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Country Guides for Asia


Burma Britain conquered Burma over a period of 62 years (1824-1886) and incorporated it into its Indian Empire. Burma was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony; independence outside of the Commonwealth was attained in 1948. Gen. NE WIN dominated the government from 1962 to 1988, first as military ruler, then as president, and later as political kingmaker. Despite multiparty elections in 1990 that resulted in the main opposition party winning a decisive victory, the ruling military junta refused to hand over power. Key opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient AUNG SAN SUU KYI, under house arrest from 1989 to 1995, was again placed under house detention from September 2000 to May 2002 and again in May 2003; her supporters are routinely harassed or jailed.

Source: CIA World Factbook

Food and waterborne diseases are the number one cause of illness in travelers. Travelers’ diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout the region and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (Typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe.

Malaria is a serious, but preventable infection that can be fatal. Your risk of malaria may be high in these countries, including some cities. Prevent this deadly disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites. Travelers to malaria-risk areas, including infants, children, and former residents of Southeast Asia, should take an antimalarial drug.

Dengue, filariasis, Japanese encephalitis, and plague are diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases.

Do not swim in fresh water (except in well-chlorinated swimming pools) in certain areas of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, and Thailand to avoid infection with schistosomiasis.

Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid travel at night if possible and always use seat belts.

There is no risk for yellow fever in Southeast Asia. A certificate of yellow fever vaccination may be required for entry into certain of these countries if you are coming from countries in South America or sub-Saharan Africa. For detailed information, see Comprehensive Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements. Also, find the nearest authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccine center.

CDC recommends the following vaccines (as appropriate for age):

See your doctor at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect.

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
  • Hepatitis B if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months in the region, or be exposed through medical treatment.
  • Japanese encephalitis, only if you plan to visit rural areas for 4 weeks or more, except under special circumstances, such as a known outbreak of Japanese encephalitis.
  • Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
  • Typhoid vaccination is particularly important because of the presence of S. typhi strains resistant to multiple antibiotics in this region.
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles, and a one-time dose of polio for adults. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11–12 years who did not complete the series as infants.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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SAFETY AND SECURITY: U.S. citizens have been detained, arrested, tried, and deported for, among other activities, distributing pro-democracy literature, photographing sites and activities, and visiting the homes and offices of Burmese pro-democracy leaders. Burmese authorities have warned U.S. Embassy officials that future offenders of these vague restrictions will be jailed rather than deported. Should an emergency arise, it may be difficult to assist U.S. citizens quickly because travel inside Burma can be slow and difficult.

Burma previously experienced major political unrest in 1988 when the military regime jailed and/or killed thousands of Burmese democracy activists. In 1990, the military government refused to recognize the results of an election that the opposition won overwhelmingly. Burma experienced major demonstrations in 1996 and 1998. In May 2003, individuals affiliated with the Burmese government attacked a convoy carrying opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Sagaing Division. Dozens were killed or injured. Popular unrest and violence continue.

For the last decade, sporadic anti-government insurgent activity has occurred in various locations, such as an attack on a natural gas pipeline in the Tenasserim Division and bomb attacks against family members of senior military officials in Rangoon. Two small bombs exploded in downtown Rangoon in the spring of 2003, and Burmese authorities reportedly found other explosive devices in 1999 and 2000. In early 2002, the military government tightened security around the international airport in Rangoon after two rocket-propelled grenades devices were discovered near the airport in early 2002.

Ethnic insurgencies still smolder in regions along the Thai-Burma border and anti-personnel landmines pose a danger. Occasional fighting between government forces and various insurgent groups has occurred in Chin and Rakhine states and along the Thai-Burma border area in Burma's southern Shan, Mon, and Karen states. In February 2001, several people were killed and some tourists were stranded during shelling and cross-border gunfire in the town of Tachileik, Shan State. From time to time, the Thai government has closed the border with Burma due to increases in insurgent activity.

U.S. citizens traveling in Burma should exercise caution and check with the U.S. Embassy for an update on the current security situation. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports or photocopies of passport data and photo pages at all times so that if questioned by Burmese officials, they have proof of U.S. citizenship readily available.

FOREIGNER TRAVEL WITHIN BURMA: Burmese authorities require that hotels and guesthouses furnish information about the identities and activities of their foreign guests. Burmese who interact with foreigners may be compelled to report on those interactions to the Burmese Government. Travelers must assume their actions are being closely monitored, particularly in hotel lobbies and rooms, when meeting Burmese citizens, and when using the telephone.

Travelers are not generally required to obtain advance permission to travel to the main tourist areas of Bagan, Inle Lake and the Mandalay area. However, some tourists traveling to places where permission is not expressly required have reported delays due to questioning by local security personnel. Additionally, the military government restricts access to some areas of the country on an ad hoc basis. Those planning to travel in Burma should check with Burmese tourism authorities to see if travel to specific destinations is permitted. Even if travel is allowed, it may not be safe.

CRIME: Crime rates in Burma, especially toward foreigners, appear to be lower than those of many other countries in the region. Nevertheless, the increasingly dire economic situation has led to a reported increase in street crime.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and the U.S. Embassy. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet "A Safe Trip Abroad" to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at or at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon.

Source: U.S. Department of State

tropical monsoon; cloudy, rainy, hot, humid summers (southwest monsoon, June to September); less cloudy, scant rainfall, mild temperatures, lower humidity during winter (northeast monsoon, December to April)

Source: CIA World Factbook

Burma's electrical current is 220/50 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Many North American appliances are designed to operate only within the 100-125 volt range. These appliances will suffer damage if plugged into 220-250 volts without the proper transformer or converter.

To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.

For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.

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ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: The Government of Burma strictly controls travel to, from, and within Burma. A passport and visa are required. Travelers are required to show their passports with a valid visa at airports, train stations, and hotels. There are frequent security roadblocks on all roads, immigration checkpoints, and domestic air flights in Burma.

The military government rarely issues visas to journalists, and several journalists traveling to Burma on tourist visas have been denied entry. Journalists, and tourists mistaken for journalists, have been harassed. Some journalists have had film and notes confiscated upon leaving the country.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Information about entry requirements as well as other information may be obtained from the 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
(212-535-1311). Overseas inquiries may be made at the nearest embassy or consulate of Burma (Myanmar).

Source: U.S. Department of State

The time zone for Burma is 6.5 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Burma would be 11:30 pm

The unit of currency in Burma is the kyat (MMK).

Look up the current exchange rate using's Universal Currency Converter

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