Myanmar is an undiscovered gem of Southeast Asia. A cultural wonderland, a huge mix of ethnic groups, rich history, and stunning nature definitely make it a favourite of ours.
But it’s not COMPLETE paradise. There has been an ongoing, 70-year-long ethnic civil war, the persecution of Rohingya Muslims, landmines, bandits, and the opium trade, to name the biggest. All of these issues may have you asking yourself, “is Myanmar safe at all?”
It’s ok to be concerned about safety in Myanmar. This is exactly the reason why we have created this insider’s guide on staying safe in Myanmar.
There are a whole lot of things that we are going to be covering in our epic guide, from whether it’s safe to visit Myanmar right now (fair question), if you should go there as a solo female traveller, to whether or not the food is safe or not. Our guide will have you covered.
So you may be wondering about the safety of Myanmar in general, or you may be wondering about the state of the healthcare in Myanmar – whatever your concerns may be, we are here to help you travel smart and stay safe so you can get the most out of your Myanmar voyage.
Table of Contents
- How Safe is Myanmar? (Our take)
- Is Myanmar Safe to Visit? (The facts.)
- Is it Safe to Visit Myanmar Right Now?
- Myanmar Travel Insurance
- 22 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to Myanmar
- Keeping your money safe in Myanmar
- Is Myanmar safe to travel alone?
- Is Myanmar safe for solo female travelers?
- Is Myanmar safe to travel for families?
- Is it safe to drive in Myanmar?
- Is Uber safe in Myanmar?
- Are taxis safe in Myanmar?
- Is public transportation in Myanmar safe?
- Is the food in Myanmar safe?
- Can you drink the water in Myanmar?
- Is Myanmar safe to live?
- How is healthcare in Myanmar?
- Helpful Myanmar Travel Phrases
- Final thoughts on the safety of Myanmar
How Safe is Myanmar? (Our take)
Long an isolated, off-limits country, Myanmar (aka Burma) is now open for business.
And that’s good news for you: the ancient temples of Bagan, crumbling colonial streets of Yangon, and the former royal capital of Mandalay are all available for you to visit.
And, despite a buffet of no-go areas present throughout the country, Myanmar IS safe. Myanmar may not APPEAR safe at times, because of on-going ethnic “issues”, but, as a tourist, these hardly affect you.
Petty theft is almost non-existent. Hassle levels are LOW. Crimes against tourists are actually super rare. Often, the worse that you’ll have to deal with is the occasional overcharging, which is tourists should be used to by now.
People in Myanmar are very friendly and – in most places – refreshingly NOT jaded when it comes to tourists.
However, you do need to be responsible when you travel…
Is Myanmar Safe to Visit? (The facts.)
Yes, Myanmar is safe to visit.
In fact, tourism is BOOMING. In 2017 Myanmar received 3.44 million visitors and the numbers have been rising steadily.
Let’s put that into perspective: in 1995 Myanmar boasted just 21,000 visitors. So between 1995 and 2017, that’s an increase of 16,190%. That’s enormous.
This shows you not just how much Myanmar has opened up, but also how willing tourists are to visit, too.
Many people arrive as a part of a tour, but independent travel is totally doable. Myanmar is definitely becoming a popular spot for backpackers.
Myanmar is not a model country though, let’s be honest. Poverty and corruption are rife, the military still practically rule the country, and armed inter-ethnic conflicts continue. Myanmar is also the world’s second largest producer of opium after Afghanistan.
That being said, Myanmar is still 122 on the Global Peace Index, which is just one below the USA. So while Myanmar is dealing with its own unique problems, it’s important to remember that some Western countries are not much better off.
Is it Safe to Visit Myanmar Right Now?
The grand majority of Myanmar is safe to visit right now, BUT certain parts of the country AREN’T.
Certain towns within these areas, like Hsi Paw in Shan are ok to travel to but, overall, the areas around them are generally not safe. The UK government advises “all but essential travel.”
You can still attempt to visit these areas – just be sure to contact a local agency or expert and check what the situation is like first.
Since independence from the UK in 1948, the internal conflicts in Myanmar have been ongoing as the world’s longest civil war.
