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Myanmar: The Next Destination 16 November 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in traveler advise.
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Burma, officially named the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is a nation reintegrating itself into the world economy. Since the 2010 elections, the country has undergone a series of economic and political reforms that have moved it from its 40+ year pariah nation status to an emerging democracy and tourist destination in South East Asia.

Secretary of State Clinton’s visit in November 2011 to Myanmar was a first for a US Secretary of State, and  paved the way for the upcoming state visit from President Obama this month. US relations with Myanmar have not had such a positive tone since the Second World War. The visit to Myanmar by the President is also a first for the US, and underscores the importance of the country has for US foreign policy in the region. Tourists are now discovering Myanmar as a top destination for culture and history.

The name Burma refers to the Bamar majority ethnic group, but the country officially recognizes over a dozen distinct cultural groups. Myanmar’s earliest inhabitants were ethnically and culturally linked with Tibet. These links  can still be seen today in the Burmese script, a form of Sanskrit, and  80 % of the population identifies as Buddhist. A regional superpower back in the 16th century, its borders extended to Tibet and incorporated modern day Thailand.  Myanmar’s culture and cuisine is a distinctive mix of Indian and regional South East Asian.

Myanmar is actively encouraging tourism, showcasing its coastline, ancient history, diverse culture and pristine interior jungles for ecotourism.  Although the capital of the country was moved in 2005 and renamed to Naypyidaw, meaning the City of the Kings, Yangon (also called Rangoon) remains the most important entry point for travelers. Many international carriers already fly in to Yangon, with many more adding new routes this October.

Visas to Myanmar

US citizens, as well as citizens of most other countries, must have a visa in advance to enter Myanmar.  Visas are issued by the Embassy in Washington, DC and by the Consulate General in New York City; the Embassy will accept applications from residents of any state except New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, which must process through the New York Consulate.  Processing times are extremely long; even the most urgent requests can take more than two business weeks to be processed.  If you have any questions about visa to Myanmar, please contact G3’s Washington or New York offices for assistance. A list of requirements four tourist and business travelers can be found on the forms page of the G3 website.

Touring Myanmar

Interest in the south east Asian jewel is growing as Myanmar transitions into the world economy and as relations with the United States continue to improve on social and economic levels. Many people are adding Myanmar as a destination in conjunction with trips to already popular destinations like  Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

Tourist infrastructure continues to develop as the government invests in its tourism industry. New hotels are being built, road infrastructure is improving and there is now competition with tour bus operators. A good source for information on hotels in Myanmar as well as general tourist information and travel tips is located at the guide for Myanmar.

Established Tour Companies in the US

Using an established reputable tour company is recommended mode of travel for tourist trips to developing nations like Myanmar. The organized nature of this type of travel is appealing to those who don’t want the worries of individual travel.   These tour companies have already established relationships with Myanmar tour guides and hotels and can provide tourists with an outstanding itinerary of select destinations and attractions.  G3 Visas and Passports recommends the following companies for travelers wanting  to explore Myanmar.

Odysseys Unlimited  A leader in small group travel, Odysseys Unlimited is an experienced operator with a sterling reputation for service and outstanding tours. They have created custom tours for some of America’s most prestigious institutions. Here is a listing of their current tours to Myanmar.

Asia Transpacific Journeys (ATJ) Since 1987 ATJ has been organizing small group and custom tours to Asia. They specialize in cultural travel to Asia. Here is a listing of ATJ’s tours to Myanmar.

Passports

There are a few items regarding US passports that international travelers should be aware of. The first is that your passport is not valid for travel six months prior to the printed expiry date, and adequate visa pages are need in order to obtain a visa to Myanmar. G3 can obtain passport renewals have additional  visa pages placed in your passport. Visit the passport services page or contact passports@g3visas.com for more information.

Image from Odysseys Unlimited Tours

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