Burma (Myanmar)

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 01 April 2015.   The level of this travel advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Burma overall.

Burma overall

Rakhine State (except resort areas at Ngapali Beach)

Northern Shan State and Kachin State

Areas bordering China, Laos, Thailand, Bangladesh and India

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Burma overall due to the uncertain security situation and possibility of further civil unrest. You should pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources about possible new security risks.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Rakhine State, including the capital Sittwe, Mrauk-U and areas near Ngapali Beach, given serious civil unrest and ongoing tensions. If travelling to Ngapali Beach you should exercise a high degree of caution.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to northern Shan and Kachin States, due to ongoing tensions between ethnic groups and military forces. Escalating tensions in early 2015 have led to intense fighting and the imposition of martial law in the Kokang area by the Burmese Government.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the areas bordering China, Laos, Thailand, Bangladesh and India, including the authorised land border crossings in these areas. Armed groups operate in these areas and there is an ongoing risk of ethnic conflict, banditry and unmarked landmines.
  • Bomb attacks have taken place in major cities across Burma, including in Rangoon (Yangon), Mandalay, and Nay Pyi Taw. In recent years, a number of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have exploded or been identified in areas frequented by tourists and expatriates. Further attacks could occur.
  • Protests and organised assemblies of people are permitted only with prior permission. Local authorities have only limited experience in dealing with legal protests and may not always respond predictably. You should avoid all demonstrations and street rallies as they may turn violent. You should avoid taking photographs of demonstrations, the military or police as this may not be tolerated by authorities.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visas

Australians require a visa to enter Burma. Visa information for travellers from Australia is available on the ‘Visa’ section of the website of the Embassy of The Republic of the Union of Myanmar in Canberra. Travel to and within Burma is strictly controlled by government authorities. Australians have been deported and detained for visa offences.

As visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice, you should always contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of The Republic of the Union of Myanmar for the most up to date information.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Border crossings

Travel to or from Burma by land border crossing is possible, but is restricted to a limited number of crossing points, which are within areas in which we advise you to reconsider your need to travel. These are:

  • Muse (Shan State) – Ruili (China border)
  • Tamu (Sagaing Region) – Morei (India border)
  • Tachilek (Shan State) - Mae Sai (Thailand border)
  • Myawaddy (Kayin State) – Mae Sot (Thailand border)
  • Tiki (Tanintharyi Region) – Sunarong (Thailand border)
  • Kawthoung (Tanintharyi Region) - Ranong (Thailand border)

See the Safety and security section for more information.

Travel by road within Burma to and from land border crossings is subject to restrictions. The condition of roads in mountainous border areas can be very poor and therefore dangerous. See the local travel section for more details.

If you choose to use these land border crossings, you must obtain a valid entry visa from your nearest Embassy or Consulate of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar prior to travel. In order to enter or exit through the Muse-Ruili or Tamu-Morei border crossings, you will need to obtain additional permission through a tour company or your nearest Embassy or Consulate of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar prior to travel.

Customs and currency

Customs regulations are restrictive, and officials strictly limit what is brought into the country. There are strict rules governing the export of local gems and images of Buddha. In the past, customs authorities have been sensitive about the entry of communications equipment. If you are entering Burma with prescription medication, you should carry a copy of your prescription, a letter from your doctor and carry all medication in its original packaging.

Customs officials may hold undeclared items for collection upon departure.

Foreign currency in excess of US$10,000 must be declared upon arrival. Failure to do so could result in imprisonment.

For the latest advice on customs regulations, exports and imports, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

Safety and security

Civil unrest/political tension

Acts of political violence can occur. Bomb attacks have taken place in major cities in Burma, including in Rangoon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw. Attacks have occurred or have been planned in public areas frequented by tourists and expatriates, including shopping centres, supermarkets, restaurants, markets, hotels, transportation hubs, and on public transport, including taxis. In October 2013, there were a number of small explosions in Rangoon, Taungoo and Sagaing in which one foreign national was injured. Further attacks could occur at any time.

Protests and organised assemblies of people are permitted only with prior permission. Local authorities have only limited experience in dealing with legal protests and may not always respond predictably. You should avoid protests and demonstrations as they may become violent. You should also avoid areas cordoned off by security forces. Avoid taking photographs of demonstrations, the military or police as this may not be tolerated by authorities.

In the past, there have been incidents of politically motivated violence, resulting in casualties, on or around public holidays such as Armed Forces Day (27 March), the Water Festival (Thingyan) and Burmese New Year (both in April) and Martyrs Day (19 July). Other significant events, including the anniversary of the 1988 uprising (8 August) and the anniversary of demonstrations led by monks to protest for political reform (26 September) have traditionally seen an increase of police and security forces in Rangoon and elsewhere in the country.

