It’s said that the biggest fear one has it that of public peaking. For me, my biggest fear is not having cellular service, and not being able to connect while on the go.

So, how does one connect while in Burma

Some quick tips to staying connected while on the go:
Telephone (March 2014): The sole telecom company MTP now sells prepaid GSM SIM cards, available only for foreigners. The card costs anywhere between MYK25,000-35,000 and comes with MYK18,000 cr (MYK15,000 for international calls and mobile internet and MYK3,000 for local calls and SMS). The charges for mobile internet are apparently per minute but it is quite unclear.

mobile sims photo

Photo by taiyofj

The mobile internet connection is normally very bad, as most internet connection in Myanmar. In the big cities it can be useful. In more rural areas expect to be able to use whatsapp and chat programs, opening websites is not guaranteed. As always, connection is always better at night and in the early morning hours. The SIM card can be bought at small phone shops, especially on Maha Bandula road in Yangon, west of Sule Pagoda. Ask a few shops for the best price. You will need your passport.

The SIM card expires in one month if you don’t top up. When you top up the cr is split between the two (international/internet and local calls), e.g. if you top up MYK5,000, you will get MYK3,500 for internet/international calls and MYK1,500 for local calls. Sending a local sms costs MYK25. Of course, you will need an unlocked mobile phone for it (smartphone to use the mobile internet). Later in 2014 Telenor is supposed to enter the Myanmar market, which might make things even better.

The cost of SIM cards and mobile phones have drastically decreased. Most middle-class citizens in the major cities of Yangon and Mandalay own a mobile phone now, and even the less fortunate such as taxi drivers and trishaw peddlers can sometimes be seen carrying mobile phones. However, the method of buying a prepaid SIM card, putting cr on it, and getting mobile internet access is not very obvious. Upon arrival at Yangon International Airport, ask for advice from the information desk.

Expect poor reception. SMS text messages can take anywhere from a few seconds to 24 hours to be delivered. It is not possible to send or receive text messages internationally. Mobile data services are actually usable now — see the Internet section below for more information. International phone calls can be arranged at the Central Telephone & Telegraph Office at the corner of Ponsodan and Mahabandoola Streets in Yangon. International Direct Dial calls are also available at most hotels and at many public call offices (often a phone in a shop), but they are expensive, e.g. a call to the US costs USD6-7 per min. As of 2010, the only mobile telephone network is the MPTGSM network provided by the Myanmar Government’s Post and Telecommunication agency.

This works on the GSM900 band, so is visible to multi-band GSM phones. Now MPT has international roaming arrangements, you can check if your mobile operator has a roaming agreement at http://www.roaming-myanmar.com.

Other tips on staying connected while in Burma? Please add your comments and tips.