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Myanmar travel guide

About Myanmar

Once a pariah state, Myanmar – previously known as Burma – is fast becoming the must-see destination in Southeast Asia, helped by an incredible array of tourist sights: golden stupas as tall as skyscrapers, ancient ruins, fascinating hill tribes, unexplored jungles, peaceful beach resorts, legions of monks, and mesmerising cities made legendary by writers like Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell.

Ruled by a secretive military junta, Burma was closed for decades to the outside world. When it finally opened, travellers were initially restricted to a handful of locations: the magnificent temples of Bagan, the floating villages of Inle Lake, the monasteries of Mandalay, and Yangon, the former capital, with its colonial relics and towering pagodas.

That was then. With the end of the travel boycott called by Aung San Suu Kyi, travellers are queuing up to visit Myanmar, captivated by the idea of seeing what Asia was like before the tourists arrived. Nevertheless, the government still controls where visitors can go and what they can see, and many people have qualms that their tourist dollars help fund the military, which stands accused of widespread abuses.

Those who do visit discover a fascinating, and famously friendly culture on the threshold between tradition and modernity. Monasteries are the foundation of Burmese society and even in rapidly expanding Yangon life is focused on Buddhist rituals. The sense of devotion is tangible at the awe-inspiring Shwedagon Paya, which towers over Yangon like an enormous golden pillar.

As Myanmar has opened up to the outside world, travellers have pushed beyond the Bagan-Inle-Mandalay triangle, visiting peaceful outposts like Kalaw, Hsipaw and Kengtung and trekking to remote tribal villages. Smaller numbers make it to the jungles of northern Myanmar or the rain-drenched ports of the far south and west. Myanmar even has its own patch of the Himalaya, accessed from remote Putao in the far north.

Through it all, the mighty Irrawaddy River snakes like a twisting Burmese python, offering some of the most atmospheric river journeys in Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, Myanmar remains a controversial destination, promising significant challenges as well as rewarding experiences.

Key facts

Area:

676,578 sq km (261,227 sq miles).

Population:

54,363,426 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

83.2 per sq km.

Capital:

Nay Pyi Taw.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

Acting President Myint Swe since 2021, transferred all authority to Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.

Head of government:

Acting President Myint Swe since 2021, transferred all authority to Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.

Travel Advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Areas where FCDO advises against travel

Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against FCDO advice.

Areas where FCDO advises against all travel

FCDO advises against all travel to:

  • Chin State
  • Kachin State
  • Kayah State
  • Kayin Sate
  • Mon State
  • northern and central Rakhine State
  • Sagaing and Magway regions
  • Tanintharyi Region, excluding Myeik township, and the archipelago and townships south of Tanintharyi township
  • Shan State North
  • North Mandalay Region; the townships north of Mandalay City and Pyin Oo Lwin
  • East of the Yangon-Mandalay Expressway in Bago region

Areas where FCDO advises against all but essential travel

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to:

  • Shan State South and East
  • Mandalay Region
  • Tanintharyi Region south of Tanintharyi township
  • southern Rakhine State
  • the rest of Bago region

The conflict is Myanmar is increasingly volatile. The security situation may deteriorate at short notice. Exercise caution, and consider any travel plans carefully.

Find out more about why FCDO advises against travel.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:

  • advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
  • information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Myanmar set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Myanmar Embassy in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

On arrival in Myanmar, you must show printed proof of travel insurance that covers COVID-19. You will also need to submit a health declaration form, which will usually have been given to you during your flight.

Passport validity requirements

To enter Myanmar, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the day you arrive.

Visa requirements

British nationals must apply for a visa to enter Myanmar. If you have any queries about visas or entry requirements, you should check with your nearest Myanmar embassy.

If you overstay your visa, you will be liable to pay a fine and could face detention.

Applying for a visa

You can apply for a tourist visa online.

To apply for a business e-visa you need to be sponsored by a registered Myanmar company or a registered Chamber of Commerce association. Submit the proof of the invitation with your visa application in the form of a letter personally addressed to you, along with a copy of the company’s registration certificate. The letter must state the purpose and timeframe of your visit.

