Myanmar, an Asian country, is home to diverse traditions, mesmerizing beaches, majestic mountains, captivating lakes and delicious food. Myanmar is also known for its hospitality and as the land of Theravada Buddhism. It offers international travelers enriching experiences. However, after the Myanmar military seized power in 2021, most foreign countries including the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia have placed the Asian nation on the do not travel list.
Here’s what international travelers need to know about the security issues in Myanmar.
Sandwiched between India and China, Myanmar has many wonders to offer to international travelers – from the pagoda-topped city of Yangon to snow-capped mountains in Chin State. However, due to the political situation in the country, the tourism sector is still not fully developed. The influx of foreign travelers to this country remains comparatively lower than its neighbors.
In 2012, notwithstanding the civil unrest, Myanmar saw tourist arrivals touching the one million mark. The country had envisaged a master plan with a target of crossing the seven million mark by 2020. However, the military coup in 2021 derailed the plans. The Asian country is technically open to tourism and promotes small-scale activities that do not harm the environment.
Following the 2021 military insurgency, several governments have placed Myanmar on the do-not-travel list. Those who wish to travel to the country irrespective of the warnings must be cautious to avoid detention and other mishaps. Most international travelers require a visa or an eVisa to enter the country. Foreign nationals should enquire with the respective Myanmar embassies about the visa requirements and the latest developments in visa policy before planning their trip.
Note that some Myanmar embassies have stopped functioning following the military coup in 2021. Also, some countries have shut their embassies in Myanmar and in such cases, travelers from these countries may not get diplomatic help during their trip.
As per the statistics of Myanmar’s Central Statistical Organization, travelers from neighboring China constitute a majority of the foreign visitors to the country. As per the list published in 2014, the US ranks fifth. Most foreign visitors prefer to enter the country through Yangon international airport and close to 30% of travelers crossed the Myanmar borders via land.
Multiple foreign nations including the US and Canada have placed Myanmar on the do-not-travel list. Due to the risk of violence and civil war that the country is facing currently, foreign governments have issued the highest level of (level 4) travel advisory against traveling to Myanmar. The advisory says that travelers in the country may face the risk of arbitrary enforcement of Military law and could be arrested and detained.
They ask travelers to practice the highest level of caution and carry their identity and other documents all the time. There can be frequent checks from the law enforcement staff. They also advise their citizens to leave the country as soon as possible.
Myanmar’s Military seized power overthrowing the democratically elected government. The military declared a state of emergency across the country.
Since the incident, the country is witnessing demonstrations and civil unrest. The military is using lethal force against protesters resulting in hundreds of casualties.
On several occasions, citizens are denied access to the internet, healthcare and banking services. Travelers are expected to practice a high level of vigilance and remain alert all the time. They are advised to stay indoors and avoid demonstrations. Avoid going to places where there is a concentration of police and security forces. Follow local news to know the latest developments and abide by the rules and regulations.
Foreign visitors should try to travel to Myanmar by air. Land crossings are increasingly unsafe and not preferred. They should keep their documents –including their passport and eVisa to Myanmar. in order and keep them up to date. They should carry them 24/7 and keep them easily accessible. There may be several inspections by members of the military and police.
They are encouraged to leave the country as soon as possible and closely follow the local news for the latest updates. Foreign travelers must inform their embassy about their travel plans and share contact details. This will come in handy during emergency situations. Staff from the embassy will be able to assist the travelers in their times of need. At present, foreign governments have very limited ability to provide help during emergencies in Myanmar. The embassy staff has to receive special permission to even travel outside of permitted areas. So, help can be delayed.
They should also share their trip plans with their close family members. This will help them reach travelers during emergencies. They should avoid touching metal articles and should erase sensitive photographs, data and avoid accessing social media pages with proactive content. They should not bring restricted items including prohibited medicines.
Also, in the current scenario, foreigners may not get adequate healthcare in the country. There is a severe shortage of medicine. So, medicines, even over-the-counter ones, may not be available when needed. Travelers must foresee such situations and make arrangements.
All foreign nationals except those from visa-exempt countries need proper travel authorization to visit Myanmar. The government of Myanmar issues short-term visas for tourism, business, transit and for aircrew. While eligible foreign citizens can apply for electronic travel authorization online, others should apply for a visa through the Myanmar embassy.
The government of Myanmar also used to issue visas on arrival to citizens of a few foreign nations. This facility stands suspended following the 2021 military coup. A travel authorization helps the government identify the travelers, their country of origin and the purpose of their visit. Note that a visa does not guarantee entry to the country. Visitors will have to undergo verification during the immigration process before getting entry permission. If the officials find something amiss; they may deny entry.
Foreigners should travel to the Asian country only if it is extremely necessary. Travel enthusiasts must postpone the trip till the situation in the country improves. If their trip is unavoidable, they have to be extremely cautious and leave Myanmar immediately after the purpose of their visit is fulfilled.