On Tour FAQ

Myanmar
February 2015, by Frank Hemelaar
When you first visit Myanmar, you will notice propaganda banners calling it the Golden Land. And some 50 years ago it was in fact the “Rice Bowl of Asia”. Sometimes it feels things have changed, but in another sense nothing has changed.

The people are so very sweet and gentle. They truly are a beautiful people. It’s sad in a way that Yangon is becoming like the West. When I first came all those years ago it was like an untouched gem. Like a different world. And yes truly third world, but now it’s not so much like that anymore, yet it is still third world…. it’s hard to explain, but the extremes are very evident, even on a short visit.

Regardless, its still a very unique place. There is something about Myanmar that gets into your blood and despite the obvious cultural differences and endless dust, heat and poverty; it becomes a part of you.
Myanmar trip FAQ – general information

What is the New Life Trust, and what does it stand for?
The trust was created in 2002, for the sole purpose of rescuing abandoned and orphaned children. The organization uses Biblical and Christian principles as its ethos. Our activities in Myanmar are done in partnership with the Myanmar National Christian Church. The New Life Orphanange( or Youth Centre ) was set up in 1992 by Bella and her husband Zaw.

Why are we going to Myanmar?
Whilst there are many countries in the world that have children that need rescuing, circumstances and God’s leading has made it possible for us to look after some of the most impoverished children in the world. Currently there are 1.6 million orphans in Myanmar. And the health system in Myanmar is rated by the WHO as one of the worst in the world.
Myanmar is a country going through political change and the extra freedom coming from this is making it possible for the NLT to be more active, to the benefit of some 200 abandoned and orphaned children. It’s a long way short of making a change to the vast majority, but we are making a change to some, for this life and the next.

What are some of the benefits of our going to Myanmar?
– we can make a real difference to the people we have contact with, providing love, hope and basic needs
– we can assist the New Life team in Myanmar to train / inject skills / equip / teach creativity
– it helps us to understand and see first-hand how the New Life Orphanage (NLO) team depend on their faith and belief in God
– it offers and helps believers experience the wider fellowship of their faith
– it maybe a faith shaping and building experience
– it can be personally motivating for future mission work
– the short term involvement may lead to longer term involvement in the New Life Trust work, or even other mission fields in another country
– we can witness first hand where and how the money raised is being deployed
– it gives the team participants the opportunity to build lasting relationships with other team members and the people of NLO Myanmar
– it gives participants an opportunity to experience another culture and country.

What are the main programs and activities that the team will perform?
– these include singing and music / drama / Bible studies / English lessons / Computer lessons / sewing / cooking/crafts/ games/ dancing /exercise/ making a gift with the kids as a donation for everyone at the charity ball /teaching skills based on team interests and abilities / just having fun with the kids etc. We will also try to take the children on an outing if possible.
These are just suggested activities but more definite ideas will develop once we know who is locked in on the teams.

What are some of the work team projects to be carried out?
– create a covered play area for thepre school children – activity area
– concrete some of the main drive way – so they have dry areas in the wet season
– repair white ant eaten buildings
– build the security fence around the boys dorm
– painting various buildings
– repair / adjust windows and doors.
– extend or repair wet area walk ways

Costs/money
How much is it going to cost me?
The main stream airline ticket can cost between $900 and $1550, depending upon the time of year and quality of the airline. The traveler will look after this cost directly with the airline/travel agent provider.

The land costs, which includes the visa/travel insurance / accommodation / main meals / local transport and towards the children’s excursion will be as follows
– team members going for One week -$900
– team members going for the Two weeks – $1600

This is up by 12% on last year, but the currency has fallen by 25%, so the budget will be a lot tighter than the previous years.

Any money not expended on behalf of the team will be used to pay for program and facility improvements at New Life sites. However, due to the recent devaluation of the Aud$ this is
The program costs do not cover the following – laundry, alcohol, sight-seeing entrance fees, coffee stops, personal items.

