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Dive Myanmar Travel Information

Things To Do In Burma

Looking for information to make your scuba diving in Burma holiday run smoothly?

The Burma Mergui Archipelago

For so long the pariah state of South East Asia, Myanmar has some outstanding historical and intriguing travel destinations for the intrepid explorer, such as Rangoon, Bagan, and Mandalay - names evocative of colonial times, empires and civilisations of yesteryear, and packed full of impressive monuments and ruins.

The country shares borders with Thailand, Laos, Tibet, India and Bangladesh. Nearly half the country is covered in forests, with mountainous borders east with Thailand and north with Tibet, where you'll find South East Asia's highest peak - Hkakabo Razi at 5,881m.

Central Myanmar is characterised by wide plains and rivers, where the Irrawaddy River (now Ayeyarwady) flows over 1,600 km, providing the flood plain basis for the main agricultural industry - rice. Burma was previously the largest exporter of rice in the world, but is now 1 of the 10 poorest countries in the world.

The south of the country meets the Bay of Bengal and the southern Mergui Archipelago runs parallel to the shared Burmese-Thai peninsula and forms part of the Andaman Sea. It's here that you can cruise hundreds of unexplored islands, undisturbed by the passage of time and the tourist masses of neighbouring Thailand. With a lack of world demand for Burmese fisheries, the seas are less exploited and richer than most, with little industrial fishing taking place. The Mergui Archipelago provides a frontier for dive Myanmar liveaboards exploration in a fascinating, out-of-this-world environment.

The rest of this page contains tourist information about Myanmar, formerly known as Burma:

Tourist Security and Safety

Dive the World offers only Thai operated liveaboard cruises, diving in Burma around the Mergui Archipelago, from the port of Kawthaung (Victoria Point) on the Thailand-Myanmar border. We do not offer any tourist related activities or options on land. As such, we restrict our advice to the security on board liveaboards cruising the area.

Every liveaboard diving trip must check in at Immigration Control at Kawthaung. All tourist passports are held there for the duration of each cruise. After checking in to Myanmar, an immigration official boards the boat and travels with each party for the duration of each cruise. Therefore, every cruise is supervised by the Burmese authorities and is extremely safe.

In addition to this, the Burmese Navy regularly patrol its waters for illegal and foreign vessels. We consider Burma diving activities to be extremely secure adventures, and free of most risks that accompany other tours these days.

If you still feel uncomfortable, we can recommend that you take out insurance to cover diving and travel activities, including trip cancellation. See our insurance programme for a competitive quote.

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How to Get There

For Burma dive liveaboards that depart from Phuket, please make your way to Phuket Island, where you will be collected and transferred to the boat. For details on how to get to Phuket, see Phuket travel information.

Read our information on Burma entry requirements.

If you require resort accommodation in either Burma or Thailand you can get the best value rooms with Agoda, our affiliated resort reservation specialists:

Visit Agoda.com and review details, prices and make a reservation for Thailand and worldwide hotels (opens in a new window)

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General Information

This section contains information about:

Climate

Myanmar has a tropical, hot and humid climate throughout the year, though it can get chilly in the mountainous north. The dry and cool season runs from November to February; March to May is also dry but very hot. The rainy season runs from May to October with the wettest month being October.

The Burma scuba diving season on liveaboards in the Mergui Archipelago is restricted to the dry season only, so we recommend visiting between November and early May. Check our dive site descriptions for detailed information on diving seasons.

Sightseeing and Things to do

Yangon (Rangoon)

Yangon lies in the Yangon River delta in southern Myanmar, about 30 km from the sea. This large city of 4 million people is crammed with trees and decayed colonial architectural charm.

Yangon is home to the gold-plated Shwedagon Paya, which dominates the city from its hilltop site. This mighty and magical monument was built in the 18th century and is surrounded by an incredible assortment of statues, temples, shrines, images and pavilions. Other sights include the colonial architecture of the legendary Strand Hotel, the colossal reclining Buddha in Chaukhtatgyi Paya and the peaceful Kandawgyi and Inya Lakes. Aung San Suu Kyi's residential house is also here.

The ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan

One of the truly great wonders of Asia, this is an amazing, deserted city of some 5,000 pagodas and temples on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. The Bagan period stretched from the 11th to the 13th centuries, and an enormous number of magnificent buildings were constructed here. The city was sacked in 1287 by the Tartars and never rebuilt.

Mandalay

This sprawling city is the cultural centre of Burma and was last capital of the country before the British took over and is the country's second-largest city. Highlights of Mandalay include Shwenandaw Kyaung, the last remaining building of Mandalay Hill, the once extravagant, moated palace with spiralling stairways, temples and sweeping views; and the ancient Rakhine Buddha image at Mahamuni Paya.

There are also the 4 nearby 'deserted cities' of Amarapura, Sagaing, Ava and Mingun. Mingun has some wonderful monuments in various states of disrepair, and is only accessible by river. The boat ride from Mandalay is a pleasure.

Burmese Politics

Since 1988 Myanmar has been under military rule. Dissent is suppressed, and political agitators are jailed for expressing their opinions. The opposition party leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, was placed under house arrest in 1989 and has spent most of her time since then in and out of house arrest and under various travel restrictions.

