cost: The price is about $12-18 USD per day, all-inclusive (depends on how big your group is), pay in kyat

Includes: Tour guide, 2 nights in local homestays, three meals per day and snacks (only breakfast and lunch on last day, tour ends around 2pm).

Does Not Include: Drinks (buy water along the way, large bottle is 400-500 kyat, less than 40 cents), entrance to Inle Lake ($10 USD or 10 euros or 13,000 kyat), accommodations on 3rd day

Trek: 3 day, 2 night trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake (This is the trek we chose, but they also do a 2 day 1 night to Inle Lake, as well as some other routes within Kalaw). The walk isn't challenging, mainly flat or downhill, and certainly doable for anybody.

Food: For every meal we'd stop at a home along the route, where we would be served so much delicious and indescribable food that we could never finish. It was a great way to try delicious local specialties we’d missed in the big cities, and have someone explain to you what all of them are. Think piles of fresh fruit, avocado salad, bowls of rice, flatbreads, soup with every meal, different curries, cooked vegetables you've never heard of, and lots of meat and fish. They can accommodate vegetarians and other allergies or restrictions. Everything was homemade, prepared just for us, and incredible.

Accommodation: The homestays were lovely, in different family homes along the route. The stay was simple, but all that we needed. To prepare for the chilly nights they had multiple heavy quilts for each person, but you should definitely make sure to bring plenty of warm clothes of your own during winter. Also, they have showers but they're outdoors and very basic, so bring some wet wipes or faces wipes, maybe some dry shampoo, and call it a day.

Bring: Good walking shoes, warm clothes for evenings, sunscreen, hat, athletic wear (don't wear shorts in Myanmar, girls), shower shoes/flip flops for homestays, extra camera battery, extra memory cards, money for water and entrance ticket. Want to do some good? Bring notebooks and pens for the local schools you'll pass, it's what they need most.

When to Go: We went in January during the dry season, which meant that it was warm and sunny during the days, cold at night, and everything was dry. Because of this, the landscape is a lot of yellows, reds and browns, with some green. If you going during the wet season (beginning around March/April), you can expect mud and rain in exchange for some very lush scenery. Like most of Southeast Asia, this is when the rice fields are especially spectacular.

 

Our Tour Guide: Aki from Eversmile Trekking (Trek Review, aka Why you should add this trek to your bucket list) Kalaw, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
Our Tour Guide: Aki

 

Why We Loved It

We loved everything. Rarely can we say that so fully, but we loved everything about this trek. We also especially loved Aki as a guide, and cannot recommend her highly enough. She was an open book on everything Myanmar, and if you know a little about Myanmar's history you know how fascinating and rare that can be as locals are more often hesitant to speak too freely about it. We spoke to other who trekked with other guides through Eversmile, and all had great experiences, but it seemed ours was exceptional so I'd say you ask for her first (but if her trek is full, definitely still go with another guide!).

The landscape was the most beautiful we've seen in all of Myanmar, and Aki taught us so much about the land and culture, she formed a huge part of our perspective and understanding of Myanmar. The food and accommodation was amazing, and we met so many great people: locals and children along the way, other travelers in our trekking group, other trekking groups we encountered at food stops. Absolutely phenomenal trip, and the highlight of our time in Myanmar.

 

How to Book Your Trek

To trek Kalaw to Inle Lake with Eversmile you don't need to book in advance, but you can email Toe Toe (the owner, and mother of our guide Aki) at [email protected] if you want to let them know you’re coming. Otherwise, just show up when you arrive in Kalaw and stop by their house. Treks leave around 8:30am every day.

 

Heads up: Do not book with an agent anywhere. Eversmile doesn't work with any agents as of 2016, and doesn't plan to anytime soon. One guy on our trek booked his spot on the tour with an unauthorized agent in Bagan and paid more than five times the actual cost. Only pay upon arrival in local currency.

You can find them at Eversmiletrekking.com or on Facebook.

 

Questions? Have your own review of Eversmile? Share below!

 

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Want more? We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube and Instagram! Throw on your backpack and wander with us daily!

 

 


Sunset on U-Bein Bridge in Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

2-Week Itinerary for Myanmar

Southeast Asia's new-ish frontier, Myanmar has so many gems to offer travelers who are willing to stray from the well-worn route through Thailand-Cambodia-Vietnam-Laos. Unfortunately, part of the less-traveled title comes with a lack of information. While you may be able to close your eyes, spin, and point at someone who can give you travel tips for the Thai islands, fewer people know someone who's been to Myanmar to get the lowdown from- and that's where we come in. For those of you headed to beautiful Myanmar, here's our recommended two-week itinerary (more or less what we did, with a couple improvements).

 

Two Week Itinerary in Myanmar By Megan Spurrell

 

Read more:  10 Ways to Experience Fascinating Yangon, Myanmar: Like a Local

 

Myanmar Itinerary: 2 Weeks

Whether you're backpacking or jetsetting, two weeks in Myanmar is the perfect amount of time to get a real taste of Myanmar culture and glimpse the true variety between different regions. Here are our recommendations for your two week itinerary.

 

Yangon (2 Days)

Day 1: Arrive in Yangon.

Day 2: Yangon. Overnight bus (or evening flight) to Bagan.

(Details on what to do in Yangon here.)

 

Bagan (2 Days)

Day 3: Arrive for sunrise at Bagan.

Day 4: Bagan.

(Bagan itinerary and guide here.)

 

Mandalay (2 Days)

Day 5: Early morning bus to Mandalay.

Day 6: Mandalay. (Potential day trip), evening bus to Kalaw.

(Some inspiration on what to see in Mandalay here.)

 

Kalaw Trek (3 Days, 2 Nights)

Day 7: Kalaw trek to Inle Lake.

Day 8: Trek.

Day 9: Trek, arrive at Inle Lake in afternoon.

(Details on trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake here.)

 

Inle Lake (1 Day)

Day 10: Inle Lake (Recommended: Day trip on bicycles to vineyards)

 

Hpa-An or Ngapali Beach (4 days)

Day 11: Get to Hpa-An // Ngapali

Day 12: Hpa-An // Ngapali

Day 13: Hpa-An // Ngapali

Day 14: Return to Yangon for flight out.

Hpa-An and Ngapali were the only two places we didn't go, but came very highly recommended. Hpa-An is a mountain destination with young backpackers and a laidback vibe. Ngapali, one of Myanmar's more expensive destinations (read: rooms are usually $20-30USD/night), offers long stretches of postcard-perfect beaches with very few international tourists.

How to Get to Hpa-An

There is no direct bus from Inle to Hpa-An, and no airport near Hpa-An. Take the overnight bus or fly from Inle to Yangon, then the 7-hour bus from Yangon to Hpa-An.

How to Get to Ngapali Beach

Ngapali: Flights go to Thandwe airport, the most reliable are from Yangon. Take an overnight bus or fly from Inle to Yangon, then fly (45 min) or take the bus (14 hours) to Ngapali.

 

Monks in Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Only have 10 days?

For a 10-Day Myanmar itinerary, skip Hpa-An or Ngapali if you want to just cover the most popular destinations. If you'd rather see one of those lesser-known spots, swap out one city and do the two-day trek in Kalaw (rather than the three-day). Since the trek to Inle Lake includes a ride across the lake to reach the ending point, those on a time crunch can also cut out the extra day at the lake. Or, cut out both cities and keep everything else.

 

Only have 7 days?

For just a week in Myanmar, choose either Yangon or Mandalay, plus Bagan and the trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake.

For more help planning your Myanmar trip, visit the Myanmar section of our blog for individual city guides, photos, videos, and some stories to inspire you. For general Southeast Asia tips, check out our hostel guide (including everywhere we've stayed in Myanmar) and our packing list for women.

 

Questions or suggestions for our Myanmar itinerary? Share them below!

