U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520
Consular Information Sheet
This information is current as of today,
March 15, 2006
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Burma (Myanmar) is an underdeveloped, agrarian country ruled by an authoritarian military junta. The country's military government suppresses all expression of opposition to its rule.
After a long period of isolation the country has begun to now encourage s tourism. Foreigners can expect to pay at least five times more than locals do for hotels, domestic airfare s, and entry to tourist sites. Tourist facilities in Rangoon, Bagan, Ngapali Beach, Inle Lake, and Mandalay are adequate , but are very limited in most of the rest of the country.
Please note that visitors should bring enough cash necessary to cover their expenses for the entire duration of their visit, since traveler's checks, credit cards, and ATM cards will not be honored in Burma. (See "Currency" and "U.S. Treasury Sanctions," below).
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Burma for additional information.
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 all airports, train stations, and hotels. There are frequent security roadblocks checks on all roads, at immigration checkpoints, and on domestic air flights in Burma.
The military government rarely issues visas to persons in categories it deems “sensitive,” including journalists . Many , and several journalists and writers 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 202-332-4350, website: http://www.mewashingtondc.com, 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).
See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction. Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: 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.
Americans in Burma should avoid crowded public places, including shopping areas, malls and markets, demonstrations, large public gatherings, and any area cordoned off by security forces.
On May 7, 2005, three large bombs simultaneously exploded in Rangoon, at two crowded shopping areas frequented by foreigners and at an international trade center, killing at least twenty people and wounding several hundred. On April 26, 2005 , an explosive device detonated at a busy market in Mandalay, killing at least three people. Although other smaller-scale bombings have occurred in Burma in recent years, these two events were Both events are a significant departure s in terms of targeting and level of sophistication from other bombings that have occurred in recent years. However, there is no indication that these attacks targeted American citizens or U. S. interests. The perpetrators of these bombings have not been identified. In light of these incidents and the possibility of additional attacks in the capital of Rangoon and other locations, Americans in Burma should exercise caution in public places and be alert to their surroundings.
For the last decade, sporadic anti-government insurgent activity has occurred in various locations, such as attacks in border areas that targeted a natural gas pipeline, a power station, and a crowded bus, as well as bombings in Rangoon that targeted family members of senior military officials. Several small devices exploded in downtown Rangoon in 2003, killing one, and similar events occurred in Rangoon in early 2004 and in early 2005 causing injuries and slight damage, respectively.
Burma previously experienced major political unrest in 1988 when the military regime jailed as well as 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.
Ethnic insurgencies still smolder in regions along Burma’s borders with Thailand, China, India, and Bangladesh, the Thai-Burma border and anti-personnel landmines pose a n additional 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. From time to time, the Thai government has closed the border with Burma due to increases in insurgent activity. In January 2005, regional governments announced a major regional law enforcement initiative aimed at dismantling the operations of Southeast Asia's largest narcotics trafficking organization, the United Wa State Army , was announced. At that time, the Burmese government stated that it could not guarantee the safety of foreign officials or personnel from non-governmental organizations traveling or working in Wa Special Region 2 (northeastern Shan State).
U.S. citizens have been detained, arrested, tried, and deported for, among other activities, distributing pro-democracy literature and visiting the homes and offices of Burmese pro-democracy leaders. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may also result in problems with authorities. Burmese authorities have warned U.S. e Embassy officials that those who engage in similar activities in the future will be jailed rather than deported. Should an emergency arise involving the detention of a U.S. citizen, especially outside of Rangoon, it may be difficult for U.S. Embassy personnel to assist quickly, because travel inside Burma can be slow and difficult. The Burmese authorities do not routinely rarely notify the U.S. Embassy of the arrest of American citizen s , and the government has have obstructed access by consular officer s to American citizen detainees .
Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site, where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements , can be found.
Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-202-501-4444.
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Crime rates in Burma, especially toward foreigners, are generally appear to be lower than those of many other countries in the region. Nevertheless, because of the difficult worsening declining economic situation in Burma, the potential exists for an increase in street crime. Violent crime against foreigners is rare.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Burma are inadequate for even routine medical care. There are few trained medical personnel. Most foreign drugs on sale have been smuggled into the country, and many are are often counterfeit or adulterated and thus unsafe to use. HIV/AIDS is widespread among high-risk populations such as prostitutes and illegal drug users. Malaria, as well as tuberculosis, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases are endemic in most parts of the country.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at: http://www.cdc.gov/. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas .
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Burma is provided for general reference only, and may not be accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Rangoon's main roads are generally in fair condition. Traffic in the capital is increasing rapidly, but serious congestion is still uncommon. Some roads are in serious disrepair. Slow-moving vehicles, bicycles, animals, and heavy pedestrian traffic create numerous hazards for drivers on Rangoon's streets. Drivers must remain extremely alert to avoid hitting pedestrians, who do not fully appreciate the risks they take in walking and darting into traffic. In the event of an accident with a pedestrian, the driver is always considered to be at fault and subject to fines or arrest, no matter regardless of the circumstances.
Most roads outside of Rangoon are one to two lane s wide and a half, potholed, often unpaved, and unlit at night. Truck drivers in country traversing from China to Rangoon are known to drive under the influence of methamphetamine s and other stimulants -spiked betel nuts. Drunken and/or drugged drivers are also common on the roads during the four-day Buddhist water festival in early spring April. Driving at night is particularly dangerous. Few, if any, streets are adequately lit. Most Burmese drivers do not turn on their headlights until the sky is completely dark; many do not use headlights at all. Many people ride bicycles that have no lights or reflectors.