Ngapali Beach: We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to resort areas at Ngapali Beach in Rakhine State. If you choose to travel to Ngapali Beach we strongly encourage you fly directly to the resort area. You should monitor local developments in case the security situation changes.

Remainder of Rakhine State: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the remainder Rakhine State, including the state capital Sittwe, popular tourist destination Mrauk-U and the town of Thandwe near Ngapali Beach, due to the risk of further serious civil unrest. In March 2014, there were violent protests directed against the staff and offices of international organisations in Sittwe, Rakhine State. Protests continue to occur.

Violent clashes in central and northern Rakhine State between Muslim and Buddhist communities have led to widespread displacement and segregation. In mid-2012, authorities announced a curfew across much of Rakhine (including the Sittwe and Mrauk-U) and sent additional security personnel to the area in response to inter-communal violence and the burning of homes. In late 2014, the curfew was lifted in the majority of Rakhine townships, however tensions remain high, protests occur and can escalate quickly. Curfews and restrictions on movement can be imposed at short notice.

Northern Shan State and Kachin State: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to these areas due to ongoing tensions and conflict between ethnic groups and military forces. Skirmishes occurred throughout 2014 and into 2015. Tensions in northern Shan State escalated in February 2015 leading to intense fighting. On 17 February 2015, the Burmese Government announced a state of emergency and martial law in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone.

China, Laos, Thailand, Bangladesh and India border areas: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to these borders, including to the authorised land border crossings. Armed groups operate in these areas and there is an ongoing risk of ethnic conflict, banditry and unmarked landmines. In late 2014, the road from Myawaddy to Hpa-An was closed after low level conflict occurred in the area, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were located in the border town. The security situation along Burma’s extensive border varies considerably. If you choose to travel to border areas, you should carefully assess the current security situation and familiarise yourself with local curfews and travel restrictions. Movement should be limited to main highways and urban areas.

Terrorism

We continue to receive reports that terrorist elements in the region are planning attacks that could take place in any location within Burma, including Rangoon.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.

Crime

There is a risk of crime, including mugging, petty theft and burglary. There have been incidents of violent crime directed against foreigners. Local law enforcement officials have a limited capacity to respond to crimes.

Money and valuables

Before you go, you should consider how you are going to access your money. You should bring enough cash to cover your expenses for the duration of your stay.

There is a growing number of automatic teller machines (ATMs) throughout Burma which are connected to the international banking system and accept foreign cards and provide cash advances on credit/debit cards. International money transfers are now available through numerous banks in Rangoon. There have been reports of technical problems with newly introduced ATMs. Travellers who choose to use ATMs in Burma should monitor their transaction records.

You should be aware that banks, money changers and commercial establishments in Burma occasionally refuse foreign currency on the basis of reports of counterfeit currency in circulation. US currency is widely accepted at commercial establishments, but notes with marks, folds creases or tears are not accepted. Other foreign currencies and travellers' cheques are rarely (if at all) accepted for payment at hotels or for the purchase of goods or services, including airline tickets. Credit cards are accepted in a growing number of establishments in Burma.

It is illegal to exchange money except through authorised money changers, which can be found at Burma’s international airports, at banks and in government stores.

Foreign currency (US dollars, Singapore dollars and Euros) can be exchanged for local currency, the Myanmar Kyat (MMK). There is no legal way to change Australian dollars to MMK.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Unmarked landmines are a danger in parts of Burma, particularly in the border areas.

Foreigners are frequently required to present their passport and visa to authorities, including for domestic air and rail travel and when staying at hotels.

Travel within Burma is restricted to officially designated tourist areas. There are limitations on how travellers can access some destinations. You can minimise delays and disruption by obtaining official permission from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism before travelling outside Rangoon.

Due to the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar’s restrictions on the travel of Australian Embassy officials, providing emergency consular assistance to travellers in remote areas may be restricted or delayed.

Driving

You must have a valid Burmese driver’s licence to drive in Burma. It is illegal to drive in Burma on an Australian or International Driving licence. Outside of major cities, military and immigration checkpoints on roads are common.

Driving in Burma is dangerous because of aggressive driving practices, poorly maintained vehicles and roads, livestock on the road and the lack of street lighting. While Burmese law requires vehicles to travel on the right-hand side of the road, there is a combination of both left-hand and right-hand drive vehicles in use throughout the country. This adds to the already hazardous driving conditions.

It is common practice for pedestrians to walk on roads. A driver involved in an accident with a pedestrian is always regarded to be at fault and is likely to be detained. It is illegal to leave the scene of an accident.

