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".
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.
The regions most likely to be (at least partially) off-limits are:
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In many areas of Myanmar, ethnic tensions and armed conflict continues. This ongoing conflict can affect your travel insurance coverage.
It's important that you are aware of your government's travel advice for Myanmar. Generally, if you travel to a destination that your government says you shouldn't, your travel insurance will likely be compromised. Some governments have a lower level of tolerance and advice such as "against all but essential travel" is sufficient to invalidate coverage.
The information may change often and with little notice, so check with your government's travel warning advise for Myanmar and with your travel insurance provider.
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