There are a few specific etiquette rules for business contacts. It is appropriate to wear business attire for official meetings and contract signing ceremonies. Businesspeople also expect to exchange business cards at initial meetings. Because Burma has a conservative culture, businesswomen should avoid wearing exposing attire.
Mutual relationships play a critical role in Burmese business culture.
The U.S. State Department’s Travel Advisory for Burma remains at Level 4 Do Not Travel at this writing. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should monitor the U.S. Department of State’ Bureau of Consular Affairs website, where current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or callers outside the United States and Canada, 1-202-501-4444, a regular toll- line. These lines are available from 8:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except for U.S. federal holidays). The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad. Further details can be found on the U.S. State Department’s Burma webpage (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel.html).
A passport and visa are required for all travelers entering the country. The application process for business visas varies and can be lengthy. Online visa applications can be submitted via the Ministry of Immigration, and Population’s eVisa webpage.
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The kyat (MMK) is the local currency. Currency exchange counters and ATMs are available at Yangon International Airport and around the city. It is advisable to bring only new U.S. dollar notes with no marks or creases. Otherwise, the bills may be refused, or the exchange rate will be lower than the market rate.
Phone Service/ Internet
CDMA and GSM cell phone service is available in Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, and surrounding areas. Mobile phones and SIM cards have become much more affordable in Burma and are readily available. Business hotels provide access to the internet with reasonable download speeds.
Burma is easily accessible by air, primarily via regional hubs like Singapore, Seoul, and Bangkok. Domestic air travel is preferred over driving long distances in Burma under poor road conditions. Domestic flights connect all major cities.
In Burma, travel by road can be dangerous as roads outside urban areas are often narrow and in poor condition, particularly during the May-October rainy season. Traveling after dark is not recommended. Government permission is required for foreigners to travel by road in border areas. Rail travel, though available, is not recommended due to slow service.
Burmese is the official language throughout Burma, though languages of various ethnic groups are widely spoken in their home regions. While businesspeople in Yangon and Mandalay speak some degree of English, it is not widely spoken outside main urban areas. Chinese is spoken in Mandalay, Yangon, and significant trade hubs near the China-Burmese border. Thai is spoken in important trade hubs on the Thai-Burmese border.
Visitors should consult their physician or local health authorities for a list of recommended immunizations before arrival. Dengue fever is a prominent, year-round health concern. Avoiding mosquito bites through mosquito repellent and protective clothing is the only way to prevent this illness. Although malaria is not a problem in urban Yangon, malaria prophylaxis should be taken if traveling to other parts of the country.
Medical facilities in Burma are often inadequate, and travelers should bring a sufficient supply of personal prescriptions and over-the-counter medications with them. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services, and U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877- FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via fax at 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299).
Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays
Burma is 6.5 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Business hours are not uniform. Most private and government offices close on weekends. Local holidays are posted on the website of the U.S. Embassy Rangoon at mm.usembassy.gov/holiday-calendar/.
Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings
Burmese law does not limit the amount of foreign currency brought into the country, but any amount over $10,000 must be declared on customs and currency declaration forms. Departing tourists who claim over $10,000 on arrival must have receipts for all items purchased in Burma. Their purchases must match the amount of foreign currency exchanged for kyat. Travelers may not bring kyat in large quantities into Burma or take it out of the country. Credit cards cannot be easily used in Burma outside urban areas as few businesses can process credit card transactions.