Personal Security and Health

28

Nov
2021

Personal Security and Health

Posted By : admin/ 133 0

The combination of a highly authoritarian government and an exceptionally law-abiding population ensures that Myanmar is one of the world’s safest destinations. Violent crime is rare  and visitors can travel without undue fear of assault or rob- bery, even at night. That said, petty crime is on the rise in the  big cities, especially around busy train and bus stations. Food in restaurants is generally safe to eat, although it’s better to drink only bottled or purified water. Healthcare, however, lags behind that of Myanmar’s neighbors. Seriously ill travelers have to be airlifted to Singapore or Bangkok, so it is essential to have insurance with adequate medical evacuation cover.

General Precautions

The main security risk for foreign travelers is petty theft, such as pickpocketing or bag snatching. Thieves know that foreigners have to pay for many things in US dollars and are likely to be carrying cash in their bags. It is therefore wise to keep money and valuables in a belt hidden inside your clothing when walking around crowded places. Secure your camera and purse when walking or  riding on a bike, as motorcycle- mounted thieves have been  known to grab items at inter- sections. Most high-end hotels  have electronic safes in their rooms, or a large safe at the reception where passports,  cash, tickets, and other valua- bles may be stored. Another  basic tip is to take photocopies or scans of your passport, travel insurance, departure card, and other important documents, which will aid replacement in the event of theft or loss.

Police

Myanmar’s police, distinguished by their grey uniforms, combat helmets, and yellow, blue, and red shoulder patches, have a  high profile by the stand- ards of Southeast Asia.  They are rarely of help to foreign trav elers, though, except in the event of a rob bery, when they may issue a report for insurance purposes. Their demeanor on the whole tends to be forbidding; they do not like to be photographed and few officers speak English. However, Yangon has recently set up a tourist police division with English-speaking officers specifically to assist visitors.

Medical Facilities

The government’s expenditure on healthcare as a percentage of GDP is among the lowest in the world, and dur ing the years of the NLD-led boycott,  international donor organi za- tions gave less to Myanmar per capita than to any other nation. As a consequence, healthcare standards are low, even in big cities. Wealthy locals or tourists requiring med ical atten tion tend to seek it abroad. Local hospitals are crowded and poorly provi sioned, medi cines in short supply, and staff  inadequately trained. The wide- spread reuse of unsterilized  equipment and insufficient blood screening are other reasons to avoid them.

The country’s best medical facility is Yangon’s French-run Myanmar International SOS Clinic, which has a team of fully qualified inter national doctors. International-standard services are also available at the Pun Hlaing Hospital in the north of the city, with a smaller medical clinic located in the Parkson FMI Center.

Pharmacies

Basic drugs, such as painkillers and indigestion tablets, are available over the counter at local pharmacies, but foreign pharmaceuticals should not be purchased as they may be counterfeit or adulterated. Travelers are advised to bring sufficient medical supplies for the duration of their trip.

Travel Insurance

It is always a good idea to buy travel insurance before leaving home, but particularly so for a  trip to Myanmar. Medical facil- ities being what they are, the  policy should cover the poten- tially high price of emergency  medical evacuation, plus theft, lost luggage, and costs run up by delays and cancellations.

Food- and Water-borne Diseases

The most common ailment that afflicts travelers to Myanmar is an upset stomach. Caused by unfamiliarity with otherwise harm less local bacteria in food, mild diarrhea is best left untreated; it will pass of its own accord after 24–36 hours. Drink plenty of fluids, supplemented  with rehydration salts (available locally) if neces sary, and refrain from eating until the attack has passed. If it lasts for more than  48 hours, a more serious infec- tion such as dysentery or giardi- asis may be the cause, requiring  a stool test and antibiotics.

Many stomach problems can, however, be avoided by taking  some common­sense precau- tions: peel fruit before eating it;  wash hands before meals; avoid food that has not been properly cooked, or which has obviously been reheated; stick to bottled water, or take along your own water purifier (which cuts down on plastic bottle waste); think twice before eating in an empty restaurant; and steer clear of meat or fish, unless you can be sure it is fresh and has been adequately cooked.

Narcotics

As one of the world’s prime sources of methamphetamine and heroin, Myanmar suffers high levels of drug addiction. The country is the world’s second largest producer of opium. The worst affected areas are the hills of the Golden Triangle border regions, where opium is grown   and crystal meth manu factured, and in Myitkyina, in Kachin State in Upper Burma, where the drug  trade has financed the long- standing armed conflict with  the state. Attempts to crack  down on the trade are ham- pered by the complex political  situation – the narcotics industry is controlled by ethnic minority syndicates with which the gov ern ment needs to be on good terms to ensure the pro gress of its reforms.

Heat

Myanmar’s heat and humidity can be intense, and to avoid sunstroke while on explorations of archeological sites, such as Bagan and Mrauk U, travelers should wear suitable sun hats, carry  a Burmese paper para- sol, or try thanaka, a natural plant­derived sunscreen used by the Burmese. Drink sufficient water as dehy dra tion can cause headaches, dizziness, and more serious conditions such as kidney stones.

HIV-AIDS

Due largely to the prevalence of intravenous drug use in the country, as well as the illegality of prostitution, Myanmar suffers  the third highest rate of HIV- AIDS in Asia, and the disease  is on the increase. At least one third of the sex workers in the country are thought to be infected, and antiretroviral drugs are in short supply.

Women Travelers

Myanmar is, on the whole, a relaxing destination for women visitors, whether traveling alone or with friends. Harassment is rare – men will look away rather than be seen to be staring, and are courte ous to the point of chiv alrous on public trans port. The chance to inter act with other women is likely to be one of the most sat is fying aspects of the trip. Many women trav elers choose to fit in by adopting  htameins – a great ice- breaker when meeting  local women, elegant, and well suited to the climate. Women should be aware, though, that some pagodas prohibit them from climbing up to the upper ter races, entering the sanctum, or touching the deity. Gay and Lesbian Travelers Gay and lesbian sex is illegal in Myanmar, and although the law is seldom, if ever, enforced,  attitudes remain highly con- servative. There are very few  openly LGBTQ public figures, and no gay bars, clubs, or pride marches, although cruising does go on in the trendier nightclubs of Yangon. Young  people suspected of homo- sexuality tend to be sent to a  monastery or nunnery in an attempt to straighten their sexual orientation. However, one indication that public opinion is slowly softening, at least in the pro­Western, affluent suburbs of Yangon, has been the creation of the group Colors Rainbow, which has organized gay pride forums and produced a cable TV show for the local LGBTQ community.

Gay and Lesbian Travelers

Gay and lesbian sex is illegal in Myanmar, and although the law is seldom, if ever, enforced,  attitudes remain highly con- servative. There are very few  openly LGBTQ public figures, and no gay bars, clubs, or pride marches, although cruising does go on in the trendier nightclubs of Yangon. Young  people suspected of homo- sexuality tend to be sent to a  monastery or nunnery in an attempt to straighten their sexual orientation. However, one indication that public opinion is slowly softening, at least in the pro­Western, affluent suburbs of Yangon, has been the creation of the group Colors Rainbow, which has organized gay pride forums and produced a cable TV show for the local LGBTQ community.

Public Toilets

Public toilets are few and far between. Travelers tend to rely on washrooms in restaurants, which will be well scrubbed and aired if in an upscale establishment, but very basic, with squat­style toilets in local cafés and teashops. Carry a good supply of toilet paper (routinely supplied by hotels), or adopt the local custom of using water.

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