What not to do in Myanmar — 10 things every traveler should avoid while visiting Myanmar

Each country has its own customs and rules, and so does Myanmar (also known as Burma). Therefore, if you don’t want to be considered an impolite person when coming to this country, you should never do the 10 things below. Let’s find Myanmar etiquette and Myanmar manners: What not to do in Myanmar — 10 things every traveler should avoid while visiting Myanmar with Focus Asia Travel below.

Bagan, Burma
Bagan, Burma

1. Do not touch someone’s head

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The head is traditionally regarded as the most holy portion of the body in Burmese culture. So, even if it is done in a nice manner, touching someone’s head is regarded a very terrible gesture by the Burmese. You should not touch the children’s heads, even if they are lovely.

2. Do not point someone’s foot

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In Myanmar, pointing to the foot of anybody or anything, especially the foot of the Buddha statue, is regarded highly impolite, similar to touching the head. Because the feet are the most conspicuous feature of the body. Furthermore, when visiting this nation, you should avoid putting your foot on the furniture.

3. Avoid using your left hand

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If you visit Myanmar, remember to always use your right hand while picking up food or grabbing goods since the left hand is considered a vulgar, dirty portion of the body. Burmese people always eat with their right hand, not their left. According to their beliefs, the left hand is intended for everyday personal hygiene tasks and is thus not utilized for eating.

4. Have a good attitude

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Respecting monks (also known as Sangha in Burmese) and the elderly, as well as taking an interest in children, are all age-old customs in Myanmar. When greeting the monks, instead of shaking hands with them, clasp your hands. In addition, if you visit a Burmese household, you should remove your shoes before entering the house.

5. Do not wear shoes in pagodas or temples

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Image credit: myanmar manners blog.

When visiting temples and pagodas in Myanmar, tourists should remove their shoes or slippers (including socks) before entering. This deed is performed first and foremost to demonstrate respect for spiritual places and to maintain the sanctuaries clean. Because the locals are ardent Buddhists, wearing shoes or slippers in the sanctuaries is considered disrespectful.

6. Do not climb the temples

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Tourists are not permitted to dine or sleep in Myanmar’s temples, pagodas, and other sacred structures. However, because the sunsets and sunrises at Bagan are so magnificent, many foreign visitors continue to disobey the laws by climbing the temples to get a better look. Before visiting any temple or pagoda, you should check to see if climbing is authorized.

7. Do not show your bare knees and shoulders when visiting religious works

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Visitors to Myanmar’s holy places should dress modestly, with their knees and shoulders covered. Even in Bagan, where there are numerous temples and shrines without guards, visitors should follow this guideline, otherwise they may be given a dirty look by the people or asked to leave the site. Some areas even prohibit women from approaching the altar or directly placing incense in temples.

8. Do not ask women about their marriage or family

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When visiting Myanmar, visitors should avoid asking local women about their family, spouse, and children because around 30% of women in Myanmar’s major cities do not marry, and the figure is approaching 50% among clerks.

9. Avoid expressing feelings excessively in public

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As a nation with a majority of the population is Buddhist, in Myanmar, people don’t accept embracing, expressing feelings excessively in public places.

10. Do not stay in hotels and guest houses that are not registered with the authorities

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Visitors’ choices of hotels, motels, or guesthouses must be registered with the Myanmar Tourism Administration; hence, tourists visiting Myanmar for the first time must fill out a form regarding the hotel or motel in which they will stay. That is why travelers should reserve a room ahead of time to prevent inconvenience and receive a better bargain.

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