Border areas are tricky. Whilst the Indian border seems to be ok, anywhere between Myanmar and China, Thailand or Laos can be volatile. For example, the Karin and Mon States – on the Thai border – should be approached with caution.
Given the volatile nature of these areas, wandering off on your own or trekking by yourself is inadvisable. Not only are there snakes to deal with, but unexploded ordnance, mines and travelling into differently controlled areas can REALLY get you into serious trouble.
Myanmar Travel Insurance
Get insurance! Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun while visiting Myanmar, but take it from someone who has racked up thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.
As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be traveling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! We highly recommend World Nomads.
To find out why we recommend World Nomads, check out our World Nomads Insurance review.
If you want to shop around a little, then read up on competing companies and what they can offer. There are lots of insurances out there, so don’t feel limited.
22 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to Myanmar
Myanmar is a land of wonders with a myriad of interesting sights. And just because there are zones which people say you should avoid, doesn’t mean you should write the ENTIRE country off. You can go to Myanmar and have a safe, fun, and DEFINITELY memorable trip.
But it’s important to travel smart. That means understanding the culture and social norms as much as the current situation.
- Stay away from any kind of demonstration -It’s not advised for foreigners to be a part of a political rally as anything can happen at anytime
- Be careful when discussing politics with a local – you might think that you know about the Rohingya situation, for example, but a local could see it a WHOLE other way.
- Watch out for snakes – not just when trekking; lesser visited temples in Bagan are nice homes for slithery, dangerous snakes, like cobras.
- Traffic can be MORE than a bit crazy – especially in Yangon. Take care when crossing, or even just walking along the road.
- Don’t take pictures of any government buildings – or police, or military personnel, for that matter. Just NOT advised.
- When trekking, hike with a LOCAL guide – not just a Burmese person, but an actual local to the area. They’ll know where not to go and be clued up on the local situation, too.
- If you have a tattoo with an image of Buddha… – cover it up. People are actually deported for not showing respect.
- Don’t walk around flashing your wealth – crime stats are low, but it’s best to be careful.
- Pack a money belt – just in case. (You may not have to wear it.)
- Mosquitoes will pester you – so cover up and use repellent. They can carry the zika virus, dengue fever, and Japanese encephalitis…
- Careful in monsoon season – this runs from May to October. Floods and landslides can be pretty bad in this period. The weather could possibly turn into a full-blown cyclone as well.
- And earthquakes too – it’s not unheard of in Myanmar. Knowing what to do in the event of a bad one is a good idea.
- Pollution can be a problem – especially around quarries, such as those outside Mandalay.
- Avoid swimming and wading in freshwater rivers, lakes, ponds – the parasitic schistosomiasis, also known as snail fever, can be picked up in freshwater sources. Make sure you know where you’re swimming and if it’s safe.
- Learn some Burmese – also simply called ‘Myanmar.’ The language is not that hard either – it’s all about emphasis, no tonal stuff here. Learning a little of the script is useful and fun (if that’s your idea of fun).
- If you do have to use dollars somewhere, they HAVE to be pristine – getting an Indian Visa in Yangon, for example, requires US dollars. Pristine. Crisp. No stains, no wrinkles, no rips.
- Don’t feed the monkeys – they’re used to snacks and go mad for them. They can be pretty vicious too. Case in point, Mount Popa.
- Dogs can also be scary – groups of them can be aggressive. Some of them may have rabies, so keep away.
- Swim in safe areas on the coast – there CAN be strong tides, which are bad news even for a confident swimmer.
- Book accommodation ahead of time – foreigners can only stay in certain places, making it a bit hard to come by in high season.
- Be careful walking around after dark – streetlights aren’t ubiquitous and hazards can be numerous, especially in towns.
- Don’t be alarmed at red stains on the floor… – you’ll see this EVERYWHERE. Thankfully, it ain’t blood – people chew betel here, which takes on reddish color when chewed. It’s basically a drug and when you’re done, you spit it out.
The stuff that’s going to pose the greatest risks is mostly natural. Snakes, including dangerous cobras, are actually pretty common so being careful where you tread is important. Then there are the mosquitoes, dogs, monkeys, floods, monsoons. Avoiding these hazards BASICALLY comes down to paying attention to your surroundings.
Other than that, Myanmar is mostly safe. Just remember: travelling smart doesn’t always mean watching out for people!
