Foreign travel advice

Burma

Summary

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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to:

  • Rakhine State, except the southern townships (administrative areas similar to a borough or county) of Kyaukpyu, Ramree, Munaung, Toungup, Thandwe (including the tourist resort of Ngapali) and Gwa.
  • Paletwa township, in southern Chin State, due to active armed conflict. If you’re visiting Mount Victoria in Mindat township, you should seek advice from tour operators or guides before travel.
  • Shan State (North), except Kyaukme town, Hsipaw town, and the train line from Mandalay to Kyaukme and Hsipaw. Please note that the town of Lashio and its airport are included in the area where the FCO advise against all but essential travel.
  • Kachin State (except the towns of Myitkyina, Bhamo and Putao) due to continued risk of armed conflict. On 15 May 2018 there were 2 explosions with no casualties on the train track between Mandalay and Myitkyina.

You’re advised to be vigilant in Taunggyi (Shan State) following the discovery on 16 November 2018 of an explosive device.

Political tension and unrest could happen at short notice. You should avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings. Don’t take photographs or videos of the police, demonstrations, military installations or military personnel.

Take particular care in the border areas with China, Thailand, Bangladesh, India and Laos. The situation in ethnic states where armed groups operate is volatile. There is ongoing conflict in the north of Shan State, and in Kachin State, Karen/Kayin State and Rakhine State. There remains the possibility of violent clashes in other ethnic states. You’re advised to be vigilant in Taunggyi (Shan State) following the discovery on 16 November 2018 of an explosive device. Conflict between the Arakan Army (AA) and Burmese military continues in Northern Rakhine in four townships: Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Rathaedaung and Ponnagyun and has spread to some townships in Mrauk U.

Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Burma. You should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.

You should always take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel to any country, particularly to cover medical evacuation to another country if necessary.

Individuals with disabilities or access requirements should be prepared to face difficulties throughout Burma. Roads and pavements are often difficult to cross. Ramps and accessible facilities are rare.

UK health authorities have classified Burma as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Urban areas, particularly Yangon and Mandalay, can experience poor air quality. This may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be especially affected.

Credit and debit cards are increasingly accepted in major tourist areas but some cards don’t work. Check in advance that your card will work.

Most visits are trouble-free. If you need to contact local emergency services, call In case of emergency, dial:

  • police: 199
  • medical assistance: 192
  • firefighters: 191

You should be aware that phone operators may not speak English.

The most common types of consular assistance are related to lost passports, petty theft and road accidents.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you’re arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the British Embassy immediately. Consular support is limited in parts of Burma where embassy officials require travel permission from the Burmese government. Permission is not guaranteed. The British Embassy’s ability to deliver consular assistance, including in an emergency, may be restricted or delayed in these areas.

If you’re resident in Burma or planning to stay for a longer period, you can find advice on our Living in Burma page.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Safety and security

Political situation

Burma held parliamentary elections on 8 November 2015. The National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, won a majority of seats and formed a government in April 2016. Burma’s military retains 25% of seats in parliament as well as various other political offices. The next parliamentary elections are due in November 2020.

Burma has suffered from prolonged internal conflicts, involving a number of non-state armed groups from Burma’s ethnic States. In October 2015 the government signed a National Ceasefire Agreement with 8 (roughly half) of the armed groups. A further 2 signed in 2018. Many others have bilateral ceasefire agreements with the government. There is no formal ceasefire as yet in Kachin State. In northern Shan State, Kokang Self-Administered Zone is not under ceasefire. Even where there are ceasefires in place, the possibility of violent clashes remains in all ethnic States including Shan, Rakhine, Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Karen/Kayin, and Mon.

The political situation remains unsettled outside the central areas. Restrictions on freedom of assembly, movement and the right to form trade unions remain in place following extremely narrow legislative reforms. Restrictions on freedom of speech, movement, religion, and political activity remain, and under current laws criticism of the government can result in imprisonment, detainment and deportation. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings. Don’t take photographs or videos of the police, any demonstrations, military installations or military personnel. Importing unmanned aerial systems (drones) without prior government permission and flying them in sensitive areas such as government buildings, famous tourist sites, and religious buildings can result in criminal penalties, including jail time and the permanent confiscation of the drone. As it is rarely clear what constitutes a sensitive area, all recreational use of drones is inadvisable. If you wish to bring a drone to Burma, we strongly suggest you seek official permission from the Burmese government.

In the past, there have been acts of politically motivated violence around public holidays like Armed Forces Day (27 March) and Martyrs Day (19 July). On other anniversaries, like the 8 August 1988 uprising against the government and the September 2007 protests, you can expect to see an increase in security forces in Rangoon and elsewhere in Burma.

