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XYZ Consular Info: Burma
Burma (Myanmar) Consular Information Sheet
U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520
May 6, 2002
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Burma (Myanmar) is a developing, agrarian country
ruled by a military regime. The country's political situation is relatively
volatile as the military government suppresses expression of opposition to
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 the
capital of Rangoon, Bagan, Taunggyi, and Mandalay are adequate, but they are
very limited in most other areas of the country.
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 visas at airports, train
stations and hotels. There are frequent security roadblocks on all roads in
Burma and at immigration checkpoints, even on domestic air flights.
Upon entry into Burma, tourists are required to exchange a minimum of $200
(US) for foreign exchange certificates (FEC). The FEC office is located
between immigration and customs at the airport. The face value of the FEC,
issued in denominations from one to $20 equivalents, is equal to the US
dollar, but its actual value fluctuates. Any amount over $200 (US) may be
exchanged back to US dollars; the first $200 (US) cannot be exchanged back
into US 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
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have
initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring
documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel
from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation
on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
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 UN, 10 East 77th St., New York, NY 10021 (212-535-1311).
Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest embassy or consulate of Burma
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
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 arise.
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. The military government tightened
security around the international airport in Rangoon after two RPG devices
were discovered near the airport in early 2002.
Burma experienced major political unrest in 1988 when the military regime
jailed and/or killed an undetermined number of Burmese democracy activists.
In 1990, the military government refused to recognize the results of an
election that 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.
For the last decade, there has been sporadic anti-government insurgent
activity in various locations, such as an attack on a natural gas pipeline
in the Tenasserim Division and bomb attacks against family members of senior
military officials in Rangoon. Chin and Rakhine states and the Thai-Burma
border area in Burma's southern Shan, Mon, and Karen states have been the
scenes of occasional fighting between government forces and various
insurgent groups. In February 2001, several people were killed and some
tourists left stranded during shelling and cross-border gunfire in the town
Tachileik, Shan State. The Thai government has, from time to time, closed
the border with Burma due to increases in insurgent activity.
FOREIGNER TRAVEL WITHIN BURMA: Burmese authorities require that hotels and
guest houses 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.
Travelers to the main tourist areas of Bagan, Inle Lake and the Mandalay
area are not generally required to obtain advance permission. However, some
tourists traveling to places where permission is not expressly required have
reported delays due to questioning by local security personnel.
Additionally, 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 to specific destinations
is permitted. Even if travel is allowed, it may not be safe. Reportedly,
ten of the fourteen Burmese states and divisions are polluted with
anti-personnel land mines.
CRIME: National crime statistics are unreliable, but street crime appears
to be increasing 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. US citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet,
"A Safe Trip Abroad," to promote a 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 US 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 only recently reopened.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to
consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to
confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency
expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom
cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental
coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not
provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However,
many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will
cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services
such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, U.S. citizens should
consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash
prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United
States may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require
medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who
have purchased overseas medical insurance have found it to be life-saving
when a medical emergency has occurred. When consulting with your insurer
prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the
overseas healthcare provider 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.
Some insurers will only authorize payment for medical evacuations performed
by companies with whom they have pre-existing agreements. Due to the
unusual political situation in Burma, not all medevac companies can operate
freely here. Medevac companies connected to the government can operate
freely and effectively, while unconnected companies cannot. Precious time
has been lost during medical emergencies while unconnected medevac companies
tried to negotiate with the government for permission to land their air
ambulances. Please look for an insurer that has pre-existing arrangements
with a medevac company that has a proven record operating in Burma.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of
Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling
Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or
autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Common drugs for sale, such as insulin, are often
adulterated products and unsafe to use. HIV/AIDS is rampant in the country,
as are malaria, tuberculosis, and hepatitis. Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention's (CDC) hot line for international travelers at
(1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's
Internet site at: http://www.cdc.gov/.
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 circumstance.
