Yangon Expat Lifestyle

Where will I live?

Housing prices have risen dramatically over the past several years. ISM has contracted fully furnished and serviced apartments in main complexes, all within a 10-45 minute commute from school, depending on traffic and the time of day. All apartments have air conditioning, wireless internet and basic cable/satellite TV with several international channels.

Is transportation provided within Yangon?

ISM provides transportation to and from school if you live in teacher contracted housing. For staff who have opted out of ISM provided housing, you may be able to use school transport if along an already established ISM transportation route and there is space available. *Please note that all newly contracted staff are required to live in ISM provided housing during their first year of employment.

Can I buy a car?

Foreigners are not allowed to buy cars unless they have diplomatic status. You can hire a driver who has their own car. If you would like to have a car for a weekend trip, you can see a travel agent about hiring a car and driver for the weekend or longer. Taking a car to the beach for the weekend costs around $150 USD.

So how do I get around?

Most people take taxis. Taxi rides within the city usually cost between $2 and $4 USD sometime a little more for farther distances. Busses and a train are also an option for the adventuresome. Some teachers also choose to ride bicycles.

What do people do for fun?

It seems like there are always plenty of things to do in Yangon. Just walking down the street is an adventure. You will constantly see things that surprise and amaze you--even after you've lived here for a while.

If you are interested in sports, there are softball and volleyball leagues and regular bowling, touch rugby, soccer, badminton, basketball, and ultimate Frisbee games. There are also rowing or crew opportunities available, tennis, a mountain bike group, and the Hash. Golf on a course or at a driving range is quite cheap and for about $2 you can even get a caddy at the driving range! There are many new Western hotels recently opened in Yangon which offer reasonable priced dining as well as Health Club membership. Most offer pools, gyms, workout classes, dance, aerobics, yoga, or Pilates.

Guide books say that there is no nightlife here but there is definitely a part of the expat community who enjoy socializing. There are very nice high end places to go and there are also dance clubs, pubs or places where more locals hang out. There is plenty of karaoke available! There are also local places near ISM housing which are safe and inexpensive.

There are a few smaller art galleries and many places to shop for locally made crafts. Many teachers take Burmese/Myanmar language lessons and there are many opportunities to engage in community service. There are many new western style shopping complexes all through Yangon most with movie Cineplex’s. Western first run movies tend to come to Myanmar around the same dates as their US or European release dates.

What are the travel opportunities within Myanmar like?

Travel within Myanmar is a wonderful experience. You can fly to many places or choose to take a car, bus or train. Some places are accessible by boat. The main tourist places (Inle Lake, Bagan, Mandalay, beaches) are reasonably easy to get to, while locations such as Putao (up north in the Himalayan foothills) or the Myeik archipelago can be more difficult to reach and may require permits. Any places that might be dangerous will be off limits although at this point, much of the country is open to travel.

What are some issues I should know about?

There are no McDonald's or Starbucks here which may sound great but be aware that around November you may be getting very tired of Myanmar products. KFC and Korean fast-food Lotteria are both well established and serves burgers, fries and some great fried chicken. There are a number of very good western restaurants and supermarkets are offering a growing selection of products. Most ISM staff get their fill of western fast-food during their trips in Bangkok or other major Asian cities. SIM cards for mobile phones are now no more than about $2.00 and there are three main SIM card providers. There are both monthly telephone and service data plans with many users buying top up cards when the need to add to their account.

ISM will provide the paperwork for you to obtain a single entry Business visa. Once you enter Myanmar, you are given a 70 period during which you can stay in Myanmar. Soon after the beginning of school and before the 70 days expires, ISM will apply to Myanmar immigration to extend your stay in Myanmar via a Multi-Entry visa with a Stay Period valid until the expiration of the visa.

Both the country and the school have seen rapid change over the past few years. There are still occasional issues with electricity and internet connectivity and bandwidth. Teaching tools (data projectors, document cameras, etc.) and resources are fully available It is an exciting time to be in Myanmar.

Will I be able to save money?

Most people do not have trouble saving money here. Taxis around town cost between $2 and $4 and it's less if you share with others. Dinners out tend to cost anywhere from $3-$10. There are other restaurants which offer more expensive food but at a good value. A Sunday champagne brunch goes for $25+. Groceries can be very reasonable if you buy fresh products at the markets or more expensive if you are buying more western goods like peanut butter or cereal. Obviously, the amount of money you save depends on the amount of energy you spend saving, but many teachers report saving around 30-40% of their salary while eating out regularly and going on vacations during the breaks. Remember, ISM provided everything except food and personal need expenses.

What are some things I should know about adjusting to life in Yangon?

Some people love Myanmar food, others don't. There are many curries and noodle dishes. Some people say it is like Thai food with less spice and Indian food with a lot more oil. There are a number of good Chinese, Indian, Thai, and Japanese restaurants in Yangon. There are also a number of western restaurants here. Chances are good that you will not go hungry. Chicken and mutton is more common than beef, and there is plenty of tasty seafood available. For a country that is supposed to be mostly vegetarian, some vegetarians find it harder to get by in restaurants than they expected. Because eating out is so cheap, many people eat out much more than they eat at home.

It is likely that you will find most things that you may need in Yangon, although sometime it may be an exciting challenge. You can expect to enjoy a few hours doing errands. Things do not happen always quickly or easily in Yangon but the people are very kind and make every effort to see that you find what you need. If you have patience and enjoy a challenge, you will love shopping in Yangon.

The people of Yangon are incredibly friendly and are optimistic about the future of the country. There is virtually no crime against foreigners, and it is rare to have anyone cause you trouble. There is a saying that if someone is chasing you down the street in Myanmar for money it's probably because they are trying to return some that you dropped.