Myanmar country information and facts for travelers.

MYANMAR

Mynamar Flag
Country Description: Burma, renamed Myanmar in 1989, experienced major political unrest in 1988. It is a developing, agrarian country ruled by a military regime. The country began to open to tourism in recent years after a long period of isolation. Tourist facilities in Rangoon and Mandalay are adequate but are very limited in most of the rest of the country. Ethnic insurgencies persist in some remote border areas. The country's political situation is volatile and extensive student unrest occurred in 1996.

Because of popular unrest in Rangoon (Yangon), disturbances in the city of Mandalay, widespread presence of army and police troops, and the resulting potential for violence, the Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens exercise all due caution in traveling in Mynamar and should for the time being curtail travel to Mynamar absent a compelling reason. A curfew is in effect in Mandalay.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: Travel to and within Mynamar is strictly controlled by that country's government. A passport and visa are required. Tourist visas are issued for package/group tours as well as to foreign individual tourists ("FITS") for stays of up to four weeks. "FITS" must exchange a minimum of $300 (US) for dollar denominated foreign exchange certificates upon arrival. Information about entry requirements as well as other information may be sought from the Burmese Embassy (Embassy of the Union of Myanmar), 2300 S Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 332-9044/6, or the Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the U.N., 10 East 77th St., New York, N.Y. 10021, telephone (212) 535-1311. Overseas inquiries may be made at the nearest embassy or consulate of Myanmar (Myanmar).

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Mynamar experienced major student demonstrations in late 1996. The political situation remains volatile and there is the potential for further popular unrest and possible violence. U.S. citizens traveling in Mynamar should exercise special caution and are encouraged to check with the U.S. Embassy for an update on the current situation.

Travel to main tourist areas of Pagan, Inle Lake and the Mandalay area is routine. Travel to other parts of Mynamar is possible, although transportation is difficult. Visiting destinations such as Kyaiktiyo, Moulemein, and Myitkyina may require advance permission from authorities, which takes several days to arrange in Rangoon. Those destinations requiring permission are subject to change without advance notice. Unauthorized travelers may be stopped and harassed by security personnel and turned around.

Some persons traveling to places where permission is not expressly required have reported delays, including temporary detention by local security personnel. Others report being able to travel freely. Obtaining advance permission to certain destinations does not guarantee the ability to travel, which is ultimately at the discretion of Burmese military intelligence.

There is no consular convention in force between the U.S. and Mynamar securing the rights of citizens to consular protection. Though problems in this regard have not arisen in recent years, it is possible that, if a U.S. citizen were to be arrested, the U.S. Embassy might not be informed and might not be able to provide assistance. Nevertheless, arrested or detained U.S. citizens are encouraged to request that the Embassy be informed and that they be allowed to meet with a U.S. consular officer without delay. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports or photocopies of passport data and photo pages with them at all times so that, if questioned by Burmese officials, proof of U.S. citizenship is readily available.

There has been one reported guerrilla attack near Kanbauk (Tenasserim) in the vicinity of a planned gas pipeline as well as unconfirmed reports that further attacks on the pipeline may be contemplated in the future. In December 1996, two bomb explosions occurred at the Kaba Aye Pagoda in Rangoon. In recent years, the Thai-Mynamar border area in Southern Shan State has been the scene of occasional fighting between government forces and various insurgent groups. Given the potential for fighting, crossing the border anywhere in this region may be dangerous. Travelers are encouraged to obtain updated information from the U.S. Embassy at Rangoon.

Medical Facilities: Hospital and medical services are available in Rangoon. Elsewhere, medical care is limited. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation, may prove useful. The international travelers hotline of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be reached at (404) 332-4559 or via the CDC home page on the Internet: http://www.cdc.gov/ for additional health information.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Security in tourist areas is generally good. The level of violent crime and crime against property is low. There are occasional reports of pickpocketing. Lost or stolen passports should be reported to local police and the U.S. Embassy. Useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlet "A Safe Trip Abroad." It is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

Drug Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict and possible sentences include stiff jail terms and fines or the death penalty.

Currency: Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) are de facto exchangeable for Burmese Kyat at market rates. FEC are required by foreigners for the payment of plane and most train tickets and most hotels. Kyat are accepted for most other transactions. It is possible to purchase FEC with some credit cards at the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank in Rangoon.

Although money changers may approach travelers to offer to change dollars into Kyat at the market rate, it is illegal to exchange foreign currency except at authorized locations such as the airport, banks and government stores.

Road Safety/Conditions: Within Rangoon the condition of main roads is generally good. Traffic in the capital is increasing rapidly but serious congestion is still rare. Slow moving vehicles, bicycles, and heavy pedestrian traffic create numerous hazards for drivers on Rangoon's streets. There are few good highways connecting Mynamar's major cities; most in-country travel must be accomplished by air. Travel between Mandalay and Rangoon is possible by ground but deteriorated roads and reckless driving make the trip potentially dangerous and not recommended for tourists. Trains are uncomfortable and not always punctual.

Other Information: Photographing persons in uniform or any military installation is discouraged by Burmese authorities. Customs regulations are restrictive and strictly enforced.

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