Is travelling to Myanmar Safe ?
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.
Safety in Myanmar
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.
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.
We recommend World Nomads or SafetyWing, depending on what kind of traveler you are.
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!