We were fortunate to visit Myanmar in 2015. Unfortunately today, the country has been in a controversy with all the military actions against the Muslim minority Rohingya. You must be asking yourself if visiting Myanmar right now is the right thing to do or not?
We are bias and still thinking of what to recommend you objectively. Here are our thoughts on travelling to Myanmar.
As travellers, we are eager to visit countries we never have been to and it always sounds exciting to visit a country that is less visited by the common “tourist”. So yes, you should go.
As part of the media and blogger community, we’re even more conflicted as we find it part hypocrite that many of our colleagues ignore the conflicts going on in the country and go just to get beautiful photos to boast on their social medias without raising any awareness about what is happening in the country. You should be able to still go to feed your curiosity of discovering a new country, but it’s your job to inform people and your audience about the situation a country you are visiting is on and not only “do it for the gram”.
Then, we’d say if you are a very humanitarian and sensitive person, don’t go to Myanmar. It will make you cringe that most of your tourism money is technically going to the government and military that is behind the current stress in the country as many of the establishments of tourism are government owned.
In a nutshell, we believe that visiting a country is not condoning any of these acts happening in Myanmar, but it is important that travellers, independent media and, most importantly, travel planners, to inform about the current situation of the country to their inquiring clients.
We would say that if you plan to go to Myanmar, stay in areas of Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake, Mandalay, Hsipaw, Kiyakto and the Mergui Archipelago, places where there is no travel restrictions for tourists. Most of travellers do not venture away from these first 4 destinations for a first trip and so would we also recommend you to stick to.
How to travel responsibly in Myanmar?
So if you do decide to go, what can you do? Avoid the government services such as trains and use private bus services instead. It will be tough to know which one is now owned by bad people, but at least you are sure it’s not directly a government service.
When travelling to Myanmar, be a good responsible one and do NOT litter. You don’t want this place to become like Bali with a lot of plastic and waste and you certainly don’t want it to shut down one day like Borocay is shutting down for 6 months.
Note that you will have to pay 10% tax on most things, which unfortunately will end up in government pockets. Best way to think is to limit your spending going to hotels owned by the government and/or their privileged cronies.
Try to stick to local and smaller businesses. Eat street food, go to markets, encourage the local economy instead of bigger places. The people will appreciate the money you spend and that is one great way to be responsible when you travel in Myanmar. If you are a luxury savvy person, we would say that unfortunately, you won’t be a responsible traveller and will be giving your money to government owned high end establishments. Please make an effort and avoid doing this and raise more awareness about why it should be avoided.