Opening of Myanmar-India border crossings to stimulate overland travel

Rhi village in Chin State, close to an India border crossing

The opening of Myanmar’s borders with India is expected to lure overland travellers from Europe and Asia.

From September, all nationalities were given clearance to enter Myanmar at the overland borders of Tamu and Rih Khaw Dar. It is now possible to travel through Myanmar and onwards to Bangkok, exiting at one of the four Thai border crossings.

Rhi village in Chin State, close to an India border crossing

Edwin Briels, managing director of Khiri Travel Myanmar, said this is the first time overland travellers can cross through Myanmar from Europe and Asia. Previously, the Old Silk Road was used, passing through China.

Said Briels: “In the past, travellers had to circumvent Myanmar, or pay high fees for a caravan permit that includes a government minder and all their expenses for the trip. Now, it’s possible to cross into Myanmar and exit to Thailand.”

He added once the route becomes established, it will lead to a steady growth in overland travellers. They tend to stay in the country for one month and travel year-round, including during the traditionally quiet green season months.

Briels also expects the route to appeal to overland bikers.

Sammy Samuels, managing director of Myanmar Shalom Travels, said the checkpoints make remote areas of Myanmar more accessible to travellers. Tamu connects with upper Sagaing Region and Rih Khaw Dar with Chin State.

Said Samuels: “Both regions offer many off-the-beaten-track places for travellers… We hope there is great potential for tourism development.”

However, Bertie Lawson of Sampan Travel pointed out that while the opening of the crossings have “provoked a lot of interest”, amenities are currently lacking and it will take time for it to become a popular tourist draw.

“Infrastructure and guide services are still basic and expensive,” he said. “So I don’t think it will make a huge difference soon.”

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