Australian Embassy staff have been advised to avoid driving at night in the countryside of Burma wherever possible. This includes travelling on the Rangoon-Nay Pyi Taw highway. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Public transport

Public transportation within Burma, including air, bus, river and rail travel, often does not meet international safety standards. Fatal accidents have occurred. Search and rescue assistance may be limited.

Local safety standards

The safety standards you might expect of service providers, such as hotels, restaurants, retail outlets, transport and tour operators, including for adventure activities, are not always met. If you intend on participating in adventure activities, you should check if the activity is covered by your insurance policy. You should always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if the locals don't. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, you should use another provider.

Internet and telephone services

While communication services in Burma are improving, internet service is unreliable and not readily available in many parts of Burma. The telephone network is also unreliable and limited to cities and large towns. It is difficult and costly to make international calls. International GSM roaming is now available for a limited number of Australian and foreign SIM cards. It is not possible to send or receive text messages from Australia to mobile phones inside Burma.

Airline safety

The safety record of domestic airlines is not publicly available, nor is information on the oversight of maintenance standards of domestic airlines by local authorities. This lack of transparency raises concerns about airline safety. You should be aware that airlines operating in Burma sometimes use aircraft from outside their own fleet. Passengers are not advised in advance when this is the case.

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Burma.

Please also refer to our air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Burma, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Australian consular officers do not usually receive timely notification of the detention, arrest or deportation of Australian citizens in Burma. If you are arrested or jailed, you should request immediate contact with the Australian Embassy.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include the death penalty. See our Drugs page.

The death penalty may also apply for other serious offences, including murder, human trafficking and treason.

Homosexual acts are illegal. Penalties include fines and imprisonment for up to ten years. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Photographing military personnel and installations is illegal.

It is illegal to enter and exit Burma with religious materials. It is illegal to preach or to distribute religious materials without written approval from authorities.

The mistreatment of images of Buddha is considered a serious offence under local law, and is punishable by imprisonment. Travellers with tattoos of Buddha should keep these covered at all times.

It is illegal to drive in Burma on an Australian or International Driving Licence. You must hold a valid local driving licence.

It is illegal to leave the scene of a road accident.

Customs regulations on prohibited imports and exports are often unclear and can change. You should seek further advice regarding import and export from your nearest Embassy or Consulate of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. See also Entry and exit.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

People in Burma are deeply respectful of their religious and cultural traditions. Visitors should remove shoes and socks before entering religious buildings and compounds. Wearing short-sleeved garments and shorts is not common and may cause offence, especially when visiting Buddhist pagodas.

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour and you should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

It is considered seriously offensive to touch or pat a child or adult on the top of the head.

Information for dual nationals

The Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of Australian officials to provide consular services to Australian/Burmese dual nationals who are arrested or detained. We strongly advise you to travel on your Australian passport at all times.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities in Burma is extremely limited, particularly outside Rangoon. You should avoid any surgical procedures, (including dental work) due to the danger of infection, including hepatitis and HIV/AIDS, from unsterile dental and medical instruments. Upfront cash payment is required prior to receiving treatment. In certain serious cases private hospitals are not permitted to accept foreign patients. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with the appropriate facilities (usually Bangkok, Singapore or Australia) would be necessary. Costs for medical evacuation would be in excess of $A25,000.

Most pharmaceutical products on sale in Burma have been smuggled into the country, and many are counterfeit or adulterated. You should bring adequate supplies of your medications for the duration of your stay in Burma. You should also carry a copy of your prescription, a letter from your doctor and carry all medication in its original packaging.

Health risks

The mosquito-borne diseases malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya fever and Japanese encephalitis are endemic in Burma. We recommend you consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and take measures to avoid mosquito bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof. A Japanese encephalitis vaccine is registered for use and is currently available in Australia.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, typhoid, rabies and tuberculosis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water with intact seals, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.

To complain about tourism services, contact the service provider directly.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:

Australian Embassy, Rangoon

88 Strand Road
Rangoon, Burma
Telephone: (95 1) 251 810
Facsimile: (95 1) 246 159
Email: austembassy.yangon@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.burma.embassy.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to Burma, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

The monsoon season is from May to October. Heavy rains can cause flooding and landslides. Severe weather can often precede the monsoon season.

Cyclones can occur between April and October. In the event of a tropical cyclone or typhoon, monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials. You can monitor the latest information at the India Meteorological Department website. You should identify your local shelter if one is available. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe cyclone may not be available. If you are staying in a hotel, you should familiarise yourself with evacuation plans. For further information, see our severe weather page.

Most of Burma is in a zone of significant earthquake risk. Earthquakes have in the past caused damage to a number of major cities in Burma, including Rangoon. Our Earthquakes bulletin provides further information on travel in earthquake prone areas.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, travellers should follow instructions from local authorities, monitor media and weather reports, and check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas.

Additional resources



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.