Asia and Oceania

Burma Flag of Burma

Still current at: 11 June 2008
Updated: 03 June 2008


This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Summary and Natural Disasters section (Cyclone Nargis - update).   The overall level of the advice has not changed.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country


Travel Summary

  • The affects of Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma on 2/3 May, have caused tens of thousands of deaths and left hundreds of thousands more homeless. A state of emergency is in place in Rangoon and Irrawaddy.  You are advised to avoid the Delta area and to follow the advice of the local authorities.  See the Local Travel, Health and Natural Disasters sections of this advice for more details.

  • In September 2007, there were violent clashes between protestors and Burmese forces and the situation in Burma remains unsettled.  If you are a visitor or resident you should exercise caution, continue to avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings and avoid taking photographs or videos of the military, the police or demonstrations as doing so could be interpreted as provocative.  See the Political situation section of this advice for more details.

  • There is a general threat from terrorism in Burma.  Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.  Since April 2005, there have been a number of bomb explosions targeting commercial interests, public transport and places that tourists may visit.  The most recent was in February 2008, outside a casino in Tachilek, a border town opposite Mae Sai, Thailand.  See the Terrorism section of this advice for more details.
  • There are stringent restrictions on freedom of movement and speech.  British Embassy officials are not allowed to travel freely outside Rangoon without prior permission from the Burmese government, except to a limited number of destinations.  Consular assistance in an emergency may therefore be restricted or delayed.

  • There are stringent restrictions on freedom of movement and speech.  British Embassy officials are not allowed to travel freely outside Rangoon without prior permission from the Burmese government, except to a limited number of destinations.  Consular assistance in an emergency may therefore be restricted or delayed.

  • Typhoons occasionally occur in Burma between April and October.  Floods and landslides may occur.  See the Natural Disasters section of this advice and the Hurricanes page of the FCO website for more details.

  • Around 7,500 British nationals visited Burma in 2006 (Burmese Ministry of Tourism figure). Most visits are trouble-free. The main type of incident for which British nationals required consular assistance in Burma in 2007 was lack of funds. This is as a result of not being able to use credit cards or travellers' cheques in Burma. See the General (Money) section of this advice for more details.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  See the General (Insurance) section of this advice and Travel Insurance for more details.

Safety and security

Terrorism
 
There is a general threat from terrorism in Burma. If you are visiting or are resident in Burma, you should exercise caution in public places and ensure that you are comfortable with, and regularly review your own and your family's security arrangements.  Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. For further information see Terrorism Abroad.
 
Past targets have included commercial interests, public transport and places tourists may visit. On 7 May 2005, there were three explosions in Rangoon, two in shopping malls and one in a trade fair, which killed at least 23 people and injured at least 149. Since these attacks there have been a number of smaller explosions.
 
Most recent incidents include:
 
  • In February 2008, there were explosions outside a casino in Tachilek, a border town opposite Mae Sai, Thailand. There were no reported injuries.
  • In January 2008, explosions in Pyu, north of Rangoon and at the railway stations in Rangoon and Pyinmana outside Nay Pyi Taw killed two people and injured several others.
  • On 25 May 2007 an explosion at a hotel in Namphalong, near the Burma-India border  reportedly killed one person and injured two others.
 
Terrorists in the South East Asia region have shown their capability to carry out large-scale attacks. In neighbouring Indonesia, Westerners were killed and injured following the terrorist attacks in Bali (October 2002 and October 2005) and Jakarta (August 2003 and September 2004).
   
Crime
 
There are no accurate crime statistics, but anecdotal evidence suggests that muggings, burglaries and petty thefts in Rangoon have increased as the economic situation has deteriorated.  Expatriate homes and hotels have been targeted in the past. You should take extra care of your belongings.
 
There have been occasional instances of violent crime against foreigners.  You should take sensible security precautions at all times.
 
For more general information see Victims of Crime Abroad.
 
Political Situation
 
Burma Country Profile
 
In September 2007, protests led by Buddhist monks against the government took place in cities across Burma.  There were violent clashes between protestors and the security forces.  The security forces used violence, tear gas and gun shots to disperse the crowds and there were a number of fatalities, including a foreign journalist, and numerous injuries.

The political situation continues to remain unsettled.  You should continue to avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings. You should also avoid taking photographs or video of the military, the police or demonstrations as doing so could be interpreted as provocative.  You should keep yourself informed of developments, including by regularly checking this travel advice.

If you are visiting or are resident in Burma, you should exercise caution in public places and ensure that you are comfortable with, and regularly review your own and your family’s security arrangements.  You should avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, particularly on or around public holidays such as Armed Forces Day (27 March) and Martyrs Day (19 July) as these have the potential to turn violent.
 
