Vacationing in Burma is no longer a dream. It’s a reality. This once forbidden country has opened up over the past decade, but tourists have been slow to take advantage of this change. If you’re looking for something different and don’t mind being off the beaten path, this may be the perfect place for your summer vacation. Let me give you a quick look at some of the highlights from my recent trip there. The country’s former name was Burma, but it changed to Myanmar in 1989 (following an army coup). The capital city is Rangoon (as it was known in colonial times) while its present name is Yangon, pronounced like yah-kone by the locals.
I will tell you , as a travel writer I am very familiar with the scams that exist in Burma. There are many of these and some are very sophisticated in their planning.
Burma is an incredible place to visit. The people are friendly and helpful; they love having visitors in their country, though English is spoken only by the upper class (the top 10% of the population who wear business suits and take pride in their nation). Even in the most remote rural locations, skin-tone will not hinder your ability to make friends or enjoy your vacation.
Vacation In Burma
Have you ever wanted to take a vacation, but just couldn’t decide where? Well I know the perfect place for you. Not only is it an exotic locale, but it is also one of the most peaceful and serene places on earth. Its name is Burma (or Myanmar) and it is filled with natural wonders that will make your heart sing.
Should You Visit Myanmar?
Myanmar (formerly called Burma) is a country filled with natural beauty and wonderful, friendly people, yet it is only recently that the country has been widely available for travel by foreigners. Many who are considering travelling to this nation have already asked the two most pertinent questions: Is it safe to travel to Myanmar? And is ethical to vacation there?
Below, we will go into stark detail about the amount of crime present in Myanmar (according to official reports) and the amount of criminal activity potential vacationers can expect to encounter there (hint: not much). Most importantly, however, we will attempt to show you all the reasons why Myanmar should be on your sightseeing bucket list.
Things to Watch out for
As a visitor to this foreign land, it is important (or at least helpful) to know the political and economic conditions facing the bulk of the populace. This nation of 51 million people is composed of 135 distinct ethnic groups (groups that are recognized by the government) and at least 4 major religions. Therefore, as one can imagine the defining challenge of the Burmese government is to see how its diverse population “can overcome a history of fractiousness in order to live together and hold the country together through political means.” [Ref 1.] Since the country’s birth in 1948, locals have seen continuous war and infighting between different groups and the government.
This constant internal strife has caused many to ask, “is Myanmar dangerous to travel to?” However, the overall crime statistics for tourists and vacationers are far rosier than for Myanmar locals. People often attribute this to the harsh sentencing characteristic of the Myanmar judicial system and the widely held perception that punishments for crimes against foreigners are punished far more harshly than for locals. For example, Zaw Htwe is a carpenter who was sentenced to three years prison time and hard labor for breaking a $0.35 pane of glass while attending a protest against a quarry company.
Anyway, here is a break down of various crime statistics covering a broad range of criminal activities that could affect tourists in Myanmar.
Is Myanmar Dangerous to Travel to Because of Petty Theft, Larceny and Fraud?
According to the 2017 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, Myanmar / Burma is ranked 130 out of 180 nations; ranked from least to most corrupt. Locals experience corruption and outright larceny from government officials and others on a regular basis (although the government has made many efforts to curb these abuses). However, as mentioned before, tourists are perceived as deserving of special treatment due to harsher punishments.
Therefore, if you ask “Is Burma dangerous to travel to” in terms of theft and fraud, the answer is…it depends on where you go. For example, in Mandalay, Inle Lake, Yangon, and Bagan you may find that many vendors will not be transparent about pricing and will try to price gouge unsuspecting tourists into paying exorbitant amounts for anything ranging from food to basic clothing. Meanwhile, whether you are a tourist or a local, government officials such as police officers may request that you pay bribe or “tea money” in the case of a traffic stop or a security check.
Is Myanmar Dangerous to Travel to Because of Weapons Use and Violence?
In 2012, it is estimated that Burma had a murder rate of about 15.2 per 100,000 people. [ref. 2] Compare that to the United States average of 4.9 per 100,000 people and you could get a sense that violence is a major problem in Myanmar / Burmese society. However, it is important to remember that A.) An extremely small portion of this violence affects foreigners, and B.) armed conflict between the Burmese government and various militias accounts for a high percentage of the discord.
It is widely known that the Burmese government effectively prohibits foreign visitors from visiting certain parts of the country due to the armed conflicts. These areas include but are not limited to: Kayin, Kachin, Shan, and the Rakhine States. It is also noted that these areas are known for the presence of landmines (both old and newly laid).
Scroll to Continue
Read More from WanderWisdom
What About Terrorism?
Terrorism initiated and supported by separatist groups outside of Myanmar like the United Liberation Front of Assam, is a major source of terrorism and hence civilian deaths. These separatist groups are in a seemingly unending war with the Burmese government. However, the conflicts are largely far away from the usual tourist areas.