How and when do I need to pay this amount?
Please pay this amount by the 6th April2015 as I will need to convert the funds into US $’s

Please Pay into the following account, making reference to your name

Account : F Hemelaar ( Burma Account)
BSB: 014-218
Account: 2827-40938

How much spending money should I take?
Besides souvenirs, and personal hygiene items and extra drinks and snacks, you will find that there isn’t a lot to spend your money on( Usually $100 to $300 is plenty to take with you ). However, you may feel like leaving a donation on your way out ( not a pre requisite) but please do this through your team leader, so we commonly state – take as much as you are prepared to leave behind !

What currency do I take?
There are more currency options now, and these include US$, Euro, and Singapore $. But it is recommended to take US$. However, please note that each note must be un-marked ( ie mint) condition.

Where can I get the above mentioned currency?
Any bank will get the currency for you if you preorder, but we have found that if you go thru Travelex, and give them the instruction to supply mint quality notes, they are the most obliging. Do not expect mint quality notes if you rock up to a counter and expect them to have them on hand.
For the best rates, use the Travelex Internet site, and book the currency for delivery in 1 weeks’ time. Using Direct deposit for the order saves any commission and credit card fees. Your local Aust Post office can also get you currency, but again it needs to be pre ordered.
Have some small denomination US$ for the pagoda and markets ( $5 and 10’s ). Larger denominations give you better exchange rates.

What is the local currency?
The local currency is Kyats. ( pronounced chut ). The main notes are 100 ( about 0.10 equiv ), 200, 500, 1000, 5000 and now 10,000

What is the rate of exchange?
This varies greatly, but as at February 2015 it was 1025 kyats to the US$1
at the current exchange rate of US$1 = Aud$0.76/0.74
That means each Aus dollar equivalent is approx 770 kyats

When do I convert my currency into kyats?
On your arrival into Yangon airport, there is a currency exchange in the bag pick up area ( before customs ). We suggest you change some currency here, and any future exchanges can be made direct with your tour group leader, who has a small bank kitty always on hand.
The Markets will take US$’s

Do I pay an exchange commission fee?
No commissions are taken in the transactions by the Burmese Banks or money changers.

Can I use my credit card?
More places accept credit cards. And if they do, there is a high transaction cost as the transaction actually happens via a service provided from Thailand.

Are there ATMs available?
Over the past 24 months a number of ATMs have been installed in some of the western supermarkets, however, they are not always in service, and the amounts you can withdraw are minimal. Suggest you do not rely on this service

Insurance
Do I need to take out my own travel insurance?
No. Travel insurance for trips conducted with the main purpose of doing NLT work, is covered by the blanket NLT policy, and has been costed as part of your land fees. However, if you intend to do a major holiday trip in addition to the NLT program we recommend you get a separate cover.

What does the insurance cover me for?
A schedule of the policy is attached to this document.

Air travel
How long does it take to get there?
Most flights require a stop over on at least one of the in/out bound flights. eg Thai + Singapore has an o/night on the way in, while Malaysian requires an o/night stay on the way home.
Most flights are 8 hours to the main hub, and then a further 1 or 3 hours to Yangon.

Which airline do we use?
We recommend either Thai / Singapore or Qantas/Jetstar airlines.

Do we travel as a group?
It is our preference to travel as a group as this helps to build the team dynamics, and makes it easier for hosts when they meet us at the airport.

How long are the stop overs?
This depends upon the airline. If it’s a thru flight, the stopover is usually 2 to 4 hours.

Can I arrange astop over on the way home?
You are free to make extra stop overs on your way home. Sometimes this is a good time for you to do a personal debrief after the Myanmar experience.
Accommodation
How do we get to our accommodation from the airport?
You will be picked up at the airport by one of the NLTteam, and transported in the New Life truck or the hotel bus.
Seasons Of Yangon Hotel
Airport estate, Mingalardon township
Yangon, Myanmar
Phone: +95-1-666 699, 666 337; Fax: +95-1-663 575

What accommodation can we expect?
The hotel will be clean and have air-conditioning. Each room will have a bathroom. The star rating will be between 2 and 3, or equivalent to an Australian country motel.

