As of 1 April 2012, Central Bank of Myanmar has officially float the kyat in the market. Currently, there is not much difference between the official rate and black market. Official rate now reflects the actual market rate.
If you look in the currency exchange rate websites on the internet, you will see the official currency exchange rate for Myanmar kyat at about 6.50 kyats per 1 US dollar. However, if you really try to buy US dollar at this rate, you will not be able to buy anywhere. Try to buy one US dollar at this rate in one of the banks in Yangon, and you will be looked at like a lunatic. In Myanmar, the official currency exchange rate is considered a joke. You can neither buy nor sell US dollar to Myanmar kyat at this rate anywhere in the world (this is not actually true as almost all the people in Myanmar will love to buy US dollar at 6.50 kyats a dollar!). No body knows why this exchange rate exists and why the government doesn’t change this official foreign currency exchange rate to reflect the actual market.
In any country with restriction in the free market, black markets appear. The same thing happen to Myanmar currency (kyat). There is a big and lucrative black market for Myanmar currency exchange. This is not only in Myanmar but also in other countries where Burmese people go and work. These include Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Japan. However, in these countries, the currency exchange businesses operate in a form of money transfer services.
How can you change your US dollars into Myanmar kyat? Myanmar does not have open currency market, and a few authorized currency dealers operating in Myanmar pay too low for foreign currencies compared to the black market rate. So, the best way for a foreigner to change your money into Myanmar kyat is through one of the black market money exchanges found everywhere in Myanmar. The most common exchanges are in Yangon, mainly operating in Bogyoke Market, in the Mahabandoola Garden Street and along Sule Pagoda Road. You can also ask your hotel or guest house for exchange, either at them or through their contact.
How about officially exchanging your US dollars into Myanmar kyat? Well, you should better forget about it. At best, you will never be able to find one, and at worst, you will get only 6.50 kyats per US dollar.
If you are working as an expatriate in Myanmar, and holds a US dollar bank account in Myanmar, don’t ever think of changing the money into Myanmar kyat through official channel. You might end up with 6.50 kyats. So how can you convert your hard currency to Myanmar kyat? Well, there are many companies and black market traders who would willingly buy your US dollar currency in your account. All you need to do is to write a check payable to their account and they will give you Myanmar kyat at the current bank transfer rate. This is the rate the black market currency traders in Myanmar pay for your hard currency in your US dollar account in a Myanmar government bank. Usually, there is a slight difference between this bank transfer rate and the US dollar-Myanmar kyat street rate. Most of the time, the bank transfer rate is a few kyats lower than the actual US dollar note rate.
Like other markets, currency exchange rate in Myanmar is also influenced by many factors. However, due to restrictions and limitations on money transfer, currency exchange, trade restrictions and import/export restrictions as well as non-transparency in government policies, fluctuations in the Myanmar currency exchange rate is common and unpredictable, with many sharp rise and falls. For example, during last week, Myanmar currency gained more than 10 percent in a few days without any apparent reason. Such kind of black market currency fluctuation do occur quite frequently in Myanmar.
One of the most important factors that influence the Myanmar currency exchange rate between Myanmar kyat and US dollar is the ever changing restrictions on import and export. When the restrictions are tight on import, there is less demand for US dollar in the market, and the value of Myanmar kyat rises, without any strengthening in the Myanmar economy. When the import restrictions are relaxed, demand for US dollar rises and the value of Myanmar kyat falls. Because of frequent changes in import restrictions, the changes in the value of Myanmar kyat against US dollar is always changing.
For rate between Myanmar kyat and other currencies, it mainly depend on the US dollar and Myanmar kyat exchange rate. However, occasional fluctuation that does not reflect the US dollar rate sometimes occur, especially between Myanmar kyat and Thai baht, Singapore dollar and Malaysian Ringgit. As there are thousands of Myanmar people working and living in these countries, whenever there is a large volume of money transfer back to Myanmar in any of these countries, the value of Myanmar kyat against the currency of that country rises. This does not occur frequently, but occasionally occurs now and then. However, such kind of fluctuations are usually small.
Another factor that has important influence on Myanmar currency exchange rate is the influx of tourists to Myanmar, This usually occurs during the winter months when a lot of foreign visitors come to Myanmar. With these tourists come millions of US dollars into Myanmar, with the resultant fall in US dollar against Myanmar kyat. Some of the investors buy US dollar at this time of the year and sell back when the price come back to normal level.
Because of very few business opportunities for rich people, there is always intense speculations in the US dollar currency market in Myanmar. Sometimes, one of the big pockets decided to buy tens of thousands of US dollars to push the value of US dollar up, in order to trick other investors into buying large volume of US dollar notes. They will then sell back the US dollar with a higher price while the market is boiling.
Whenever there is a big fluctuation in the currency market, Myanmar government tries to intervene, even though this is occuring in the black market. Mostly, the government intervention is expected when the dollar value rises suddenly. Most of the time, this is in a form of ordering the big currency traders into stopping their business activities, and arresting those traders who disobey the order to close. With no one to buy or sell US dollar, the market finally calms down and settled to a certain value. (Forget about central bank rate. Myanmar does not have the reserved bank system).
With the current economic situation in Myanmar, there is no expection that the value of Myanmar currency will rise again. Although recently there is a sudden rise in the value of Myanmar currency, this rise is expected to be temporary, and iti s expected that the value will fall back to the previous value within a few weeks.