Keeping your money safe in Myanmar
Petty theft may not be high in Myanmar but we always say it’s better to be safe than sorry. No matter what the odds, it always sucks to have your shit stolen from you.
One of the most effective ways to protect your money against thieves is actually pretty simple: use a money belt.
There are a TON of different choices when it comes to money belts; too much choice, maybe. But our number one option is always going to be the Active Roots Security Belt.
We definitely recommend this one – it’s affordable, it’s sturdy, and it looks like an actual belt. A triple threat in the money belt department.
Petty theft may not be a huge problem in Myanmar but look at it this way: having a money belt always stocked up with a few kyat is going to be a LIFESAVER if you lose any money yourself. And IF someone does try to pickpocket you, they won’t be getting a penny because it’ll all be tucked up nice and safe in your money belt.
Better to have a money belt and noit need it than regret never bringing one.
If you need a little more room for your passport and other travel valuables, have a look at a full-size money belt that tucks under your clothes instead.
If neither of those options appeals to your refined fashion sense, don’t compromise! Opt for an infinity scarf with a hidden zipper pocket.
Is Myanmar safe to travel alone?
We’re all for solo travel because there’s a lot you can get out of it. It’s not just a challenge for yourself, which is when you grow the most as a person, but it’s an amazing way to meet new people and see the world.
And Myanmar is a safe place to travel alone. In fact, we challenge you to travel to Myanmar by yourself and NOT have a totally awesome trip.
No matter where you travel though – be it Myanmar or Malta – it’s always a good idea to be equipped with a few tips when it comes to travelling by yourself.
- When you’re by yourself, things CAN get lonely. (It’s just bound to happen.) The best antidote to this is to socialize. Not only is it a good way to share travel tips, but you may also make a travel buddy or two. Travelling around Myanmar with a mate every once in a while can be refreshing and a lot of fun.
- The best place to meet people is a hostel of course. Find yourself one with good reviews. ACTUALLY reading the reviews will help you find somewhere that’s right for you.
- That said, there aren’t LOADS of hostels. Staying in a family-run guesthouse can be an amazing experience though. Feeling at home is much better than a much more impersonal hotel experience. Trust us.
- Try and blend in. You’ll notice that not many people wear trousers or shorts. Instead, they wear longyi, which is traditional Burmese attire. A wrap-around skirt sort of thing that both men and women wear. Feel free to wear it as well. You’ll definitely be a hit with the locals and will get conversations going.
- Getting yourself a local guide when you’re going off the beaten track is a great idea. This will help you understand more about the area you’re travelling through as well as Myanmar as a whole. It’s also a nice way to meet local people and put your money back into the hands of local communities rather than the government.
- Picking up a sim card at the airport is a good idea. With this, you’ll be able to use the data for maps, phone your accommodation ahead of time, book restaurants, and all sorts of other stuff. Most importantly though, you’ll be able to keep in touch with your folks and friends back home (it’s better that someone knows where in the world you are than NO ONE).
- Don’t get CRAZY drunk. (We’re talking from experience.) Busy places like Yangon are already difficult to navigate and getting blind drunk isn’t going to help the situation much.
- Don’t push yourself too hard. You don’t need to see every place and doing so is really going to wear you out. The distances between the main destinations in Myanmar are surprisingly long and not ALWAYS straightforward. So don’t feel like you NEED to do everything. Give yourself days to chill.
- Oh and Myanmar can get HOT. Look after yourself in the heat and drink plenty of water. If you’re by yourself, getting heat stroke is not fun at all.
Honestly, you’re going to have an AWESOME time in Myanmar. It’s a very cool place to travel around: not like Thailand, not like southern China, but also not like India. It’s quite possible an echo of a Southeast Asia of times past.
With that said, Burmese people are still curious about foreigners rather than jaded. And people are VERY willing to chat and practice their English. So get ready to drink with the locals!
Is Myanmar safe for solo female travelers?
Solo female travel comes with its own pitfalls. Travelling by yourself is one thing, but doing it as a woman is quite different. There’s a lot more to think about no matter where in the world you happen to be travelling.
