Travel Health and Safety Tips when visiting a country like Myanmar is an essential read before you start your trip.
Following all the bad news about Myanmar, it might not sound like a safe place to visit, but the truth is the opposite. In the streets you will see police signs that says: “May I help you?” and “Warmly Welcome and Take Care of Tourists”. The government wants to keep foreigners happy and safe. The only time you will be hassled may be when arriving at a bus station or airport as the taxi drivers compete for your business.
Occasionally, travellers who stray far from the tourist trail may be subjected to casual questioning by the authorities. They might come and talk to you in a friendly way and ask what you are doing, where you are going, etc. However, in general the authorities will treat you with kindness and respect. Once, we were in the beach of a small village and a local man came to us and asked what were we doing in Myanmar, where in Myanmar have we been, if we liked it… He said he was an English teacher and liked talking to tourist but I’m sure he was one of this “spies” just wanting to check.
Overall, Myanmar is a safe country and the military presence is low. As the country becomes more democratic, posters featuring National League for Democracy and it’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi become more common.
Travel Health Tips:
It is important that you take these tips seriously and plan before travelling to Myanmar. You don’t want to get ill whilst travelling but if you do, you need to be prepared. Below are some things to think about before you travel. Don’t forget, you’ll also need travel insurance, otherwise seeking healthcare treatment abroad can be very expensive.
- Vaccinations: Make sure you are up-to-date with all your immunisations and check with your general practitioner to see if you need any specific vaccines before visiting Myanmar and to get general health advice. It’s a good idea to go about two months before your travel so they have time to start any necessary treatments. I would recommend checking out the travel doctor’s website, they have an informative section on Myanmar.
- Malaria is present in rural areas in Myanmar. Check if you will be in a malarial area and ask for the correct medication for the country.
- Prescription Medication: If you are travelling with prescription medication, bring them in your hand luggage with the original package, copy of prescription and a letter from your doctor.
- Dental: It is recommended to get a dental check up before you leave, it might not be very easy to find qualified dentist, particularly in smaller towns.
- Food & Drinks:
- Use hand sanitizer before every meal.
- Carry bottled water with you at all times to avoid dehydration. Tap water is not safe to drink in Myanmar and temperatures can get very high in the dry season. Avoid ice.
- Avoid fresh vegetables and fruit. It’s safer to eat cooked vegetables and peel your fruit before eating it.
- When eating at street stalls, have a look at the preparation area and decide if you think it looks safe or not before ordering.
- Food in Myanmar can be very spicy, so if you don’t have a high tolerance for chili let the restaurant know.
- Mosquitoes: Dress in long sleeves and pants to avoid bites. Also bring mosquito repellent with you and use it frequently, especially at night. Many hotel rooms in Myanmar have mosquito nets.
- Insects: Shake your bed sheets before going to sleep and your cloth before getting dressed just in case there are insects.
- Sun: Carry a hat and sunscreen. It’s very hot and heat stroke is not uncommon, especially in the hot season (from February to May).
- Roads & Pavements: Take care on the roads and pavements because they are in very bad condition with big holes on them. At night, it’s a good idea to take a torch with you, as there aren’t always streetlights.
- Safe sex: bring contraceptives from home.
Your Medical Kit:
No matter how long your trip is or how big your backpack or luggage is, always include a first aid kit.
- Antiseptic cream,
- headache tablets,
- crepe bandage, band-aids, alcohol swabs and small scissors,
- antibiotics or prescription drugs,
- hand sanitizer,
- anti-diarrhoea tablets and laxatives,
- electrolyte replacement medications and water purification tablets,
- insect repellent with DEET.
Do I need Travel Insurance?
Yes. It protects you in case of lost or stolen luggage and personal effects, accident or illness, trip cancellation or personal liability.
The most important reason is to ensure that you are covered for medical treatment. Medical expenses can be hundreds of thousand dollars and you may be refused treatment if you are not insured. Don’t leave home without it and read the policy wording carefully, especially the exclusions. I have previously used World Nomads and they are very good.
Note: You have to make health decisions based on your personal circumstances, your government’s travel advice and the laws/requirements of Myanmar for foreign visitors. For information about travel health and safety in Myanmar you can visit the World Health Organization website.