--Safety of Public Transportation Poor
--Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance Fair to Poor
--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
Rangoon's main roads are generally fair to poor. Traffic in the capital is
increasing rapidly, but serious congestion is still uncommon. Many roads,
even major thoroughfares, are in a state of serious disrepair. Heavy
seasonal rains and insufficient drainage cause street flooding and the
steady deterioration of the roads. Slow-moving vehicles, bicycles, animals,
and heavy pedestrian traffic create numerous hazards for drivers on
Rangoon's streets. Most roads outside of Rangoon are one lane and a half,
pot-holed, and unlit at night.
Drivers must remain extremely alert to avoid hitting pedestrians. Judging
from the frequency with which pedestrians jump in front of moving vehicles,
it appears that they have no regard for their own safety. In fact, though,
most Burmese have never driven a car and are under the impression that
drivers are in complete control of their vehicles. Pedestrians do not fully
appreciate the risks they take in walking in front of cars and darting into
Driving at night is dangerous. Few, if any, streets are adequately lit.
Most Burmese drivers do not turn on their headlights until the sky is
completely dark; many do not use headlights at all. Many people ride
bicycles at night with no lights or reflectors.
Vehicles are required to drive on the right side, 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' concept 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 prosecution.
There is no roadside assistance, and ambulances are not available.
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 are not generally
found in vehicles. Child car seats are also not required and not available
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 has not assessed Burma's Civil Aviation Authority for
compliance with international aviation safety standards. 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. Travelers have reported that their luggage is closely searched
upon arrival and departure by Customs authorities. 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 country. Customs officials also strictly limit what is brought into the
country. However, the military government can not or will not provide a
complete listing of prohibited imports. The military government restricts
access to outside information. Newspapers are censored for articles
unfavorable to the military government. Any publications that could be
viewed as pro-democracy and/or anti-junta will be confiscated. Travelers
have also reported problems bringing in high-tech electronic devices and
equipment, from toys to computers. It is advisable to contact 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 UN, 10
East 77th St., New York, NY 10021 (212-535-1311) for specific information
regarding customs requirements.
Computers, internet, and email: The military government has banned general
Internet use in Burma. As of February 2002, Internet connections are
illegal except to the government and a few favored 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.
Limited E-mail service 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 $2,000.00 U.S. dollars
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, to 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: Credit cards are not generally accepted in Burma. Most
merchants, restaurants, travel and tour companies, airlines, and hotels
accept only cash. A few large international hotels in Rangoon and Mandalay
accept some, but not all, major credit cards. 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
Foreigners are required to use Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) 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.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Photographing people in uniform or any military installation
is prohibited by Burmese authorities, and it could lead to arrest or the
confiscation of cameras and film. Also, please avoid photographing power
plants and bridges.
TELEPHONE SERVICES: Telephone services are poor in Rangoon and other major
cities, and they are non-existent in many areas. Calling the United States
from Burma is difficult and expensive (from $4.50 to $12.00 per minute,
depending on location.)
U.S. GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST BURMA: US Presidential Executive
Order 13047 of May 20, 1997, prohibits new investment in Burma. For
additional information, please contact the U.S. Department of the Treasury,
Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page on the Internet at
http://www.ustreas.gov/treasury/services/fac/fac.html or via OFAC's
at (202) 622-0077.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children
and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet
site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html. Additional questions
may be addressed to the appropriate country officer of the U.S. Department
of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Children's Issues, SA-22,
2201 C St., N.W.,
Washington, D.C., telephone (202) 736-7000, fax (202) 312-9743.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: US citizens living in or visiting Burma are
encouraged to register at the Consular Section and obtain updated
information on travel and security within Burma. The Consular Section is
located at 114 University Avenue, Rangoon; telephone (95-1) 538-038; e-mail
email@example.com. Please note that the Consular Section is not
located at the U.S. Embassy. The Embassy is located at 581 Merchant Street,
Rangoon, telephone (95-1)256-019 and
(95-1)256-016; fax (95-1)256-018.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated November 28, 2000, to
update sections on Entry Requirements, Safety and Security, and Medical