Border crossings Opened to Caravan Tours in Myanmar

Tourism Ministry Director U Myint Htwe told recently to The Myanmar Times that caravans would now be allowed to easily enter Myanmar. The authority to issue entry visas at the border gates has now been granted to regional governments. Under the law passed by the old government, caravan travel and tour companies had to apply for the visa more than a week in advance of the trip.

“Caravaners can apply directly to the regional Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, Home Affairs, Defence, or Hotels and Tourism instead of the central government. If their documents are in order, it should take less than a week,” he said.

However, major entry points to China and India such as Muse and Tamu are not considered international borders, and applicants must deal with Nay Pyi Taw, he said.

“The law that would allow caravaners to pass through those gates has not yet been amended,” he said. But entry via Myawaddy, Tachileik, Htee Khee and Kawthaung international border gates can be authorised within two days.

“We expect a rise in caravan tours because of the new political situation,” said the director.

Daw Aye Sandar, director of Mother Irrawaddy travel and caravan tours company, said the procedures were much easier than those under the former government.

“We used to have to submit a week in advance and it was not easy to add more people to the application list, but it’s much more convenient now. Independent travellers can apply to the respective regional government,” she said.

The tourism ministry said independent caravaners could apply either through tour companies or direct at the border gate.

Caravan tours started in Myanmar in 2000 operated by Myanmar Travels and Tours under the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. The tours were not initially very popular, with agents blaming strict document requirements.

Though restrictions began to ease under the previous government, and private companies were granted permission to run the service in 2012, only a handful of the 1900 registered tour operators offer caravan  tours. The tours can normally stay from five to 15 days in Myanmar depending on the selected destinations. In 2015, 152 caravan tours groups visited the country, primarily with tourists from Thailand and China.

(Source: The Myanmar Times)