When travelling in Burma (Myanmar) how can I be culturally aware and responsible?

Burma is a conservative and as this country was closed to tourists for so long, it has been influenced less by Western culture than the rest of Southeast Asia. For those of you who are visiting Burma for the first time we have provided some cultural information to help you fit in and travel as a responsible tourist.

  • It is best to cover as much of your skin as you can while in public in order to be respectful of the local culture and not to attract too much attention to yourself.
  • When visiting religious sites you should wear trousers and long sleeved shirts as shorts and sleeveless tops will cause offence. Ensure your shoulders and knees are covered.
  • You should remove shoes and socks before entering a pagoda or monastery.
  • When you sit down your legs should not be stretched out and your feet should never face the Buddha.
  • When visiting a monastery or gompa it is customary to give a donation for its upkeep.
  • At hot springs, rivers and lakes where it is pleasant to take a dip, it is fine for men to go bare-chested while bathing but they should not go nude. Women should be as modest as possible in these situations.
  • Displaying physical closeness in public places is frowned upon in Burma, never kiss in public.
  • Do not purchase antiques although it is always a good idea to buy arts & crafts from local shops around heritage sites.
  • Do not give presents (sweets, pens etc) or money to children as this will foster dependence and expectations of gifts from future travellers 

Local customs are well explained on the website Do’s and Don’ts for Tourists run by the Burmese government and Burmese Tourist Federation