Myanmar / Burma

Myanmar, Burma. Travel information

Myanmar is one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, suffering from decades of stagnation, mismanagement and isolation. Its capital city is *Naypyidaw (map). Myanmar is ethnically diverse. The government recognises 135 distinct ethnic groups.

The most popular available tourist destinations in Myanmar include big cities such as *Yangon (Rangoon, map) and *Mandalay (map); religious sites in *Mon State, *Pindaya, *Bago and *Hpa-An; nature trails in *Inle Lake (map), *Kengtung, *Pyin U Lwin; ancient cities such as *Bagan (map) and Mrauk U (map); as well as beaches in Nabule (map), *Ngapali (map), *Ngwe Saung, *Mergui.

The government punishes crime, particularly against tourists, severely; as a result, as far as crime and personal safety go, Myanmar is extremely safe for tourists, and it is generally safe to walk on the streets alone at night. In fact, you are less likely to be a victim of crime in Myanmar than in Thailand or Malaysia. However, as with anywhere else, little crime does not mean no crime and it is still no excuse to ditch your common sense.

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The name of the country has been a matter of dispute and disagreement, particularly in recent decades, focusing mainly on the political legitimacy of those using Myanmar versus Burma. The name Burma has been in use in English since the 18th century.

Myanmar is considered to have 3 seasons. The hot season is usually from Mar–Apr. Temperatures then cool off during the rainy season from May–Oct. The peak tourism season is the cool season from Nov–Feb.

Much of Myanmar is closed to foreign travellers. Thus, while travellers can travel freely in the Bamar majority Burmese heartland, travel tends to be restricted or circumscribed in other places. In theory, any tourist can apply for a permit to visit any restricted area or to travel on any restricted land route. In practice, it is unlikely that any such permit will be issued in a reasonable amount of time, or at all.

Myanmar is an excellent country for trekking. *Kalaw (map) is a centre for trekking, and has miles and miles of trails through mountains and hill tribe villages. *Kengtung (map) is also known for its hiking paths to hill tribe villages, while *Hsipaw (map) has some great treks to waterfalls.

The most common way for travellers to enter the country is by air. According to the website Lonely Planet, getting into Myanmar is problematic: “No bus or train service connects Myanmar with another country, nor can you travel by car or motorcycle across the border – you must walk across.”

Myanmar is the world’s second largest producer of opium after Afghanistan, producing some 25% of the world’s opium, and forms part of the Golden Triangle.

Tap water in Myanmar is not safe to drink, likewise ice may be contaminated.

TRANSPORT

Myanmar’s main international airport is Yangon International Airport.

Myanmar has an extensive and ancient rail network. A journey on a train is a great way to see the country and meet people. The rail journey from Mandalay, up hairpin bends to Pyin U Lwin, and then across the mountains and the famous bridge at Gokteik, is one of the great railway journeys of the world.

Buses of all types ply the roads of Myanmar. Luxury (relatively speaking) buses do the Mandalay-Yangon run while lesser vehicles can get travellers to other places.

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