 

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Want more? We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube and Instagram! Throw on your backpack and wander with us daily!

 

 

 

 


Money-Saving Hacks for Bagan on a Budget

There's no denying it: Bagan is a touristy destination, despite residing in the middle of an otherwise lesser-explored country. And naturally, that makes it a pricier destination. Though it's still a steal compared to destinations like Europe, it's noticeably more expensive than the cost of nearby backpacker hotspots, and we feel your pain transitioning from a $3 dorm bed to ones that start around $10 (especially when it usually means going from a fun hostel with ambience to a cold-tiled motel-style room). Luckily, there are some pretty easy ways to counter-act the tourist traps of it all. For you backpackers trying not to break the budget in Bagan, here are our best money-saving hacks and tips.

 

Budget Travel Tips for Bagan, Myanmar

 

 

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

 

Budget Travel Tips for Bagan, Myanmar

Transportation

  • Arrive by night bus in time to catch sunrise your first day. Most hotels will let you check in by 6am, and you save money by not paying an extra night in a hotel
  • Stay in a hotel within walking distance of the temples so you can see sunrise from one without hiring a taxi at 5,000 kyat per person (check where your hotel/hostel is on the map beforehand). Also, make sure there is food within walking distance for the evenings. We stayed at Winner Hotel, which fit these requirements (details on Winner Hotel here).
  • Plan so that your next destination is somewhere you'll be taking a night bus to, and save one more night in a Bagan hotel.

Accommodation

  • When getting a hotel room, ask for one with a shared bathroom outside of the room- usually much cheaper but they'll never offer it unless you ask!
  • Pann Cherry is the cheapest hostel, but often full. Consider staying at another the first night, and inquiring in person at Pann Cherry about the following nights. (Only worth it for those staying more than a couple days…). We stayed at Winner Hotel.
  • Nyaung O is the cheapest area for accommodation, New Bagan is mid-range, Old Bagan is the most expensive.
  • You can find “backpacker” options in Nyaung O and some in New Bagan
  • Even though Nyaung O has the cheapest accommodation, food is cheaper in New Bagan (if you'll be renting a bicycle or electric bike, you can eat lunch and dinner in New Bagan between exploring, but stay in Nyaung O).

Eating

  • Restaurants in New Bagan are the cheapest (stay in Nyaung O, try to eat lunch and dinner in New Bagan)
  • Ask if they apply government or service taxes before ordering- some menus state a 10% government tax and/or a 10% service tax, some don’t state it and charge it, some smaller spots don’t charge it at all
  • Restaurants serving only local food are always cheaper (and full of locals- you can quickly tell if it’s a local spot or catering to tourists)
  • Identify true local spots by dirt floors or more “temporary” looking establishments. We ate at a lot of them and discovered some awesome local food, too.
  • Sodas and beers are half the price when in bottles (glass or plastic) compared to cans. For example, a can of Coca-Cola is 800 kyat, but a plastic bottle double the size is only 400 kyat. It makes no sense, and is the most annoying way to realize you just wasted money for no reason.
  • Most guesthouses include breakfast (usually quite good). Check when comparing prices as you may get a much better value with a breakfast included (since restaurants usually charge much more)

E-Bikes and Bicycles

  • Electric bikes and bicycles are the two DIY ways to get around Bagan (besides walking, but that will take you about two weeks to explore it all).
  • Both are hard to ride in the sand/dirt, but an e-bike will still get you around faster. If you don't want to stay too many days, this is a good way to see things more efficiently.
  • The best budget combination? Stay two days, one day with electric bikes and one with bicycles. Hit up the spots further from your accommodation on the e-bikes on day one, do the rest the second day.
  • Some places charge a different price for an e-bike based on if one or two people are riding it. This makes no sense, but be aware of it and plan accordingly.
  • Luckily, the e-bikes don't use gas (should be duh, but sometimes it takes people a second), so you don't need to factor that in.

Tax to Enter Bagan

  • In case you haven't heard, there is a tax to enter the city of Bagan. It will be charged when you enter the city. It is currently $20USD (they accept US Dollars), or you can pay a comparable value in kyat (this exact value changes). If you're really pinching pennies, download a money-converting app and have it on hand when you enter. We found here and at Inle Lake that the prices in USD and kyat are never equivalent. Usually it's a better deal in kyat, but not always. If you have both (you should always travel with some USD in Southeast Asia), it's worth converting. Might save you a meal.
  • Want to save money and take a stand? Since it's no secret that the government of Myanmar isn't using the money to actually maintain the ruins (a concept every local and multiple tour guides reiterated), and they're known for ill-treatment and some of the worst human rights in the world, you'll find quite a few travelers plotting how to avoid the Bagan tax. And honestly, we're with them. It is now basically to impossible to avoid passing a ticket booth when you enter the city. It doesn't matter which local bus you take or whatever, they've figured those tricks out. What you can do, is re-use the card of someone who was in Bagan that same week. The entry ticket lasts 7 days (it will say the expiration on the card), and most travelers stay for just 2 or 3. If you're coming from another destination first, you can get one from another traveler who has already been. For example, you'll definitely meet people in hostels in Yangon, Mandalay or Inle. Most people will be happy to give it to you, but it's still a good deal if you pay them half the price. When you arrive to Bagan and they ask you to pay, show it and say you were just in Bagan earlier in the week and are visiting again. If you have a camera or something out, point to that like you're a photographer and they won't even question, many photographers stick around this area.
  • Once you buy or borrow a card, keep it with you at all times. If caught without it, you will need to re-purchase one (ouch).

Like that, we explored Bagan on less than $20USD per day, all included. With a little traveler-to-traveler advice and an open-mind, you can make anywhere fit within a shoestring backpacker budget.

 

Have other tips for Bagan on a budget? Share them below!

 

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Shwedagon Pagoda (What to Do in Yangon, Myanmar) --- The Borderless Project

The Shock of Yangon

From the minute I stepped off the plane in the Yangon airport, I experienced the most overwhelming of feelings you can ever hope (or fear) for in travel: pure shock. As I stood there at the edge of the arrivals hall, clutching my immigrations card covered in euphemisms for my job as a writer (I'd been told anything journalism-related wasn't welcome), I realized that although everyone had told me I had to visit Myanmar, I didn't really know anything else about it. Immediately I was surprised by the faces around me, so different than in the neighboring countries I had recently traveled through. The signs in front of customs, warning me about the number of film rolls and recording cassettes I was allowed to bring into the country, transported me to a time and ideology that I had never lived in. As I looked out the massive windows towards the street, dark with night, it also dawned on me that I had never even seen a photo of a street in Yangon...I had no idea what to expect.

 

(Travel Writing by Megan Spurrell) The Shock of Yangon, Myanmar

 

With three days to wander the city, we began exploring it as though we were tiptoeing through a land that nobody else had yet heard of (though it is, of course, the ultimate cliche as that is how every traveler to Myanmar feels). The new-ish frontier in Southeast Asia, Myanmar had until recently been very cut off from the outside world, and Yangon wore the results of this on its sleeve. In places like Bagan, tourists outnumber locals, but in Yangon we were rare, warranting double takes nearly everywhere we walked.

 

More stories: Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar: A Photo Journal

 

Our hostel sat in the middle of downtown, just beside the Sule Pagoda, this central area the perfect tasting menu of everything Yangon had to offer. Circling the pagoda were a variety of religious houses, bringing members of each faith to mingle as they hustled towards various calls to prayer and clanging bells. This diversity, visible also in the faces, traditional hats, and impromptu prayers even whilst walking down the street, was something we had never seen before.

