Myanmar has recently been brought to light as the hidden gem of Southeast Asia. After being closed to foreign tourism for more than 60 years, Myanmar has recently opened up, showing the world all the beauty it has to offer.
Gleaming pagodas, bustling cities, pristine beaches, and rich culture, Myanmar is an adventurous traveler’s dream. The people are kind, the landscapes are magical, and it’s an opportunity to travel off the beaten path — something you may be aching for after tourists flooded Thailand. That being said, the country also has a violent history, much of which has carried over into today.
The question of whether Myanmar is safe has come up time and time again with the country’s 70-year long civil war, persecution of religious groups, raging opium trade, and landmines dotting borders. This has raised a legitimate concern as to whether it’s safe to visit Myanmar and made the idea of traveling here daunting to most.
Almost the entire Adventure in You team has traveled to Myanmar and had nothing but good experiences. As such, here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know when it comes to safety in Myanmar and ways to make your trip safe and unforgettable.
- 1 Safety in Myanmar
- 2 Top Tips for Staying Safe in Myanmar
Safety in Myanmar
Overall, is Myanmar safe to visit? The answer to this question is YES!
In fact, we would encourage you to visit now before a further influx of tourists ruins the authenticity of this beautiful country.
That being said, there are things you should know when it comes to visiting Myanmar in terms of staying safe for the duration of your trip.
Areas of Myanmar to Avoid
While Myanmar has opened up to tourism in recent years, there are still certain areas of the country where foreign visitors are barred from visiting. The last thing you want is to end up in a part of the country where there’s on-going civil war and fighting or land riddled with mines.
Places you CANNOT visit are the northern, eastern, and southern parts of the Shan State, the Kachin State, Rakhine State, and southern Chin. This is where the majority of Myanmar’s fighting happens between the military and ethnic organizations — something you definitely do not want to be wrapped up in.
While these entire areas have foreign travel bans, you may occasionally find certain towns that are open to visitors. It’s recommended that if you wish to visit these towns that you proceed with caution. Always contact a local agency first and get multiple opinions about whether or not you should carry on with your visit.
Other areas of Myanmar to be wary of are border crossings. This is especially the case with the borders between Thailand, China and Laos. Never attempt to cross the border on your own. Besides a variety of hazards such as landmines and snakes, you could be making your way into places you aren’t supposed to be in which will land you with some serious trouble.
Safety Tips for Female Travelers
While Myanmar is generally safe for foreign tourists, female travelers may be under more scrutiny than males, typically surrounding dress.
To avoid drawing too much attention to yourself, remember to cover up whenever going outside. Even if it’s hot, throw on a pair of lightweight pants and make sure you’re wearing something that covers your shoulders. Also try to avoid tight clothing (like leggings) which will bring on some stares.
I got a lot of uncomfortable looks strolling around in a pair of shorts and a tank top — a mistake I wouldn’t repeat!
Dressing modestly is really the biggest thing when it comes to being a female traveler in Myanmar. You’ll find that it’s actually quite a safe place to be (even on your own), and while people may look at you on the street, it’s more because they’re unaccustomed to seeing solo female travelers rather than anything malicious.
When traveling around the country, try to get in with other local women. Stick close to them on the train or bus to avoid scrutiny, and strike up a conversation. Who knows? These local women could be your new besties!
One last tip for female travelers in Myanmar is to stock up on sanitary products before heading over! You’ll be hard-pressed to find anything in Myanmar (especially outside of the large cities), so be sure to be prepared beforehand.
Safety Tips for Solo Travelers
Generally, solo travel in Myanmar is totally cool — in fact, it’s a great way to see the country on a deeper, more reflective level.
That being said, it may be a bit lonely to be a solo traveler in Myanmar. There aren’t a ton of hostels to meet people, and there aren’t loads of tourists in the first place, so you may find it a bit more desolate than other places in Southeast Asia.
My one big word of caution to anyone traveling on their own in Myanmar is to be wary of getting wasted on your own! Drinking in Myanmar is fun as there are loads of beer stations and BBQ street restaurants that come alive after the sun goes down, but the last thing you want is to be navigating busy Yangon in the dead of the night completely drunk. Trust me on this one!
Safety Tips for Families
While you can certainly travel to Myanmar with a family, you may find it a hard place to navigate with small children. It’s not impossible, but there are several safety factors to keep in mind.
First off, Myanmar doesn’t have the same health and hygiene standards as Western countries or other surrounding countries in Asia. As such, it can be risky traveling with children who may be prone to sticking their dirty little fingers in their mouths as it makes them more susceptible to hygiene-related illnesses.
There are also street hazards like stray dogs which can get wild and frankly, dangerous, especially for children who may be used to seeing dogs as pets. As you move outside of the cities, you also have to deal with the likes of snakes which are easily hidden, especially from little eyes.
