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Here's what you need to know before visiting Burma (dreamstime)

5 things I wish I’d known before visiting Burma


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6th February 2013

Martin Symington travelled to Burma for the upcoming issue of Wanderlust. Here he imparts advice on things to know before you visit

1. Religious beliefs

For most Burmese, Buddhism is all-pervasive with its rituals and observances followed unselfconsciously.  To arrive with some understanding of  the underlying philosophy is viewed as a mark of deep respect.

2. Smile for the camera

Burmese people not only love to be photographed, but will greatly appreciate being shown pictures you have brought from home.

3. They're being friendly!

People who approach you and start a conversation are not necessarily trying to sell something. After so many years of isolation, meeting foreigners is still a novelty.

4. Tip at will

Official tourist guides are professionals trained to an exceptionally high standard. The gratuities they receive are a large part of their earnings.

5. UK mobiles don’t work here

Voicemail, however urgent, will just have to wait.

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 Your Comments (4)

  • 7th February by netherk

    Great tips!



    I complete agree with #3.  If you have travelled in countries where the 'hassle factor' is quite high, your instant reaction may be to dismiss them - but you will be missing out on a great opportunity to interact with the locals, who are just as curious about you and your country as you are about them.



    #4:  I had some interesting feedback from some of the locals about the topic of tipping.  Their view is that tipping or paying more than the local price because it seems so cheap to you, is doing more harm than good.  Their view is that Myanmar does not have a 'tipping culture', so travellers should adapt to their customs rather than bring their own into the country.  It was an interesting viewpoint, and only one side of the argument...food for thought!


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  • 7th February by phillp

    Also that ATM machines work, so you do not need so many USD's as you were expecting (you still need to pay in USD for some things, so do bring a lot, in very good condition)


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  • 10th February by Truman13

    Sorry Martin, but I couldn't disagree more with your Point 2. In any event, to communicate confidently the wishes of an entire country is unwise, to put it politely. Worse, this sort of statement sends out all the wrong sorts of messages - with particular reference to the people living in the Inle Lake area, the tribes people in the mountain areas & monks and nuns.

    These people, many of whom continue to dress in their tribal costumes HATE AND RESENT being photographed - and frankly, when you see the awful behaviour of many of the so- called 'Developed World' tourists, you can see why.

    Almost no-one asks permission before they take photographs. They stand right in front of (mostly) women and snap away as if they are objects in a zoo. They sneak pictures even when they are asked not to. They don't say thank you & they refuse to pay for what may be valuable images.

    I saw people filming monks, stripped down to their waists, washing themselves in the temple grounds; tribal mothers feeding their babies; naked trainee monks swimming in a river. The lack of respect & humanity shown to the Burmese was by far the worst I have seen anywhere: it made me ashamed to be a European. What are these people thinking of? They would not dream of such appalling behaviour in their own country.



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  • 22nd May by JGlove

    I agree with Truman13 in that a lot of tourists are treating the Burmese like they are in a human zoo, on display for the purpose of providing photograph opportunities for tourists, especially the long necked women! http://www.myanmarburma.com/en/pages/blog/377/giraffe-women-kooky-custom-or-human-zoo?cid=47



    However, I found that the majority of Burmese people loved to smile for a photo, they even initiated it! Sneaking next to me and having their photo taken, like I was the photo opportunity, it was cute!


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