Wednesday, November 21, 2012

ATMs Now Available in Myanmar

© Becky in Burma (photo taken at Central Bank w/ iPod...so sorry for crap resolution!)


This is huge news. Really. It is. There are now around 36 ATMs in Myanmar that allow you to put your foreign plastic in the machine, enter your pin, and instantly receive kyat (Myanmar kyat, the money used here).

This hasn't happened before. Yesterday was the first day - EVER - that you could. MasterCard flew into Yangon on Obama's shirt tails and there you have it: a way to get cash! YES!

This is going to revolutionize the lives of every person living here who has a foreign bank account. Well, if you have MasterCard. Thankfully, I do.

Despite sanctions that my country still hasn't lifted on Myanmar, I could access an ATM today and magically get cash. (Still can't buy anything online using PayPal, though!)

This is the deal: because Myanmar has been a cash economy, even the husband's salary was paid in cash. This actually helped us save money because we only had the amount we were given on pay day to last us the rest of the month...unless we had spare US dollars in pristine perfect-perfect-no-wrinkles-no-folds condition that we could exchange for kyat.

I even know some people have had to make trips to, oh, say Bangkok (rough life!) just to stock up on US dollars so they could come back to Myanmar and have money (after being exchanged to kyat).

In fact, it was just the other week that I told the husband that I might have to make an emergency run like that; the problem was rectified without me booking a ticket to Bangkok. (Darn it! Could've done with a weekend away!)

According to this article in Myanmar Times, the English newspaper in Myanmar, Central Bank (CB) meets international banking standards, so MasterCard decided to allow banking here.  MasterCard said they're discussing working with other Myanmar banks as well and hope to make announcements soon. At the moment, only MasterCard, Cirrus, or Maestro is accepted and only at Central Bank branches.

(Note to travelers: there are two Central Bank ATMs at the international airport in Yangon, so you should be able to get cash out upon arrival; still, best to have a load of US dollars with you when you come in. Remember that they need to be crisp and perfect with no tears, no folds, no nothing!)

Apparently, things are changing so quickly, that it seems the husband may not be getting paid in cash anymore. We shall see.

All sorts of rumors are floating around Yangon. Coca Cola now officially sells its products in Myanmar (as of October). I've been told that if Coca Cola sells well here, it's sort of a good way for marketers to discover whether American-based fast food restaurants would be successful as well. Murmurs about a KFC, Burger King, or McDonalds opening here abound. Even Starbucks. You can read more about that here on my friend, Wilson Blades, blog.

I'm not a fan of fast food and I don't miss KFC, Burger King, etc. There are PLENTY of places to get GREAT coffee in Yangon; still, I would feel happy if Starbucks opened. I can't deny it. I really miss my Venti skinny caramel macchiatos.

(Hello: Starbucks? Are you out there? Hi! I'm from the Pacific Northwest. You know. The Home of Starbucks. Yeah, well, I live in Myanmar. What? You've never heard of...? Oh. Sorry. Burma. I live in Burma. Yeah, yeah. Okay. So, that's where I live and it would be really, really nice if you could do me a super-duper big favor and bring Starbucks to Myanmar. Oh. And if you do come, could you do me another huge favor? Right. Could you make sure you offer sugar free syrup for the coffees, too? They don't have the sugar free syrups in Thailand, I don't think. Great. Thanks! Ta!)

Oh, sorry. I digressed. A little hopeful plea to Starbucks. Yes, I know. I'm bad. (Coffee Circles and Ananda Coffee and Cafe D' Angel and Acacia: I promise you I will never stop going to get coffee from you, even if Starbucks comes!)

Like Dylan says, "The times, they are a changin'."  (For better or worse.)



15 comments:

  1. Wow! We are so spoiled here with ATMs. Seems like American culture might be taking over there. I hope you get a Starbucks!
    Chandra

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Chandra!
      I hope that American culture doesn't come here in full-force. It would be a shame if things changed a lot here. Some change is always interesting and perhaps good (depends on the perspective); but change is hard. And if it's too fast and too much, that's not necessarily good. Certainly McDonalds isn't the biggest, brightest star of America...lol. Still, I'd be happy for Starbucks. lol

      Delete
  2. It's maybe too idealistic, and maybe because I'm not living there, but it seems like it would be nice to have a place on earth without all the same places as everywhere else... The ATM thing though must be a major blessing ! I remember when I was in Cambodia there was that crisp bill thing... Crazy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ...lol about the crisp dollar bill. Makes it really challenging, actually!

      Yes, I agree that it would be really, really nice not to have the same chain places everywhere. I also know it's sooo hypocritical of me to say that I'd be happy with a Starbucks. lol

      But...I do kind of worry what would happen here if fast food chains came rushing in. Already, there are lots of changes in a very quick period of time.

      Delete
  3. Oooh how exciting! Shame the only mastercard i have is a credit card that charges, at least, 4 squillion-billion percent interest for cash withdrawals, although in an emergency i could rush to my computer to do some internet banking juggling to pay it off straight away.
    I once lived in (very)small town Thailand where we had none of these fast food restaurants (we did have an ATM)...then with much pomp and ceremony along came KFC. I swear from the very next day i started seeing herds of fat kids waddling about town. Did KFC cause this or were they just like flies round sh....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. lol, Oh, Alex.

      Welll...I did just read that VISA is meant to be here now, too, but I haven't talked to anyone who has tried out a cash point for them, yet. Maybe they have yet to arrive, but will be soon? Hopefully all will be set before you come!

      Yeah, I'm not a big fan of the idea of KFC, etc. coming in here. I never visit those places when we go to Thailand. Except...yes...Starbucks. (Slapping my forehead. I know: I'm a hypocrite!)

      Delete
  4. Becky, I can only imagine how different it's been like for you to be living there. Thank you for shedding light on all of this for us and the wonderful recent changes with the ATM machines. Yay! Here's to Starbuck arriving next for you! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. lol Thanks, Suzanne!
      Yes...lots of changes!

      Delete
  5. So many things we take for granted. Congrats on the ATM's. That is huge!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Janice! Yes, I'm excited! Managed to use it twice now!

      Delete
  6. Crikey, I would find using cash almost impossible but I can see it would be a great way to budget. Getting ATM's must be a huge deal and make life so much easier... next stop Starbucks! We don't have sugar free syrups in Starbucks here in the UK, at least I don't think we do, maybe I should check that out :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Judith, I think you might be right about the sugar free syrups at Starbucks in England...but I'm not sure, either! Let me know!

      Delete
  7. Becky, this sounds like great news for ex-pats whose money is held captive. But, I have to say, the idea of living in another country is wonderful because it's different from America. A couple of conveniences are great, but that leads to the door being cracked open for changes, that may usurped the culture there. I'm not a big fan of that, at all!
    But, again, I believe that one should have access to one's own money! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I am grateful to have easier access to money. It makes a huge, huge difference. At the same time, I agree with you. Myanmar is special and one of the last unspoilt areas in SE Asia; but things are changing so rapidly here. I can't even express how much change has occurred in the very few months we've been here. Can't imagine what it will be like in a few years!

      Delete
  8. " Money is so important in your daily you can use to everyday"
    http://www.bitcoinmoneyatm.com

    ReplyDelete

Messages that are negative or mean or hurtful or political will be deleted; so play nice. This is meant to be a happy place. :-)