Restrictions & No-Go Zones for Travelers in Myanmar

Because of recent events in Myanmar, we at World Nomads have had a long hard think about whether we should even continue publishing articles about the country. In the end we decided we should. Our reasoning is explained in this piece about ethical travel: "Controversial Destinations: To Boycott or Not?" Please read it.

Ethnic and religious conflicts continue in Myanmar making travel to these areas dangerous – and illegal.

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The Myanmar government retains strict control over access to all parts of the country. As it conducts military actions against so-called dissident groups certain regions will be put off limits. This may change frequently. Fortunatley the Myanmar government maintains a comprehensive list of towns, cities and regions where it is permitted to travel. The list first appears in Burmese, but scroll down the page for the English language version. If that site doesn't work, which happens occaisionally, here's a good alternative from "ultimate tourism transparency".

Where You Can Explore Safely

But what might happen if you choose to venture into a restricted area? If you’ve unknowingly ventured into a restricted area, the locals will likely call the police – who will come faster than you’d expect – to inform you that you shouldn’t be there. Regardless of whether you’re acting like you weren't aware or if you genuinely had no idea, the police will escort you to a train station or airport to make sure you leave the area safely. 

While this sounds like a riveting adventure, we’d advise against doing this. Not only are you taking a great risk, but their resources are limited – don’t waste the local police’s time on your stupidity. Always do your research before venturing off-the-beaten-path in northern Myanmar.

Finding waterfalls in Hsipaw. Photo credit: Sergio Molino Aguado

Restricted Regions

The regions most likely to be (at least partially) off-limits are:

  • Rakhine due to the conflict with the Rohingya
  • Kachin, and Shan because of their proximity to the border areas of Laos and Chine (also known for drug-runnng),
  • Sagaing, on the border with Bangladesh.

The following summary was correct at time of writing, but may change. Check the Myanmar government site to be sure. If that site is down, here's a good alternative from "ultimate tourism transparency".

Restrictions in Sagaing Region

In Nanyun surroundings, permits are needed. Picturesque towns like Katha – home of George Orwell and where he was inspired to write the famous novel, “Burmese Days” – are open to foreigners, and safe for travel.

Restrictions in Kachin Region

Kachin region is an especially alluring destination for keen hikers, and extreme sports such as rafting. While the landscape up there is unique, it’ll be one of the most expensive regions to visit in Myanmar. With limited infrastructure and various restrictions, travelers will be forced to take expensive flights to get there, stay in the few lodgings that allow foreigners, and hire guides that are aware of the restricted areas.

Restrictions in Shan State

Shan state is home to one of the biggest tourist hot-spots in Myanmar, Inle lake. However, it’s located in the same region that has a fair few restrictions.

Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake. Photo credit: Sergio Molino Aguado

Shan State is the largest in Myanmar, and its sheer size and length of conflictive borders are the main cause for issues. Some areas toward the Chinese and Lao borders remain inaccessible, but there are still plenty of places to travel safely.

Waterfall in Hsipaw. Photo credit: Sergio Molino Aguado

The trekking routes from the hills to Mandalay, Lashio–Hsipaw and Kyakme–Pwin Oo Lwin, offer a great combination of Shan tradition, remains of the colonial era, and affordable spots to go hiking. By train the route passes over the Goteik Viaduct – an engineering colossus of its era, and important landmark in Myanmar.

Goteik Viaduct. Photo credit: Sergio Molino Aguado

Apart from these routes, the most in-demand trek in Shan State goes from Kalaw to Inle Lake, which is a 1–3 day hike through fields and rural villages. Although this is a well-trodden trail, it’s a great way to see how rural life operates in the Shan State.

How Restrictions Will Affect Your Insurance Coverage

In many areas of Myanmar ethnic tensions and armed conflict continues. This ongoing conflict can affect your travel insurance coverage.

It is important that you be aware of your government's travel advice for Myanmar. generally, if you travel to a destination that your government says you ought not, your travel insurance will be compromised. For UK residents who hold a World Nomads policy, understand that your government has a lower level of tolerance and advice "against all but essential travel" - yellow coloured areas on their advice map - is sufficient to invalidate coverage.

The advice of your government may change often and with little notice, so rather than re-publish the current advice here please follow these links to official government advice websites:

Australia

New Zealand

USA

United Kingdom

Canada

If your government is not listeed here, or you wish to discuss your coverage please contact us here at World Nomads.

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