Is it Safe to Travel to Myanmar…and should you?
The ongoing internal conflict in Myanmar has had disastrous effects on the country’s tourism influx and, although it is perfectly safe for foreign tourists to visit, many potential visitors are still hesitant about booking a tour. So, we take a closer look at the problems plaguing the country and aim to dispel any fears you may have: travelling to Myanmar, right now, is perfectly safe. And, perhaps more importantly, should you?
Most of the country is still considered safe by OUR governments
When trying to ascertain the safety levels of a particular destination, it’s important to focus on the details and the official recommendations, rather than succumb to media hype. Getting swept away along with incorrect or generalised reporting can have disastrous consequences, not only for the country’s inhabitants (many of whom rely on the tourist industry to survive) but also for potential visitors. If you’re reading this, it’s safe to say you have an interest in discovering this truly remarkable country and missing out on the experience does you (and Myanmar) a great disservice.
According to SmartTraveller, a website operated by the Australian Department of Foreign Affair and Trade, the conflict in the country is exceptionally localised, with the highest degree of caution reserved from border areas near China and India and, particularly, the Rakhine State bordering Bangladesh.
The Myanmar Government restricts travel to these regions and advises travellers to restrict road travel, if possible, outside of the tourist highlights. We urge you to follow the guidelines set out not only by the local government but also foreign ones, including the UK Foreign Office.
All of them still state that normal travel safety precautions should be taken when travelling through most of the country and that the tourist hot-spots, the so-called ‘green zones’, have been unaffected by the recent conflict. Most visitors are enjoying trouble-free visits through Myanmar and the most common reasons for requiring consular assistance are due to petty theft and loss of passport.
Conflict is far from the tourist hot-spots – it’s still safe to enjoy a visit
As you can see on the above map, tourist destinations like Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake, Nay Pyi Taw and the cruise route along the Irrawaddy River are safe to visit and there have been no reports of tourists having difficulties related to the military conflict of the country’s border regions. As in most situations of this kind, the popular tourist centres remain unaffected and travelling to these destinations and their surrounding areas is as safe as it’s always been.
“We are at Inle Lake and it is fabulous. We have seen so many different crafts and the area is very diverse. All good. We are getting around in these boats. A nice way to travel. The View Point Hotel at Inle lake was awesome. Photo- Ladies making cigars, all done sitting.The ladies with long neck was on Myanmar. Thailand border. ”
— Sue and Doug, Sydney, November 2017
The one main consequence felt by those visiting is that they’re finding locals exceptionally friendly, open and helpful. Fearful of being once again plunged into international isolation and anonymity has made local Burmese, a normally already-friendly lot, even more hospitable. Whenever possible, we employ local private tour operators – as opposed to government-run agencies – to ensure your tourist dollars reach those who need them most: locals, most of whom can do nothing about the conflict in their country’s border regions.
The moral question of visiting Myanmar
Events over the last two years have dealt a major blow to Myanmar’s reputation and have yet again plunged the country into international controversy, something it had fought hard to overcome for decades. Tourist flow had only just started to reach the Rakhine State, for example, a region which, right now, is a no-go zone. Ironically enough, the benefits of international tourism – and increase in dollar flow – had just started to dissipate antagonism and conflict in the area. Years of sanctions and tourist boycott had caused a great deal of suffering among ordinary people.
For many foreigners, however, visiting Myanmar has now become a moral question and although the initial instinct is to boycott the country, it is important to understand a few facts. Ordinary Burmese citizens, of different creeds and ethnicities, have been suffering a great deal (directly and indirectly) from the latest downturn in the tourist flow. People here are desperate to preserve their country’s reputation and strive to get the message out that ‘YES! It is safe to visit!’ Governments worldwide agree: boycotting Myanmar only helps to further damage the country and its people. A severe decrease in tourism flow will undoubtedly, and eventually, cause countrywide job losses, possibly inciting animosity against the Rohingya minority. Whilst international pressure on the local government mounts it is important to understand that visiting Myanmar supports everyone there, including Rohingya Muslims. Keeping away, on the other hand, does not help them at all.
“We have thoroughly enjoyed every minute in Myanmar. What a wonderful country, full of history, religion, pagodas and beautiful people. Our guides and drivers have been exceptional and a delight to spend time with. They have also been very generous with their time, knowledge sharing and in spoiling us with treats along the way. We have dined in traditional tea houses with the locals and the ‘best restaurants in town’ thanks to our guides. We have learnt so much about Buddhism and monks and visited some truly spectacular sights. Accommodation wise we have been very pleased with the standard of properties and service. Everything was wonderful, modern, traditional, friendly and helpful staff, good locations, etc ”
— Mr and Mrs Cumming, Sydney, October 2017
Our tours of Myanmar include air-travel between all the major sights and offer a wealth of options for exploring the surrounding (and safe!) areas. Our Mandalay to Bagan Irrawaddy Cruise is now on sale, offering yet another incentive for visiting. Read our Things to Do in Myanmar to get a detailed overview of all the magnificent highlights this country has to offer and do know that our local and trusted operators will do their utmost to deliver an exceptional experience. Organised and bespoke tours are the best, safest and easiest way to experience beautiful Myanmar.
Contact us for more info and help in planning your trip.
Author: Laura Pattara
“After spending years taking short vacations in Asia, Laura finally managed her dream, travelling extensively through Central Asia, China and Southeast Asia on a 3-year-long overlanding adventure that she describes as “SIMPLY EPIC”. Following in the footsteps of ancient traders, Laura meandered along the famed Silk Road through the Stans, delighted her tastebuds for 8000km across China (no mean feat) visited an insane number of temples in Southeast Asia, all the while snorkelling, diving and beach-bumming along the way. Tickled pink by history and culture, Laura loves off-the-beaten-path destinations in Asia and anything that isn’t gift-wrapped for tourists”