And to be honest, I still don’t know the answer to that one!
Burma seems to be the preferred name for Myanmar, and yet most people say Yangon. So, to confuse everyone, I’ve decided to say that I’ve just returned from a trip to Yangon in Burma.
I was supposed to go last November, but the many Burmese Government websites that advertise a Visa on Arrival service are lying. It exists, but it’s only for business travellers who have written invitations. Well, the service did exist for tourists, and was announced last July with much fanfare, but it was so successful the government couldn’t handle the demand, and it was withdrawn with no fanfare nor publicity, nor the removal of the websites! So, imagine, there I was at KLIA/LCCT, all ready to head off on new adventure, along with a correctly completed visa form, two photographs and the requisite amount of US$, only to discover, when I arrived at the gate, that AirAsia – rightly at it turned out – wouldn’t take me.
That caused minor chaos. There was no way to escape through Arrivals, since I wasn’t arriving, so I had to walk against the considerable flow of passengers to get back throught Customs, and then find the correct AirAsia desk to ask “What the hell do I do now?”
AirAsia assured me I could re-book for only “a small fee” so long as I trekked back to LCCT and went to the same desk. Well, my priority at that point was to tell agoda.com I wouldn’t be arriving, which, by the time I’d managed to do that, the hotel had probably noticed I wasn’t there! But they generously agreed to re-book at no charge. Sadly AirAsia was not so accomodating.
I moved the travel dates by a couple of weeks, to give myself time to get into KL to find the Myanmar Embassy, knowing I would have to make two trips – to fill-out forms and then pickup the visa. But when I returned to AirAsia, I discovered the “small fee” was more than double what I’d paid for the original ticket! I politely informed them I could go home and book a brand new ticket for less! Yes, they agreed. And then told me I could get a refund of the airport tax on the original ticket since I hadn’t actually gone anywhere. That was helpful, and it worked, but it seemed totally illogical.
Then things got sillier when I couldn’t match hotel availability with flights, so I thought F’it, I’ll go next year. Luckily, again the hotel was understanding, and everything was re-booked for mid-February.
Now, if there’s one thing I’m really good at, it’s procrastinating. I deserve an honorary degree. So, of course, I delayed getting a visa. I really really really didn’t want to waste two half days in some Embassy, waiting in line for hours, just so some overpaid functionary could look at me like I’d just walked in off the street totally naked. So, I hunted online again, and found a visa service which would give me written proof of having a Visa on Arrival.
The whole deal worked like a charm. I was met, escorted through Customs, led to a money changer who gave good rates, and found a taxi. And all for eighty-nine Singapore dollars … visa fees included. http://www.myanmarvisa.com/ if you should need them. Highly recommended.