But you probably know that already and you shouldn’t let this put you off travelling to Myanmar by yourself. We’d say that Myanmar is absolutely safe for solo female travellers. It’s going to be a trip to remember, that’s for sure.
And honestly? There’s not a lot of hassle or high levels of sexual harassment to watch out for in Myanmar. But because the society is still developing, women are still faced with certain limitations. So it’s definitely smart to know how to travel Myanmar like a pro…
- Dressing appropriately is definitely something you should do. Either going for a longyi and some sort of blouse, or baggy trousers and a top that covers your shoulders. Tight leggings will stick out. Look at what the other women are wearing and follow suit. Chances are you’ll get a lot more respect if you’re dressed MORE like a local.
- Make a few travel buddies. Staying somewhere that has good reviews from other female travellers is a smart move. Making friends with another woman travelling through Myanmar will allow you some company and be useful for bouncing stories and tips off of.
- We wouldn’t advise going out drinking alone. Not because it’s UNSAFE but because you probably will get attention. Places like 19th Street (Yangon), or beer stations around the country are quite male-dominated and you may feel uncomfortable alone. Take a mate with you to save you the awkward silence (and maybe a table at a bar whilst we’re at it).
- If you’re travelling on a train, bus, or boat by yourself, we’d recommend sitting with other women. Women travelling alone can be seen as pretty odd by Burmese people – it’s just NOT done. So making friends with some local ladies, or just chatting to other female tourists, is a good way to make yourself more comfortable.
- Find yourself a tour if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all. Even if it’s just a walking tour of a town or city. This is a great way to meet people. Plus you’ll also get to learn more about Myanmar. Win-win.
- Don’t touch monks! Myanmar is a deeply Buddhist country and monks are off-limits to women. Even if you’re passing something to a monk, don’t do it directly – just place it within his reach. That’s just the way it is.
- With this in mind, be aware that you can’t go to certain stupas or religious sites. Women, for whatever reason, just AREN’T allowed in some holy places in Myanmar.
- Stock up on sanitary products before you head out of Yangon or Mandalay. The likelihood is you aren’t going to be finding them anywhere that’s even remotely off the beaten track.
There’s not a lot else we would recommend AGAINST women doing in Myanmar. Covering up and not touching monks is all part of one thing, mainly – and that’s Buddhism.
But Buddhism, in general, means that there’s less sexual harassment than you may find in other countries. We don’t know why this is – exactly – but we do know that it makes Myanmar a very safe place for a woman to travel around. Even alone.
Of course, travelling alone may make you seem ‘odd’ by the local people. But you’re a foreigner – you’ll be odd ANYWAY. And the easy antidote to that is to make some friends, take a tour, or simply to chatting to some local ladies. You’ll have an AMAZING time.
Is Myanmar safe to travel for families?
Travelling with children in Myanmar is not exactly straightforward and probably not that EASY.
The main concern? HYGIENE.
Sanitation levels aren’t always top-notch and definitely nowhere near Western standards. Because of this, we wouldn’t REALLY recommend taking small children on a trip to Myanmar.
So you’re going to have to make sure your kids wash their hands, always. Bring sanitiser.
Cleanliness aside, here are some other things to consider when taking your family to Myanmar:
- There are a growing number of family-friendly places to stay which boast amenities for children. But for the most part, accommodation here isn’t really about families.
- Whilst there is a LOAD of temples to see, especially in Bagan, it might also be easy for your kids to get quite quickly templed out. This might even happen to you, but for children, lack of interactive museums or anything like that might be a little boring.
- Poverty, especially related to children, can be upsetting to see. There are kids begging, ladies with babies begging, children working; it COULD be a bit much for children to see. Just a word of warning.
- Animals, as we spoke about earlier, can be pretty dangerous – some can be REALLY dangerous. Dogs are scary, but snakes are scarier. Make sure your children know the dangers and keep an eye out yourself.
- Keeping your children out of the sun and making sure they’re hydrated is a MUST since Myanmar gets hot and the heat hits kids more acutely than it does adults.
- When visiting Myanmar with children, we’d honestly recommend getting yourself on some sort of tour. At the very least, you should have some sort of transport organized for the entire trip. That way, there will be less to think about.
