Because of its many ethnic groups, Myanmar is a very diverse country. However, travelling to this beautiful country involves taking a lot into consideration. In this article, we list the most important things every traveller to Myanmar needs to know, from how to put your feet up to applying for the visa.
1: Book a hotel that is registered
When filling out the visa application form, you will be asked to indicate where you will be staying. This must be a registered accommodation, regardless of the type (hotel, hostel, motel, etc.). This is because the accommodation must be approved by the Ministry of Tourism in Myanmar. As a result, sometimes venues can be fully booked, especially during the peak season, so book the right type of accommodation in time to avoid this kind of problem. One should also be aware that hotels in Myanmar can be surprisingly expensive. A hotel that costs $20 per night in 2011 can easily cost more than double that nowadays.
2: Plan extra time for travelling around
The infrastructure in Myanmar can be leave a lot to be desired in some areas. Although the country has spent quite a bit of money in recent years to improve the road network, the roads in many places are not paved. A journey that takes half an hour on a map can easily take an hour in practice. So plan extra time if you plan to travel through the country by car. Public transport in Myanmar has improved considerably in recent years. In the past, the only practical option to travel around the country was by car, but nowadays, you can also take the bus.
3: Do not get behind the wheel yourself
It may seem like a great idea: getting behind the wheel yourself to travel through Myanmar by car. In many countries, this is the most normal thing in the world. Not so in Myanmar. It is strongly discouraged to drive by yourself in the country. This has several reasons. One reason is, as mentioned above, the roads are often of poor quality, especially compared to what you are used to in the UK or Europe. Secondly, there are traffic rules that are very difficult to follow, unless you have driven in the country before. Also keep in mind that people drive on the right side of the road, but the steering wheel in the cars is also on the right side. For someone who is not used to this, it can quickly lead to accidents. Therefore, it is almost always recommended renting a car with a driver.
4: Know where you can travel to
In many countries, people are used to being able to travel anywhere in the country. The only hurdle is how much time you have to spend. In Myanmar, however, special rules apply to a number of areas. These are areas that the Myanmar government considers problematic. This concerns locations in Kachin and Rakhine, among others. To travel there, special permission is required from the Ministry of Home Affairs or the Ministry of Tourism. Without special permission, you will receive a fine for being there.
5: Apply for a Myanmar visa online
For a trip to Myanmar, it is mandatory to apply for a visa. There are only a very limited number of countries whose citizens may travel visa-free to Myanmar. These are mostly other Asian countries. However, this does not mean that a visit to the embassy is necessary. UK and EU travellers can apply for their visa online. The Myanmar visa is valid for 90 days. During this period, you may stay in Myanmar for a maximum of 28 consecutive days. The visa is good for one trip to Myanmar, even if the maximum duration of stay or validity is not exceeded.
6: Do not mention political subjects
Myanmar has a complex political past. From 1962 to 2011, the population lived under the oppressive military junta, isolating the country internationally. From 2011, the country slowly opened up to the outside world, causing a true tourism boom. Recently, however, a coup dʼétat took place, making the political climate in Myanmar very unstable. Although it may seem interesting to discuss such topics with the locals, this is usually not appreciated. For a long time it was strictly forbidden to speak ill of the government, and even now there are stories of people being arrested for this.
7: Do not give money to children
In Myanmar, one often encounters children on the street begging for some money. It can be very difficult to turn them away, but in many cases it is the right thing to do. Giving money can have unforeseen consequences. Many times, children are exploited by gangs to cheat sympathetic tourists out of money. In such cases, the child sees little or nothing of the money. It can also give children the impression that this is a realistic source of income and cause a chain reaction in the local community. If you want to donate money, it is better to do so through projects that benefit the whole community.
8: Make as little physical contact as possible and watch your feet
In the West we are used to shaking hands, but in Myanmar people greet each other by slightly bowing their heads or simply smiling. Physical contact is less common in Myanmar than in the West. According to Buddhist teaching, the head is the most sacred part of the body. Therefore, never touch the head of another person; this is considered very rude. It is also impolite to point your feet at another person. The feet, unlike the head, are the most impure parts of the body, and this is considered a gross insult. Also, when sitting down, pay attention to the placement of your feet.