Special Travel Circumstances in Burma

Accessibility: While in Burma, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what they find in the United States. Roads and sidewalks are often extremely difficult to cross even in the best of circumstances. Ramps or handicapped-accessible facilities do not exist even in Rangoon and other areas popular with tourists. Individuals confined to wheelchairs or those with other physical ailments should be prepared to face difficulties throughout Burma.

Photography: Do not photograph or videotape the military or police, or anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest such as bridges, airfields, government buildings, or government vehicles. Burmese authorities might interpret these actions as provocative and may question and/or arrest you.

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 Burmese authorities. Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance, and you should assume your actions, such as meeting with Burmese citizens, particularly in public spaces like hotel lobbies, rooms, and restaurants, are being monitored. You should assume that telephones (including cell phones), internet use, and fax machines are monitored and that your personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.

You will not generally be required to obtain advance permission to travel to the main tourist areas of Mandalay and the surrounding area, Bagan, Inle Lake, Ngapali, and other beach resorts. However, some tourists traveling to places where permission is not expressly required have reported delays due to questioning by local security personnel. Additionally, the Burmese government restricts access to some areas of the country on an ad-hoc basis, stating it cannot guarantee the safety of foreigners. If you plan to travel in Burma, you should check with Burmese tourism authorities to see whether travel to specific destinations is permitted. Even if the Burmese authorities allow travel to specific destinations in Burma, you may not be safe traveling in those areas.

Wherever you travel in Burma, you should be careful to respect the differences between the culture and customs of the United States and Burma.

Dual Nationals: According to officials at the Burmese Embassy in Washington D.C., Burmese citizens will automatically lose their Burmese citizenship when they obtain another country’s citizenship. Burmese authorities reportedly require former Burmese citizens to inform the Burmese government about their acquisition of U.S. citizenship and the change of address associated with their move to the United States, and to surrender their Burmese nationality. They also demand relinquishment of any National Registration Card or National Scrutiny Card, which is evidence of Burmese citizenship. On occasion, Burmese authorities have detained and pursued criminal proceedings against Burmese-Americans who have returned to Burma on U.S. passports and who have had in their possession evidence of Burmese citizenship, such as a National Registration Card. If you have U.S. citizenship and have not surrendered your Burmese citizenship, you should check with the nearest Burmese embassy prior to your travel to Burma to be sure you are not at risk of arrest if you travel to Burma.

Customs Regulations: Customs regulations in Burma are restrictive and strictly enforced. Customs authorities closely search travelers’ luggage upon their arrival and departure from Burma. It is illegal to enter or exit Burma with items such as firearms, religious materials, pornography, antiquities, medications, business equipment, currency, gems, ivory, and other restricted items. On several occasions in the past two decades, foreigners have been detained, searched, and imprisoned for attempting to take restricted items out of the country.

Customs officials also limit the items that can be brought into the country. Travelers who do not declare dutiable items on the Customs declaration form can be fined and their items confiscated. The Burmese government has never provided a complete list of prohibited import items. For information on restricted items for import into Burma and specific customs’ requirements, please contact the nearest Burmese embassy (Embassy of the Union of the Republic of Myanmar), the Embassy of Burma in Washington, D.C., or the Permanent Mission of Burma to the United Nations in New York.

Import Prohibition: The importation into the United States of jadeite and rubies mined or extracted from Burma, as well as articles of jewelry containing them, remains prohibited. It is important to know that this prohibition extends even to those gems purchased in third countries if they were originally mined in or extracted from Burma. Due to labor and human rights concerns, the Administration restricts specific activities and actors that contribute to human rights abuses or undermine Burma’s democratic reform process. in certain sectors.

Computers, Internet, and Email: The Burmese government carefully controls and monitors all internet use in Burma and restricts internet access through software-based censorship. Cyber cafes and larger hotels provide internet services. All emails are subject to monitoring by Burmese security services.

Telephone and Electricity: Telephone service is poor in Rangoon and other major cities and non-existent in many areas. Calling the United States from Burma is difficult and extremely expensive. Though electrical service has improved since the 2010 elections, it is still sporadic, particularly in the hot months of March, April and May when demand for air conditioning often overburdens the modest capacity of the electrical infrastructure. Many hotels and restaurants have gas-powered generators to provide electricity during periodic blackouts.

Consular Notification and Access: Should an emergency arise involving the detention of a U.S. citizen, especially outside of Rangoon, U.S. Embassy personnel may not be able to assist quickly. Though the Embassy’s relationship with Burmese authorities has improved, law enforcement officials do not routinely notify the U.S. Embassy of the arrest of U.S. citizens and prison officials on occasion obstruct regular access by U.S. consular officers to U.S. citizen detainees. If you are arrested or detained, you should request immediate contact with the U.S. Embassy. Please carry your U.S. passport with you at all times, so that if questioned by local officials, you have proof of identity and U.S. citizenship readily available.

Currency: Though the Burmese economy is rapidly modernizing, Burmese banks and merchants still rarely accept travelers’ checks or credit cards. With the recent lifting of U.S. sanctions in financial services, Burmese banks are only just beginning to offer ATM and money transfer services. Reports of customer complaints resulting from technical problems with ATM machines and faulty withdrawals are common. U.S. citizen travelers who choose to use ATMs in Burma should carefully scrutinize online banking records to ensure that transactions are registered accurately. Notwithstanding these new financial services, U.S. citizen travelers should still enter the country with enough cash to cover all expenses, including unexpected ones as Burmese businesses rarely are able to accept credit cards and traveler’s checks are not accepted by banks. (See “Currency” and “U.S. Treasury Sanctions” below.) Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Burma for additional information.

In January 2013, Western Union introduced money transfer services in seven Burmese banks. The seven Burmese banks involved in the partnership are Kanbawza Bank, First Private Bank, Myanmar Oriental Bank, Cooperative Bank, United Amara Bank, Myanmar Apex Bank, and the Myanmar Livestock and Fisheries Development Bank.

Although moneychangers sometimes approach travelers with an offer to change dollars into Burmese kyat at the market rate, it is illegal to exchange currency except at authorized locations such as the airport, banks and government stores. It is also illegal for Burmese to possess foreign currency without a permit. Foreigners are required to use U.S. dollars or other hard currency for the payment of plane tickets, train tickets, and most hotels bills. Please be sure to bring pristine bills, as most establishments will not accept torn, folded or old U.S. currency. Burmese kyats are accepted for nearly all other transactions.

U.S. Treasury Sanctions: In July and September 2012, the U.S. Department of Treasury eased sanctions against investment in and financial services to Burma and lifted proscriptions against importing most Burmese items into the United States. For specific information, contact the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page,via OFAC's Info-by-Fax service at 202-622-0077, or by phone toll-free at 1-800-540-6322.

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You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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