Burma travel advice

Tips from our friends in Burma

Wildlife tips

Mark Huggins, from our supplier Undiscovered Destinations, shares his Burma travel advice:
“Near Kalaw there is a locally-run project which looks after former working elephants. It was one of the best things I did – you learn about the elephants and help wash them in the river which is amazing – and in a really beautiful setting. It also supports local community projects and microfinance initiatives. The elephants are very well looked after, a vet comes to see them every week, and only a certain number of tourists are allowed to see them every day. It’s not well promoted, the local people are just trying to use the project to protect the forest. After visiting hours, the elephants wander back into the forest, and the mahouts fetch them the next morning. It looked very well done; you can see the medical books for all the elephants with the vets' notes about their conditions.”
The land-based markets all around Inle Lake are well worth going to. We wandered round for hours and there wasn't another tourist to be seen.
- Andrew Appleyard, Exodus
When people ask me where to go
I always recommend Burma. Even though it's changed a lot, I feel that in another five or ten years it will have changed immeasurably
- Liddy Pleasants, Stubborn
Mule Travel

Culture tips

Liddy Pleasants, from our supplier Stubborn Mule Travel, shares her Burma travel advice:
“When people ask me where to go in Southeast Asia I always recommend Burma. Even though it’s changed a lot in three years, I feel that in another five or ten years it will have changed immeasurably, whereas places like Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand have already been through that process, so if you go in five years’ time they probably won’t be that different to what they are now.”
Barbara Bauer, from the organisation Partnership for Change, lives in Burma to support and develop responsible tourism initiatives. She shares Burma travel advice for traveling in a more sensitive way:
“A respect for local customs is very important. It’s very Buddhist and very modest - yet people violate that standard all the time. The locals don’t say anything, partly because of language barriers but also because they don’t want to irritate tourists. Common sense should prevail when talking with the locals about politics and pressing them. If they appear willing to talk then that’s fine – ask them questions but don’t give deeply opinionated replies; political opinions are highly sensitive. So if a visitor says that Aung San Suu Kyi is perfect and never makes any mistakes and is quite vocal about that opinion, that’s not an appropriate conversation to have.”

Tips on where to go

Andrew Appleyard, from our supplier Exodus, shares Burma travel advice for those traveling to Bagan and Inle Lake:
“What you should go and see – and most people don’t – are the war murals of Genghis Khan in Bagan. He invaded the whole of Burma, and there are incredible murals depicting the Mongol invasion. No-one ever goes to see them because they’re in a remote part and they’re quite dark, but you can take a lamp and see all the wall paintings – which are absolutely beautiful.
On Inle Lake, everyone goes to the floating market and that’s an absolute tourist trap. What you need to do is find the fixed market – get a boat there first thing in the morning when all the locals are there, buying meat from the butchers' tables and the vegetable stands. The land-based markets all around the lake are also well worth going to. We wandered round for hours there wasn’t another tourist to be seen in the entire market. We brought a traveling Buddha and as we left, people were touching their hearts and waving. We really felt that the money we spent there was going directly to the people we were buying from.”

Health & safety in Burma

Travel safely in Burma


Visit your GP or travel clinic at least 6-8 weeks before departure to ensure you have all the necessary vaccinations and that they are up to date.

There is a high risk of Malaria across the country , so consult your doctor or travel clinic about the best medication to take, especially if traveling to Burma with kids.

Use mosquito nets and wear long sleeves and trousers to avoid bites and other insect-borne diseases, including dengue.

Many travelers experience stomach upsets in Burma. These are not usually serious, but do be prepared, and bring medication including rehydration and diarrhoea remedies to ensure this disrupts your trip as little as possible.

Only drink bottled water, and avoid ice in drinks as well as salads or unpeeled fruit.

Routine medical treatment is available in Yangon and Mandalay, but outside of these cities or for more serious incidents you may need to be evacuated to another country for emergency treatment. Be sure that your travel insurance covers medical evacuation and emergency repatriation as the costs are enormous.

If you do need to receive medical treatment in Burma, up-front payment may be required even if it is covered by your insurance.


Most visits to Burma are trouble free. However, there are several ways you can ensure your trip is as safe and enjoyable as possible.

Avoid traveling at night due to poor road conditions and insufficient lighting. Additionally, although Burma drives on the right, many vehicles are right-hand-drive, making driving and crossing roads more hazardous.

Some fighting continues in border regions, and landmines are also found here. However, these are not close to the main tourist routes and foreign nationals are unlikely to be affected.

Petty crime is not commonplace, even in larger cities such as Yangon. However, this may be increasing as tourist numbers rise – exercise the usual precautions, and avoid having valuables on show.

Ngapali Beach resort is safe, but travel to the rest of Rakhine State is not permitted due to ongoing fighting.

Avoid demonstrations and protests, and never photograph or film people in uniform, including the police and military.

Independent travelers should be careful. Although some travel restrictions have been lifted, many remain, and not all destinations have been “approved” for tourism. Some regions may only be reached by plane or train – but not by road; others may not be visited at all.

Homosexuality is illegal in Burma. Although the law is rarely enforced, people have been sent to prison in the past, and same-sex couples should act discretely.

Families traveling to Burma with kids may be overwhelmed by how “hands-on” the Burmese are towards them. While the contact is not threatening, constant squeezes and petting can come as a shock, and can be unpleasant for the child.

Burma tips from our travelers

Travel advice from those who have been there

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Burma travel advice that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.
Out of the twelve of us only one escaped an upset tummy, so be prepared and take appropriate medicine with you. (Don't let this put you off - we learned to live with it and it definitely did not spoil the trip.) - Karen Johnson

Take small gifts for distribution amongst children. Smile at everyone, you won't be disappointed. - Julie Milewski

I read during the trip 'Letters from Burma', and 'Under the Dragon' by Rory Maclean, both powerful and moving books that start to give one an understanding of the complex and often tragic history of the country. - Derek Turner

This is not a human zoo. Life may be very different to what we're used to at home but its the norm to those who grew up there. If you want to take photos of people, interact with them first. - Rosy Everitt

The tourist infrastructure is just being created so don't expect everything to be perfect... just enjoy being there before it becomes over commercial. - Niki Young

Try the food - Shan, Burmese, Chinese or Indian - it is wonderful. Be in Shwedagon pagoda at sunset - it is magical. - Ehud Cohen

If you go to Burma make sure you have large dollar notes, as you will get a better exchange rate. - Anne Higgins

Look into the wide variety of options for sightseeing and experiences away from the main tourist route. It's all very safe; extremely interesting and the people are very welcoming. - Jacqueline Scott
Photo credits: [Elephant: haiderali4496] [Umbrellas: Stefan Munder] [Discussion: Greg Walters]
Written by Vicki Brown
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