Tourism in Myanmar (formerly Burma) has greatly increased in the past 10 years, with the number of international visitor arrivals rising from just over 100,000 in 2008 to over 3 million in 2018. While many of the popular attractions in Myanmar are located in the largest city and former capital, Yangon, the lush landscapes and varied historical monuments listed by UNESCO found all across the country attract visitors to the many different regions of Myanmar.
However, there are several restricted areas for tourists in Myanmar that travelers are unable to visit without first getting permission from the Myanmar government, including parts of Shan state, which contains one of Myanmar’s biggest tourist hot spots, Inle Lake. Travelers are therefore advised to be familiar with local laws you should know as a tourist to guarantee their safety in Myanmar, as military counter-terrorism operations take place in many of the restricted regions.
Why Are There Restricted Regions for Tourists in Myanmar?
The government of Myanmar maintains strict control over all parts of the country, but access is restricted to foreign visitors in some parts more than others. Most central-west regions of the country, which include the major cities of Yangon, Mandalay, and the new capital Naypyitaw, are not under strict government control and tourists are able to move freely in these areas.
However, the majority of the states outside of this area, which border neighboring countries, contain restricted regions for tourists in Myanmar. In most cases, the states have been designated off-limits zones in Burma because of ongoing ethnic and religious conflicts, and because military actions against dissident groups often take place there. Luckily, the government of Myanmar mains an up-to-date list of towns and areas where it can be dangerous and illegal to visit.
If foreign tourists enter any of the restricted areas, whether by intent or accident, locals will usually take notice and call the police, who will quickly arrive to inform the visitors they shouldn’t be in the area. The police are likely to escort lost travelers to the nearest train station or airport to ensure they safely leave the area.
Therefore, those visiting the country with an electronic Visa for Myanmar are advised to first research the permitted areas for tourists before setting out to explore any of the restricted regions. Travelers first may need to get approval from the Myanmar Ministry of Home Affairs or Ministry of Tourism if they are intending to visit any of the off-limits zones in Burma.
List of Myanmar Restricted Areas
As the government maintains up-to-date travel information for Myanmar about the restricted regions in the country, it is easy to avoid accidentally visiting an area that is out-of-bounds. The main states in the country with the most restrictions are the Kachin, Rakhine, Sagaing, and Shan regions.
Many areas in the Sagaing region on the border with Bangladesh are open to tourists, including the popular town of Katha, where Geroge Orwell wrote his famous novel about the country, Burmese Days. However, some other areas are restricted, such as Nanyun township in the north of the state.
Many areas in Rakhine state are restricted because of the ongoing conflict with the Rohingya people, while the Kachin and Shan regions have restricted zones because of drug-running issues with the borders with Laos and China. However, both states also offer an appealing range of activities and attractions for visitors, such as numerous hiking opportunities and historic monuments.
Therefore, travelers who are planning to travel to states with restricted areas for tourists in Myanmar should first inform themselves of the off-limits areas in order to avoid any complications. The full list of zones which require permission for travel is as follows:
|State||Areas with open access in towns, permission required for remote areas||Restricted access, permission needed|