Traveling Luck for Myanmar

Burma is located in Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Bangladesh and Thailand.

Myanmar has borders with Bangladesh for 193km, China for 2185km, India for 1463km, Laos for 235km and Thailand for 1800km.

Land in Burma is central lowlands ringed by steep, rugged highlands.

Burmese land covers an area of 678500 square kilometers which is slightly smaller than Texas

As for the Burmese climate; tropical monsoon; cloudy, rainy, hot, humid summers (southwest monsoon, June to September); less cloudy, scant rainfall, mild temperatures, lower humidity during winter (northeast monsoon, December to April).

Burmese (singular and plural) speak Burmese, minority ethnic groups have their own languages.

Burmese National Map

Burmese Map

Regions of Myanmar

Britain conquered Burma over a period of 62 years (1824-1886) and incorporated it into its Indian Empire. Burma was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony; independence from the Commonwealth was attained in 1948. Gen. NE WIN dominated the government from 1962 to 1988, first as military ruler, then as self-appointed president, and later as political kingpin. Despite multiparty legislative elections in 1990 that resulted in the main opposition party - the National League for Democracy (NLD) - winning a landslide victory, the ruling junta refused to hand over power. NLD leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient AUNG SAN SUU KYI, who was under house arrest from 1989 to 1995 and 2000 to 2002, was imprisoned in May 2003 and subsequently transferred to house arrest, where she remains virtually incommunicado. In November 2005, the junta extended her detention for at least another six months. Her supporters, as well as all those who promote democracy and improved human rights, are routinely harassed or jailed.


Myanmar Country Profile

Burma, a resource-rich country, suffers from pervasive government controls, inefficient economic policies, and rural poverty. The junta took steps in the early 1990s to liberalize the economy after decades of failure under the "Burmese Way to Socialism," but those efforts stalled, and some of the liberalization measures were rescinded. Burma does not have monetary or fiscal stability, so the economy suffers from serious macroeconomic imbalances - including inflation, multiple official exchange rates that overvalue the Burmese kyat, and a distorted interest rate regime. Most overseas development assistance ceased after the junta began to suppress the democracy movement in 1988 and subsequently refused to honor the results of the 1990 legislative elections. In response to the government of Burma's attack in May 2003 on AUNG SAN SUU KYI and her convoy, the US imposed new economic sanctions against Burma - including a ban on imports of Burmese products and a ban on provision of financial services by US persons. A poor investment climate further slowed the inflow of foreign exchange. The most productive sectors will continue to be in extractive industries, especially oil and gas, mining, and timber. Other areas, such as manufacturing and services, are struggling with inadequate infrastructure, unpredictable import/export policies, deteriorating health and education systems, and corruption. A major banking crisis in 2003 shuttered the country's 20 private banks and disrupted the economy. As of December 2005, the largest private banks operate under tight restrictions limiting the private sector's access to formal credit. Official statistics are inaccurate. Published statistics on foreign trade are greatly understated because of the size of the black market and unofficial border trade - often estimated to be as large as the official economy. Burma's trade with Thailand, China, and India is rising. Though the Burmese government has good economic relations with its neighbors, better investment and business climates and an improved political situation are needed to promote foreign investment, exports, and tourism.

Burmese natural resources include petroleum, timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, some marble, limestone, precious stones, natural gas, hydropower

strategic location near major Indian Ocean shipping lanes

Burmese religion is Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Muslim 4%, animist 1%, other 2%.

Natural hazards in Burma include destructive earthquakes and cyclones; flooding and landslides common during rainy season (June to September); periodic droughts.

Travel Advice on Myanmar

Burma

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Summary and Terrorism section (detonators in parcels) and Health section.  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • You should exercise caution on visits to Burma, and avoid all but essential travel to the Burmese side of the Burma/Thai border.

  • You should be aware of the threat from terrorism in Burma.

  • Since April 2005, there have been a number of bomb explosions in Burma.  Targets have included commercial interests, public transport and places tourists may visit.  On 11 and 15 January 2007, four detonators were found wrapped as parcels in post offices in Rangoon.  One exploded causing minor injuries.