 

(Travel Writing) Downtown Yangon, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Ancient buildings stood, crumbled, overgrown, and yet somehow still serving their original function, as pristine houses of government rose from between them, seemingly immune to the time that had worn on their neighbors. Decrepit structures were the majority though, mainly apartments, rising up from above small storefronts selling bulk of items such as paper, second-hand workout equipment from the 80s or customizable rubber stamps, items that would be outdated anywhere else in the world but were centerpieces to thriving businesses here.

Every apartment unit had a balcony, all of which were overflowing with hanging laundry, plants, acrobatic cats, and neighbors leaning over their railings and joining the elaborate collage of life. Older folks stood on their concrete lookouts in the heavy heat, pensive, staring down upon the colorful chaos of the road from many stories above. Women swapped wet laundry with items that had dried as they would chat with a neighbor across the way, so high up that the honks and horns and bustle from below were drowned out enough for their conservation to be heard. Signs for businesses stuck out from the sides of the buildings, making me imagine that any item dropped from one of the higher floors would enjoy a pinball effect on its way down.

 

(Travel Writing by Megan Spurrell) Downtown Yangon, Myanmar

 

Life was so intimate here, there was no way you wouldn't know your neighbors. In this bustling concrete jungle, it seemed that the residents shared a pulse- they certainly share everything else. In and out, the city would breathe on cue, in and out with a steady rhythm. The vibrant colors radiating from every building, sign, storefront, or umbrella of a food vendor below, added to the kaleidoscopic patchwork of a landscape that would otherwise appear overcrowded and dismal.

Unlike in other countries where such neglect of buildings usually meant nothing more than a lack of funds for repairs, here it seemed to be a vestige of the past. Myanmar, in such a rush to change it's name, bring in the first KFC, and welcome all the tourists, had left its residents sitting on their balconies, smoking a cigarette, and looking down to see what all the commotion was.

 

(Travel Writing by Megan Spurrell) Buildings of Yangon, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

We discovered that the food was unlike anything we'd ever tasted, a facet to Yangon that we hadn't been prepared to love so much. With flavors from neighbors China, Thailand, and a heavy influence from India, each meal stood out from the next. One minute we were eating Chinese steamed buns with Myanmar noodles, and the next we were sitting on the street sipping green tea as we downed a bowl of curry with samosas on top. Little mohinga soup vendors were scattered over every inch of the city, using plastic-glove-swaddled hands to mix spices, pinches of vegetables and swirl stringy noodles in a light bath of fish broth.

Life moved at once rapidly fast and lazily slow, a flurry of quick food being tossed into plastic bags to go, and men sitting in tea houses smoking and sipping for hours in the middle of a Tuesday. Cars and bicycles zipped from one traffic standstill to the next out in the street, yet whenever you had a cup or bowl in front of you it was as if you were part of a different world that didn't subscribe to the same schedule.

 

Indian Toeshay Street Food on Anawrahta Rd (#1 What to Do in Yangon, Myanmar: Eat Amazing Street Food) --- The Borderless Project

 

Every ounce of routine here was of a life we knew nothing about, and we drifted through the flurry of sights, sounds, and scents, trying to keep up. Bouncing through the crowded streets, attempting to mentally note everything we saw. The spitting, the stained red teeth, the men playing a game like soccer wearing matching work shirts with name tags, the prayers constantly filling the air, the toilet paper that looked (and felt) like party streamers, the blinding gold of the pagoda, the pops and crackles of deep-fried-everything. Beautiful chaos.

But between all of this, blocks of used books sat, with customers patiently stealing a few pages' read before buying, as if time had no meaning. The park was full, and children rolled on the shady grass. Street cats lied lazily in patches of sun. The woman selling the privilege of releasing caged birds sat slumped against a tree, snoring.

 

Banana Vendor in Yangon, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 


By the afternoon of our first day, having taken all of this in, we plunked ourselves down on little plastic chairs at a street side "tea house", exhausted from the heat yet addicted to the sensory overload of it all. And by street side, I mean on the side of the street, not next to it, in a well-planned nook between parallel-parked cars. It was nothing more than a folding sun shade, two plastic tables, and a small bar covered in mugs and thermoses.

"Helloooo, where are you from?" A voice from the chair next to us sang out. We turned and saw the man next to us, pausing for a drag from his cigarette, looking over at us with a sly smile. We had been nervous that nobody in Myanmar would speak English, or that perhaps they would be shy to talk to us, but never before had we been treated like this. We were The Beatles, in town for just one night, and nobody, upon hearing our English or seeing our foreign faces, would risk missing the opportunity to strike up a conversation. I won't lie, Yangon will do wonders for making you feel special.

 

(Travel Writing by Megan Spurrell) Tea House in Yangon, Myanmar -- The Borderless Project

 

The man went on to tell us that he loved Obama, but was disappointed he could never get a visa to the USA. His friends showed up shortly after, eyes lighting up as they approached and saw the exciting new additions to the tea house for the day. We left them to catch up, getting that well of emotions we were starting to every time people spoke with us. Everyone had a story. Everyone had something to add about where we were from (it usually had something to do with loving Obama). Everyone knew someone who was really great at English, were we here long enough? They'd introduce us!

We couldn't so much as stop to wait for a red light without someone coming up to shake our hands. Little hands waved out of car windows as they drove past, buses even stopped in road for the passengers to crane their necks and smile at us. They just couldn't believe we were there, and as it was happening, we couldn't either. This wasn't another stop along the backpacker trail of Southeast Asia...This was another universe.

 

Locals Hanging Out in Front of City Hall (Yangon, Myanmar) --- The Borderless Project

 

A few more people showed up at the tea house, but the two tables were already taken by us and our new friends. A couple of men, dressed in the Yangon uniform of a button-down and dark plaid loungyi, stood chatting until the owner of a parked car returned. He pulled away, and a clearly choreographed routine unfolded as the tea house owner yanked two plastic tables off the stack next to the bar and threw them down into the now-vacant parking space. Another car turned onto the street, moving slowly as it looked for a space, but the road next to us was now territory of the tea house. The tea was already poured and the cigarettes were lit- with a quick glance between him and the tea house owner, mixing an instant coffee with purpose and holding his ground, the driver of the car kept moving.


We continued drifting through Yangon for just a few days longer, bouncing between the mix of emotions and sights. We had arrived on day one to a world of mysteries, but left on day three having uncovered them- just enough to feel we had a tiny finger hold on it all.

We learned that the blood-red on the ground and staining most local's teeth was not blood, but juice from the betel leaves they chew, and we learned even more quickly to dodge the rapid side whip of the head that meant someone was about to spit it in our path. With that, we gathered that spitting was very socially acceptable here, yet we failed to take advantage.

 

Locals Playing Chinlone in Yangon, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

We learned that the game they played was chinlone, a game of passing and juggling a small woven ball within a circle. Everyone played, but was so good they had little patience for newcomers. We also learned that the ball hurt - kind of a lot.

We learned the names of our favorite foods (Myanmar pizza, Shan noodles, toeshay), and we learned that the locals have not yet realized that most Westerners can't take the heat of Asian chilis like they can.

We learned that everyone was excessively kind, and that they were prepared to take us in as their own children should we need so much as help with directions. We learned that when riding the circular train, a commuter line turned tourist activity, you should always seat yourself in the commuter car, for the interactions with such beautiful faces will far outweigh any sights of the city.

 

Circular Train in Yangon, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

We learned that, despite claims that the city lacks a sense of nightlife, we could wander on 19th Street in Chinatown any night of week and find a cross-section of the city within the length of a football field. The mosques would just be letting out, betel leaf vendors would still be rolling up the last packages of the day, and the women selling watermelon (which comes in pink or yellow here) would be patiently waiting out the closing of the restaurants so they wouldn't miss even a single customer. We also learned that this is when we would get plentiful samples and a little extra thrown into our fruit bags.