Non-governmental organisations and international non-governmental organisations are not eligible to sponsor visas.

Vaccination requirements

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Myanmar guide.

If you are arriving directly from certain countries in Africa and Latin America, you must show a yellow fever certificate to enter Myanmar.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Myanmar. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Importing unmanned aerial systems (drones) without prior permission from the authorities is potentially illegal.

Taking money into Myanmar

There is significant disruption to banking services. You may find that some ATMs are out of operation. Some bank branches may be closed, and some banks have limits to daily withdrawals. Electronic payments and transfers are mostly working, but many commercial outlets will only accept cash.

Expect to rely on cash for most of your stay. If you plan to bring more than 10,000 US dollars-worth of any foreign currency, you must declare this to customs on arrival or risk imprisonment. 

If you have to pay a visa fine or for excess baggage on departure, you will need to pay in US dollars.

Once you’re in Myanmar it can be difficult to change US dollars into kyats. Many moneychangers are closing due to pressure from the authorities. Notes are typically inspected very carefully.

Due to concerns over counterfeit money, exchange counters may refuse dollars with the letters AB and CB at the start of the serial number (top left-hand corner of the note).

Check your US dollars are in good condition, with no pen marks, folds or tears. Exchange counters prefer high-denomination bills.

If you want to pay for hotels or restaurants with a credit or debit card, phone ahead to check this will be possible.

Terrorism

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.  

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Myanmar

Terrorist attacks in Myanmar cannot be ruled out.

Attacks could be indiscriminate including in places visited by foreigners. Stay aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of trusted local sources.

Political situation

In 2021, the Myanmar military took control of the country by force and declared a state of emergency. There has been widespread political violence involving the deaths of hundreds of ordinary people and active clashes between armed actors.

After the executions of high-profile political prisoners in July 2022, tensions across the country have increased. There have been a number of explosions in public places. Visitors to Myanmar should be extra vigilant.

There is a higher likelihood of opposition attacks after sunset and an increased presence of security forces on occasions of national significance, including:   

  • Myanmar National Day (4 January)
  • the anniversary of the 2021 coup (1 February)
  • Union Day (12 February)
  • Peasants Day (2 March)
  • Armed Forces Day (27 March)
  • Martyrs’ Day (19 July)
  • the anniversary of the execution of political prisoners (23 to 25 July)
  • the lapsing of the state of emergency (1 August)
  • the 8888 uprising (8 August)

Some areas in Myanmar are under martial law; others have curfews or ‘stay at home’ orders. In Yangon, a number of townships have a curfew from 1am to 3am. Ensure you are aware of local rules and restrictions before you arrive in an area.

Opposition activists regularly detonate small-scale improvised explosive devices across the country. While small-scale, these devices are becoming increasingly sophisticated and the attacks more deadly. The main targets are:

  • military and government buildings
  • police stations
  • businesses, hotels and restaurants linked to the military, or seen as such

There have also been attacks on schools and hospitals.

Be cautious and avoid all demonstrations, large crowds and political gatherings. Do not attempt to photograph any gatherings. If you ignore military instructions or curfews, you could be detained and, if you’re convicted, you could face a lengthy prison sentence. Curfews are in place nationwide. Local wards may unexpectedly change rules and curfew times, so keep up to date with local rules.

Crime

The most common crimes in Myanmar are non-violent crimes of opportunity, including:

  • bag snatching
  • gem or confidence scams
  • pickpocketing
  • theft of unattended possessions in public places or hotel rooms

Myanmar is largely a cash society. Make sure you have access to your cash, but avoid displaying it or other valuables in public.

Protecting your belongings

Thieves often distract their victims by asking questions, begging for money, offering items for sale, or simply bumping or jostling. Take extra care of your belongings and be wary of strangers who approach you.

Scams

Be wary of merchants offering to sell gems, gold or semi-precious stones. You could lose your money or get drawn into an illegal activity. Do not buy gems or minerals from an unlicensed source.

Be cautious of job offers that appear too good to be true in Myanmar and neighbouring countries. There are cyber scam centres operating in eastern Myanmar, particularly in the Myawaddy district in eastern Kayin and Tachileik township in eastern Shan. Victims are trafficked into Myanmar to carry out online scams. They are held in poor living conditions and subjected to severe mistreatment. Some victims have had their passports confiscated, and held to ransom.

