I plan to go to Myanmar for six weeks, and I’ll be travelling as a backpacker on a low budget. What tips do you have to reduce the amount of money I spend going towards supporting the regime? Which organisations could I contact beforehand? Brian, via email
This is a common concern among travellers, and the National League for Democracy (NLD) used to ask tourists to boycott visiting the country. However, they are now in favour of independent travel to the country because this is the best way of ensuring your money goes directly to local people rather than the military-controlled government.
It is impossible to visit the country without some money going to the government, for example through taxes. So it’s advisable to try to spread your spending as widely as possible among hotels, taxis and restaurants, for example, to ensure that at least some money will support local businesses.
With regards to organisations to contact beforehand, the main tourism body is Myanmar Travels and Tours, but this is operated by the government. Instead, you are advised to speak to private travel agents when you arrive in Yangon to arrange your travel and accommodation.
The new edition of Lonely Planet’s Myanmar guide has been updated, and contains information on independent tourist services. The Foreign Office’s website is a good resource to find safety advice before you travel (fco.gov.uk).
I’m planning to go to Berlin for the Christmas markets. Do you have any tips for what we could squeeze into a long weekend? Kimberley, via email
Berlin is one of my all-time favourite cities. There is so much to see and do that you will be spoilt for choice. This edgy, arty city is a living museum to modern history with an incredible arts and music scene, teamed with great nightlife.
There is a huge selection of Christmas markets to choose from, and each one has its own individual niche. Some highlights include the market at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in west Berlin, which is a sight in its own right.
The church was partially destroyed in World War II, and, rather than being rebuilt, it has been left as a reminder of the devastation.
For an edgier take on a Christmas market, head to the cool eastern area of Prenzlauer Berg and the market at the Kulturbrauerei, which is a converted brewery.
Also, visit the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall in the city, the East Side Gallery, which is covered with incredible art. Then head to the hub of east Berlin, Alexanderplatz, where you will find relics of the city’s Communist past – the World Clock and TV tower are both striking monuments from this era.
From here you can walk towards Unter den Linden (under the linden trees), Berlin’s main promenade, passing sights such as the site of the now destroyed Palace of the Republic. At the end of the street you’ll find the iconic Brandenburg Gate.
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