It was there, on 19th Street in Chinatown, that we spent our last night here in the wafting smoke of the barbecues, cheap Mandalay drafts of beer to keep us cool as we watched Yangon pass us by. The smells of mobile street food vendors drifted through the tiny alleyway, mixing with the scent of charred meat, bringing us back into the moment. The few tourists to be found in the city congregated here, sitting in little clusters amongst the joyful and boisterous groups of locals, islands of wide-eyed visitors who, like us, couldn't believe that they were here. It was casual, busy, stimulating to all of our senses, and completed unexpected: just like Yangon.

 

Buildings in Yangon, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 


Just before my trip, I had read Pico Iyer's essay "The Shock of Arrival", and as I first stood in the airport, moving through immigrations, towards baggage claim, and into the queue to change money, I had that feeling of when someone has pulled the words right out of your mouth. Over the next few days, the feeling only magnified. This subtle moment in the timeline of travel, the shock of arrival, is rarely described in length, though it's undoubtedly the most formative phase of every trip. Arriving in a foreign land, generating the image in your mind that you'll refer back to for the rest of your life, creating a canvas of the sights and scents and sounds that become your understanding of x destination...It's a small blip that can easily be missed, yet it means everything. But in Yangon, a place that offers arrival as a shock to the system of most, it's near impossible to escape.

As someone who's been traveling for the past year and a half, the past three months of which have been in Southeast Asia, I have come to believe that it's those of us who travel often that forget to appreciate the wonderment of arriving in a new place. Partially, perhaps, because we're sort of used to it. We're always coming and going. And sometimes, each new destination is not all that different.

I wouldn't say I've reached that point of malaise, I hope I'm not yet jaded, but I'm not as wide-eyed as I used to be. We travel for that shock, that instantaneous change of pace and scenery and language once we hit the new foreign ground, yet over time our senses dull and we adapt. Change becomes the constant, and the shock softens. But it's nothing to worry about, because as soon as that comfortable feeling comes, the universe conspires to snap you straight out of it- the universe sends you to Yangon- and stronger than the shock of arrival is the shock of the unexpected upon arrival, for it's far rarer and truer.

Nowhere in my life has anywhere so pleasantly overwhelmed my senses or truly surprised me as Yangon has.

 

Nun in Yangon, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

 

 

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Mandalay Palace and Fort, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

Time-Traveling in Mandalay, Myanmar

How do you describe Mandalay, Myanmar? After writing and writing on Myanmar (the place makes words pour out of you), Mandalay is the one I can't seem to sum up. Yangon is beautiful, dilapidated, clustered, diverse. Inle is peaceful, slow, graceful. Kalaw is tucked in, inviting, slow...Every village has its own set of adjectives, but there's a recurring theme of color, tradition, smiling faces and little hands waving from doorways of bamboo homes.

 

Mandalay Photo Journal, Myanmar

 

When I start to try and put Mandalay into such straightforward terms, to give a one-second verbal snapshot, I can't. Because they all contradict. The first words to mind are bustling, tranquil, Old-World, modern...A city of so many different dialogues alongside one another, it's hard to pinpoint which is speaking the loudest. It feels as though Mandalay is telling an entirely different story from block to block, each trapped in a unique moment, so that walking through the city feels like an oscillating journey through time and space. It's hard to know what life around each new corner holds.
Luckily, I don't have to sum it up in a couple of words. I can tell Mandalay's stories, our stories of being there, through the few snapshots we left with, and let them do the talking. So here's our story of this city, Mandalay, Myanmar.

 

Woman in Zegyo Market, Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
Zegyo Market, Mandalay, Myanmar

 

Chilis in Zegyo Market, Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
Zegyo Market, Mandalay, Myanmar

 

Zeygo Local Market in Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
Zegyo Market, Mandalay, Myanmar

 

Cats in Zegyo Market, Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
Zegyo Market, Mandalay, Myanmar

 

Kid on a Motorbike in Zegyo Market, Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
Zegyo Market, Mandalay, Myanmar

 

Rice Salad in Zegyo Market, Mandalay, Myanmar: The best street food we had in Myanmar! --- The Borderless Project
Rice Salad in Zegyo Market, Mandalay, Myanmar

 

Women Selling Flowers at Zegyo Market, Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
Zegyo Market, Mandalay, Myanmar

 

U-Bein Bridge in Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
U-Bein Bridge, Mandalay, Myanmar

 

Buddhist Monks on U-Bein Bridge in Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
U-Bein Bridge, Mandalay, Myanmar

 

Dusk near U-Bein Bridge in Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
U-Bein Bridge, Mandalay, Myanmar

 

Southeast Asia on a Shoestring at the U-Bein Bridge from the cover! Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
U-Bein Bridge, Mandalay, Myanmar

 

Sunset View from the U-Bein Bridge in Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
U-Bein Bridge, Mandalay, Myanmar

 

The Borderless Project at U-Bein Bridge, Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
U-Bein Bridge, Mandalay, Myanmar

 

Monks in Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
Thinga Yazar Channel, Mandalay, Myanmar

 

Monk's sandals outside a local monastery in Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
Monastery in Mandalay, Myanmar

 

Monastery in Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
Monastery in Mandalay, Myanmar

 

Nuns Doing Morning Alms in Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
Mandalay, Myanmar

 

Mandalay Palace and Fort, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
Mandalay Palace and Fort, Myanmar

 

Burmese Wedding Photos at the Mandalay Fort and Palace, Mandalay, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
Mandalay Palace and Fort, Myanmar

 

Mandalay Palace and Fort, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project
Mandalay Palace and Fort, Myanmar

 

Mandalay remains an indescribable spectrum of Myanmar; A place where contradicting extremes manage to harmoniously co-exist. We may have left, but we're still fumbling for the right words to capture it. How do you begin to describe Mandalay in one word?

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Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar: A Photo Journal

As we walked through the colorful hills outside the small mountain town of Kalaw, a patchwork of chilis drying in the sun, bushels of green tea leaves, orange dirt lightly blowing and yellow mustard flowers swaying in the arid breeze, our guide Aki pointed out the pair of women walking towards us on the same beaten path, slightly bent over with age, but not enough to stop their light laughter form escaping towards us.

"They're about 80 years old, maybe closer to 90, and they're walking a couple miles to the lake to bathe. They do this every day, and then spend each night sharing rice whiskey and hand-rolled cigars with their neighbors. I think that's why they're still so beautiful- You can see their happiness."

As we finally approached them, it was clear there was no other way to describe it. Like the children in the local school we had just passed, like the younger women still in the field behind us, like the men riding the ox-led cart, every face we passed held so many stories, so much life that had come from the land we were now walking through. Each village had a different origin story about where its people had come from, and was colored by their unique language and clothing. And then, behind it all, the backdrop that initially invited us in, an ever-changing landscape that continually surprised and impressed us with each new view.

 

Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake Myanmar Burma

 

When we decided to add Inle Lake to our Myanmar itinerary, we were recommended to ditch the typical night bus and instead do a three-day trek from the mountain town of Kalaw. Eversmile Trekking, a family-run business like every other around here, was also recommended, and we signed up without any further questions. We hadn't so much as looked up photos before we decided to lace up our dirty Converse and ditch our big backpacks in exchange for these temporary, smaller ones.

 

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

 

So perhaps it shouldn't have been a surprise that what followed shocked us and left a print deeper than our other experiences thus far in Myanmar. From Bagan to Yangon to Mandalay, every corner of Myanmar had been filled with rich gems, entirely different in color and style, yet fascinating and worthwhile just the same. Yet this...this journey was something different. For the next three days, we walked through landscapes that competed with those of the best treks of the world, constantly looking to one another as if to say, Did you know it would be this good?. Our guide, 18-years-old yet wise-beyond-her-age Aki, colored the landscape even richer as she told us its stories, pulled us into every local ritual and experience possible, and opened up to us about everything Myanmar.

