Myanmar is still a developing tourist destination, with many rural areas relatively peaceful and that bit away from the backpacker path. As with other Buddhist countries, it’s important to respect the culture here, as well as be aware of other do’s and don’t’s when in Myanmar.
From staying safe on the roads to visiting temples, here’s the seven must-know ‘rules’ of travelling to Myanmar.
Things You Should Never do in MyanmarHow do these rankings work?
1. Don’t Travel to Areas of Conflict
With security issues in the country, it’s important that you stay safe and stick to areas that have no ethnic or religious conflicts in action. Certain restricted areas require special permits to enter and should be avoided. Despite the regime change, religious persecution is still a violent problem in Burma.
2. Be Respectful – Don’t Touch Anyone With Your Feet
Myanmar is a Buddhist country and you should respect the culture here. This includes covering up when visiting temples and taking off your shoes before entering homes or even some cafes. But one key thing to know before travelling to Myanmar is that it’s very rude to to accidentally step over someone or brush your foot off them.
Feet are the lowest, and the head is high, so never put your feet up on a chair or table.
3. Don’t Give Money or Gifts to Children
You’ll more than likely be touched by the difficult living conditions of children from the local communities here and want to help. But, despite your good intentions, your behaviour can often have a negative impact upon those children’s lives. When you give money, food or gifts to begging children, you encourage them to continue begging, which prevents them from going to school and locks them into a cycle of poverty.
See other tips for travellers here on how best to support children during your travels.
4. Try to Avoid Using Your Left Hand
People who use their left hand to accept or give things can be considered rude here, as people usually use their left hand for toilet activities! Try to use your right hand at all times, especially when eating.
5. Do Not Ride a Motorbike in Yangon City Centre
This a patchily enforced rule by local police, but it’s a rule nonetheless. While you’ll see 1,000s of motorbikes in every other city in Asia, they’ve been banned in Yangon since 2003. This means that traffic congestion in the city is high, with poor public transport.
You can ride motorbikes and electric scooters in the townships outside, and you might see people ride them in the city after dark, but expect to get fined.
6. Don’t Sleep Without a Mosquito Net
Dengue Fever is prevalent in several areas in Myanmar including the Yangon region, but Malaria is only really found in rural parts. Still, you should always sleep with your mosquito net as those bad boys can be itchy AF. The nets will also keep out other insects.
Most hotels/guesthouses don’t provide nets, so we suggest bringing your own.
7. Don’t Disrespect the Buddha
While you can get away with your Buddha tattoo in Thailand or elsewhere, Myanmar is a lot stricter when it comes to improper use of the image of Buddha. Articles 295 and 295(a) of the Myanmar Penal Code prescribe up to four years’ imprisonment for “insulting religion” and “hurting religious feelings.”
This means covering up any Buddha tattoos, or anything that might show the image used in a non-religious manner.