The Burmese kyat (pronounced ‘chat’) is the official currency of Myanmar. The Myanmar kyat is made up of 100 pyas and is often presented with the symbol K or MMK. Pya coins are very rare, but notes up to 1,000 kyat are commonly used.
The US dollar, however, is widely used as an alternative currency, particularly for larger purchases: foreigners are sometimes expected to pay in dollars for hotels, high-end restaurants, flights and access to historical sites. The acceptable exchange rate is 1300 kyat ~ 1 USD. If payment is made in kyat for these transactions, it may sometimes be at a worse rate. When paying in dollars, change will often be given in kyat. Smaller purchases, such as taxi rides, buses and cheaper to mid-range meals are quoted and are almost always paid for in kyat.
Blemishes of any kind – creases, marks, folds and so on – may result in getting a far worse rate of exchange or the money may not be accepted at all. Although the Myanmar government has recently told the banks to accept more than just the most pristine of foreign currency, bills that are not perfect may still be rejected, or exchanged at a lower rate. The best places to exchange are at the airport and the banks. They offer the best rates and the security that you'll get what you should be getting. You can also exchange money at your guesthouse or local jewelry shops, though the rate will likely be poorer (30 kyat/dollar less is fair) than what you would get at the bank. Do not exchange money on the streets. This is a great way to get scammed, particularly in Yangon where the shady money changers often hang out near Sule Pagoda or the main Bogyoke Market.
While visitors once had to bring in all the necessary cash for their travels into Myanmar, there are now over 600 ATMS that accept international bank and credit cards located throughout the country – although bear in mind that most are concentrated in Yangon, Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw, Bagan and Inle Lake. Cardholders can also withdraw local currency from ATMs and use their cards at a growing number of major outlets such as hotels, restaurants, and retailers.
Currently only Visa, Mastercard (Maestro/Cirrus), China’s Union Pay and Japan’s JCB can be used; the biggest providers of compatible ATMs are CB (Co-operative) Bank and KBZ (Kanbawza) Bank. Others include AGD Bank, AYA Bank and United Amara Bank.
For ATM cash withdrawals, there is a 5000 Kyats transaction fee, and a withdrawal limit of 300,000 Kyats per transaction. Depending on the conditions set by your own bank at home, you may be allowed multiple withdrawals per day. The use of ATMs in Myanmar is sometimes restricted by internet failure.
There are no international banks in Myanmar at the moment, and local banks are in the process of becoming part of the international banking system.
Image sources: Internet