We had begun to lift the curtain on the previously-closed country when we first arrived, but Aki ripped that curtain off the rods, threw open the window and pulled us close to the edge as she explained everything before us (arranged marriage, civil wars, her experience of local Buddhists killing Muslims). By the time we arrived at Inle Lake, our previous understanding of Myanmar had been filled in, from a rough charcoal sketch to an overflowing portrait brimming with colors, imagery and stories. And finally we could leave the country, feeling that, as much as a foreigner could in two weeks in Myanmar, we now had an image in our mind of this place and what it looked like beyond the postcards of Bagan. We could finally feel it.

Because no words can capture it (or perhaps, none that I have), here is our photo journal of our trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar. Walk with us...

 

Day 1

 

Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Shan State, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Megan Spurrell Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Our Trekking Tour Guide: Aki from Eversmile Trekking. Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Train outside Kalaw, Myanmar (Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar)--- The Borderless Project

 

Local Train on our Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake with Eversmile Trekking Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Day 2

 

Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Local Kids near Kalaw, Myanmar (trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar with Eversmile Trekking) --- The Borderless Project

 

Pa'O Tribe Woman on our Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Local Snacks on our Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar -- The Borderless Project

 

Local Kids on our Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Local Girl near Kalaw, Myanmar (trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar with Eversmile Trekking) --- The Borderless Project

 

Local Kids on our Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Local Kids near Kalaw, Myanmar (trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar with Eversmile Trekking) --- The Borderless Project

 

Eversmile Trekking: Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Putting on "Thanaka": Traditional All-Natural Sun-Protection in Myanmar , on our trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake with Aki Eversmile Trekking--- The Borderless Project

 

Our Trekking Group: Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar with Eversmile Trekking --- The Borderless Project

 

Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar (Eversmile Trekking)--- The Borderless Project

 

Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar (Eversmile Trekking) --- The Borderless Project

 

Passing Traffic on our Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar (Eversmile Trekking) --- The Borderless Project

 

Day 3

 

Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar with Eversmile Trekking --- The Borderless Project

 

Beautiful Local Woman on our trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Local School near Inle Lake, Myanmar (Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake with Eversmile Trekking, Myanmar)--- The Borderless Project

 

Local Schoolkid Trying on Sunglasses for the First Time, Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Local Schoolkid Trying on Sunglasses for the First Time, Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

Local School Girls near Inle Lake, Myanmar (Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake with Eversmile Trekking, Myanmar)--- The Borderless Project

 

Local Schoolkid Trying on Sunglasses for the First Time, Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar Eversmile Trekking --- The Borderless Project

 

Local Women outside Inle Lake, Myanmar (Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake with Eversmile, Myanmar)--- The Borderless Project

 

Sailing on Inle Lake, Myanmar (Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake with Eversmile Trekking)--- The Borderless Project

 

Sailing on Inle Lake, Myanmar (Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake with Eversmile, Myanmar)--- The Borderless Project

 

Fisherman on Inle Lake, Myanmar (Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake with Eversmile Trekking)--- The Borderless Project

 

Fisherman on Inle Lake, Myanmar (Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake with Eversmile, Myanmar)--- The Borderless Project

 

Fisherman on Inle Lake, Myanmar (Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake with Eversmile, Myanmar)--- The Borderless Project

 

Sailing on Inle Lake, Myanmar (Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake with Eversmile, Myanmar)--- The Borderless Project

 

Three days, and forty-three miles later: Inle Lake, Myanmar.

Fulfilled, happy and very dusty, we finally arrived at Inle Lake. It had only been three days of walking, but it felt like we had traveled to the heart of rural Myanmar and back. Into the lives, landscapes, and many moments that will remain lost in translation, we embarked on our trek from Kalaw as strangers in a unknown land but arrived in Inle Lake feeling like a small family, having peeked just a bit longer into local life than people had told us would be possible. Of course, just a bit, just enough to compel us to return one day.


 

Thank you endlessly to our guide Aki from Eversmile Trekking! For those of you interested in doing this trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, you can contact Eversmile at [email protected]. We cannot recommend it highly enough! (FYI: This is not a sponsored post; Some things are just that worth sharing).

 

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Southeast Asia Packing List: For Girls

Ready to backpack Southeast Asia? No idea what to pack? Don't worry, I've been there. Luckily, after two backpacking trips around Southeast Asia and learning a lot the hard way, I think I've finally nailed the formula. For all you other women about to embark on a backpacking trip around Southeast Asia, here’s my packing checklist of exactly what you should pack, what you shouldn’t pack and why. (Because nobody ever tells you why, and that's why some many of us end up in exclusively athletic clothes or hippie pants every day. That doesn't have to be the case.)

 

Southeast Asia Packing List Megan Spurrell

 

My 6-Month Southeast Asia Packing List

Your ultimate packing checklist so you don't forget any of the essentials! Tips and related advice at the bottom.

(This packing list is perfect for a 6-month backpacking trip, but works for any! Simply bring more or less for a different time frame.)

Clothes

  • 3 Dresses (1 maxi, 1 shorter coverup, 1 tee shirt dress)
  • 3 Rompers (1 loose pant-length romper, 2 loose short rompers; Far more practical than dresses for backpacking!)
  • 2 Cotton Shorts (Ideally that can multitask for daytime, PJs, and athletic activities)
  • 1 Maxi skirt
  • 1 Jean Shorts
  • 1 Pair Cotton/Linen Pants
  • 1 Pair Athletic Leggings (these Hard Tails and Lululemons are my favorites)
  • 2 Cotton Tank Tops (1 sleeveless tee, 1 thick strap)
  • 2 Tee Shirts (1 daytime, 1 sleep tee)
  • 1 Athletic tank top
  • 1 Jean Shirt (This is my layer for whenever it's chilly)
  • 1 Kimono (Thin enough for the beach, long enough to cover knees and shoulders for entering temples)
  • 3 Bathing Suits (2 bikinis, 1 one piece)
  • 2 Bras
  • 2 Bralettes
  • 1 Sports Bra
  • 7 Pairs of socks (6 lowcut, 1 taller)
  • 25 Pairs of underwear

 

Read more: Everywhere We’ve Stayed in Southeast Asia (A Hostel Guide for Backpackers on a Budget)

 

Southeast Asia Packing List: How to Fit 6 Months in One Backpack --- The Borderless Project

 

Shoes

  • 1 Pair Havaiana Flip Flips
  • 1 Pair Leather Sandals (My favorites are comfortable Rainbows or the best Sam Edelman Sandals, keep in mind that you'll have to take your shoes off a lot going into temples!)
  • 1 Pair Tennis Shoes (I brought Converse, more athletic types should bring real running shoes like Nikes)

Cold Weather Additions

  • 1 Sweater (My favorite is a thin grey pullover)
  • 1 Additional Pair of Leggings (2 total, Ideally athletic but also comfortable enough to sleep in when it's freezing)
  • 1 Long-Sleeve Tee Shirt (cotton and fitted)
  • 1 Fleece Jacket

Rainy Weather Additions

  • 1 Compact Rain Jacket
  • 1 Raincover for your backpack (Gregory sells one to match my backpack but generic ones like this are much cheaper)

 

Toiletries

  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap (one of each)
  • Toothbrush
  • 1 Toothpaste
  • 1 Face wash
  • 1 Razor (with 5 refills)
  • 2 Deodorants (Secret Clinical-Strength is my favorite)
  • 1 Sunscreen (I like Neutrogena that I can use on my body and face, bring 2 if you're especially fair)
  • 1 Face moisturizer
  • 1 Travel Body lotion
  • Hairbrush
  • Hair ties
  • Q-tips
  • Tampons (Enough to last the trip)
  • Ziploc Bags (I bring about 10 of different sizes so that anything that could leak has a bag to go in. I also use them to separate toiletries from medicines, etc. They come incredibly in handy as you buy new things on the road as well!)
  • Contacts! (Enough for 6.5 months plus a copy of my prescription)

 

Southeast Asia Packing List: Essential Toiletries for Backpacking 6 Months--- The Borderless Project

 

Cosmetics

  • 1 BB Cream with SPF* (Just discovered this one by Benefit that has been the best so far, but I also love this one by Tart. The Benefit one is lighter, the Tart one is more like makeup).
  • 1 Laura Mercier Illuminating Primer*(Locks in moisture and helps your BB Cream stay even when it's hot and sweaty out)
  • 1 Mascara* (All about those cheap drugstore finds like Rimmel Scandaleyes)
  • 1 Waterproof Mascara
  • 1 Eyebrow Pencil
  • 1 Roll-On Perfume (I wear Nest, this mini roller is enough for 6 months. Perfume isn't great for mosquitos, but it's my feel-good essential.)
  • 1 Tweezers
  • *Double-up on these if you wear make-up every day, or stick to 1 each and embrace backpacking and living mainly make-up-free!

