Despite being the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia at 676,000 square kms, Burma (Myanmar) is far from the most popular among travellers.
Over the past several decades, Burma drew only a trickle of travellers willing to overlook an oppressive military dictatorship whose army, the Tatmadaw, is still warring with the Karen, the Shan and other ethnic groups that seek wider autonomy in their indigenous homelands.
Things appeared to change for the better when the dictators freed Aung San Suu Kyi from years of house arrest, and especially when her pro-democracy party won limited power in a 2015 election. Since then, however, this one-time peace icon has become an alleged genocide denier after the Tatmadaw violently displaced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
Based on the belief of many that anti-Rohingya sentiment is broadly shared among the Burmese public, we stopped visiting and updating our content for the country in 2018. Only you can decide if it’s ethically okay to go.
Burma boasts much diversity in both its people and landscapes. A slice of the Himalayas tower in the distant north near China, with lower-lying mountains forming parts of the western border with Bangladesh and the eastern border with Thailand. In between you’ll find rolling hills, rivers and paddies, with the southern region extending to a bundle of barely developed islands.
Key destinations include the sprawling capital, Yangon; and Mandalay, the northern city that author Rudyard Kipling waxed lyrical on. The central region includes charming Mawlamyine and the hundreds of ancient stupas that rise from Bagan. To the east lies the picturesque Inle Lake, while southwards Ye and Kawthaung, an antrypoint from Thailand, attract a trickle of travellers.
Travel tends to be slow but you will find a railway, public buses and limited domestic flights covering Burma. Visiting became easier in recent years with the introduction of pre-approved “e-visas” for some nationalities. Note however that some parts of Burma are officially off limits to foreigners.
Weather in Burma varies widely by location. Broadly speaking, the dry season runs from November to April and the rainy months are from May through October.
Burma lends itself to a short fast trip with frequent flights thrown in or a longer, slower trip where you don't leave the ground. There isn't much of a middle ground. Ground transport remains relatively slow, so be wary about trying to fit too much in.
Where to go, how long to stay there, where to go next, east or west, north or south? How long have you got? How long do you need? Itinerary planning can be almost as maddening as it is fun and here are some outlines to help you get started. Remember, don't over plan!
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Long and thin, Vietnam looks straightforward, but the going is slow and the distances getting from A to B can really bite into a tight trip plan. If you're not on an open-ended trip, plan carefully.
This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.