The Do’s and Don’ts of Travelling in Burma / Myanmar

  • Do say “Mingalarbar” when meeting someone, use  “U” in front of men names and “Daw” in front of women names;
  • Do let the oldest be served first;
  • Do offer articles with both hands and keep both feet on the ground;
  • Do bend slightly in front of the elders;
  • Do dress and act decently, speak slowly and clearly;
  • Do ask permission before taking photographs;
  • Don’t touch anybody’s head; Don’t touch women;
  • Don’t point a finger straight in the face;
  • Don’t step over any part of the person;
  • Don’t go where you are advised not to go;
  • Don’t traffic, handle, or use narcotic drugs;
  • When entering pagodas or monasteries, wear decent clothes (no shorts, bare shoulders or chests) and take off your shoes;
  • Don’t sit with your back towards Buddha’s image;
  • Show respect to monks, novices and nuns, don’t offer to shake hands, a woman should not touch a monk, don’t step on a monk’s shadow;

Don’t handle Buddha images or sacred objects with disrespect or keep them in inappropriate places (on the floor for example)

Typical Character

  • Friendly, helpful, honest, but proud.
  • Treat everyone with respect and you will be respected.


  • When addressing people, don’t leave out U (which stand for Mr) or Daw (which stand for Ms/Mrs)
  • Speak slowly and clearly.


  • Not always necessary to shake hands.
  • Don’t hug or kiss in public.
  • Don’t touch any adult on the head.
  • Don’t step over any part of a person, as it is considered rude.
  • Accept or give things with your right hand.
  • In Myanmar, unlike the Indian continent, nodding mean YES, and shaking head means NO.


  • For hygiene reasons, eat only in decent restaurants.

When not available, always eat heated food.

  • Don’t eat food purchased from street vendors.
  • Don’t drink tap water.
  • Drink only bottled water and soft drinks that haven’t been opened yet.
  • Let the oldest be served first.
  • Chinese food is common and suggested.
  • Myanmar food are often complained as ‘oily’.
  • To try good Myanmar food, go to decent restaurants in Yangon area, where they cook Myanmar food according to international standards.


  • When buying gems, sculptures, or any expensive souvenir, make sure it comes with an export permit.
  • Buy arts from authorized dealers only and get a certified receipt.


  • Don’t leave expensive items in your room. Use safe deposit box.
  • Beware of cheats, swindlers, imposters.


  • Stay away from narcotic drugs.
  • Carry some medicines for diarrhea.
  • If sick, don’t worry. All doctors are English literate.
  • Health insurance is not available


  • Accept that facilities may not be the best.
  • On trains, keep windows shut.
  • Speed or distance descriptions are in miles, not kilometers.
  • Carry toilet paper in your bag.


  • Most Myanmar do not wear shoes in their homes. Take off when visiting.

Moving About

  • Don’t jay walk. Watch where you walk and what you step on.
  • If driving, city speed limit is 30 mph. Drive on the right side.


  • At religious places, remove footwear, but to remove headwear is not necessary.
  • Avoid shouting or laughing.
  • Avoid being a nuisance when taking photographs.
  • Tread Buddha images with respect.
  • Tuck away your feet. Don’t point it toward the pagoda or a monk.
  • Don’t play loud music in these areas. Note that Buddhist monks are not allowed to listen to music.
  • Do not put Buddha statues or images on the floor or somewhere inappropriate.
  • Don’t touch sacred objects with disrespect. Hold them in your right- hand, or with both hands.
  • Leave a donation when possible.
  • Show respect to monks, nuns, and novices (even if they are children).
  • Don’t offer your hand to shake hands with a monk.
  • Sit lower than a monk and elders.
  • Don’t offer food to a monk, nun, or a novice after noon time.
  • A woman should not touch a monk.

(Originally published under