There are stringent restrictions on freedom of speech, movement, religion, and political activity.  Foreign nationals criticising the regime in public are liable to arrest or imprisonment.  Two Britons received heavy sentences for such activity in 1999.  You should avoid large crowds and should note that attempts to visit the home of detained pro-democracy leader Daw Aung Sung Suu Kyi or the offices of her National League for Democracy party could attract unwelcome attention from the authorities.  You are strongly advised not to photograph military installations or personnel.
 
The unsettled political situation could result in disruption or restriction to your travel.
 
Local Travel

Cyclone Nargis hit Burma on 2/3 May 2008 causing significant damage to the Irrawaddy Delta area and Rangoon.  A state of emergency has been declared in Rangoon and Irrawaddy.  Rangoon Airport is open.
 
You should exercise caution if travelling to border areas in Burma.  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)
You must exit Burma at the same border crossing from which you entered, and Burmese immigration officers may request to hold your passport until your visit is complete.  You should not attempt to cross any border illegally or enter restricted areas without the appropriate permissions from the Burmese authorities.
 
You should be particularly vigilant if travelling to the Thai/Burma border.  There is ongoing military activity close to this border, especially in Karen and the southern Shan states.  Land mines also pose a threat in several areas.
 
You should be aware that British Embassy officials are not allowed to travel freely outside Rangoon without prior permission of the Burmese government, except to a limited number of destinations.  Consular assistance in an emergency may therefore be restricted or delayed.
 
You may only go to officially designated tourist areas.  You will require prior permission from the tourism authorities for treks to remote parts of the country.  You should note that tourists have experienced difficulties with the authorities even after obtaining such permission.
 
Road Travel
 
British or International Driving Licences are not recognised in Burma.  You must apply for a Myanmar Driving License at the Department for Road Transport and Administration in Rangoon.
 
Overland travel can be hazardous, particularly in the rainy season (May to October).  Roads can become impassable and bridges damaged.
 
You should be aware that, under Burmese law, the driver of a car involved in an accident with a pedestrian is always at fault.  Road safety awareness, among both drivers and pedestrians, barely exists.  Many vehicles, including taxis, are in a poor mechanical state.  Although Burma drives on the right the majority of cars are right hand drive, which can make driving hazardous.
 
For further information see Driving Abroad.
 
Rail Travel
 
Railway equipment is decrepit; fatal rail crashes occur, although they may not always be reported.
 
Air Travel
 
Evidence suggests that Myanmar Airways do not always comply with international safety standards. We also have concerns about Air Bagan's safety standards.  On 2 March 2008 a flight operated by Air Bagan, using an aircraft owned by Myanmar Airways, suffered engine difficulties.  On 19 February an Air Bagan aircraft overshot the runway at Putao airport.  FCO staff have therefore been advised to avoid flying with Myanmar Airways and Air Bagan if an acceptable alternative means of travel exists.  The domestic airline Myanmar Airways should not be confused with Myanmar Airways International (MAI), which operates across South East Asia.
 
Local flight schedules are subject to change without warning and you should leave sufficient time in your travel itinerary to accommodate this.
 
The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the European Community. This can be found at the following link: http://europa.eu.int/comm/transport/air/safety/flywell_en.htm.  
 
Sea and River Travel

You should ask for, and follow carefully, local advice about where it is safe to swim or dive in the sea.  You should also be aware that search and rescue facilities are unlikely to meet international standards.
 
During the monsoon season (normally May to October), heavy rains can cause flooding.  You should therefore enquire before attempting any river journey.
 
River transport may not conform to internationally recognised safety standards.
 
For further information see River and Sea Safety.

Local laws and customs

You should respect religious custom when visiting Budhist religious sites – shorts and sleeveless tops will cause offence and shoes and socks should be removed before entering a pagoda or monastery.

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

Homosexuality is illegal in Burma.  In June 2007 a European National was sentenced to seven years in prison for committing homosexual acts.

Entry requirements

Visas
 
You need a tourist visa (valid for four weeks) or business visas (valid for ten weeks) before travelling to Burma.  We are aware that British nationals have encountered delays in obtaining tourist visas, particularly when applying at the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok.  Any queries on entry requirements should be directed to the nearest Burmese Embassy not to the British Embassy in Rangoon.

Passport validity

You should ensure that your passport has sufficient validity (over six months) before travelling.

Travelling with children

Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  They may want to see birth certificates, a letter of consent from the other parent or some evidence as to your responsibility for the child.  As far as we are aware the Burmese immigration authorities do not normally ask to see such evidence, but if you have concerns please check with the nearest Burmese Embassy.