 

Medicine

  • Advil
  • Ciproflaxin (antibiotic that can be used for traveler's diarrhea- it happens to the best of us)
  • Z-Pack (antibiotic for other viruses)
  • Bandaids
  • Neosporin
  • Benadryl
  • Benadryl Anti-Itch Cream
  • Picaridin Bug Sprays (I SWEAR by this bug spray! It's a non-toxic alternative to DEET and the only one that works for me. Bring at least 2 because none of the local versions compare).

 

Security

  • 1 PacSafe 85L Backpack and Bag Protector (They run small, so I use an 85L for my 45L Backpack)
  • 1 Small lock (Passcode locks are so convenient, and I highly recommend a cable lock so you can lock your backpack shut and to something- This one from MasterLock worked perfectly)
  • 1 Moneybelt (Maybe it's old-school, but I always feel better with my credit cards, cash and passport in my money belt when on a night bus. Worth the $4 investment)

 

Southeast Asia Packing List: What to Bring in Your Carryon --- The Borderless Project

 

Carry-On

 

Electronics

 

Southeast Asia Packing List: Essential Electronics for a 6-Month Backpacking Trip--- The Borderless Project

 

Luggage

  • 1 Gregory Jade 70 Backpack (I've been using it for 3 years and it's been so reliable.)
  • 1 Carryon Backpack (I have an old JanSport, but I'm jealous of my friend's Thule because it protects her stuff much better and is way more comfortable.)
  • 1 Cross-Strap Purse (Big enough to fit your camera, and possibly a water bottle and sarong)
  • 1 BAGGU Convertible Tote Pack (Or another similar thin backpack that can fold-up very tiny!)
  • Eagle Creek Packing Cubes (These are AMAZING. They keep clothes organized but are still flexible for shoving into your bag to maximize space, and they're water-repellent so they protect everything inside. So if things spill in or on your bag - which is bound to happen- nothing will get in. Came especially in handy when the toilet on one of our buses leaked all over our bags below...Yep. I use this 3 Pack of various sized cubes, and this 3 Pack of medium size cubes, plus a toiletry bag. I suggest the multi-colored packs so you can easily tell which bag is which.)
  • 1 Dry Bag (Optional: If you know you'll want to do a ton of kayaking, beaching, sailing, or anything else around the water, bring it!)
  • Old Free People Shopping Bags (If you happen to have these lying around, I always bring them traveling! You can put clothes in them, use them as a daybag, use them as a laundry bag. I brought 3, 1 small for jewelry, 1 medium for miscellaneous items in my carry-on, 1 large to use as a beach bag).

 

Southeast Asia Packing List: What Backpack to Bring --- The Borderless Project

 

Things to Buy When You Arrive

  • Sarong (This is ESSENTIAL! Get a cotton one that you can use as a scarf, towel, or cover-up).
  • Extra-Virgin Cold-Pressed Organic Coconut Oil (If you're like me and know that coconut oil is perfect for everything, buy one so it can multitask as make-up remover, moisturizer and deep conditioner. It's cheaper and easy to find, so I suggest buying it when you arrive (if you can go a few days without it)!)
  • Poncho (For those visiting certain places during rainy season, a decent poncho will become a necessity. Buy a cheap one when you arrive that you know you can toss afterwards.)
  • Hippie pants (You know you want them...Embrace the backpacking lifestyle)
  • Waterproof pouch (There are small pouches on lanyards that you'll see for sale, great for using as a wallet whenever you do water activities. I wouldn't trust them with your phone though!)
  • Hat (Straw ones are fun but a pain since you can never pack them. Something cheap and made of felt or cloth is much more convenient.)

Ready to shop? As you’ll notice, I’ve included some links of where you can find these items online. If you buy through one of these links, the price will be the same for you (and easy- no searching required and they deliver!) but it'll also help us earn a small commission to keep traveling and giving you our best travel tips! So thank you for reading, and for supporting us if you decide to shop through this post!

 

Southeast Asia Packing Tips to Keep in Mind

The why to explain all of the items on my Southeast Asia packing list, and my best packing tips that I wish someone had told me!

 

Tips for Clothing

When packing your clothing for Southeast Asia, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:

  1. First and foremost, let me tell you a little about my travel style so you can get a feel for things and adapt to your style. I don't like being one of those American backpackers who only wears athletic gear all day every day, so you'll notice this is different than some other lists out there. You certainly can, but I prefer to feel a little more put together. Even if it's the same ripped jean shorts and white tee I wore yesterday, that's how I feel comfortable. You know you, so swap where you feel the need, and don't take my packing list or anyone else's as definitive of the type of clothes to bring. Athletic, trendy, casual, whatever...Just make sure it's all thin material, loose, ok to ruin, and very comfortable and you'll be happy! The quantity listed here is perhaps the most important guide.
  2. Make sure to check what season it is during the time you’ll be there. Rainy? Dry? Summer? Winter? If you’re going to travel to several countries over several months, you’ll likely get a variety and need to bring a little bit for each climate- so it’s worth it to do a little research. The rainy and cold seasons are not the same time everywhere!
  3. When it’s hot in Southeast Asia, it’s hot. So, so so HOT. Hot, sticky, and constant. Our backpacker budget didn’t allow much room for A/C, so loose clothing was very essential. Tighter clothes or even items with a slightly thicker material got left at the bottom of the bag, wasting space. Everything should be airy, thin and breathable. You have to be honest with yourself, and know that when it’s over 100 degree F, you’re going to feel every bit of fabric.
  4. In certain places, you’ll have to cover up no matter how hot it is. To enter temples in any of the countries, you will need to cover your legs and shoulders. In Myanmar, your legs and chest will always need to be covered (people will stop you in the street and suggest you change if you wear anything above mid-calf length). Long, loose, flowy dresses, pants and skirts are key here.
  5. In order to minimize the number of items, you’ll want items that have multiple functions. My criteria for everything I pack is that it has two or more purposes. For example, if I bring shorts, I will choose a pair of black cotton shorts that can be used during the day, for athletic activities, and to wear to bed, rather than a pair of jean shorts than I can only use during the day. Everything I brought had to be comfortable enough to sleep in, since you find yourself with all kinds of unexpected layovers, overnight buses, trains, etc. You often don’t get a chance to change, so be comfortable (and yes, you can do that without only wearing hippie pants all day long).
  6. Know your trip. What do you want out of it? Time spent alone in nature, barcrawls and partying, beaches only, tons of trekking? This list is for a mixture (I like a little of all of it), but add or takeaway from the things you know you'll need more or less of. More athletic gear for more trekking, fewer bathing suits if you hate the beach, etc.
  7. Know yourself. Don’t bring that dress that you think will be cute in your photos but has been sitting in your closet for two years with the tag still on. You know what you love (and what you don’t), and you’ll only feel more strongly that way when you’re hot, tired and in a foreign country. Don’t be optimistic, and save your back from carrying things you don't use.
  8. If you're unsure, leave it. Other than specific medicine and cosmetics listed below, you can buy everything there for cheaper if you realize later that you want it.

