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How to get from Bagan to Inle Lake, by Flight, Bus or Train?

Bagan and Inle Lake are among the words used among tourists in Myanmar most often. Bagan, by the Irrawaddy River, is the former seat of the mighty Pagan Empire. The former capital is a stunning example of the imperial enterprise. Many emperors, some illustrious, others not so much or at all, ordered the construction of stunning temples to mark their reign. Spread throughout vast plains, those vary in size and design to a large extent. (Check for the detailed about why you should never miss Bagan and Inle Lake when taking a Myanmar tour.)

Inle Lake, on the other hand, is a place of a different kind of beauty. There, you can learn how humankind and nature live in perfect harmony and balance. The lake isn't especially large, measuring approx. 22 km x 10 km (14 mi x 6 mi). Yet, settlements by the lakeside and some on the lake make it so special. Inle Lake has much to offer when it comes to sightseeing and shopping. With interesting houses, floating gardens, various religious objects and markets, a good time is as good as grantedthere.

Dancing fisherman Inle Lake
Inle Lake dancing fisherman

The distance between Bagan and Lake Inleis some 340 km/210 mi. And there are three basic options for traveling between these top tourist destinations for a Myanmar tour - bus, airplane and train. You can travel between the destinations directly by bus and airplane. Train won't take you straight from Bagan to Inle Lake. Thus, this option is the least attractive to most travelers.

Generally speaking, traveling by bus is most worthwhile from the budget perspective. If time is of a big importance, the airplane is an unmatched alternative. Yet, there are many other important things to know about how to get from Bagan to Inle Lake, either by flight, bus or train? Read on to learn the details, pros and cons of each mode of transport.

Traveling from Bagan to Inle Lake by bus

Traveling from Bagan to Inle Lake by bus is the least expensive option. There are many providers of this service on the market that offer the journey for different prices. Yet, none of them breaks the bank since fares range from around $11 to $20 USD. Just like the prices, traveling times also tend to vary. In general, the journey to Inle Lake from Bagan, with a break for lunch, takes anywhere from 8 to 12 hours.

The quality of the journey by bus largely depends on the company you choose. There are many providers available, with much different standards of service. So, you would do well to research a bit and inquire about those. It can prove to be the difference between a very pleasant and, to be frank, an extremely unpleasant experience.

One of the companies whose buses travel on the Bagan-Inle Lake route is JJ Express. People who have traveled with this provider usually had a good experience. Their buses typically travel around 8 hours and have air conditioners. So, if you are after a safe solution, JJ Express should be the best bet.

Express bus in Myanmar
Express bus in Myanmar

What makes this bus company stand out from others are large and comfortable buses. The locals refer to them as VIP buses. Unlike with most other providers, JJ's buses aren't crammed with passengers. Plus, they offer free transfers to the bus stop, which saves you some time and money. Buses of this company traveling between Inle Lake and Bagan are in high demand. Thus, make sure to book your ticket at least a few days before the departure. Ordering a transfer one day in advance is usually enough.

Furthermore, VIP buses add a variety of conveniences compared to other vehicles. Reclining seats, blankets to keep you warm and TVs on the seatback are a few of them. In addition, travelers get headphones, a bottle of water and snacks on board the VIP bus. Also, the staff communicates with passengers in decent English. And last but not least, drivers make regular stops for toilets, which is essential on the roads of Myanmar.

Other providers whose vehicles travel on this route dispose of ordinary buses and minibuses. And the majority of them sell as many tickets as possible. And such a practice results with a variety of inconveniences.

To say the least, many people become sick due to the lack of air. And once the first person starts manifesting the sickness, others are likely to follow very soon. Dusty conditions in a vehicle don't improve the situation, of course. This kind of trouble is what you may face while getting to Inle Lake from Bagan by bus. So, if you aren't able to travel on the VIP bus for whatever reason, pay close attention while choosing the alternative provider.

In general, around a dozen buses depart from Bagan to Inle Lake on a daily basis. The earliest bus departs at 7 am, while the latest begins the journey at 8 pm. Those buses are usually available either in the early morning or in the early evening. Mini buses are typically the cheapest. But, like we stated, adding a few $USD extra for a journey on board a VIP bus may prove invaluable with ease.

Flying from Bagan to Inle Lake

Given that you have a bigger budget, flying from Bagan to Lake Inle is a much better option. The closest airport to the former capital of the Pagan Empire is in Nyuang U. The best way to get to the airport is by taxi. Depending on your hotel's location, you may pay between a few and several $USD for a taxi ride.

At present, there are several airlines flying between the two top tourist destinations in Myanmar. Yangon Airways and Myanmar National Airlines are among them. The duration of a direct flight is usually around half an hour or somewhat longer. Some airlines fly via Mandalay, which adds 30 or 40 minutes to the journey. Flight fares range from around $70 USD to $100 USD. At times when many people fly, around New Year for instance, prices rise for a few dozen USD per flight.

Myanmar National Airlines
Myanmar National Airlines

In most cases, the flights from Nyuang U take off between the early morning and midday. On certain days, airplanes leave Nyuang U Airport around mid-afternoon. Typically, these days are Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

The nearest airport to Lake Inle is Heho. The distance between Heho Airport and the lake is around 45 km (28 mi). For getting to NyuangShwe, which is the most common base for travelers in the area, you have two options. These are taxi and bus.

Given that you travel in a company of a few people, hiring a taxi would be a better choice. The standard fare is around $20 USDper ride, and the transfer usually lasts around 45 minutes. Transfers by bus last longer and are worthwhile only to budget hunters traveling alone.

Getting to Lake Inle from Bagan by train

Traveling by train from Bagan to Lake Inle shouldn't be among your alternatives. The only exceptions in this regard would be if you wish to visit Yangon or appreciate the scenery of Shan Hills. In this case, getting from Bagan to Yangon will cost you over a dozen $USD and over $20 USD from Yangon to Inle Lake. And you will travel effectively more than 2 days.

Check for the most classic 8 days Myanmar tour with Inle Lake and Bagan together.
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