Crime

There are no officially issued accurate crime statistics. Anecdotal evidence suggests occasional instances of violent crime against foreigners. The most common crimes are non-violent crimes of opportunity (pickpocketing, theft of unattended possessions in public places or hotel rooms, bag snatching, gem/confidence scams). At night, it is recommended that visitors explore city sights in groups or with a partner. Thieves often attempt to distract a victim by asking questions, begging for money, selling items, or bumping/jostling. You should take extra care of your belongings and take sensible security precautions at all times.

Burma is still largely a cash-only society. Travellers, who are often required to carry large sums of local currency, should avoid displaying cash or other valuables in public. Beware of merchants offering to sell gems, gold, semi-precious stones. This could result in substantial loss of money and/or a violation of local laws. Do not purchase gems or minerals from an unlicensed source.

Local travel - destinations subject to limitations

The Ministry of Hotels, Tourism and Sport maintains a list of approved destinations. Tourists can visit Yangon, Mandalay, Bago and Irrawaddy regions without restrictions. Other destinations are subject to limitations (eg access by air or train but not by road). For more information, contact the Burmese Ministry of Tourism.

Local travel - Rakhine State

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to Rakhine State except the southern townships (administrative areas similar to a borough or county) of Kyaukpyu, Ramree, Munaung, Toungup, Thandwe (including the tourist resort of Ngapali) and Gwa. Since serious civil unrest in 2012 there have been regular outbreaks of armed conflict between different ethnic groups and the Burmese military, particularly in northern Rakhine. Current outbreaks of violence are affecting both north and central Rakhine, including Mrauk U.

Local travel - Kachin State

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to Kachin State (except the towns of Myitkyina, Bhamo and Putao) due to a continued risk of armed conflict there. If you’re travelling to Myitkyina, Bhamo and Putao, you should monitor local developments and keep in close contact with your tour operator in case the security situation there changes. The railway track between Mandalay and Myitkyina has been a target, most recently in May 2018. The Burmese authorities are currently restricting travel between Myitkyina and Bhamo: travel to and between these two towns is permitted by air only.

Local travel - Shan State

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to northern Shan State (North) except:

  • Kyaukme town
  • Hsipaw town
  • the train line (but not the road) from Mandalay to Hsipaw, through Kyaukme

Rail travel is likely to be safer than the road. This is because both the Burmese military and ethnic armed groups transport men and weapons along the roads but not on the train. Armed conflict regularly breaks out in the north of Shan State (South). Armed clashes have intensified since April 2018. You are advised to be vigilant in Taunggyi (the capital of Shan State) following the discovery on 16 November 2018 of an explosive device.

Local travel – Chin State

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to Paletwa township in southern Chin state due to active armed conflict there. If you’re visiting Mount Victoria in Mindat township you should seek advice from tour operators or guides before going.

Local travel - border areas

The Burmese government restricts travel to most border areas. Be particularly vigilant and take extra care in border areas. There is ongoing military activity close to borders with Bangladesh, Thailand, Laos, India and China especially in Shan, Karen/Kayin, Mon and Kachin States. There are occasional clashes in Karen/Kayin State (Myawaddy and Kawkareik)) and Mon State (Kyaik Mayaw). You should seek advice from guides or tour operators before travelling. Land mines also pose a threat in conflict areas. The Burmese government restricts travel to most border areas.

There are a limited number of legal crossing points, but these could close without notice:

  • Tachilek (Burma Shan State) - Mae Sai (northern Thailand border)
  • KawThoung (Burma Tanintharyi) - Ranong-Kawthoung (southern Thailand border)
  • Muse (Burma Shan State) - Ruili (China border)
  • Tamu (Burma Chin State) - Morei (India border)
  • Myawaddy (Burma Karen/Kayin State) - Mae Sot (western Thailand border).

Don’t attempt to cross any border illegally or enter restricted areas without the appropriate permissions from the Burmese authorities. Even after getting permission, you may experience difficulties with the local authorities.

Air travel

The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe. A list of recent incidents and accidents is available on the website of the Aviation Safety Network.

Airlines routinely share flight codes, meaning that airlines sometimes use aircraft from outside their own fleet. Passengers aren’t always advised in advance where this is the case.

Local flight schedules are subject to change without warning. Leave sufficient time in your travel itinerary to accommodate this.

Rail travel

Railway safety standards are significantly below those in the UK.

Road travel

Overland travel can be hazardous, particularly in the rainy season (May to October). Roads can become impassable and bridges damaged. Travel by road between many areas outside the key destinations of Yangon, Mandalay, Bago and Irrawaddy regions is restricted. Check with your tour operator or the Ministry of Hotels, Tourism and Sport before travelling.

