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It is better to bring the newest $100 bill printed with blue stripe USD and good chance to good exchange rate than old print USD, although pristine older notes are accepted. Please remember also NOT to have USD bills with the serial numbers of CB (pre 2006) in USD 100 notes, serial numbers of AB in USD 50 notes, and, old, dirty, torn or marked USD notes.
There are now (Jan. 2014) many International ATM's in towns, hotels, and at most airports that take UnionPay, Plus, Cirrus, MasterCard, and Visa Cards and issue Kyats. Do note however that there is a fixed charge of 5000 Kyats (plus your own credit card charge) which makes small withdrawals expensive. The underlying exchange rate before the Kyats 5,000 charge and your own bank's charge is similar to the rates you will get in a hotel. Better to change $'s (see first comments) at the official bank changers at airports or downtown - all have official Government rates. Do NOT change $'s on the street!
Some recent guidebooks still mention that you have to change $ 300= (F.E.C.) p/p for a bad exchange rate. This does not exist anymore.
Experience was that now (March 2014) Kyats are favored instead of U.S. dollars especially concerning small bills.
Much information on the internet is well out of date and it is now appropriate to state as accurately as possible the up to date facts gleaned, from not only own personal experiences, but from many other regulars, both tourists and local contributors.
UPDATE FROM SEPTEMBER 2015
KYAT (pronounced Chat) Is the Myanmar currency.
Most tourist hotels are priced and payable in $ although guest houses and smaller hotels still are payable in kyat. Many restaurants are now priced in kyat although high end establishments still price in US$. It is always best to pay in the currency displayed to save losing out on exchange rate.
You will be spoiled for choice of Bank exchanges at airport Arrivals and they all have virtually identical exchange rates. Do note that you can change your unused kyat back into $ at Departures at a minimal (20 kyat?) difference between buying and selling rate. Kyat are NOT an International convertible currency and it is most unlikely that they can be exchanged outside Myanmar, although you might be able to dispose of them at Bangkok airport departures or try to move them on to future travellers from your own country.
The current approximate rates are as follows $ 1250 kyat, € 1400 kyat, SGD 880 and updated rates can be found through websites such as KBZ Bank
Other currencies may possibly be exchanged (£, AUS$, THB) but the number of Banks that will exchange them is very limited and the rate therefore could be quite poor unless you are willing to spend time shopping around. Branches of Farmers Bank change AUS$. Recently only one of the 9 Banks at Yangon arrivals would change THB-at a very poor rate.
Visitors will generally use these notes in kyat -500/1000/5000/10,000
For pictures of the notes seethe web site "banknotes"
Sometimes if you pay shopkeepers/taxis in $ you will be given change in small grubby kyat which you will want to pass on quickly.
NEVER CHANGE MONEY IN THE STREET-ALWAYS USE A BANK OR OFFICIAL MONEY CHANGER
Still the currency of choice for Airlines, Travel Agents, Guides, top hotels and restaurants and for some entrance fees.
It is essential that bills are in first class, pristine condition, with no folds, rips or writing. New is best and keep them flat, maybe between two pieces of card. 100's and 50's will get the best exchange rate so use lower denominations for paying hotels and restaurants- again condition is important.
All $ bills must not be older than the 2006 issue but any later than that, in perfect condition, will be fine as well as the latest issue from August 2013. The $ is still king and taxis, guides and restaurants will still accept them if you are short of kyat.
There are now over 2000 ATM's in Myanmar with a choice at major airports and widespread availability at downtown Banks. They only dispense kyat. Do note that there is a fixed charge of 5000kyat,plus your own Bank's charge and a maximum withdrawal of 300,000kyat,up to three times daily.
Many smaller villages and towns have yet to get an ATM but those that have a Bank branch in town will either have one or get one soon. For example Sittwe has only one ATM and until recently there were none at Ngapali Beach but there is now an ATM (KBZ Bank) outside Amata Hotel.
There have been reports that Banks in some counties still follow the outdated USA embargo so do check with your Bank that your card will be accepted.
Are accepted by airlines, four of which are bookable on-line with immediate e-ticket issue.
Many quality hotels, especially used by business and group tours, will accept Credit Cards, although some may charge a merchant fee. Conversely many tourist hotels and Guest houses will not take credit cards. Many Irrawaddy cruise boats state that Credit Cards are not accepted but there are reports that when passengers say that is all they have got, having spent all their kyat and $, a card machine miraculously appears.
PAYING AGENTS FROM ABROAD
Because of high Credit Card merchant fees (up to 5%) many Agents prefer payment of deposits by Bank payment with the balance in $ on arrival in Myanmar. THIS IS PERFECTLY NORMAL.
Because of USA Restrictions the Myanmar Banks are not yet on the International Bank transfer system so many Myanmar companies have accounts in Singapore or Bangkok to where Bank transfers can be made. It is the same with the International Irrawaddy Cruise companies.
Things are changing fast, money can already be transferred by Western Union, and the Myanmar Banking system will eventually be connected Internationally and KBZ Bank and CB Bank are currently trailing to get it working.