In general, whilst it’s not going to be the EASIEST place to travel with children, Myanmar is SAFE for children. What you’ll need are a relaxed mindset and some pretty chilled parenting. Travelling to Myanmar with your kids is going to be a real adventure, but we think you’re going to love it.
Is it safe to drive in Myanmar?
Driving in Myanmar is chaotic, not to mention difficult to organize, and we’d say that doing it on your own is dangerous and not worth the stress.
For one thing, you need to get permission from the government to hire a car. For another thing, we just wouldn’t say it was safe.
One major factor is that people used to drive on the LEFT in Myanmar, then the military government switched it to the RIGHT. A lot of the cars are still from the latter era as well, meaning they’re not exactly best suited for driving on the right. Kind of unsafe.
The roads are not in great condition and cities are often just JAM PACKED with cars. Neither have a lot of rules in place.
Though scenic, the road from Pyin Oo Lwin to Mandalay is not something you’d want to drive. The road itself is precarious with huge dropoffs and cliffs that make you hold your breath. Drivers recklessly overtake each other as well and blanket the entire route with dust, which doesn’t help the situation much. It’s a thrill, alright, and it’s just not something we’d EVER consider driving ourselves.
After night, we just wouldn’t recommend driving in Myanmar AT ALL. Not knowing the roads, armed bandits, animals in the road. Just not worth it.
If you feel like you need to travel quickly, just hire a driver. Splitting the price of a private car between you and a few other travellers makes it pretty cost-effective, too.
Is Uber safe in Myanmar?
Uber was tried.
Ultimately, the Burmese government weren’t fans.
There is Grab, however. It’s reliable and cheap and a good way to get around Yangon.
Just make sure you don’t get charged twice. Drivers may demand cash even if you’ve paid credit on the app. A simple complaint to Grab should have your money swiftly winging itself back to you, though.
But generally, Grab is safe in Myanmar.
Are taxis safe in Myanmar?
The taxis are generally safe in Myanmar; generally.
By that, we mean that sometimes the taxis can be a little old and sometimes the drivers can be speedy. Because they’re mostly imported Japanese cars – which are meant to drive on the left – overtaking can be pretty hair-raising sometimes.
At Yangon International Airport you’ll be able to get a taxi easily. Hop over to the taxi desk, say where you’re going (give an address) and you’ll get a receipt. Head outside, hand your receipt over, show your driver EXACTLY where you want to go. Easy as that.
There are plenty of taxis in large cities. Hail one and they’ll stop.
They won’t necessarily always let you get in – taxi drivers MIGHT refuse if your destination is too far out of town.
In addition, get ready to negotiate. Taxis aren’t metered and drivers will set a price according to their whim. If it’s too high, go lower. If haggling doesn’t seem to be working, accept the price or move on.
You can also get taxis between major towns. This is BASICALLY a private car. The guys driving these taxis can range from perfectly fine to maniacs. Some may be high on betel or have to make deliveries of mysterious boxes in the boot, for example.
Private taxis can be arranged through your accommodation. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll get an AMAZING driver.
You can also shop around. Nyaung Shwe, a popular spot on Inle Lake, has many taxi companies on its main street. It’s a great option if you’re travelling as a group since you don’t pay per person, you pay for the trip. A nice option if you want some private, comfortable time away from trundling bus routes.
Is public transportation in Myanmar safe?
Yes, public transport in Myanmar is safe.
For train geeks and people who just like train journeys alike, the trains in Myanmar are awesome. They aren’t exactly top of the range but for the experience alone, these really are a great way to get around the country. The network is pretty extensive also.
The famous loop train line that runs from central to northern Yangon and back again is actually a FUN day out. Buy your ticket, sit back, and watch locals hop on and off. You can hop on and off, too if you know where you’re going. Just don’t expect luxury – these trains are OLD.
You can also get buses around cities. Yangon has the best system and boasts a regular fleet plus the Yangon BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), which is a good way to get around. The buses are air-conditioned, which is a lifesaver when it’s BOILING. Both of these are SAFE.
Long distance buses are another way of getting around the country and these range in quality. From luxury night coaches that serve free refreshments and have TVs in the headrests, to not so good buses that have one TV that plays the same Burmese music videos and soaps on loop (if you’re lucky). Riding a bus is always an experience, though.