 

Tips for Toiletries and Cosmetics

Deciding which toiletries and cosmetics to pack is largely a matter of determining what you can and cannot find in Southeast Asia.

  1. Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and all the other basics are cheap and easy to find in Southeast Asia, so you don't need to pack 10 travel size bottles like some people will tell you. Just bring one of each and buy as you run out.
  2. Unfortunately, some basics include skin whitening products inside and it's impossible to find them in Southeast Asia without (we're tanning, they're whitening). This includes face moisturizer, most face sunscreens, and deodorants. Make sure to bring these from home.
  3. Feminine hygiene products are also tough to find. If you use a Diva Cup, then good for you because it'll save a lot of space, waste and money. If you use tampons, bring enough for your entire trip. If you use pads, then only bring a few to have on hand and buy as you go, this is the only one you can find plenty of in Southeast Asia.
  4. Bring your favorite cosmetics to last you the trip. I ended up not wearing a lot of makeup, just BB cream and primer to protect my skin each day, and mascara some days. If that's the vibe you're on, one item of each will be enough. If you prefer to wear more makeup, bring a couple of each item since you probably won't be able to find exactly what you're looking for on the road (and it'll be really overpriced if you do!).
  5. Basic medicine is very easy to find in any pharmacy. You probably won't find the brand names you're used to, but it's easy and very cheap to wait until you need something so you aren't carrying a whole medicine cabinet. I would bring any prescriptions you take regularly (if you're backpacking for 6 months, bring 7 months'-worth to be safe, most doctors will prescribe it so you don't get stuck without something), and anything else you like to have right on hand. For me, that's Benadryl because I sometimes get allergic reactions when I've gotten too many mosquito bites. This often happens in the middle of nowhere, and I want Bendryl on-hand.
  6. Have your doctor send you with 1 Z-Pack and 1 Cipro prescription. Cipro can be used for traveler's diarrhea (among other things), and Z-Packs for other viruses. Your doctor can tell you in which situations to use them, and you can have them on hand in case of an emergency.
  7. Malaria pills. Should you bring them? I did on my first trip, not on my second, and I won't on future trips unless I'm going really far off the beaten path. You really do not need them if you'll be staying in major tourist areas. You can check this map to see if anywhere you're going requires them. If you do get malaria pills, get the daily pills, not the weekly. The major side effect of the weekly pills is night terrors that will ruin your trip (or just lead you to stop taking them).

 

Tips for Electronics

  1. Make sure your iPhone is unlocked. SIM cards are very cheap, often free, and can really come in handy if you want to get off the beaten path. In Myanmar where reliable wifi is almost nonexistent, for example, a 3G plan is almost necessary for staying in touch or researching the next part of your trip. This was also the case on many islands in the Philippines.
  2. Download Find My iPhone (or a similar app) on all of your devices.
  3. An external hard drive is much better than cloud services in Southeast Asia. Why? Because of the aforementioned unreliable and weak wifi. Make sure your photos and videos are always backed up by using an external hard drive.
  4. How should you back-up your photos if you're not bringing your computer? A great way to back-up your photos is by bringing multiple memory cards, or an external hard drive. Some people bring a bunch of memory cards and don't delete anything until they return home, but this can be expensive if you take a lot of photos. Otherwise, you can also just bring a couple memory cards and a hard drive. There are many local photo shops where you can transfer your photos to a CD or your hard drive and clear off your memory cards to re-use them. Without a hard drive, simply transfer to CDs.
  5. Bring your best camera. Debating on whether or not to pack the DSLR? If you have it, DO IT! I can't stress how happy all of us were to have them. You're going to see and do a ton in on your trip, so capture it all the best you can. I arrived only knowing how to use my DSLR on Auto, and by Month 2 was only shooting in Manual so don't let intimidation stop you either.

Backpacking Southeast Asia for 6 Months is a big adventure, but your backpack doesn't have to be!

 

Any Southeast Asia packing suggestions, tips or questions? Comment below & I'll get back to you!

 

Want more? We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube and Instagram! Throw on your backpack and wander with us daily!

 

 


10 Ways to Experience Fascinating Yangon, Myanmar: Like a Local

Wondering what to do in Yangon, Myanmar and if it's worth visiting? Beautifully chaotic, ethnically diverse, loud, vibrant and seemingly preserved in time, the former Burmese capital city of Yangon deserves far more attention than the "fly-in, fly-out" treatment most travelers give it. We get it, major cities rarely make bucket lists like UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But where destinations like Bagan and Inle Lake deliver in offering travelers a glimpse of ancient cultures and treasured pieces of history, Yangon is the best place in the country to witness modern life in Myanmar at an incredible turning point in its history, before the outside world officially floods in and alters it forever.

 

What to Do in Yangon, Myanmar (The Ultimate Guide to Experiencing the City Like a Local) --- The Borderless Project

 

If you're going to Myanmar, make sure to allow at least a few days to soak in the unique city of Yangon (we recommend three days). Prepare to taste things you never have before, see ancient and sacred sights, and be showered in kindness by people who are so grateful to have you there. Here is what to do in Yangon to experience everything that makes it so fascinating, so you can see why it is one of our favorite destinations in Southeast Asia. Happy travels!

 

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

 

What to Do in Yangon

 

1. Eat Amazing Street Food

Didn't know that Yangon has some of the best food in Southeast Asia? Yea, nobody told us either. We arrived, took one look (and a few bites) around, and realized that there are countless culinary gems around every corner in Yangon just waiting to be discovered. A mix of influences from neighboring countries such as India, China and Thailand are strong, as well as many dishes that you could only find in Myanmar, making eating one of the best (and most exciting) things to do in Yangon.

One thing's for sure: the best food is on the street. Make sure to try "myanmar pizza" crepes, a bowl of mohinga fish curry soup, tea leaf salad, and Indian toeshay, all easy to find on the streets downtown.

 

Mohinga Fish Curry (#1 What to Do in Yangon, Myanmar: Eat Amazing Food) --- The Borderless Project

 

2. Visit the Shwedagon Pagoda

Myanmar's most sacred Buddhist pagoda and Yangon's most iconic structure, you can't really leave without a visit the to golden Shwedagon Pagoda. The stupa is said to be built upon several Buddha relics, including eight strands of Buddha's hair, and is covered in real gold plates and almost 10,000 diamonds and rubies - and that's just the main structure. Walk through temple after temple around the main stupa and try not to get lost amongst the all gold everything. The most popular time to visit is sunset, but it's also really nice to show up in late afternoon, explore without the crowds, then get a glimpse of the start of sunset before escaping the hordes. Make sure to cover your legs and shoulders (men and women). Admission is 8,00 kyat.

 

Shwedagon Pagoda (What to Do in Yangon, Myanmar) --- The Borderless Project

 

3. Hang Out in a Tea House

Tea houses to Yangon are cafes to Paris: this is where all of the life happens. A remnant of the British colonization, you'll find at least one tea house on every block in Yangon, filled to the brim with locals snacking, smoking, talking, and laughing over pots of green tea for hours. Since foreigners are still a new thing in Yangon, go sit in a tea house alone and it won't be long before you have new friends joining you, curious to ask about your life.

Our favorite Yangon tea house is a small spot on Mahabandoola Street (with your back to Sule Pagoda, walk down the street towards Chinatown, it's the first tea house on the left side). It's also a great place to sample delicious pastries and Myanmar meeshay noodles (all for about 50 cents or less). The tea sitting on the table is free, the pastries sitting out can be eaten and you'll be charged later, and dishes like soup, rice or noodles need to be ordered.