Finally, poverty in Myanmar is rampant and may be challenging for children, especially as much of the poverty surrounds young people, as well. You’ll see kids begging on the street just about everywhere you go, and often times mothers with babies, too, which can be difficult for your own youngins to see.
So all of this isn’t to stay that traveling as a family to Myanmar is impossible. It’s simply more challenging than traveling on your own as adults. Consider booking an organized tour that’s family-friendly to help navigate a country that’s a little rough around the edges. It’ll still be a rewarding experience, but with much less stress.
Common Scams in Myanmar
In terms of street life, Myanmar is pretty safe. The penalties for stealing, especially from foreigners, are intense, so you don’t really need to worry about anyone running off with your bag. Of course, keep your belongings (especially money) close to your body, but you should be more worried about the common scams targeting tourists.
The biggest thing you should watch out for are the commission-based scams in Myanmar. This is when a seemingly helpful local offers assistance and leads you to a hotel, restaurant, shop or other spot where they will get a commission from you spending money.
While it’s reasonably harmless, you may find that these commission-based places are not where you want to be, so be diligent about knowing where you’re going and wary about local help.
HOWEVER, the people in Myanmar are so unworldly friendly and there are plenty of locals who are just trying to offer genuine advice. Don’t count it out on the basis of being afraid they’re trying to make a quick buck. Check out the place and if it doesn’t suit you, find another.
Gems on the Street
Myanmar is known for having a great wealth of natural resources, many of which are precious stones. While you can purchase gems throughout Myanmar, avoid buying them on the street where they are often fake! Hit up a gem market or a trusted shop to get the real goods.
Top Tips for Staying Safe in Myanmar
Here are some general tips for safety around Myanmar.
Be Careful on the Road
This tip is useful both when you’re in a car and trying to cross the street.
Traffic in Myanmar can be absolutely hectic which is why it’s best to avoid driving a car on your own. To get around, take local transportation like taxis or hire a private driver. They can navigate the craziness in a way that’s impossible for foreigners so leave the driving to the locals. Just remember to buckle up!
Also be cautious when crossing the road, especially in Yangon. You never know when a car is going to come flying out from where you least expect it so be vigilant and look both ways!
Politics are Taboo
While in Myanmar, avoid talking politics, even with people you know (like a tour guide or hotel owner). Politics are taboo and everyone has a different stance on things like the military, civil war, government, and ethnic genocides.
The fastest way to get involved in a conflict is to talk about politics and it can frankly be a dangerous subject to approach. Keep your opinions and questions to yourself and research it later on.
Stay on the Path (with a Local!)
If you wish to trek in Myanmar (which is highly recommended), staying on the marked paths is paramount to your safety. Not only that, but you should also trek with a local guide who knows the area well and can warn you of hazards.
The last thing you want to do is be bitten by a snake out in the wilderness or get lost off the trail!
Mind the Animals
I’ve touched on this several times throughout the article but be SO careful when it comes to animals in Myanmar.
The dogs can be extremely aggressive, especially when in groups. They may look cute but you don’t want to return home with a raging case of rabies. Avoid at all costs.
Also be wary of snakes. This is not only out in the wild, but in cities like Bagan as well. The warm, dusty climate is especially appealing to cobras, so watch where you walk. Seriously.
Finally, monkeys. If you’ve traveled around Southeast Asia, you know how vicious monkeys can get, so also avoid them at all costs. DO NOT feed them under any circumstances, and hide any valuables like cellphones, sunglasses, and shiny jewelry when they’re nearby.
While in Myanmar, it’s of the utmost importance to respect Buddha. Burmese people are extremely strict about Buddha’s image and disrespecting it in any way can lead you to a world of trouble. Foreigners have been arrested and deported over Buddha tattoos and imagery deemed inappropriate, so be on your guard.
If you do happen to have a tattoo of Buddha, cover it up always. Don’t wear clothing depicting him or leave the country with excessive statues or figurines. All of this can be considered extremely disrespectful and you will get in legal trouble for it.
Get Travel Insurance!
Finally, before heading to Myanmar, be sure to purchase travel insurance, which you can keep in your “back pocket” in case of an emergency. It will get you out of virtually any jam you may have and is a great safety net to fall back on when you need it.
After reading this, hopefully you realize that it IS in fact safe to travel to Myanmar, and so recommended, as well. It may seem like there’s a lot to keep in mind when it comes to staying safe in the country, but overall, it’s well worth it when you’re exploring lands that are vastly unknown.
Myanmar is such a special place and after visiting, it will always hold a deep place in my heart. It’s eye-opening, historically and culturally stimulating, and filled with the best people in the world.
Just be sure to take the necessary precautions when it comes to your safety, and you’ll be in for the trip of a lifetime!
Headed to Myanmar? Our guides can help!
- Where to Go in Myanmar: 9 Places You Must Visit in 2020
- 10 Festivals in Myanmar You Should Experience
- Why You Need to Visit Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago Now
Inspired? Pin It!