BlogSafety TipsTravel InfoBeing a responsible tourist in Myanmar

September 21, 2019

As a responsible and ethical Myanmar based tour company, we are proud advocates of responsible travel all over our beautiful country. Our commitment to sustainability helps us to promote growth of our local economy whilst effectively protecting our local culture, conserving local communities and respecting our natural resources, wildlife and surrounding environments.

Our aim to help travellers and visitors enjoy and understand our country and culture with sustainability in mind, makes Take Me To Myanmar your go to tour company for responsible travel around our beloved country.

As a tourist, it is equally important to act in a responsible manner in order to benefit and preserve the wonderful culture and local growth that is much needed in Myanmar. It is vital to read about the country’s history and have an understanding of the sometimes-volatile political situation in Myanmar before planning a visit. Educate yourself on public welfare needs, as well as local customs and sensitivities.

Travelling in a responsible and respectful manner will ensure, not only a fun and educational trip, but it will also make sure that tourism brings many positive effects to this extraordinary country and its wonderful people.

Environmental care

Over the past few years, Myanmar has started to take environmental care extremely seriously.

Waste disposal and littering is a widespread issue throughout the country. Unfortunately, the problem is so vast that in some regions you can see children litter picking from what appear to be huge landfills. With this in mind, please keep your waste to a minimum. Using recyclable water bottles, taking empty toiletry bottles back home with you and not using straws are just a few ways you can help care for Myanmar’s environmental needs.

Although Myanmar’s wilderness in lush, green and some of the most beautiful in South East Asia, it is important to be aware that deforestation is a huge issue. As one of the worlds largest exporters of teak wood, there are plans in place to protect the future of Myanmar’s forests. In the meantime, responsible tourism will help to demonstrate a long term, more environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to deforestation.

Culture and social care

Firstly, it is important to remember that Myanmar is a conservative and religious country with Theravada Buddhism being the most prevalent religion. With this in mind, both men and women should dress conservatively. Knees and shoulders should both be covered, particularly when visiting sacred sites or rural villages. Buddhist beliefs should be adhered to at all times. This includes the removal of shoes and socks when visiting religious monuments, never showing the soles of feet in public and not touching or speaking to a monk. Please note, photographs should be taken respectfully and permission should always be sought.

Engaging with locals is important in any part of the world. Remember, tourism is still relatively new in Myanmar and locals will generally be very curious and interested to speak with you.

Myanmar has a unique and rich cultural history meaning that the country is impressively littered with notable historical sites, many of them sacred and open for the public to roam around at their own will. It is of utmost importance these monuments are treated with respect in order to avoid damage to the often-fragile structures. In recent years, UNESCO heritage sites, such as Bagan have started working towards conservation goals and have banned the climbing of historical temples. Visitors to the country should help us to conserve our cultural heritage by treating historical sites in a respectful and responsible nature.

Local services and goods

Utilising locally owned services is the best way to enjoy everything Myanmar has to offer, and to ensure your money goes directly to Myanmar’s people. Locally run guesthouses and home stays continue to open up all over the country making it increasingly easy to enjoy a culturally immersive and authentic experience.

Spend your money on beautiful, locally made handicrafts like wood carvings, pottery and silks. These can be found in local markets and small, family run workshops. This ensures your money goes straight into the hands of local communities and offers a fantastic opportunity to interact with friendly Burmese people. Restaurants and tea rooms ran by local villagers offer some of the best cuisine in Myanmar and an afternoon spent in a tea house promises a fantastic opportunity for people watching and sharing stories.

Remember that reasonable bartering is vital in Myanmar. Although bartering is fun and part of Burmese local culture, a fair price is a responsible price.

Illegal souvenirs

We are proud advocates of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), a movement working towards protecting our beautiful environment, sacred wildlife and unique flora. CITES works hard to ensure that the international trade of wildlife and flora and fauna does not impact its survival. With this in mind, it is recommended that tourists travelling to Myanmar familiarise themselves with CITES guidelines regarding the protection of our wildlife.

Although wildlife trading was made illegal in 1994, unfortunately such trading in still rampant throughout the country. There are many markets and stalls that still sell handicrafts to tourists that are made of elephant or boar tusks, and even tiger teeth. Fines are imposed on both sellers and buyers if caught and funding illegal trading is highly irresponsible. Boycotting illegal wildlife trading helps in the country’s fight against those who still poach.

Looting of archaeological artefacts has been a problem for many years across all regions of Myanmar. These archaeological artefacts are often looted by small children part taking in ‘restoration work’ on sacred monuments. Buying from them is both illegal and socially irresponsible.

Myanmar is home to plenty of gold and ruby mines. Technically, it is not illegal to purchase precious gems and metals in Myanmar, but tourists are strongly advised against it as the market is rife with fakes.

Sustainable transport options

Transport options are vast and generally cheap in Myanmar including taxis, buses and trains expect Flight. As many other countries, Myanmar is not immune from carbon pollution and traffic congestion.

Yangon Region Transport Authority (YRTA) are continuously working on projects to help increase awareness and promote knowledge around Myanmar’s fight against traffic pollution. One of their aims is to reduce the number of private cars on the roads. Naturally, taking private taxis increases carbon pollution.

Many of private own companies are start initiating to invest in comfortable coaches for city to city transfer.

Therefore, it is wise to consider Myanmar’s vast and convenient bus services as the most sustainable way to use transport throughout the country.

Of course, other sustainable options include using responsible tour guides, bikes, or exploring by foot.

Child labor and sexual exploitation

The commercial exploitation of children, unfortunately still happens in Myanmar and the increase in tourism threatens to hinder efforts to eradicate it. Child victims of exploitation are often from dysfunctional family backgrounds or poverty-stricken villages meaning they are exceptionally vulnerable to becoming victims of sexual exploitation in the travel industry. Regardless of nationality, those tourists that exploit children can expect to be heavily punished.

Familiarise yourself with Myanmar’s laws around child exploitation. Some simple things to avoid include not paying children (or anybody) for photographs as this encourages begging and reporting any concerns that abuse or exploitation may be occurring to your responsible tour representative.

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