Apartment hunting in Yangon can be tricky. Indeed, most apartments with any sort of amenities (AC, elevators, etc.) are expensive. In local parlance, by the way, any apartment building with an elevator is called a “condo.” So, the best way to find a cheap, semi-comfortable apartment is to ask a local contact to look for one on your behalf. Alternatively, once you are in the city, you can contact a real-estate broker who is able to act as a translator with landlords and who will help you register your lease with the authorities, which is mandatory for foreigners.
Though Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, do not expect the accommodations to be cheap or to live up to western standards of comfort. After years of isolation, landlords are now taking advantage of the many foreigners eager to visit. Even the most expensive apartment complexes can be substandard and may require renovation, for example, electrical sockets,wiring, and hot water heaters might need to be replaced. Electricity is unreliable throughout the country—worse in the rainy season—and because the water supply is connected to the frequently failing electric supply, if you can afford to find space in a serviced apartment with a generator, you will thank yourself for running water and a flushing toilet when the power inevitably goes out. If not, always be sure to have water stored for drinking and windows that open wide so that you can stay cool and hydrated on the hottest days.
3G and Wi-Fi internet connections are also quite unpredictable, but a few companies are launching initiatives that will greatly improve communications throughout the city. Red Link Communications is the only company that will provide high-speed internet in homes. The connection is not 100% reliable and the cost of the service and installation is quite high, about the equivalent of $500 USD initially and then about $40-$100 per month after that depending on the plan. Unfortunately, at the moment, this price-gouging monopoly is the only option. Many expats prefer to set up their own Wi-Fi hotspot from personal smartphones equipped with SIM cards provided by the two available privately owned communications companies Telenor and Ooredoo. Outside the home, many cafes, restaurants, and bars also offer free Wi-Fi. Look for those that offer menus in foreign languages, which is usually a tip-off.
Laundry and cleaning services, as in many other Southeast Asian countries, are very cheap and it is common to get laundry sent out and hire someone to come to your house to clean. If you want to do your own laundry, you will have to install a washing machine yourself, as it will almost certainly not come with accommodation.
Though much of the local food in Burma comes from food stalls and daily markets, you can also find groceries at the Citymart supermarket chain, which is quite prominent throughout the city and offers a well-stocked selection of imported, familiar foods. As a general tip, almost all recently built shopping malls will have a Citymart along with a few other chain restaurants with safe, Western foods.
For more advice on apartment hunting, check out the Wall Street Journal’s guide to finding an apartment in Yangon. You can also check out myanmar-housing and house.com for listings. Remember Myanmar is still a cash-based economy so be sure to have lots of it!