Is It Safe to Travel to Myanmar?

myanmar travel safety

Myanmar is a safe country to visit in general, where travelers are welcomed, and the growing tourism industry offers a variety of interesting resorts, excursions, cruises, and sights to explore.

The areas most frequented by tourists report little to no incidents or serious problems, however, visitors to Myanmar are advised to familiarize themselves with potential dangers and annoyances, and to be aware that certain parts of the country are off-limits due to strict government controls.

Restricted Areas

While much of Myanmar is safe to visit, some areas are completely out-of-bounds, while for others, travelers may need permission from the Myanmar Ministry of Home Affairs or Ministry of Tourism before entering or passing through.

Much of the Rakhine state is off-limits to visitors, with the exception of some southern townships including Kyeintali and the resort town of Thandwe.

Paletwa township in the southern Chin state, as well as most of Kachin State – with the exception of the towns Myitkyina, Bhamo, and Putao – are considered to be unsafe for tourist travel, and should, therefore, be avoided.

The Shan state in the north, home to one of Myanmar’s biggest tourist attractions, Inle lake, is also mostly off-limits. Travelers are advised to plan their trip into Shan state according to the latest available information so as to avoid inadvertently traveling through an out-of-bounds area.

A careful study of the full list of restricted access areas in Burma prior to planning your trip is advisable and will ensure a trouble-free and safe visit to Myanmar.

Political and Religious Concerns

Ongoing ethnic and religious clashes have led to civil unrest and in some cases armed conflict in the country.

Travelers are advised to stay safe in Myanmar by keeping away from any kind of political demonstration or rally and to avoid photographing any government and military buildings, vehicles, and personnel.

It is important to note that many westernized depictions of Buddha are considered offensive or inappropriate. Travelers have in the past spent time in jail or been deported for displaying Buddha images including tattoos, and it is therefore strongly advised to cover up any such images to ensure your safety in Myanmar.

Roads and Travel

Road and rail infrastructure in Myanmar can be poor in many places, with only 12% of the country’s roads paved, and safety requirements not on par with the standards expected in western countries.

Traffic congestion is on the rise, and extra care should be taken in urban areas where the volume of vehicles and pedestrians can make navigating roads safely a challenge. It should be noted that motorbikes are prohibited in the city of Yangon.

Hiring a car is a popular and safe way to see Myanmar, however, foreign visitors may need to obtain permission to drive themselves, and it is, therefore, advisable to hire a driver to accompany travelers on their journey.

Petty Crime

Myanmar is safe for visitors from a crime perspective, as common tourist-related crimes like mugging and pickpocketing are rare. It is always advisable to keep valuables out of sight and to be aware of your surroundings in an unfamiliar place.

Touts and petty scams are harmless compared with many of those encountered across South-East Asia. Be wary of extravagant offers of gems, claims that your hotel has closed down, or hard-selling salesmen of souvenirs you do not need, and never exchange money on the street.

Pests and Wildlife

By far the most common pest encountered in Myanmar is the mosquito, which can be a persistent annoyance if you allow them to be. Several barriers against mosquitos are recommended, such as wearing long-sleeved clothing, applying DEET insect repellant every few hours, and sleeping with a mosquito net. Not all of these items may be readily available locally, so come prepared.

Myanmar is home to several venomous snakes, mostly found in grasslands and forest areas, and occasionally at less popular temples. Always wear appropriate footwear and exercise caution when walking through any kind of shrubbery or vegetation.

Monkeys begging for snacks have become a pest at some sites, such as Hpo Win Duang Caves, and feeding or interacting with these wild animals is not worth the risk of scratches and bites.

Health Concerns

While very few travelers report serious health issues related to their visit to Myanmar, it is worth noting that Zika virus and Dengue fever are listed as potential hazards at the moment.

Visitors are required to get vaccinated against illnesses including Hepatitis, Rabies, Typhoid and Yellow Fever before their trip, and to confirm that they are up to do with routine vaccines such as MMR, Polio, Varicella, and Diphtheria.

Any travelers taking part in outdoor activities or spending time in rural areas should be aware that insect bites may spread disease in Myanmar, and care should be taken to check for bugs and ticks regularly.