 

What to Do in Yangon, Myanmar: Visit a Teahouse --- The Borderless Project)

 

4. Ride the Circular Train (Like a local, not a tourist)

Riding the circular train in Yangon was one of our favorite experiences. Part of a commuter line, this train completes a full loop around the city over the course of about 3 hours, giving riders the chance to watch the city trickle by outside your window.

Riding the circular train is usually at the top of lists of "Best Things to Do in Yangon", but we found a new way to experience it that makes it actually deserve a top spot. When you purchase your ticket for 200 kyat, you're getting a tourist ticket and will be sent to the tourist car. It's new, more private and...full of other tourists. So you'll see the city outside, but that doesn't make it too worth 3 hours for most travelers. But, if you make the happy mistake of sitting in the local transit car like we did, you can be guaranteed hours of meeting people coming and going from work, being showered in the kind of overwhelming hospitality that can only be found in Myanmar, and moments that make you realize why everyone needs to visit Myanmar right now. For the quickest way to be taken into Yangon local life, hop in the local car.

Trust us. Buy your tourist ticket, then go sit in the local car. You'll know it because there are only two benches on each side, and the middle of the floor is usually full of cargo, plants, groceries, or food to sell. And, there won't be any other tourists. Don't be shy to strike up conversation, and consider bringing cookies or candies to share when people inevitably begin offering you food.

 

Riding the local car in Yangon's Circular Train (#3, What to Do in Yangon, Myanmar) --- The Borderless Project

 

5. Cheap Beer and Barbecue on 19th Street at Night

Yangon has a reputation for a lack of nightlife, so we were pleasantly surprised when we walked onto 19th Street in Chinatown our first evening and realized that this was where people go in downtown Yangon after dark. The street is lined with one barbecue restaurant after another, each serving every kind of meat, seafood and vegetable skewer that you could want alongside cheaper-than-water draft beer. The tables are all outside the restaurants on the street, perfect for people watching. Things start to shut down between 10 and 11pm, so it's certainly still an early evening, but it does give you something fun (and delicious and cheap) to do in Yangon at night, considering many surrounding streets have long shuttered up by the time this alley is in full swing.

The area with the restaurants is 19th Street between Mahabandoola and Anawrahta. Our favorite restaurant on 19th Street is Shwe Mingalabar. Make sure to order the pork rib skewers (1,700 kyat each) and draft beers (700 kyat).

 

19th Street Yangon, Myanmar (What to Do at Night in Yangon) --- The Borderless Project

 

6. Dig for Paper Treasure on Yangon's "Book Street"

Many people say that visiting Yangon these days is a bit like traveling back in time and, though we wish we could be more original, it's a great way to describe it. You'll feel it when you sit in a tea house, and you'll feel it in a million little corners of the city where Wifi and technology cease to exist and simplicity reigns. Pansodan Street, known for selling cheap books on the sidewalk, is our favorite spot for forgetting what year it is. Here you'll find used books on every subject, from Burmese cookbooks to pocket dictionaries to Aung San Suu Kyi's biography to even photocopies of the latest Lonely Planet Myanmar, all often for less than a dollar. The well know book street has spread out towards Aung San Market due to some construction on Pansodan, but you can still find plenty of vendors here and on surrounding streets. Allow a lazy afternoon to dig through and you'll certainly leave with some great finds.

 

7. Get Lost in Bogyoke Aung San Market

Another popular thing to see in Yangon, the Bogyoke Aung San Market is a covered downtown bazaar that is usually one of the first stops on city tours. Here you can haggle your way through precious gems, paintings, clothing, and every type of souvenir imaginable for hours on end (depending on your patience level). If you're like me and love sending postcards, this is one of the few spots where you can buy and send them in Yangon (the post office is upstairs!). Come early for the most activity; shops start to shutter up in the early afternoon.

 

8. Learn About Buddhism & Meditation at a Monastery

Someone told us that Yangon has over 1,000 Buddhist monasteries. We haven't been able to find a number online since to verify that, but as you walk through the former capital of the devout Buddhist country, you'll see enough monasteries to believe it. For those interested in learning more, step inside and see what the life of a Buddhist monk is actually like. Many travelers like to visit Kalaywa Monastery during meal time, but you can usually stop by any monastery you pass and will be welcomed in (just make sure not to interrupt any religious activities and come properly dressed- shoulders and knees covered). If you take the time to chat with a monk, you'll find many very eager to share their culture and lifestyle. Some even invite travelers to stay a night so that they can learn more. For those wanting to learn about meditation, you can find several weeklong courses in some of the bigger monasteries as well.

 

Nuns in Yangon, Myanmar - What to do in Yangon, Myanmar

 

9. Sightsee Around Sule Pagoda

Sule Pagoda may be an important sight to see in itself, but we were a bit templed out after seeing the pagoda of all pagodas at Shwedagon. Sule Pagoda is considered the center of Yangon, though, and thus has so much radiating out from it in every direction that is well worth exploring before or after seeing the pagoda. Sule sits in the middle of a traffic circle, and just by walking around it you can get a feel for the varied religious landscape that exists in Yangon, as well as see some of the city's most important government buildings. To one side, you'll see the Emmanuel Baptist Church (one of the oldest in Yangon), and to another is the Bengali Sunni Jameh Mosque (built in typical Islamic style with detailed minarets). Moving around the circle, you'll also notice the rust-colored former Supreme Court of Myanmar, the beautiful City Hall (a fusion of British and Burmese architecture), and the lush Mahabandoola Park and Independence Monument.

 

Locals Hanging Out in Front of City Hall (Yangon, Myanmar) --- The Borderless Project

 

10. Happily Wander through Yangon's Liveliest Streets

As we mentioned above, Sule Pagoda forms the center of the city and is surrounded by some of the best things to see in Yangon. But, truth be told, our absolute favorite memories of Yangon were the in-between moments of visiting popular sights, where we could glimpse the daily life of locals. Yangon has a beautiful, vibrant chaos to it, and certain areas really pulled us into it, leaving wandering for hours, fascinated.

 

Monk in Yangon, Myanmar --- The Borderless Project

 

West Central Yangon

From Sule Pagoda, walk down Mahabandoola Street towards Chinatown and you'll see a tireless collection of street food, sidewalk vendors selling random items such as cell phone cases and beauty products, and plenty of buzzing little tea houses to step into.

Walk a bit further down Mahabandoola to Chinatown where the streets transform, every entrance beginning with red archways, and plenty of street vendors selling snacks or fresh produce. At night, this area stays open the latest selling great street food.

Make your way over to Anawrahta Road (roughly between Sule Paya Rd and Lanma Daw St) and see the epicenter of Indian culture in Yangon. Restaurants and streetside vendors specialize in Indian cuisine, and this is the place for cheap downtown shopping.

East Central Yangon

From Sule Pagoda, walk east on Mahabandoola Street towards the city hall. Continue on Mahabandoola or Anawrahta Road in this direction past Pansodan. Here, you'll find more streets markets, more street food, and plenty of restaurants and cafe to tuck into (some more upscale options that the East-side of these roads). With more shade, this area has street stalls that remain bustling all day and night, as well as a good variety of small shops selling everything under the sun.

 

Streets of Yangon (Between Mahanbandoola and Anawrahta) Myanmar - What to do in Yangon Myanmar

 

Have more time?

Some other popular things to do in Yangon include visiting Kandawgyi Lake, Inya Lake, Sule Pagoda, or having a drink at the classic Strand Hotel.


 

Explore Yangon for a few days and you too will see why it's such a unique destination that no traveler to Myanmar should miss. From getting lost in its bustling streets to sharing meals with locals to being awed by the diverse architecture and sacred structures, a trip to Yangon will be an incredible journey into local life in Myanmar that you won't quite find anywhere else.

Have other suggestions of what to do and see in Yangon? We'd love to hear, share them below!

 

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