Do I share a room?
Yes. Each team member is expected to share with one other person. If a request is made for a separate lodging, that person will be required to pay an additional amount to cover the costs.
How far is the accommodation from then orphanage?
The Hotel is approx. 20 to 30 minutes’ drive from the New Life site and 15 minutes from the National Christian church. The Yangon city centre is about 45 minutes to 1 hour in the other direction.

What facilities can we expect at the accommodation?
The Hotel has a pool ( very important for end of day recovery ), wifi internet coverage in the main foyer, and a basic restaurant for breakfast.
Food
What is the main diet? (What do we eat for dinner?)
The main diet is white rice / vegetables / with fish, pork or chicken. The Burmese diet usually is very spicy and contains a lot of fish sauce, which is not a Westerner’s favourite meal preference. We therefore generally pick a diet which is more Chinese or Thai in flavor. If you have special dietary needs please let your team leader know.
What do we eat for breakfast?
The hotel will supply omelettes / toast / Asian fried rice and porridge / fruit / tea and coffee. If this is not suitable, we encourage our team to buy cereals / yoghurts etc at the local supermarket ( Ocean Supermarket !)
What do we eat for lunch?
The orphanage team love to bless us and will go to great lengths to provide us with a banquet. Please enjoy it, and show your appreciation. ( you will feel guilty )

Can I drink the water?
No. And don’t brush your teeth in the local water.
All water must come from a sealed plastic bottle or from a can. Or boil water at the hotel.
We recommend when we visit the local supermarket that you purchase extra water for your hotel room use.
Is alcohol allowed?
Yes – at your hotel and at dinner. But please practice responsible behavior, as not all team members participate in its use. Also, consider your witness to hotel staff and our reputation as Australians.

Medical
What injections do I need prior to travel?
Please see your local GP as soon as you have decided to come along on the trip, as some scripts need time to order. Immunizations are over many months, egHep B + A.

Do I need to take anything for Malaria?
No. Most visitors to Yangon area do not take anti-malarials.
It is suggested that we take precaution with mosquito repellent and knock down spray.
(Note – although Malaria is not a problem in Yangon, there is a risk with other viral mosquito born diseases eg Dengue fever )

Can medications be taken into the country?
Yes. But it if you take special medication, ask your doctor to write a letter stating your need to have the medication with you and have your name on the pack.

Will I expect a gastro problem?
Yes. Most people get at least one soft bowel movement per trip. We suggest having a packet of gastro stop on hand should it persist – purchase beforehand or on arrival.

Will we have a medical kit available?
Yes. But it is limited to basic items. We suggest you bring your own Paracetamol, Band-Aids and bandages.

What happens if I get sick?
We will assess each situation on its merits. If it is a serious condition we will probably opt to leave the country and seek help in Bangkok or Singapore.

Sight-seeing
Will there be time available for sight-seeing?
We try to make time available during the weekend for the team to see the local culture.

What do we expect to see on our sight-seeing trips?
In the past we have taken the train / trishaws / buses and taxi’s to view downtown Yangon and nearby villages. The type of tourist activity depends on the group mix ( first timers vs regular team members ).
We suggest that members get to see the Shwadagon Pagoda, which is one of the man-made wonders of the world.

Do I need to participate in the sight-seeing trips?
No. These are a voluntary activity, but highly recommended

Is there any down time?
If you are need of personal down time, please notify the team leader. We try to stay together as a group as much as possible, but we will always honour your need to regroup and recharge… it can be an emotional or climate challenging time.

Clothing and weather
What is the expected weather conditions?
Hot / humid and dusty. Summer storms are not very normal, but possible.

What is the normal temperature?
Normal day time temperature in Yangon during April/May could range from 35 to 42deg C.
The evening Temp is in the mid 20’s

What is the expected clothing standard?
Dress code is conservative and comfortable. Shorts and T shirts are OK.
Work team members should wear the same gear as they wear back home ( teach the locals as much safety first principles as possible by showing in your actions )

What footwear should I take?
Thongs or sandals is the local footwear of choice. Runners are ok.
We suggest that work team members bring safety boots for their work program.

Miscellaneous
What power outlets do they use?
It’s not a regular power outlet. Adaptors can be loaned at the hotel reception, or bought at the local supermarket.