  • If you are visiting or are resident in Burma, you should exercise caution in public places and ensure that you are comfortable with, and regularly review, your own and your family's security arrangements.

  • The political situation in Burma remains unsettled.  There are stringent restrictions on freedom of movement and speech.

  • Typhoons occasionally occur in Burma between April and October.  Please see the Natural Disasters section of this travel advice and Hurricanes for more information.

  • You should bring enough US Dollars to fund your stay.  Credit cards and travellers’ cheques are unlikely to be accepted and there are no ATMs in Burma.

  • Around 5,000 British nationals visited Burma in 2005 (Burmese government figure).  Most visits are trouble-free.  The majority of cases for which British nationals require consular assistance in Burma are due to lack of funds as a result of not being able to use credit cards or travellers cheques.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see: Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Crime
There are no accurate crime statistics, but anecdotal evidence suggests that muggings, burglaries and petty thefts in Rangoon have increased as the economic situation has deteriorated.  Expatriate homes and hotels have been targeted in the past. You should take extra care of your belongings.
There have been occasional instances of violent crime against foreigners.  You should take sensible security precautions at all times.
Political Situation
Country Profile: Burma
There are stringent restrictions on freedom of speech, movement, religion, and political activity.  Foreign nationals criticising the regime in public are liable to arrest or imprisonment.  Two Britons received heavy sentences for such activity in 1999.  You should avoid large crowds and should note that attempts to visit the home of detained pro-democracy leader Daw Aung Sung Suu Kyi or the offices of her National League for Democracy party could attract unwelcome attention from the authorities.  You are strongly advised not to photograph military installations or personnel.
The unsettled political situation could result in disruption or restriction to your travel.
Local Travel
You are advised to exercise caution and to avoid all but essential travel to the Burmese side of the Burma/Thai border.  This area is insecure and there are landmines.
You should be aware that British Embassy officials are not allowed to travel freely outside Rangoon without prior permission of the Burmese government, except to a limited number of destinations.  Consular assistance in an emergency may therefore be restricted or delayed.
You may only go to officially designated tourist areas.  You will require prior permission from the tourism authorities for treks to remote parts of the country.  You should note that tourists have experienced difficulties with the authorities even after obtaining such permission.
Heavy rains and flooding in October 2006 have caused disruption to transport links in several areas of the country including in tourist areas. If you intend to travel to Burma, or you are already there, you should check the current situation with your travel company or monitor local news reports.
Road Safety
Overland travel can be hazardous, particularly in the rainy season (May to October).  Roads can become impassable and bridges damaged.
You should be aware that, under Burmese law, the driver of a car involved in an accident with a pedestrian is always at fault.  Road safety awareness, among both drivers and pedestrians, barely exists.  Many vehicles, including taxis, are in a poor mechanical state.  Although Burma drives on the right the majority of cars are right hand drive, which can make driving hazardous.
Rail Safety
Railway equipment is decrepit; fatal rail crashes occur, although they may not always be reported.  In 2001, a railway bridge collapsed on the line between Mandalay and Myitkyina with many fatalities.
Air Safety
We are not able to make a formal assessment of domestic airlines in Burma.  However, you should be aware that Myanmar Airways has a poor safety record and the British Embassy staff are advised not to fly with this airline.  This domestic airline should not be confused with Myanmar Airways International (MAI), which operates across South East Asia.  Local flight schedules are subject to change without warning and you should leave sufficient time in your travel itinerary to accommodate this.
The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the European Community. This can be found at the following link: http://europa.eu.int/comm/transport/air/safety/flywell_en.htm.  The list includes Phuket Airlines, which operates international flights to Burma. If booked on Phuket Airlines, you should check with your ticket provider.
Sea Safety

You should ask for, and follow carefully, local advice about where it is safe to swim or dive in the sea.  You should also be aware that search and rescue facilities are unlikely to meet international standards.
River Safety
During the monsoon season (normally June to September), heavy rains can cause flooding.  You should therefore enquire before attempting any river journey.
River transport may not conform to internationally recognised safety standards.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

You should respect religious custom when visiting Budhist religious sites – shorts and sleeveless tops will cause offence and shoes and socks should be removed before entering a pagoda or monastery.