But be ready to stop at random places on the bus and don’t expect it to be punctual, either. Buses are pretty convenient though since you can book them through your guesthouse.
The best thing to do? Research. Companies vary and asking your guesthouse which company they’re using will at least prepare you.
There are also boats that you can use. The famous Ayeyarwady River, amongst others, allows ample opportunity to get your skipper on. From standard government boats to ultra luxury colonial-feeling cruises, there are a number of ways to get around.
Look ’em up and see where you can go. Mandalay to Bagan (or the other way round) is a popular route, for example.
In conclusion, public transportation in Myanmar is safe. That’s that.
Is the food in Myanmar safe?
Burmese food has an unfairly bad reputation. In reality, there’s plenty on offer that’s going to have most foodies floored and we mean that in a good way. From the peanut zing and soft textures of shan noodles to the crunch and bite of lahpet thoke (tea leaf salad), all the way to BBQ’d meats – it’s all tasty!
You should get sucked into everything, including the street food – don’t be scared. A lot of places look ropey as hell, but, the thing is, EVERYONE eats in them, from locals to other tourists. So sit down with your si beer (draught beer) and a bowl of peanuts and wait…
- Food tends to sit around all day. The same stuff that gets cooked up for lunch is often what’s on the menu for dinner. Just for the sake of your stomach, we’d say steer clear of street food in the evenings.
- With this in mind, food is often oily. But that’s a good thing: a nice layer of oil in dishes like curries usually keeps insects away. Just don’t mop up the rest of oil on your plate with rice – that’s an overdose.
- Try and look for busy stalls to eat at, especially on notorious 19th Street in Yangon. The busier the place, the BETTER and more likely cleaner it is. You may be tempted to sit somewhere that’s completely NOT busy, but that’s a) no fun b) could be an indicator that the food makes people ill.
- Tea leaf salad – this is not a salad with lettuce that’s been washed in funny water. It’s mainly a dry affair with some oil involved. We’ve eaten it all over the country and it’s super tasty and super ok to eat. Do not avoid.
- Don’t get too freaked out by the grilled meat. It starts out raw and ends up VERY WELL cooked. This will kill most germs that will give you a dodgy tummy.
- If you’re prone to a bad stomach or you’re just not used to Southeast Asian food (and the way it’s cooked), the best way to proceed would be to do some research. Go to places that are tried and tested or are talked about a lot. Well reviewed restaurants on Google, establishments that have been blogged (favourably) about; it’s a good way to go.
- As a general rule of thumb, we would say eat seafood by the sea, and regular food in the mountains. Seafood can give you the WORST tummy trouble (food poisoning can be dangerous) and the best way to combat this is to simply ensure it’s fresh. Which usually means, straight from the sea – maybe via a market – to your table.
- If you’re scared of curries, head to Chinese restaurants. The food here is cooked hot and fast and will be FINE for you to eat.
- Make sure to WASH YOUR HANDS. Take hand sanitiser with you. These seem like no-brainers, but the towns and cities in Myanmar can be VERY dusty places.
- Don’t be worried about sitting down at streetside stalls. These are on many corners or on the street and seem to be permanent fixtures. You can literally watch your food being cooked just a few feet away.
- Refresh yourself with cane sugar juice from the markets. It’s cane sugar, put through a steam-roller type device. They’re perfectly safe and a good energy boost.
It’s not just Burmese food that you’ll get to enjoy in Myanmar. There’s plenty of tasty Indian, Chinese, even Japanese foods here, thanks to the historical ties that Myanmar has with its neighbors.
Whilst it may not always LOOK safe, the food in Myanmar is safe to eat. You WILL be missing out if you don’t sit down at a beer station and try some of the food that’s on offer. Ease yourself in, don’t go too mad, and your stomach and tastebuds will thank you.
Can you drink the water in Myanmar?
No. Not really. Not at all, actually.
You CAN’T drink the water in Myanmar.
Stick to bottled water and make sure the seal hasn’t been broken. If you find a source of purified water, be sure to fill up your own water bottle to the brim – you never know when the next one will come.
Is Myanmar safe to live?
Myanmar is safe to live in and a lot of foreigners from all over the world do. On the whole, Myanmar is definitely an adventurous place to live.