There are a number of people who advocate boycotting travel to the country as a means of isolating the government and forcing reform. They argue that much of the money from tourism goes into the hands of the military leaders who continue to deny the Burmese people basic civil rights.

However, others feel that a travel boycott is counterproductive. They maintain that tourism is economically helpful and vital to the pro-democracy movement for the 2-way flow of information that it provides.

Dive The World agrees with efforts to improve human rights and movements that improve freedom of choice. But we also believe that freedom of choice includes peoples rights to choose where they want to take their holidays. We only offer Myanmar diving on liveaboards that are operated out of Thailand. We do not offer any land based tourist activities in Burma. We consider our activities reflect and support the current developed nation governments' attitudes to the political climate. After all, if western government intransigence changed and there was financial gain to be made, the current leaders would be ousted in a very short time!

The People of Myanmar

45 million people live in Myanmar. 65% of the population are Burmese, 10% Shan, 7% Karen, and the rest of the population are made up of other smaller minority groups. There are several small ethnic groups originally from Burma now in Thailand, occupying the northern border areas, giving rise to sporadic tensions between the 2 countries.

87% of the people are Theravada Buddhist, 5% Christian, 4% Muslim, 3% animists. The most common languages are Burmese, Karen, Shan and Kachin. The Burmese language has its own written script too.

Health

Myanmar is a malarial area. However, there have been no reported cases of guests ever contracting malaria from a liveaboard diving boat, so if you stay on your boat, it's highly unlikely you will catch malaria. Other health risks include cholera, hepatitis, rabies and typhoid.

Common but avoidable health concerns are contaminated food, water and ice that can lead to diarrhoea, dehydration and hepatitis A or E. Make sure you drink only bottled drinking water. Fungal infections are also very common. Wear loose clothes, wash frequently, and dry yourself carefully.

It's recommended that you seek medical advice about immunisations at least 6 weeks before you travel. Discuss your Burma diving trip with your doctor and set out your vaccination requirements. Self-diagnosis and treatment of any medical problem can be risky, so you should always seek medical help.

Tourist Visas

You don't need to apply for a tourist visa beforehand when visiting Burma on a liveaboard safari from Thailand. You will be issued entry permits (which includes a 30 day visa) on arrival in Kawthaung (the southernmost port of Myanmar).

Please e-mail or post us 4 colour passport-size photographs and a copy of the main (photograph) page of your passport to help us expedite your entry.

When guests re-enter Thailand after a diving cruise in Myanmar/Burma they will be issued a 15 day tourist visa for Thailand.

General tourists are granted a 28 day visa on arrival. However, things can and do change so you should contact a local Myanmar embassy or consulate for details.

Time Zones

There is only 1 national time zone: +6.5 hrs GMT, or +11.5 hrs EST.

Business Hours

Banking hours are 08:30 until 15:30, Monday to Friday. Many shop stores are open 12 hours a day, every day.

Electricity

Electricity in Myanmar is 230 volts AC at 50 cycles. Several different plugs and sockets are in use, so bring your own plug adapter kits. There are frequent blackouts and power variations, especially during rainy season.

Photographic Facilities

It is advisable to bring photographic equipment and film from home as supplies are very limited.

Communications

International telephone calls can be made from most major hotels. For International Direct Dialling dial 01 + country code + area code + phone number.

There are very few internet cafes and only in the tourist locations and larger urban areas. Connection speeds are very slow.

Post offices are open from 09:00 until 15:30 hrs, but services are unreliable. Important items can be sent by registered post. This is faster and safer but the cost is higher.

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Codes of Behaviour

A floating market in Burma

Temples, Buddha, statues, and monks (it is not allowed for a woman to touch a monk, for example) are to be revered.

Buddhist and Chinese shrines are open to foreigners but you should dress appropriately when visiting. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are discouraged. A non-Muslim can enter a mosque during prayer time. Hilltop houses have special spirit houses, which are closed to outsiders; entering them will violate their sanctity.

Burmese are amenable to being photographed but, if in doubt, ask first. Monks can be photographed and Buddhist ceremonies too.

Burmese regard the feet of lower stature so do not point them at others or step over those seated or lying. Remove your shoes before entering a temple or house. Likewise, the head is of high stature and is not supposed to be touched or slapped.

Tipping

Tipping is not part of the Burmese culture and not expected.

Clothing

This is a country in the tropical region, so light, loose cotton clothing is most recommended.

Criminality

Burma is generally a fairly safe, though due to travel restrictions a very awkward, place to travel. As there are very few tourists here, there is little opportunity to make a dishonest living from them!

Be aware, as in the rest of the world, pickpockets and con artists are more likely to be found in crowded areas such as tourist spots, bus and train stations, and festivals - so keep a watchful eye on your valuables in these places.

Officials

As is commonplace throughout all of South East Asia, bribing officials is a regular part of life here. A minor bribe will get you a long way with Burmese bureaucrats. As the people of Myanmar are very poor, money isn't necessary - cigarettes, pens and foreign t-shirts will work miracles.

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Interested?

If you'd like to sail back in time to the unexplored waters of the Mergui Archipelago, then click below to check your options now for:

Be sure to book up in plenty of time to avoid limited choice! The best Myanmar diving opportunities are booked by repeat customers who book well in advance to ensure their reservation!


 
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