Penalties for drug trafficking range from a minimum sentence of 15 years imprisonment and can include the death penalty.

Homosexuality is illegal.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

You need a tourist visa (valid for four weeks) or business visas (valid for ten weeks) before travelling to Burma.  We are aware that British nationals have encountered delays in obtaining tourist visas, particularly when applying at the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok.  Any queries on entry requirements should be directed to the nearest Burmese Embassy or Consulate (Burmese representation in the UK) not to the British Embassy in Rangoon.
You are required to declare any foreign currency over US$2,000. Failure to do so may result in imprisonment.
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  They may want to see birth certificates, a letter of consent from the other parent or some evidence as to your responsibility for the child.  As far as we are aware the Burmese immigration authorities do not normally ask to see such evidence, but if you have concerns please check with the nearest Burmese Embassy.


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that comprehensive travel and medical insurance, which includes air evacuation by a recognised carrier, be obtained before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see: Travel Insurance.
Routine medical advice and treatment can be obtained in Rangoon and Mandalay, but elsewhere you should not assume that competent advice and treatment will be available.  Up-front cash payment is often required prior to receiving medical treatment in Burma.  Intrusive examinations, including emergency dental work, should be avoided due to irregular hygiene standards and the danger of infection, particularly by hepatitis and HIV/Aids.

Malaria is endemic in Burma.  More than three quarters of British travellers who have contracted malaria in 2005 did not take preventive measures, such as malaria prevention tablets.  However, malaria can occur despite appropriate prevention, and therefore you should promptly seek medical care in the event of a fever or flu-like illness in-country or in the first year following your return from travelling to a malaria risk country.  Before travelling you should seek medical advice about the malaria risk in Burma.

You should seek medical advice, before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.  For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk.
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
In March 2006, local health authorities confirmed the deaths of poultry from Avian Influenza (also known as Bird Flu) in Mandalay, central Burma.   No human infections or deaths have been reported.
The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low.  As a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
You should read this advice in conjunction with the Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet, which gives more detailed advice and information.
NATURAL DISASTERS

The cyclone season in Burma normally runs from April to October.  You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).  You can also access http://www.nhc.noaa.gov for updates.  Please also see Hurricanes for more detailed information about what to do if you are caught up in a typhoon.


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see: What We Can Do To Help.
The British Embassy in Rangoon does not issue passports and, before setting off, you should ensure that your passport has sufficient validity (over six months) and a plentiful supply of unused pages.  Applications for new passports are accepted in Rangoon for forwarding to the British Embassy in Bangkok for processing, but this may take up to six weeks.  If a courier is used, the cost will have to be borne by the applicant.
If you intend to stay in Burma for over a month you are advised to register with the Embassy on arrival.
You should expect to have your baggage searched and/or x-rayed on arrival.  You may be required to leave items such as mobile phones and personal computers with customs, for collection upon departure.  International GSM roaming is not available in Burma.  You are encouraged to carry photocopies of your passport at all times.  A departure tax of 10 US Dollars/FEC (Foreign Exchange Certificate) is payable when you check in for your departure flight.
Money
Following adoption of the Burma Freedom and Democracy Act by the US Government, no credit cards or travellers’ cheques are likely to be accepted in Burma.  You should bring enough US Dollars o fund your stay.  Be aware that as a result of concerns over counterfeit money, US Dollars with the letters AB and CB at the start of the serial number (top left-hand corner of note) are not always accepted.  There are no automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) in Burma.  However, some of the main hotels may accept credit cards.  If you wish to use a credit card during your visit to Burma you should check with the hotel or company concerned before setting out.
You no longer need to change US $200 into FECs on arrival at Rangoon.  Exchange counters at the airport offer the government approved rate (450 kyats to the US$) which is significantly less than the market rate.  Since most businesses catering to tourists accept dollars, you may wish to avoid changing money at the airport to avoid unnecessary losses.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
Burma is a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).  Visitors should therefore be aware of the restrictions placed on the export of endangered species by CITES, particularly when deciding whether to buy exotic souvenirs such as those made from turtles.  Over 800 species of animals and plants are currently banned from international trade and a further 30,000 are strictly controlled by CITES and EU legislation.  Further information is available at: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES).