Burma (Myanmar) - Consular Information Sheet
November 28, 2000
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Burma (Myanmar) is a developing,
agrarian country ruled by a military regime. The country's political
situation is relatively volatile because the military government
suppresses expression of opposition to its rule. The capital is
The country has begun to encourage tourism after a long period
of isolation. Foreigners can expect to pay at least five times
more than locals do for hotels, airfare, and entry to tourist
sites. Tourist facilities in Rangoon, Bagan, Taunggyi, and Mandalay
are adequate, but they are very limited in most other areas of
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Travel to, from and within Burma is
strictly controlled by the Government of Burma. A passport and
visa are required. Travelers are required to show their passports
with valid visa at airports, train stations and hotels. There
are frequent security roadblocks on all roads and immigration
checkpoints in Burma, even on domestic air flights.
Upon entry into Burma, tourists are required to exchange a minimum
of $200 (U.S.) for Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC). The FEC
office is located between Immigration and Customs. The face value
of the FEC, issued in denominations from one to 20 dollar equivalents,
is equal to the U.S. dollar, but its actual value fluctuates.
Any amount over $200 (U.S.) may be exchanged back to U.S. dollars.
The first $200 (U.S.) cannot be exchanged back into U.S. dollars.
These procedures are subject to change without notice.
The military government rarely issues visas to journalists, and
several journalists 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.
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 202-332-9044/6,
or the Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the U.N. 10 East 77th St.,
New York, N.Y. 10021, telephone 212-535-1311. Overseas inquiries
may be made at the nearest embassy or consulate of Burma (Myanmar).
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Foreigners, including U.S. citizens,
have been caught up in the Burmese Government’s suppression of
the democratic opposition. U.S. citizens have been detained, arrested,
tried and deported for, among other activities, distributing pro-democracy
literature, photographing sites and activities, and visiting the
homes and offices of Burmese pro-democracy leaders. Burmese authorities
have warned U.S. Embassy officials that future offenders of these
vague, unspecified restrictions will be jailed in lieu of deportation.
U.S. Embassy officials are not allowed to travel outside Rangoon
without the permission of the Burmese Government. Therefore, it
may be difficult to assist U.S. citizens quickly should an emergency
The Burmese authorities have announced that terrorist groups
operate within the city limits of Rangoon. A small incendiary
device exploded at a downtown pagoda in 1996 and other bomb devices
were reportedly found by Burmese authorities in 1999 and 2000.
Burma experienced major political unrest in 1988 when an undetermined
number of Burmese democracy activists were jailed or killed by
the government. The military government refused to recognize election
results in 1990, which the opposition won overwhelmingly. Burma
experienced major student demonstrations in 1996, and demonstrations
occurred in August and September of 1998. Popular unrest and violence
continue to be possible. U.S. citizens traveling in Burma should
exercise caution and check with the U.S. Embassy for an update
on the current 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,
proof of U.S. citizenship is readily available.
In 1995, there was one reported guerrilla attack by Karen insurgents
in the vicinity of the Yadana natural gas pipeline, Tenasserim
Division. There are reports that future attacks on the pipeline
may be contemplated.
In December 1996, two bomb explosions occurred at the Kaba Aye
Pagoda in Rangoon. There have also been bomb attacks against family
members of senior military officials, and against trains. The
Thai-Burma border area in Southern Shan, Mon, Karen, Karenni,
Chin and Rakhine states have been the scene of occasional fighting
between government forces and various insurgent groups.
TRAVEL OF FOREIGNERS 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.
Unrestricted travel exists to the main tourist areas of Pagan,
Inle Lake and the Mandalay area. The military government restricts
access to some areas of the country on an ad hoc basis. Those
planning to travel in Burma should check with Burmese tourism
authorities to see if travel is permitted. However, some tourists
traveling to places where permission is not expressly required
have reported delays due to questioning by local security personnel.
Reportedly, 10 of the 14 Burmese states and divisions are polluted
with anti-personnel land mines.
CRIME INFORMATION: Street crime is becoming more common
in Burma. There have been reports of vehicle hijackings and home
invasion robberies. With the increase of the drug trade in Burma,
individuals carrying automatic weapons on the street are not uncommon.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to local police and the U.S. Embassy. U.S. citizens
can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A
Safe Trip Abroad, to promote a more trouble-free journey.
The pamphlet is available by mail from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs;
via the Bureau
of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov;
or at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities in Burma are inadequate
for even routine medical care. There are few trained medical personnel
because the universities were closed for several years and have
recently reopened. Common drugs for sale, such as insulin, are
often adulterated products and unsafe to use. HIV/AIDS is rampant
in the country, as is malaria and hepatitis. Hospital and medical
services are available in Rangoon; elsewhere, medical care is
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services. Travelers are strongly encouraged to purchase
international medical evacuation insurance before traveling to
Burma. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or
medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of
dollars or more. Uninsured travelers who require medical care
overseas may face extreme difficulties.
Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether
your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical
evacuation. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization
and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of
thousands of dollars. Please ascertain whether payment will be
made to the overseas hospital or doctor, or if you will be reimbursed
later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also
include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition
of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State, Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available
via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov
and autofax service at 202-647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: 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);
fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC’s Internet site
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 it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or
Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
The Burmese Ministry of Transportation is responsible for roads
outside the major cities. City authorities are responsible for
roads in the major metropolitan areas.
Rangoon’s main roads are generally good. Traffic in the capital
is increasing rapidly, but serious congestion is still rare. Slow-moving
vehicles, bicycles, and heavy pedestrian traffic create numerous
hazards for drivers on Rangoon’s streets. Most roads outside Rangoon
are one lane and a half, pot-holed, and unlighted at night.
Driving at night is dangerous. Burmese drivers do not turn on
their headlights until the sky is dark, thereby adding another
danger to driving at twilight.
Vehicles are required to drive on the right side of the road,
as in the United States. However, over 80 percent of the vehicles
in use have the steering wheel on the right, as in Great Britain,
adding a complication to the dangerous driving situation in Burma.
The speed limit in the area of schools is posted at 48 kph, or
about 30 mph. There are no other speed limits posted in Burma.
The right of way is generally respected with the exception that
military convoys and motorcades take precedence. Right turns on
a red light are permitted.
Most vehicle accidents are generally settled between the parties
with the party at fault paying the damages. Accidents that require
an investigation are concluded quickly and rarely result in criminal
There is no roadside assistance, and ambulances are not available
in most parts of the country.
Truck drivers traversing from China to Rangoon are known to
be frequently under the influence of methamphetamine-spiked beetlenuts.
Drunken and/or drugged drivers are common on the roads during
the four-day water festival of early spring.
There are no seat belt laws, and functioning seat belts generally
are not found in vehicles. Child care seats are also not required
and not available in Burma.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial
air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority
to operate such 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 international aviation
safety standards for oversight of Burma’s air carrier operations.
For further information, travelers may contact the U.S. Department
of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873
or visit the
FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The
U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign
air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.
For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers,
travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.
Due to general safety concerns regarding Myanmar Airways, including
two fatal air crashes in 1998, the U.S. Embassy has advised its
employees to avoid travel on this carrier whenever possible.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Customs regulations are restrictive
and strictly enforced. It is illegal to take many items, including
antiques, out of Burma. Foreigners have been detained, searched
and imprisoned for attempting to take Burmese gems out of the
The military government restricts access to outside information.
Newspapers are censored for articles unfavorable to the military
government, and Internet access is illegal. Travelers have reported
that their luggage is closely searched upon arrival and departure
by immigration authorities.
Computers, internet, and e-mail: As of September 2000,
Internet connections are illegal except to the government and
a few businesses. It is illegal to own an unregistered modem in
Burma, and tourists have had their laptop computers taken and
held at the airport until their departure. E-mail 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 (U.S.) after transmitting
one photograph via a major hotel’s e-mail system.
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
the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs
in Burma are strict, and convicted offenders can expect stiff
jail terms, fines and even the death penalty.
Some foreigners have been denied even minimal rights in criminal
proceedings in Burma, especially if suspected of engaging in political
activity of any type. This includes, but is not limited to, denial
of access to an attorney, court records, and family and consular
visits. The criminal justice system is under the control of the
military junta, which orders maximum sentences for all offenses.
Torture has been reported in Burmese jails, and, in 2000, a foreigner
was tortured so that he would surrender his personal possessions
to his jailers.
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 U.S. 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, proof of identity
and U.S. citizenship is readily available.
CURRENCY: Not all major credit cards can be used in Burma,
and generally only large international hotels in Rangoon and Mandalay
accept them. There are no automatic cash machines in the country
to access currency from overseas, and it is not possible to cash
a personal check drawn on a foreign bank.
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.
Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) are required by foreigners
for the payment of plane tickets, train tickets and most hotels.
Burmese kyat are accepted for most other transactions. It is possible
to purchase FEC with some credit cards at the Myanmar Foreign
Trade Bank in Rangoon or any place that exchanges foreign currency.
ECONOMIC SANCTIONS: U.S. Presidential Executive Order
13047 of May 20, 1997, prohibits new investment in Burma. For
specific information, please visit the
U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control
(OFAC) home page on the Internet at http://www.treas.gov/ofac/
or via OFAC’s Info-by-Fax service at 202-622-0077.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Taking photographs of people in uniform
or any military installation is discouraged by Burmese authorities,
and it could lead to arrest or the confiscation of cameras and
TELEPHONE SERVICES: Telephone services are poor in Rangoon
and other major cities and non-existent in some other areas.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information
on international adoption of children and international parental
child abduction issues, please refer to our Internet site
at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens living or
in or visiting Burma are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy
and obtain updated information on travel and security within the
country from the Embassy. The U.S. Embassy is located at 581 Merchant
Street, Rangoon, tel. (95-1) 282055 and (95-1) 282182; fax (95-1)
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated September
14, 1999 to update sections on Country Description, Entry Requirements,
Safety and Security, Crime Information, Medical Facilities, Criminal
Penalties, Consular Access, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions,
Aviation Safety Oversight, Customs Regulations, to add a section
on Computers, Internet and E-Mail, and to delete Y2K Information.