Road safety standards are significantly lower than in the UK. Under Burmese law, the driver of a car involved in an accident with a pedestrian is always at fault. Many vehicles, including taxis and buses, are in a poor mechanical state, and serious road traffic accidents are common. Although Burma drives on the right, the majority of cars are right hand drive.

You should avoid travel where possible on the main Mandalay-Naypyitaw-Yangon road at night, due to bad lighting and poor road surfacing.

Sea and river travel

Seek local advice about where it is safe to swim or dive in the sea. River transport may not meet internationally recognised safety standards and search and rescue facilities may be limited.

During the monsoon season (normally May to October), heavy rains can cause flooding. Make sure life jackets are available and check local weather conditions before undertaking any river journey. All travellers should avoid wading, swimming or bathing in freshwater to prevent catching schistosomiasis.

Swimming

Exercise caution at beach resorts in Ngwe Saung, Chaung Tha and Ngapali as there are strong underwater currents and riptides. There are no lifeguards and drownings have occurred.

Scuba diving

Exercise caution when considering diving excursions in Burma. Rented diving equipment may not meet internationally acceptable safety standards and may not be maintained adequately.

Mobile phones and Internet

Burma’s technological infrastructure is improving rapidly and foreign visitors and residents can expect to see significant change in the near future.

International GSM roaming is now available in Burma and all local networks offer 3G and 4G. If roaming is enabled, some UK SIM cards will work and coverage is fairly reliable in the main cities. UK mobile service providers may charge especially high prices for roaming in Burma.

Many visitors travel with a spare mobile phone and buy a SIM card when they arrive (approximately 1500 Kyat – about £1). This can then be topped up as needed.

Disability

Individuals with disabilities or access requirements should be prepared to face difficulties throughout Burma. Roads and pavements are often difficult to cross. Ramps or accessible facilities are rare.

Terrorism

Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Burma. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners: government buildings, commercial premises, public transport, festivals, hotels and cinemas. You should take sensible precautions and follow the advice of the local security forces.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

If you’re arrested and convicted of a crime in Burma you can expect a long prison sentence. Pre-trial detention can also last many months.

The legal process in Burma is unpredictable, lacks transparency and is open to interference from powerful political and business interests. The investigation and trial process falls far below the standard expected in the UK. British nationals in Burma should be aware that there are limits to the assistance the British Embassy can offer to those with concerns about the fairness of their trial as we are unable to interfere in the legal processes of a host country.

The conditions in Burmese prisons are extremely poor and overcrowded. Medical facilities in prisons are also extremely poor. The UK has no prisoner transfer agreement with Burma so if you’re found guilty you can expect to serve your full prison term in Burma have your visa revoked and be deported when released.

Sexual abuse against children is a serious crime. The UK and Burmese authorities are committed to combating travelling child sex offenders. Those who commit sex offences against children abroad can also be prosecuted in the UK.

Respect religious customs when visiting Buddhist religious sites. Shorts and sleeveless tops will cause offence. You should remove shoes and socks before entering a pagoda or monastery. These and other local customs are explained on this website run by the Burmese government and Burmese Tourist Federation

Under Burmese law, insulting religion is a prosecutable offence. Insulting religion is a broad term, and can include any disrespectful depiction or image (including tattoos) of Buddha or other religious representation, or wearing any tattoo of Buddha anywhere below the waist.

Burma’s defamation laws give broad scope for individuals to bring potentially arbitrary charges which could result in criminal penalties, including a prison sentence. Foreigners have been subject to criminal investigations for acts such as posting a critical review of a hotel online.

Penalties for drug trafficking range from a minimum sentence of 15 years imprisonment and can include the death penalty.

Homosexuality is technically illegal in Burma, although these laws are rarely enforced in practice. These laws can carry punishments of up to life imprisonment and apply equally to men and women. There have been reports of police using threats of prosecution to extort bribes and allegations of arbitrary arrest and detention, although these have primarily been reported by Burmese nationals.

LGBT people are rarely open about their sexuality or gender identity publicly, and LGBT communities are more likely tolerated than accepted within Burmese society. There have nonetheless been increasingly large pride festivals that have taken place in recent years. Public displays of affection, whether heterosexual or LGBT are frowned upon in Burma’s conservative culture

International organisations have reported high rates of HIV prevalence within the LGBT community in Burma. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Burma is a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Over 800 species of animals and plants are banned from international trade and a further 30,000 are strictly controlled by CITES and EU legislation. You should consider the restrictions on the export of endangered species under CITES when deciding whether to buy exotic souvenirs, including those made from turtles.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

You will need to get a visa before you travel. You should apply at the nearest Burmese Embassy or Consulate well in advance of travelling. You can also apply online. For more information about entry requirements, contact the Burmese Embassy.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Burma.