Does my phone work there?
NO. Your Australian provider does not have reception in Myanmar. Bring your phone as a clock and camera, or for internet use when connected via the free wifi, but as a phone it won’t work.

How do I communicate with home?
Via internet use on your mobile / ipad / etc.
Some members have successfully used “viber” or “skype”. Make sure you have your accounts set up before you leave home.

Are phone calls from Myanmar possible?
Yes, but they are very expensive.
Hotel address details will be given to your prior to our departure ( or once the hotel room booking has been confirmed )

Can my family contact me?
Yes, they can ring the hotel. Please note that Myanmar time difference is 3.5 hours ( behind). Family members should call at 10.00 am Aust time, to reach you prior to breakfast, of try at 9.30pm to reach you at 6pm when you should be in the hotel prior to going to dinner.

Is there an Australian contact person/number for family members to contact?
In case of an emergency, contact Mr Eddie Bos in Brisbane, on 0416 000600 or 07 3890 3100

Am I safe / is it safe to walk the streets?
Over the past 10 years of taking teams into Myanmar we have never felt unsafe. Just be sensible.

Is it ok to photograph people?
Yes it’s generally ok, but treat them as you would people back home. But we have always suggested not taking photos of military personnel.

Can I barter at the markets?
Yes, its encouraged, within reason. They will let you know if it’s not profitable for them.

Can I bring back souvenirs?
Yes, but if it’s a timber item, make sure that it does not have insects in it. You could lose it at Australian customs. Each purchase is a gamble… so be prepared to lose it.

Where can I get souvenirs?
At the Yangon markets ( Scott’s ), the Ocean supermarket, or even at the departure lounge at the airport. The Airport prices are fair, and the quality perhaps better than the Yangon markets.

Example Time Table from a Previous Trip
Friday 1st May week 1 members depart Brisbane
Saturday 2nd Arrive Yangon
Transfer to hotel
Visit the main Orphanage / lunch
Visit Ocean supermarket
Dinner at a local restaurant
Sunday 3rd 9.30am Church service* *
/ lunch / visit down town Yangon / dinner at House of Memories
** Please note – for those who aren’t used to going to church, I hope you are OK to join us. The leadership of NLT base their whole being and purpose on their relationship with God.

Monday 4th – Thursday 7th
Leave hotel at 8.00 by truck transport
8.30 arrive at NL
Educational program
Projects and hands on teaching
4.30 to 5pm finish for the day
Evening excursion to a restaurant
Friday 8th OUTING for the children (possibly the water park) Suggest for ½ of the children week 1, the balance to go in week 2.
For the balance remaining we have a continuation of projects and education program

Saturday 9th Team one members depart
team two members arrive throughout this day
Team two – Tourist day – see the sights and culture of Myanmar.
Meet at National Christian Church for Youth English Language service.
Dinner at a local restaurant
Sunday 10th 9.30am Church service* */ lunch / visit down town Yangon / dinner at Australian Embassy

Monday 11th – Thursday 14th
8.30 arrive at NL
Educational program / Projects and hands on teaching
4.30 to 5pm finish for the day
Evening excursion to a restaurant
Friday 15th OUTING for the children (possibly the water park)for the balance of those who did not go week 1.
For the balance remaining we have a continuation of projects and education program
Saturday 16th Team two members depart

MYANMAR
CULTURE
o Smile and people will smile back.
o When greeting, they will extend their right hand with left hand holding onto the right arm.
o Avoid hugging new contacts
o Smoking is not encouraged when around the Asian Christians.
o Drinking of alcohol should be discrete and not excessive

DRESS
o The temperature will be between 30-40oC and can be both dry and very humid.
o Dress conservatively. (Ladies – No short skirts, tank tops, etc.)
– Cover your shoulders
o Wear comfortable shoes as the ground is uneven. Thongs are OK. (that’s all the locals wear)
o Laundry can be done in the hotel at minimal cost.
o An Iron is available at the hotel.
o Minimise the taking of jewellery.
o The Hotel has a pool – bring swimwear if desired.