FCDO is aware of fraudulent emails being sent by individuals claiming to work for British firms seeking loans to advance their business interests in Myanmar. These have falsely stated they are acting on the advice of the British Embassy. See our pages on fraud and financial scams for further guidance.

Landmines

The risk of landmines in rural areas is serious, particularly in northern and central Rakhine, northern Shan and Kachin states. There is evidence of landmine use having spread to other areas since the coup in 2021. Some areas with known mines are marked by signs, but this practice is not widespread. Be extremely cautious if you must leave the main roads in these areas.

Mobile phones and internet

The Myanmar authorities periodically cut off access to the internet and have blocked some websites.

Many visitors travel with a spare mobile phone and buy a SIM card for a nominal fee when they arrive. They can top up as needed.

Laws and cultural differences

Detention and arrest

There is a risk of arbitrary detention and arrest, particularly for journalists and human rights activists. The criminal justice process followed in such cases falls below international standards. Myanmar does not recognise dual nationality. If you are a dual national with Myanmar nationality you will be treated as a Myanmar national by local authorities.

In February, Myanmar authorities announced that Myanmar men and women could be required, by law, to serve in the armed forces. Length of service can depend on criteria such as age, occupation, and whether there is a state of emergency. Myanmar does not recognise dual nationality. If you are a British-Myanmar dual national, holding a British passport may not exempt you from this law. The plans for implementation of this law remain unclear.

Myanmar’s defamation laws give broad scope for individuals to bring 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.

If you’re arrested and convicted of a crime in Myanmar, you can expect a long prison sentence. Conditions in detention are extremely poor. Pre-trial detention can also last many months.

The legal process in Myanmar 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. 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.

Religious customs

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.

Under Myanmar law, insulting religion is a prosecutable offence. Insulting religion is a broad term and can include any disrespectful depiction or image of Buddha or other religious representation. This includes tattoos of Buddha.

Illegal drugs

Penalties for drug trafficking include a prison sentence of a minimum 15 years or even the death penalty.

For possession of illegal drugs in Myanmar, you could get a fine and a prison sentence of a minimum 5 years to a maximum of 10 years, regardless of the quantity of drugs.

Photography and drones

Do not take photographs or videos of the police, demonstrations, military installations or military personnel.

Using a drone around government buildings, religious buildings or even tourist sites can result in criminal penalties, including prison sentences. If you wish to bring and use a drone in Myanmar, get permission from the Myanmar authorities.

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Myanmar for men and women, although in practice these laws are not consistently enforced. If convicted, the punishment can be up to life imprisonment. There have been reports of police using threats of prosecution to extort bribes. This is alleged to include arbitrary arrest and detention.

Public attitudes towards LGBT+ people can be mixed. Up until recently, there have been increasingly large Pride festivals and growing visibility of the LGBT+ community, including gay bars and clubs. Public displays of affection, whether heterosexual or LGBT+, are frowned upon in Myanmar culture.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Wildlife, animal products and souvenirs

Myanmar 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 legislation. The restrictions cover some exotic souvenirs, such as those made from turtle shell.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Myanmar, see information on driving abroad.

You’ll need to have both the 1968 international driving permit (IDP) and your UK driving licence with you in the car. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel. You can buy an IDP in person from some UK post offices – find your nearest post office branch that offers this service.

Overland travel can be hazardous, particularly in the rainy season from May to October. Roads can become impassable and bridges are sometimes damaged. Travel outside the key destinations of Yangon, Mandalay, Bago and Irrawaddy regions is often restricted.

Road safety standards are significantly lower than in the UK. Serious road accidents are common. Under Myanmar 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 condition. Although driving is on the right in Myanmar, the majority of cars are right-hand drive.

Rail travel

Railway safety standards are significantly below those in the UK.

Sea and river travel

River transport may not meet internationally recognised safety standards and search and rescue facilities may be limited.

During the monsoon season from May to October, heavy rains can cause flooding. Make sure life jackets are available if you travel by boat or ferry, and check local weather conditions before undertaking a river journey.

