Telecommunications in Myanmar have long been behind most developed and other Southeast Asian countries, however things are changing and even though only a small percentage of the population has access to a fixed telephone line, mobile penetration is growing and infrastructure is improving fast.
For many years SIM cards in Myanmar were expensive and difficult to obtain, but cards sold by the Telenor, Ooredoo and MPT (Myanmar Post & Telecommunications) networks are now generally available for a cheap K1,500. Cards work on a top-up basis, with K1000, K3000, K5000 and K10,000 cards available.
Ooredoo and Telenor became operational in 2014 and all networks offer fast 4G coverage in population centres such as Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw. SIM cards and top-ups can be bought at numerous street-side retailers in downtown areas, as well as at Yangon and Mandalay international airports and in most larger towns, cities and tourist sites.
Shops selling cards usually display the Ooredoo, Telenor or MPT logos:
To purchase a SIM card, foreigners need to have photocopies of their passport photo page and Myanmar visa page, as well as one passport photo. SIM cards are 3G mobile data enabled and standard SIM and micro SIM cards are available.
International roaming with an increasing number of foreign mobile networks is now possible in Myanmar; the situation is changing fast, so it is best to check with your operator. You may encounter a block on data usage or SMS text messaging even if you are able to make and receive calls, and if this is the case you should go to a licensed Telenor, Ooredoo or MPT shop for advice (there are many in the downtown areas of larger cities).
Note that mobile network access is often patchy or non-existent in rural areas, but usually works well in towns.
Land line and dialling codes
Using phone stands was previously the simplest way to make local calls, and these can still be found on streets and in shops around Myanmar; local calls should cost around K100 per minute.
International calls are significantly more expensive (over $5 per minute) and can only reliably be made from hotels; only some call stands will allow international calls. Be careful, as you may be charged for calls that fail to connect.
It should be noted that many businesses in Myanmar have several phone numbers, as calls sometimes don’t connect and lines can go dead.
To make calls from Myanmar to another country, dial 00 then the international code for the country you are calling, then the local area code (minus the 0).
To make calls to Myanmar from abroad, dial your country’s international access code, then 95 and the local area code (minus the 0). Be warned that making calls to Myanmar can be difficult: calls will often not connect, particularly to numbers outside of Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw.
Given the lack of development in Myanmar, the availability of internet access is surprisingly widespread: you can find an internet café or hotel with wifi even in remote locations. However, internet speeds can be slow, especially in rural areas. Prices at internet cafes are usually around K500 per hour, although they may be higher outside cities. You can find free wifi at many restaurants and bars.
Due to bandwidth restrictions, internet speeds can change markedly according to demand through the day. If you use Gmail and you are working or spending an extended period of time in Myanmar, it is worth downloading Gmail Offline; this works much better than regular Gmail with slow connections, and also allows you to work offline.
Previous government internet restrictions have now been lifted, so people are free to access most websites and services – including Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and so on.