Lonely Planet. Every traveler’s bible. Who doesn’t go by Lonely Planet tip on Myanmar?:
“ Cash Only Economy: Do not change money at the airport or at banks – the official exchange rate is a fraction of the black market rate”
“ No ATM accept foreign cards – take all the cash (ideal in US dollars) you’ll need“
Reality is far from what lonely planet recommend.
I skipped the exchange at the airport, which I have always done in every single country I have been in, in my life., and skipped searching for any ATM machine as I thought it would be a waste of time.
I get to central Yangon and I go to different exchange offices, they all refuse few of my bills, saying they are not clean enough. I’m not sure if the money here is used to buy food or actually to be eaten.
After few tries, and I gave up thinking LP knows what they’re talking about obviously.
I was walking around with a fellow traveller and we came to a point where a guy in the recommended “Black market” offered to exchange my money. Feeling confident enough about dealing in Asia, knowing that I am not alone, I figured what bad can happen really: People are around us everywhere and the guy offered to give me the money to count in my hands.
My friend and I counted the money over and over, it was well the equivalent of 100US$, the bills are well real.
Finally! I’m making a deal and finding someone who can take my 3 dirty bills, according to Myanmar standards. The exchange he offers is also not bad, even better than the bank; Man! Lonely Planet tips are well spot on; let’s do it.
The guy wraps the money hand it to me and him and his 2 friends take my $s and start calling “ put the money down put the money down, Police Police” Great, what situation am I in? Why do I have to follow what Lonely Planet say: exchange in the black market …
The guys were gone, no police of course, I count the money they handed to me and yep equivalent of 34$ were missing.
We looked at each other my friend and I and shocked couldn’t believe it.
I recalled every little movement of the guy ‘s hands, fingers, and body gesture, there was no moment I didn’t watch him. How the hell 34 bills were taking out of the pile without neither my friend or I have seen it. No, this is not happening!
Magic, magic show, that I didn’t agree to watch, but forced to see it and pay for it, pay for it very very high even. Welcome to Myanmar.