Moving to Myanmar
What is Myanmar?
Myanmar is a country in Southeast Asia with rampant ethnic strife, on-going civil wars and systemic human rights violations
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar is the largest country on the mainland of Southeast Asia, formerly known as Burma.
Like so many countries, Burma used to be a British colony.
During World War 2, Japan briefly took over, and Burma then gained independence in 1948.
A coup in 1962 turned the country into a military dictatorship, and for most of the years following, Myanmar has been the scene of rampant ethnic strife – in fact, the country has been involved in one of the longest-running on-going civil wars in the world.
It had/has one of the world’s most repressive and abusive regimes.
In addition, consistent and systemic human rights violations still occur on a daily basis.
Slavery, human trafficking, child soldiers, and other crap were not only condoned but actively encouraged by the government.
Roughly a decade ago, the military junta was finally dissolved and an elected government came to power, which massively improved foreign relations and economic conditions.
However, the fun didn’t last.
In 2020, when the party of famous person Aung San Suu Kyi won with a clear majority, the army again seized power.
This led to on-going continuous widespread protests in the country.
Despite all this crap, Myanmar has potential economically.
It’s rich in natural resources and renewable energy, and it is expected to grow significantly in the next few decades.
90% of the world’s rubies come from here.
It is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and its informal economy is one of the largest in the world – closely linked to corruption, smuggling and illegal trade.
However … the income gap is massive, and the military junta controls most of the wealth.
It lacks basic infrastructure, health care, decent education, and has pretty high crime, censorship and corruption rates.
Myanmar is the world’s second largest producer of opium and the largest producer of methamphetamine. Take that, WW.
Requirements for moving to Myanmar
The requirements for moving to Myanmar aren’t super strict, but neither are they lax.
The cost of living is pretty low, so that probably won’t be an issue for anyone with at least one source of location independent income.
Most Westerners do not need to apply for an actual visa, instead they are either visa-exempt, can get a visa on arrival, or an e-visa.
Staying here for longer than 28 to 70 days however could be tricky.
You can extend your stay for a bit, but getting permanent residence is quite difficult, and not many people are granted one.
Citizenship isn’t an option either in most cases.
In addition, you need to have the fortitude to rough it, because Myanmar’s infrastructure and level of basic necessities are subpar.
The elevated levels of crime and the constant civil unrest do not look appealing either.
And of course, the level of English spoken is at a very low proficiency.
What is the cost of living in Myanmar?
The cost of living in Myanmar for a single person comes down to slightly less than $1,000 per month.
If you have a family, this number can double or triple.
Also, I would strongly suggest you do not aim for a budget of only $1,000 a month, because if something were to happen, you’ll need more money – for health care, accidents, paying off some corrupt government officials and so on.
I can advise you to get your income up to at least $2,000 to $3,000 a month … because if you’re living in Myanmar, you’ll be taxed on your location independent income.
Benefits of living in Myanmar
Downsides of living in Myanmar
Moving to Myanmar - by the numbers
|Hours of sunshine (8/10)||Temperature (10/10)||Rainy days (8/10)||Humidity (6/10)|
27.5 C – 82 F
Cost of Living: 9/10
The minimum wage is less than 2 bucks a day, but the average monthly cost is nearly $1,000.
The latter number seems off, but basing the cost of living on the minimum wage of some farmer living in a hut somewhere in the jungle isn’t accurate either.
In general, despite the low minimum annual wage, I’d say Myanmar’s cost of living is similar to that of other Southeast Asian countries.
Taxes on international income: 5/10
0 to 35%
If you stay in Myanmar for more than 182 days, you are considered a tax resident.
In that case, you’ll have to pay taxes on your worldwide income.
If you aren’t a resident, you are taxed only on income derived from sources within Myanmar.
Economic growth: 7.5/10
Average GDP growth over the last 10 years: 4.8%
A very decent number, especially considering this takes into account the minus 18% the economy suffered in 2021. If we take the average of 2010 to 2020, we end up at 7.6%, which is really solid.
These numbers require some more clarification.
First off, the rate of terrorism is really high, the 9th-highest in the world.
The homicide rate numbers date back to 2016, when democracy was prevalent. Earlier, the rates were 15+, and it’s likely they will rise again under the current junta.
The rape rate seems low, because rape is severely under reported here.
Officially it’s non-existent … but violence against women and children is so pervasive in this country it’s considered normal.
In addition, there are other safety factors to consider such as rising crime against foreigners, corruption, and so on.
How is life for expats in Myanmar?
Living in Myanmar doesn’t look like a lot of fun.
Sure, the weather’s great and the cost of living is low … but the same can be said about a dozen other countries, which for the most part do not share Myanmar’s long list of disadvantages.
Let’s start with the fact that it is – yet again – ruled by a military dictatorship, which is highly corrupt, punishes free speech, violates human rights, and causes massive civil unrest and even civil wars.
The quality of life is low, and the country is pretty under-developed.
Yes, it is growing at a decent pace – but again, so are a dozen other countries.
Myanmar has a very low level of English proficiency, a tedious residence system and it taxes your international income.
Honestly, the only reason I can see for trying to eke out a living in Myanmar as a foreigner is when you are young and you are willing to rough it and take some risks for many years in order to benefit from the likely economic boom this country will experience in the next few decades.
Myanmar’s near the bottom of the Southeast Asian countries, and I would strongly suggest you consider nations like Vietnam, Thailand or the Philippines instead.