Myanmar, otherwise referred to as Burma and officially called the Republic of the Union of Myanmar is a country located in Southeast Asia. It lies on the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea coast with Bangladesh and Republic of India to the west, China to the north, and Laos and Thailand to the east. The attractions of this country are mostly of spiritual nature. It is filled with temples, pagodas and hitorical sites, while areas like Bagan offer so many attractions that it would impossible to experience them during one visit.
To those yearning for a break, Myanmar offers some gorgeous isolated beaches, while some are seasonal – which basically means that they are closed during the monsoon season. Ngapali and Thandwe are regions where beach tourism is somewhat developed, and Chaung Tha, Ngwesaung and areas near Dawei are right behind them, with Dawei being the central spot if you’re into isolated beaches.
Warnings & Dangers in Myanmar
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
Generally speaking, Myanmar is a safe country for tourists since its laws are extremely strict to all those causing problems to tourists. However, you shouldn't relax as it definitely isn't without its dangers. Be cautious and apply all precaution measures that you would stick to in your own country.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Transport in Myanmar is mostly safe but bear in mind that it isn't too reliable. The roads in Myanmar are slow, rough and winding by western standards. When getting into a car or a taxi, count on a long ride, and if you're prone to car sickness, you might consider flying between places.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH
Pickpockets do operate here and there, but tourists are rarely targeted, even in the regions outside of the major cities. Still, there are regions where they're really active so you should be careful. Don't flash your belongings in public or leave your valuables in plain sight. Be especially careful in crowded places frequented by tourists.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
The rainy season that lasts from May to October brings occasional flooding, along with typhoons and tsunamis that are also common.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There have been very few cases of tourists being mugged or kidnapped. Myanmar is a safe country when it comes to violent crime. Still, avoid dark and deserted areas after dark.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
The chances of terrorists trying to carry out attacks in Myanmar are moderate. Political tension and unrest are present and could erupt at any moment. Be especially careful around the borders with Thailand, Laos or China.
SCAMS RISK : HIGH
There are many scams in Myanmar and most of them involve people tricking you when handing you your money or change. There are situations where guest house owners might try and pass you damaged bills or non-exchangeable bills in change. Always double check any change you get. Some moneychangers might also try the sleight of hand tricks to either swap your good bills for damaged ones, or lower denomination notes. There have even been reports of moneychangers counting the kyats in front of you and then somehow taking some of them during the transaction. They are very skillful, so be very careful and check everything twice.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Myanmar is a safe country for women. However, if you are a woman and plan on going there alone, make sure you don't wear anything of value when walking the streets and be careful at night. Apply all precaution measures you would in your own country.
So... How Safe Is Myanmar Really?
Myanmar is actually among the safest countries to visit in the developing world, in part due to the strict Buddhist culture, but also due to government’s Draconian punishments that await all those who cause inconvenience and trouble to foreigners. When crime is concerned, you can expect pickpockets here and there but that’s about it. There is little chance that you will become a target even in the outskirts of larger cities. If you do end up in any kind of trouble, you can talk to the police: even though they are not always up to Western standards, you can count on them solving your problems.
There is the issue of begging, though, as it has become a major problem in the main tourist spots like Bago and Bagan. Children and “mothers” carrying babies can be seen everywhere and they are usually begging tourists and Westerners, since they are percieved as the ones that have money. The beggars are actually just part of larger begging syndicates so don’t feel bad just walking past them. However, if you have to give them something, be extremely cautious as your wallet can become an easy target when you get it out in plain sight.
Even though police can be counted on, you should know that most officials and other civil servants may discreetly ask you for a bribe, or expect one, or even come up with non-existen issues like missing forms, closed offices in order to extort money from you in the form of a bribe. Pretending not to understand or asking to speak to a superior usually works in these situations. But don’t worry too much as tourists are rarely targeted, even more so those of Caucasian descent.
- Visas - You can easily acquire a visa for Myanmar via internet. An ordinary tourist visa costs 50 USD and lasts for 3 months. The e-Visa service is available to over 100 nationals. . If you are not sure about your visa status, visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will let you know whether or not you need visa based on your nationality and the country you want to visit.
- Currency - Kyat is the official currency in Myanmar. ATMs that accept international cards exist and are available in most tourist areas and major cities.
- Weather - Myanmar has tropical climate, characterized by three distinct seasons in this country: the hot season that lasts from March to April. The temperatures cool off during the rainy season that lasts from May to October. The best time to visit Myanmar is during the cool season that lasts from November to February. During the hot seasons, temperatures can climb as high as 40°C while during the cool season, you can count on milder 32°C.
- Airports - Yangon International Airport, colloquially referred to as Mingaladon Airport, is the main and busiest international airport of Myanmar. It is located in Mingaladon, about 15 km north of central Yangon.
- Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to Myanmar, since it covers not only the costs of medical problems, but also theft and loss of valuables.