Get local advice about where it is safe to swim or dive. Bathing in fresh water carries a risk of catching schistosomiasis.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Cyclones

Myanmar normally experiences cyclones between mid-April and mid-May, and during October and November. You can monitor the progress of tropical cyclones on the website of the World Meteorological Organization. Floods and landslides may occur. Check local weather reports before travelling, particularly in coastal areas.

Earthquakes

There is a risk of earthquakes and tremors. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake or tsunami.  

This section has safety advice for regions of Myanmar. It only covers regions where FCDO has specific advice. You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice and safety and security advice.

Border areas

Myanmar has suffered from prolonged internal conflicts, involving a number of ethnic armed organisations in the country’s border areas. Violence is severe and the situation is unpredictable in most ethnic states and border areas.

The Myanmar authorities restrict travel to most border areas. There are active military operations involving the use of air strikes, artillery bombardments and ground troops.

FCDO advises against all travel to:

  • Mon State
  • Kachin State
  • Chin State
  • Kayah State
  • Kayin Sate
  • Sagaing and Magway regions
  • northern and central Rakhine State
  • Tanintharyi Region, excluding Myeik township, and the archipelago and townships south of Tanintharyi township
  • Shan State North
  • North Mandalay Region – the townships north of Mandalay City and Pyin Oo Lwin
  • East of the Yangon-Mandalay Expressway in Bago region

In October 2023, ethnic armed organisations launched a military offensive in Shan State North. Travellers on the Mandalay-Lashio road should remain vigilant and exercise caution due to a heightened risk of attacks – particularly after dark.

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to:

  • Shan State South and East
  • Mandalay Region
  • Tanintharyi Region south of Tanintharyi township
  • southern Rakhine State
  • the rest of Bago region

Yangon Region

While FCDO no longer advises against all but essential travel to Yangon Region, there is still a heightened risk.

The security situation remains volatile and can change at short notice. If you are visiting Yangon Region, remain vigilant, exercise caution and seek local advice, especially if travelling to townships which are under martial law. The townships under martial law are subject to change and include:

  • Hlaing Thayar
  • Shwe Pyithar
  • North Okkalapa
  • North Dagon
  • South Dagon
  • Dagon Seakkan

Security incidents in Yangon, like in the rest of Myanmar, continue primarily to target military locations and personnel affiliated to the military. Attacks may affect civilians and bystanders, including in areas regularly frequented by foreign nationals. This may include hotels, restaurants and accommodation complexes. Military installations, such as checkpoints, are also targets.

If you encounter a threatening or intimidating situation, do not try to make your way through it. Turn around and move to safety.

Yangon-Mandalay Expressway

There are recent reports of attacks on the Yangon-Mandalay Expressway and National Highway 1 that links Yangon to Mandalay. Attacks have included the use of landmines and improvised explosive devices. There is an increased risk of attacks after dark, and an unofficial curfew is in place. Take care and use these roads during daylight only.

Police and military checkpoints

If you travel in Myanmar, you are likely to pass through police or military checkpoints. Always carry your passport containing your visa.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Dial 192 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccinations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip check: 

Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Myanmar. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.  

Health risks you could face in Myanmar include: 

  • schistosomiasis – a parasitic infection caught in river water
  • Zika virus
  • dengue

Medication

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Prescriptions from the UK are not accepted in pharmacies in Myanmar. Pharmaceutical products for sale could be counterfeit.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare in Myanmar

The Myanmar public health sector is under severe strain. Private medical facilities continue to operate. In areas where an overnight curfew is in place, such as Yangon, you may struggle to access emergency healthcare during the night.

You’re unlikely to find competent medical advice and treatment easily outside Yangon and Mandalay, and any services provided will not be to the standard of those in the UK. Evacuation is likely to be necessary for serious illness or injury.

You’ll usually need to make cash payments up front to get medical treatment in Myanmar. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. The UK government cannot pay for medical expenses overseas.

FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Myanmar.

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Myanmar.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Myanmar

Ambulance: 192         

Fire: 191

Police: 199

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Myanmar and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Yangon.

You can also contact FCDO online.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

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.

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