Responsible tourism in Myanmar is accessible and affordable through staying in guesthouses, eating in locally owned restaurants, hiring Burmese guides, and collecting native handicrafts. Tourism that focuses on cultural heritage empowers communities and gives travellers an authentic travel experience. Follow cultural norms and dress conservatively when visiting remote villages and religious sites. Photographers should always seek permission before snapping shots of locals. Mindful traveller Miss Filatelista shares her tips for travelling to Myanmar’s most famous destinations in a way that benefits locals.
Get to know Yangon off-the-beaten-path by joining Uncharted Horizons for a bicycle ride through remote areas. The social enterprise works with local guides making this tour both ecologically and socially sustainable. Play with rescued pups and kitties at the Yangon Animal Shelter with Visit.org, the world’s largest database of social travel experiences.
Burmese crafts are spectacular. You can purchase handmade souvenirs created by craftspeople and artisans at Hla Day, which means beautiful in Burmese. The shop offers fair trade products produced by creative NGOs and cooperatives.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite head to the Linkage training restaurant. The cafe provides vocational training for at-risk Yangon children and serves fantastic Burmese food at reasonable prices. If you’re craving baked goods pop into Yangon Bakehouse. The restaurant empowers local vulnerable women through courses in baking, hygiene, feminine health, money management, and more.
Pomelo is a fair trade market that has a flagship in Yangon and another location in Bagan. The vibrant shop features artisan goods from across the nation created by groups that work with disadvantaged people. From handmade soaps, upcycled decor items, vibrant longys, and handmade postcards everyone is sure to find something they love at Pomelo.
The famous valley of temples in Bagan has suffered due to tourism. Be mindful of which pagodas you climb and avoid visiting overcrowded structures. Head out on a bike ride with a local guide on the Grasshopper Tours morning ride tour where you’ll visit lesser-known temples, taste dishes at a local market, and learn about the areas fascinating history.
Make a dinner reservation at Sanon. The restaurant has a fantastic menu of innovative dishes that combine Burmese staples with a western flare. Local disadvantaged youth receive service and hospitality training as well as assistance with job placement.
Visit the Inle Speaks information centre when you arrive to learn about which vendors maintain ethical practices when manufacturing gold, silver, silk, and other responsible tourism opportunities and NGOs in the area. Avoid visiting the long neck women at Inle Lake. They’re from the Kayan state and have left their homes and been exploited for the sake of tourism. The women wearing the golden rings around their necks are positioned for tourists to take their photos and pay but rarely is any cross-cultural information exchanged.
Stay at the beautiful Inle Heritage Stilt Houses situated right on the lake. The property is a non-profit that is dedicated to preserving local culture and nature. All proceeds from the bungalows are channelled back into the Inle Lake Heritage Foundation which operates a hospitality training program for people of local ethnic minorities and then places them in roles at Inle Heritage. They offer a cooking class where travellers can try their hand at making delicious Shan dishes.
Lola Méndez is a full-time traveler and sharing her adventures on Miss Filatelista as she adds to her collection of passport stamps. She travels to develop her own worldview and has explored 53 countries. Passionate about sustainable travel, she seeks out ethical experiences that benefit local communities. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.