Myanmar is a charming travel destination in Southeast Asia with tourists increasingly encouraged to visit despite Myanmar's dark history, which unfortunately still remains in some regions of the country.
We've got some expert advice straight from our friends at Myanmar Tours.
If you are considering travelling to Myanmar this article will help you to plan your travels responsibly.
Here are some basic travel practises to follow when visiting Myanmar
- Leave nothing but your footprint
- Do not buy products from animal skin
- Plan your itinerary to minimise carbon emissions
- Bring environmentally friendly products
- Use Public Transportation wherever you can
- If you are purchasing stones, purchase only the ones that have certificates, do not buy from the black market
- Escape from group travel, take a private tour or travel independently
- Do not buy products made from woods cut from the rainforests
Respecting Burmese Culture
Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country. Here are some tips for understanding their customs and culture:
- Dress modestly when you visit a pagoda or temple. Knees and shoulders should be covered
- Remove shoes when visiting any religious sites
- Do not touch the top of anyone's head, it is considered to bring them bad luck
- Ask for permission when you take photos with the local people
- Do not ask women to shake your hand or give you a hug
- It is advisable to ask your tour guide for appropriate manners when you travel off the beaten track
Prior to 2012 the government in Myanmar was very corrupt. Guide books had previously advised to stay in local accomodation to directly support community members. This advice is still viable today as more foreign-owned hotels set up franchises with little money going into the hands of the locals.
To go further on this point our travel expert Zaw reveals his responsible spending tips:
Spreading your travel expenses
The best practice is to spend money in different places other than cities. When planning your itinerary if you can craft a program with stops to many sites you will then contribute to the places you will pass by. Importantly, traveling to these picturesque sites, including Hpa An, Kalaw, Mrauk U, Pyin Oo Lwin & Kyaing Tong promises some of the most authentic travel experiences while helping local communities.
At each city you stay your direct money contribution is really appreciated. Stay at locally-owned hotels, eat at local restaurants, and hire the transport from private companies.
If you prefer a tour package we suggest you to book with one of these responsible tour operators:
- One Stop Myanmar: they have a private hospital to help the poor and are doing many charity campaigns all year round
- Proniti Travel: a company specialised in adventure tours. They offer programs to help various communities where the tours are operated
- Myanmar Adventure Outfitters who do tours with homestays in the far north area. The local families benefit directly from the tours they provide
Support Social Enterprises
The definition of social enterprise is still new in Myanmar but the works from these companies are having a great influence in the country. From Yangon to Bagan, there are a number of social enterprises that offer vocational training and create jobs for marginalised local citizens.
Some of the best examples that you can easily visit are:
- Hla Day shop in Yangon, an enterprise designed to support producers who are suffering from disability, exclusion and poverty.
- Sanon Training Restaurant is the perfect place to savour Burmese delicious dishes prepared by disadvantaged youth in Bagan
- Sunflowers Organic Dye Weaving Studio: the price may be a little expensive but you are contributing to the conservation of the beautiful traditional work that happens on Inle Lake
- See the Elephants in the Green Hill Valley, a refuge for elephants rescued from harsh working conditions