Just planning our 10 days in Myanmar. Heard some horrors stories from Jan'13, of people being refused accommodation in various hotels, despite presenting email confirmation from the hotels 3 days ago.
We know tourism in Myanmar has it's teething problems (which is both positive and negative for us), so the question is:
Do you book via the usual Agoda, Booking, Hotels pages? Are confirmation printouts enough? Should we pay upfront (like Agoda) - probably not.
Do you rather book directly with hotels/guesthouses?
Do you book 1 or several places in one town (I heard of such practice too... travellers just want to be sure they get a bed, hence why this entire system is very wobbly).
How to overcome the red tape at the hotel refusing you accommodation (they often bring you to another place, usually inferior quality)?
Are prices still growing?
Thanks for your help!
I have heard similar stories before my stay in Myanmar. Even the Lonely Planet does mention this. But, having spent 27 days all around Myanmar in Oct/Dec 2013, I cannot confirm any of this. We have only had 1 upfront Agoda reservation before the arrival - for the first few nights in Yangon. For the rest of our stay, we have always just looked for accommodation after the arrival to a new city/village and it has never been a problem. There have always been the touts waiting at bus/train/boat stops, which gave us a ride to a few places so we can choose.
There might be a problem, if you choose a destination, which is very much off the beaten track. In such towns, not many guesthouses have the license to accept foreigners. To name a few, think of towns, which are close to the Thailand/Myanmar border and you will likely want to use for overnight after crossing the border overland. Also, guesthouses in sometimes problematic Rakhine State (i.e. Sittwe) tend to be full of NGO workers, so it's wise to book ahead.
And yes, prices are growing. As of accommodation, they are approx. 30-40% higher than those listed in the latest Lonely Planet guidebook.
Myanmar is a hotel nightmare. Embrace the fact that it's a newly opened country and it will not be this way very long. This is the price of visiting such a place. I have no advice but some personal stories....
When arriving in Mandalay, which was my favorite city of the 3 week backpacking trip I was on, our taxi driver had to take up to five different locations before we found a room. Luckily Mandalay is a sleepy place and not as crowded as other locations. We learned our lesson though.
We then began to call ahead to the next city and try to reserve a room this way. Sometimes it worked. But when we arrived in Bagan, our promised room was taken. It took a rather long negotiation to secure a space, as we were talking with the manager, backpacker after backpacker would walk in looking for a vacancy. Bagan is crazy busy. Tour buses, certain temples crowded at sunset. But with a bike you can do a lot of exploring on your own.
Inle Lake may be the toughest spot for you to find a room. There are some established hotels and resorts here, so booking online is an option. Lots of people flock here but I didn't really see what the attraction was. It was a break from the hustle and bustle, a small town that caters to tourists on a lake. The attractions here are limited. The trek to Inle lake was challenging and showed the heart of the country. Definitely a highlight.
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I had no problems using Agoda, but that requires full payment in advance. Also visited in low season (May).
I suspect any where you're only making a reservation / small deposit could be overlooked for someone wanting to pay cash there and then!