Safe Travel and Security
In all the areas that foreigners are allowed to visit, Myanmar is very safe in terms of personal security. Yangon is considered to be one of Asia’s safest large cities, with no areas that need to be avoided.
You may sometimes be approached by ‘money changers’ and people trying to sell things (their statements should not always be taken at face value), but this will usually be done in a good-natured manner. In fact, you will often find that people approaching you simply want to take the opportunity to talk to a foreigner and maybe practise their English.
Things to be aware of
The vast majority of people in Myanmar are friendly and kind, but there are various safety and security issues to be aware of:
- Roads, pavements and many types of transport are generally in a very bad state of repair. Cars are sometimes driven with little thought to road safety or discipline and vehicles are often driven at night without their lights on.
- It is advisable to avoid large public gatherings and demonstrations, as there is always the outside possibility of clashes and violent incidents.
- Tap water is not safe to drink; you should always buy bottled water.
- Outside established tourist and top-end restaurants, food preparation is not always up to western standards. It is advisable to take Dioralyte for rehydration and Loperamide for diarrhoea.
It is important to guard against insect bites. Go vaccinations and medical care for more information.
Myanmar has some poisonous and potentially deadly animals – be aware of them! Diseases such as rabies are prevalent amongst animals like dogs and monkeys, and can be dangerous for humans. Snakes bites can also cause illness and death.
Women travelling alone
Women travelling on their own are unlikely to encounter any problems, although short skirts and bare shoulders might attract some unwanted attention or accusing looks in a country that is deeply Buddhist.
Women are sometimes restricted from specific areas of religious sites, such Mount Kyaiktiyo, where women cannot touch the golden rock itself; although here – as everywhere – women are in general free to move around. Women should avoid any physical contact with monks, although friendly conversation is perfectly acceptable.
Although Myanmar is a socially conservative country and homosexuality is still technically illegal, the LGBT community is growing in profile and trouble is unlikely to occur. Yangon has a growing number of gay-friendly venues; Flamingo night club (330 Ahlone Road – in the Yangon International Hotel compound) has a very popular monthly LGBT night. The Taungbyone Nat (spirit) Festival (go to Mandalay for more details) is one of the biggest festivals in Myanmar and attracts large numbers of gay, lesbian and transgender revellers. Of course, in more remote and conservative parts of the country attitudes may differ.
There are Gay friendly hotels/Guest houses in Yangon and Mandalay.
With infrastructure that is often rooted in a different age, travel for disabled people can be very difficult in Myanmar. Buildings rarely have facilities for wheelchairs, and buses and trains never do. It is advisable to consult specialist travel companies in your own country.