In response to my instragram series about Myanmar I received a question: ‘Is Myanmar safe to travel at the moment?’
Recently, Myanmar has appeared in a very negative way in the news because of the recurrent violence between the Buddhists and Rohingya, an Islamic ethnic minority group.
How did this violence arise?
In 1948 Myanmar became independent as the democratically-governed Union of Burma. Stability was never achieved through internal conflicts related to ethnic and nationalist issues, economic interests and political flows.
In 1962 a military coup took place and a military dictatorship was established. It stayed that way till 2011, when the new constitution put an end to military management. This has led to more freedom such as the opening of the borders for tourists. But on the other hand it also led to the rise of years of suppressed tensions between the various religious groups of Myanmar.
In 2012, violence broke out in western Myanmar between Islamic Rohingya, originally from Bangladesh, and local Buddhists. Now the violence is even worse than ever.
Can we still travel in Myanmar?
When you plan a vacation to any country it’s best to check if your destination is safe. This can be done online via your government site. For Belgium you can access the website via this link.
According to this website, travelling in Myanmar is generally safe if you adhere to the restrictions of the local government. They have determined in which areas you may and may not travel. The areas you cannot come across are areas of violence between the government and ethnic minorities living there.
With this link you can see which areas of Myanmar are restricted. So if you follow these guidelines it’s safe to travel Myanmar.
What about personal security?
In general, crime against tourists in Myanmar is very low. Small crime such as theft sometimes occurs. Personally, I have had no experience with it. But just like in all countries, be careful with valuable items.
In Myanmar tourists are still quite new. In tourist areas such as Bagan and Inle Lake, locals already approach you to sell something. However, they do this in a friendly and respectful manner without bothering you. Negotiate when you want to buy something.
When we were looking for a good spot to watch the sunrise in Bagan, we were approached by a local. He led us to a pagoda where we could enjoy the sunrise without other tourists. Afterwards, he asked us to look at his paintings. Since my boyfriend is an artist we agreed to see his artwork. We decided to buy one (without negotiating a price) to support a local artist.
After leaving, we went to see the other pagodas. There we saw several local people who offered the same paintings with a much lower cost price…
So, if someone helps you spontaneously, you don’t have to feel obligated to buy something. And if you want to buy something, always negotiate a price first.
In other areas tourists intrigue locals. Young locals like to have conversations with you because they want to practise their English. We have been approached to speak english at several places like Mandalay Hill. They will ask you basic questions like ‘where are you from?’ and a brief conversation will follow. It’s so much fun to do and if want to know something about their lifestyle you can just ask them. Others just want to take a picture or selfie with you.
Locals really love it when you take over their habbits such as wearing a longhi and like to give you compliments about it.
Important things to check when you want to travel Myanmar?
Check what visa you must apply for. This can be done at the Myanmar Embassy in your own country. If you are not sure, contact them and they will provide you with the necessary information.
Inquire promptly for an international passport. If you have one, see if it is valid till 6 months after your trip.
Find out what vaccinations and/or medications you need to travel to Myanmar.
- Travel insurance
You never know what can happen so take a travel insurance!
You can exchange money at the local exchange offices or collect money by ATM. Now you will find different ATMs in each city. When you leave Myanmar, do not forget to exchange Kyats, because outside Myanmar Kyats can’t be exchanged anymore.
I hope the question about traveling safe in Myanmar is answered.
My dream for Myanmar is that the violence stops and that the whole country will be open for tourism so people can discover this amazing, beautiful country with their welcoming, warm and friendly residents.
If you would like more tips about traveling in Myanmar, then also read my blog post about my personal 5 MUST-DO’s in Myanmar. Here you will find numerous tips about fun activities and beautiful places you can add to your Myanmar itinerary.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a comment below.
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