You’ll often get the feeling you’ve stepped back in time. People are friendly, there are charming daily markets, and A LOAD of nature to explore on your days off.
Yangon will probably be the best place to base yourself. That’s down to the other foreigners working and living here, the embassies, and the amount of things you can actually DO in the city.
Let’s reiterate: it’s TOTALLY safe to live in Myanmar on a day to day level. You can walk around the cities at night without fear. It’s GREAT.
What’s not so great is the government. You’ll have to be ok with living in a country run by a government accused of VERY RECENT atrocities and where a pretty brutal military often has the final say. You’ll also have to come to grips living in a country where civil war continues in many of its states.
But generally, this won’t actively affect you. You and your daily routine will most likely be fine.
It is a very good idea to do your research on Burmese society and history before you go. Knowing MORE can’t be a bad thing.
Of course, get on Facebook groups, Google groups (like Yangon Expat Connections), and make friends with expats and locals alike.
At the end of the day, Myanmar is a developing country. Being fine with everything that comes with that is key.
How is healthcare in Myanmar?
The healthcare in Myanmar isn’t what we’d call top-notch. And outside of Yangon and Mandalay, things are going to get tricky in terms of healthcare; terrible, even.
In general healthcare in Myanmar is lacking. It’s been neglected. It lags behind Thailand and EVEN Laos and Cambodia. Most government money goes on the military (no surprises there).
Invasive medical treatment is actually NOT advised at all. Anywhere in Myanmar, but ESPECIALLY outside of Yangon and Mandalay. Hygiene standards vary SO much that there is a real danger of infection. We’re talking Hepatitis A, B, HIV, and AIDS.
Pharmacies are great in cities. You can get a lot of medication over the counter, which is handy. But be aware that it might not be what you’re used to. You MAY be recommended something stronger for something you’d take ibuprofen for at home, so just bear that in mind!
Traditional medicine exists in Myanmar and is practised throughout the country. This is not something we can recommend. They’re not always safe and should be approached with caution.
If you think you’ve got something serious, don’t delay! Ask your embassy for the nearest quality hospital. You’ll definitely want medical insurance in this case because most likely you’ll be off to Bangkok.
In general, healthcare in Myanmar is not good. Not good at all…
Helpful Myanmar Travel Phrases
Not many people know this but the Burmese speak a total of 111 different languages. The official language is Burmese and some of the most important secondary languages are Shan, Kayin, Rakhine, Mon, Chin and Kachin.
Burmese is a Sino-Tibetan language and is one of the most widely spoken in the world. It was first spoken by the Bamar people and related ethnic groups. Today, Burmese is the primary language of instruction, and English is the second language taught in schools.
Here are a few useful phrases in Burmese for your backpacking Myanmar adventure:
Final thoughts on the safety of Myanmar
Myanmar is a strange case. Its military, the Tatmadaw, are fighting against and oppressing ethnic groups all over the country. There’s practically a genocide happening against the Rohingya people, which has been widely condemned across the globe.
On the other hand, tourists are welcomed, treated well and the country is on an everyday level amazingly safe. Violent crime against tourists and even petty theft are virtually unheard of. You can walk around safely at pretty much any time of the day.
Myanmar is an awesome place to explore, and a lot of the time you WILL feel like you’re actually discovering Myanmar rather than being on a backpacking conveyor belt. There are TONS of place that have yet to become overrun and Burmese people are super, super nice.
Nature tends to give you trouble in Myanmar. Snakes, monsoons, cyclones, not to mention that it can get VERY HOT, means you’ll have to keep an eye out on your surroundings – and stay hydrated. Travel insurance pays when things get ugly.
The biggest issue is coming to grips with the politics and current events of Myanmar. It may feel weird to be in a country where so much conflict is going on, but you can overcome this dilemma by giving back to local people. By staying in guesthouses, hiring guides, and working with communities, you can help out in a small way. And that makes it worth it.
Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means we earn a small commission if you purchase your insurance through this page. This costs you nothing extra and helps us keep the site going.
Need More Inspiration?
- Southeast Asia Travel Guide Itineraries
- 20 Best Hostels in Yangon • Epic Insider Guide
- Best Things To Do in Yangon
- Backpacking Myanmar
- Backpacking Thailand
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