Vehicles are required to drive on the right side, as in the United States. However, over 80% of the vehicles have the steering
wheel positioned on the right. The speed limit in the area of schools is posted at 48 kph, or about 30 mph. No other speed
limits are posted in Burma. The “right of way” concept is generally respected, but military convoys and motorcades always
Most vehicle accidents are settled between the parties on site, with the party at fault paying the damages. Accidents that require an investigation are concluded quickly and rarely result in criminal prosecution. There is no roadside assistance, and ambulances are not available. Vehicles generally do not n't have seat belts. Child car seats are also not available.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Burma, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Burma 's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa
Due to serious safety concerns regarding state-owned Myanmar Airways, including two fatal air crashes in 1998, the U.S. Embassy has advise s d its employees to avoid travel on this carrier whenever possible.
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 Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake, and Ngapali and other beach resorts , 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, and recently stated it could not guarantee the safety of foreigners traveling in eastern Shan State (also known as Wa territory or Special Region 2). Those planning to travel in Burma should check with Burmese tourism authorities to see whether if travel to specific destinations is permitted. Even if travel is allowed, it may not be safe.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Customs regulations are restrictive and strictly enforced, including on items such as, firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, currency restrictions, ivory, and others. Travelers have reported that customs authorities closely search ed their luggage upon arrival and departure. It is illegal to take many items, including antiques and artifacts, out of Burma. On several occasions in the past two decades, foreigners have been detained, searched and imprisoned for attempting to take Burmese gems out of the country. Customs officials also strictly limit what is brought into the country, including bans on pornography and political material or literature critical of the regime or supportive of the opposition.
The military government restricts access to outside information. Newspapers are censored for articles unfavorable to the military government. Any publications that could be viewed as pro-democracy and/or anti-junta will be confiscated. Travelers have also reported problems bringing in high tech electronic devices and equipment, from toys to computers. However, the military government does has not provide d a complete listing of prohibited imports. For information on restricted items, it is best to consult the nearest Embassy of the Union of Myanmar. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar in Washington or Burma's Mission in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
Please see our information on customs regulations
COMPUTERS, INTERNET, AND E-MAIL: The military government carefully controls and monitors all i Internet use in Burma. The government has made available a heavily censored version of the i Internet and has allowed several cyber cafes to open. However, access to the i Internet is very expensive, and the government prohibits access to most “free” international e-mail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo.com. It is illegal to own an unregistered modem in Burma. Tourists may bring in one laptop computer per person and must declare it upon arrival. Limited e-mail service is available at some large hotels. All e-mails are read by military intelligence. It is very expensive to send photographs via e-mail. One foreign visitor was presented a bill for 2,000.00 U.S. dollars after transmitting one photograph via a major hotel's e-mail system.
CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. consular officers do not always receive timely notification of the detention, arrest, or deportation of U.S. citizens. In addition, the Burmese government has on occasion refused to give Embassy consular officers access to arrested/detained U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should request immediate contact with the U.S. Embassy. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports with them at all times so that if questioned by local officials they have proof of identity and U.S. citizenship readily available.
CURRENCY: Executive Order 13310, signed by President Bush on July 28, 2003 imposed a ban on the exportation of financial services to Burma. Traveler's checks, credit cards, and ATM cards are not honored in Burma. Although moneychangers sometimes approach travelers to 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 have possession of foreign currency without a permit.
Foreigners are required to use U.S. dollars, other hard currency, or Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) for the payment of plane tickets, train tickets and most hotels. Burmese kyat is accepted for nearly all other transactions.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Photographing people in uniform or any military installation is prohibited by Burmese authorities , and could lead to arrest or the confiscation of cameras and film. It is also advisable to avoid photographing power plants and bridges.
TELEPHONE SERVICES: Telephone services are poor in Rangoon and other major cities and or non-existent in many areas. Calling the United States from Burma is difficult to place and extremely expensive.
U.S. TREASURY SANCTIONS: As of August 27, 2003, U.S. Treasury sanctions ban the import of almost all goods from Burma into the United States. This ban includes Burmese-origin products, including such items as gifts, souvenirs, and items for personal use, even if carried in personal luggage. These latest sanctions are part of a much larger U.S. sanctions regime for Burma, which includes a ban on new U.S. investment, among other measures. For specific information, contact the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page on the I internet at http://www.treas.gov/ofac, or via OFAC's Info-by-Fax service at 202-622-0077.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Burmese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Burma are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Some foreigners have been denied even minimal rights in criminal proceedings in Burma, especially when suspected of engaging in political activity of any type. This includes, but is not limited to, denial of access to an attorney, denial of access to court records, and denial of family and consular visits. The criminal justice system is controlled by the military junta, which orders maximum sentences for most all offenses. Torture has been reported in Burmese jails, and in 2000, a foreigner was tortured so until he surrendered that he would surrender his personal possessions to his jailers.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
For more information visit Criminal PenaltiesCHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Burma are encouraged to visit the Embassy to register and obtain updated information on travel and security within the country. The Embassy is located at 581 Merchant Street, Rangoon. The Consular Section telephone number is (95-1) 250-240, fax (95-1) 250-642, email [email protected], website http://rangoon.usembassy.gov. The after-hours emergency number is (95-1) 370-965. The Consular Section is open from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon, and from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated May 11, 2005, to update the section on Safety and Security.