Travel to Burma is relatively straightforward. A visa is required which can be obtained from any Burmese [Myanmar] Embassy or Consulate and which as a tourist will usually be valid for 28 days.
A number of international airlines fly in an out of the commercial capital Rangoon [Yangon] with flights available for example from Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur
The ideal time to visit Burma is in the ‘cool’ season from October to February when temperatures range between 20-24 degrees centigrade
It is wise to pay most accommodation and travel costs before departure as it is only rarely possible to settle bills locally by credit card and so cash is essential for all local purchases
Professional advice should be sought about the vaccinations required and tablets that will need to be taken [e.g. against malaria]
A number of travel agents in UK will organise travel to and in Burma, but you are advised to start your planning by researching an up-to-date travel guide e.g. Lonely Planet.
Remembrance Travel Pilgrimages www.remembrancetravel.com
Remembrance Travel is part of The Royal British Legion and organises tours to memorials, battlefields and cemeteries. They have years of experience in this area and have been providing this wonderful service since 1927. They annually organize a number of Pilgrimages to Burma and details can be found on their website or in their brochures. All their tours are fully accompanied by guides from the UK, who know the details of the campaigns and battle sites, as well as local guides who know the region and the local sights.
Remembrance Travel is the appointed operator of the Government’s War Widows Grant-in-Aid Scheme which enables a widow/er of a serviceman/woman (who died between 1914 and 1967) to visit the overseas grave/memorial at public expense, providing they have not done so before with any Government help.
Travel within Burma
Tourists in Burma should research their itinerary in advance as there are many regions which the Government has declared as off limits for tourists. The country is broadly divided into zones – ‘white’ can be visited freely, ‘brown’ areas can sometimes be visited with prior permission and ‘black’ areas are normally closed to tourism. A guide is not compulsory, but a good guide will provide a wealth of information about Burma and its culture, and hiring one [average about $30 per day] can be very useful for solving local logistical and language problems. It is also a good way of directly ensuring that your visit provides employment.
Hotels are of international standard in the main tourist areas and there are small clean hotels of ‘guest house standard’ available in most places that tourists are allowed to visit. There are some facilities for backpackers.
There are internal flights to major centres of population [e.g. Mandalay]; travel by boat on the Irrawaddy is fascinating and travel by road and train is widely used. However most of the roads and the railway tracks, as well as the cars, buses, taxis and trains, are ageing.
People are generally very friendly, courteous and helpful.
Contrary to popular belief, tourists are not generally surveyed by the local authorities, other than to collect nightly registration details [as happens in many countries]. However visiting politically sensitive places such as the office of the National League for Democracy is likely to attract attention and may result in harassment of any Burmese you subsequently meet, and baggage searches on departure at the airport.
Deciding whether to visit Burma
Many people want advice about whether it is appropriate to visit Burma
Some take the view that visitors to Burma are effectively supporting the regime there and therefore should not go
Others believe that visitors bring news of the outside world to the people they meet and also provide income directly to those people working in, or closely associated with, the tourism industry
The arguments are well set out in the Voices for Burma website: www.voicesforburma.org