Health

Routine medical advice and treatment can be obtained in Rangoon and Mandalay, but elsewhere you should not assume that competent advice and treatment will be available.  Up-front cash payment is often required prior to receiving medical treatment in Burma.  Intrusive examinations, including emergency dental work, should be avoided due to irregular hygiene standards and the danger of infection, particularly by hepatitis and HIV/Aids.

Malaria and dengue fever are common to Burma.  Dengue can occur throughout the year, but particularly during the rainy season (May to October).  Since the beginning of 2007 reports have indicated a significant increase in the number of cases.  The authorities are taking measures to combat the disease.

Cyclone Nargis hit Burma on 2/3 May 2008 causing significant damage to the Irrawaddy Delta area and Rangoon. This has led to an increased risk of disease, particularly malaria, dengue fever, leptospirosis and cholera. You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.  If you suffer from diarrhoea during a visit to Burma you should seek immediate medical attention.

In the 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 350,000 adults aged 15 or over in Burma were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 1.3% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%.  You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see HIV and AIDS.

You should seek medical advice before travelling to Burma and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47
 
For more general health information see Travel Health

Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

In 2007, there were confirmed outbreaks of Avian Influenza in poultry farms in several north and north-western suburbs of Rangoon, and in the states of Bago, Mon and Shan. There have been no confirmed human deaths in Burma, but in December 2007 a case of Avian Influenza infecting a human was confirmed in the Eastern Shan state.

The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low.  As a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
 
You should read this advice in conjunction with Avian and Pandemic Influenza, which gives more detailed advice and information.

Natural disasters


The cyclone season in Burma normally runs from April to October. Floods and landslides may occur.  Cyclone Nargis hit Burma 2/3 May.  There is significant structural damage in the Irawaddy Delta area and in Rangoon. Tens of thousands have died and hundreds of thousands are homeless. A state of emergency is in place in Rangoon and Irrawaddy.  You are advised to avoid the Delta area and to follow the advice of the local authorities.  Communications are difficult and many telephone lines are inoperable.

General

Insurance
 
We strongly recommend that comprehensive travel and medical insurance, which includes air evacuation by a recognised carrier, be obtained before travelling.  For more general information see Travel Insurance.
 
Replacement passports
 
The British Embassy in Rangoon does not issue passports and, before setting off, you should ensure that your passport has sufficient validity (over six months) and a plentiful supply of unused pages.  You are encouraged to carry photocopies of your passport at all times. Applications for new passports are accepted in Rangoon for forwarding to the British Embassy in Bangkok for processing, but this may take up to six weeks.  If a courier is used, the cost will have to be borne by the applicant.
 
Consular registration
 
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.  More information about registering with LOCATE can be found here.
 
Mobile phones

International GSM roaming is not available in Burma. 

On arrival/departure
 
You should expect to have your baggage searched and/or x-rayed on arrival.  You may be required to leave items such as mobile phones and personal computers with customs, for collection upon departure.  You are required to declare any foreign currency over US $2,000.  Failure to do so may result in imprisonment.  A departure tax of 10 US Dollars/FEC (Foreign Exchange Certificate) is payable when you check in for your departure flight.
 
Money
 
There are no ATMs in Burma.
 
Following the adoption of the Burma Freedom and Democracy Act by the US Government, credit cards and travellers’ cheques are rarely accepted in Burma.  One or two major hotels in Rangoon do accept credit cards, but this is subject to change.  If you wish to pay by credit card, you should check with your hotel or tour operator.  You should bring enough US Dollars to fund your stay.  Be aware that as a result of concerns over counterfeit money, US Dollars with the letters AB and CB at the start of the serial number (top left-hand corner of note) are not always accepted.  Notes should also be in good condition, those with pen marks or tears are not always accepted.
 
You no longer need to change US $200 into FECs on arrival at Rangoon.  Exchange counters at the airport offer the government approved rate (450 kyats to the US$) which is significantly less than the market rate.  Since most businesses catering to tourists accept dollars, you may wish to avoid changing money at the airport to avoid unnecessary losses.
 
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
 
Burma is a party to the CITES.  Visitors should therefore be aware of the restrictions placed on the export of endangered species by CITES, particularly when deciding whether to buy exotic souvenirs such as those made from turtles.  Over 800 species of animals and plants are currently banned from international trade and a further 30,000 are strictly controlled by CITES and EU legislation.  Further information is available at: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES).

Travel advice for this country

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contacts

Burma, Rangoon (Yangon), British Embassy

Address:

British Embassy
80 Strand Road
(Box No 638)
Rangoon

Telephone:

(95) (1) 370863

Fax:

(95) (1) 370866

Email: mailto:Consular.Rangoon@fco.gov.uk

Office hours:

GMT:
Mon-Thurs: 0130-1000; Fri: 0130-0630

Local Time:
Mon-Fri: 0800-1630; Fri: 0800-1300