Restrictions on entering and exiting Burma at the same border crossing

The restrictions on exiting Burma at the same border crossing from which you entered have been partially relaxed. If you enter Burma through the Tachilek (Burma Shan State), KawThoung (Burma Tanintharyi), Myawaddy (Burma Karen State) or Htee Khee-Sunaron (Burma Dawei District) border crossings you are able to depart via Yangon or Mandalay International Airport. However, if you enter Burma via the Muse (Burma Shan State) or Tamu (Burma Chin State) border crossings you must exit at the crossing from which you entered.

Regional Travel

Recent changes to visa requirements for Thailand may affect travellers wishing to make regular crossings at the land border between Burma and Thailand. for further information.

Yellow fever

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are not valid for entry into Burma. However, ETDs are accepted for exit from Burma.

Health

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

Many pharmaceutical products for sale in Burma are believed to be counterfeit.

Competent medical advice and treatment may not be available outside Yangon and Mandalay, and any services provided will not be to the standard of those in the UK. You may require expensive medical evacuation costing up to tens of thousands of pounds. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. Avoid intrusive examinations, including emergency dental work, due to irregular hygiene standards and the danger of infection, particularly by hepatitis B and C and HIV/AIDS. Psychological and psychiatric services are also limited.

Cash payment is often required prior to receiving medical treatment in Burma. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and/or repatriation. The UK Government can’t pay for medical expenses overseas.

Air pollution can occur in major urban areas. This may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be especially affected.

Cases of cholera have been reported in some areas of Burma. Poor sanitation and eating contaminated food can increase the risk of diarrheal illnesses. Drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.

Dengue fever is present in Burma, including in the regions of Yangon and Mandalay. You should take appropriate precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitos.

There is a risk of Zika virus in Burma. Pregnant women should consider avoiding travel. All travellers should avoid mosquito bites particularly between dawn and dusk.

Japanese Encephalitis is present in Burma. The virus is spread by mosquitoes and can be fatal.

There have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in domestic poultry in Burma. While the risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low, you should avoid any contact with domestic, caged or wild birds, and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.

Cases of Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection, reported in Burma. There is no vaccine or medication to prevent Schistosomiasis. All travellers should avoid wading, swimming or bathing in freshwater. As the infection may cause no symptoms, all travellers who may have been exposed to Schistosomiasis should have a medical assessment.

Natural disasters

Earthquakes

Burma is subject to frequent earthquakes and tremors of varying magnitude. 

The Earthquake Track website lists recent seismic activity. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Cyclones

The cyclone season in Burma normally runs from April to October. You can monitor the progress of tropical cyclones on the website of the World Meteorological Organisation. Floods and landslides may occur. Check local weather reports before travelling, particularly in coastal areas.

See our tropical cyclones page for advice about what to do if you’re caught up in a storm.

Money

You should expect to rely on cash for most of your stay (preferably US dollars). Visitors bringing in excess of $10,000 (or equivalent) in foreign currency should declare this to Customs on arrival or risk facing imprisonment.

Once in country it’s easy to exchange US dollars into Kyats and exchange rates are generally fair. Due to concerns over counterfeit money, dollars with the letters AB and CB at the start of the serial number (top left-hand corner of the note) aren’t always accepted. Notes with pen marks, folds or tears are also not accepted.

An increasing number of hotels, restaurants and shops now accept credit and debit cards, but there’s widespread distrust of electronic payment and banking. If you intend to pay for hotels or restaurants with a credit or debit card, you should phone ahead and confirm that this will be possible. Many vendors will charge a high service fee for paying by card.

ATMs are now widely available but aren’t always reliable and you should monitor your transactions regularly. Western Union operates for inward transfer of funds via Burmese banks.

  • Avoid using ATMs in exposed locations – opt for ATMs in banks and shopping centres instead.
  • Check ATMs for skimming devices before use.
  • If you use ATM, debit or credit cards, closely monitor your bank transaction records.
  • Report any theft promptly to local police.

Carry enough cash to cover all of your expenses while in Burma. Credit cards are not widely accepted. Even where credit card facilities do exist, internet connections may be too slow to enable credit cards to be a reliable payment method. Traveller’s cheques are never accepted and debit cards may not work for direct purchases. It’s possible to find some internationally linked ATMs in Burma, but the daily withdrawal limits are low and the machines can often be out of service. Neither cash advances via credit or debit card nor cheque-cashing services are available.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.