How to Travel in Myanmar?

Myanmar in Southeast Asia is a big country boasting some of the top attractions in the Asian continent. Bagan, Inle Lake, Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, and the royal complex in Mandalay are just a few unmissable attractions there.

Incredible points of interest scattered throughout Myanmar, former Burma, require some time and effort to be visited. To make planning a trip easy for you, we elaborate on essential transport options in this friendly nation below.

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Traveling around in Myanmar

Getting around in the Republic of the Union has two different faces, just like a coin. On one side, you can reach virtually any destination countrywide in a matter of hours. On the other, well, suffice to say that having a lot of time and the adventurous spirit would do quite nicely.

Getting around by air

Aside from Yangon, Mandalay, and Naypyidaw international airports of Myanmar, ex-Burma boasts dozens of airline hubs serving domestic flights. Once you enter this Southeast Asian country, you can go to almost every corner of the nation by air.

The main advantages of using this means of transport are speed, comfort, and convenience. Airplanes cover distances quickly, connecting top tourist destinations in less than 1:30 hours, in general. Regarding punctuality, though, you need to practice caution.

Airplanes tend to depart late, which isn't unheard of, to say the least. However, it may surprise you that sometimes these take off earlier than the travel documents you possess indicate. So, make sure to confirm the flight schedule 24 hours in advance.

By air in Myanmar
By air in Myanmar

Most of the time, airline fares between top tourist destinations in Myanmar start from $100. So, if you plan to visit principal points of interest by airplane, make timely bookings and allocate at least several hundred USD for domestic flights.

To lower your expenses to some extent, book a flight with Myanmar Airways. Other major airlines, whose deals are higher, are Yangon Airways, Air Bagan, and Air Mandalay. The only option for booking flights is via travel agencies.

Besides Mandalay and Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake, and Ngapali Beach are some other popular Myanmar destinations. To get to these, book tickets to Nyaung-U (Bagan), Heho (Inle Lake), and Thandwe (Ngapali) airports.

Traveling by boat

Traveling by boat allows you to take a glimpse into the local way of life by the riverside. So long as you are willing to board a rickety vessel carrying a lot of commuters, that is. Once you lay eyes on these, you may find yourself considering hiring a private boat.

Believe it or not, you should choose the larger governmental vessels if this is your dilemma. Although it might not appear so, these boats tend to be safer than private vessels. Long-distance ferries sail the rivers of Myanmar. Onboard them, you can travel from Yangon as far as Mandalay in around a dozen days.

If you don't look forward to sailing that far but wouldn't miss the experience, board a boat sailing from Mandalay to Bagan or vice versa. The one-way trip between the former royal residence and the ex-capital of the Pagan Empire takes several hours.

Boat tour in Myanmar
Boat tour in Myanmar

Various international luxury boating companies organize tours between Bagan and Mandalay. Amara Cruises, Avalon Waterways, and Pandaw Cruises are some of them.

If the sea is more your thing than the river, check the Bay of Bengal cruise from Sittwe to Taunggok. This activity takes place north of Ngapali Beach, and when you are in Sittwe, you can visit Mrauk-U. Most travelers visit this secret city abounding with pagodas and temples by this transport option.

Regarding getting around by boat, you should note that there are slow boats and fast ferries. When opting for the former, be aware that the journey may last way longer than advertised. Besides being faster, fast vessels are more comfortable since you wouldn't brush shoulders with local commuters all the time.

Commuting by bus

Traveling around in Myanmar by bus can take you almost everywhere. The other side of this particular coin is that it will take quite a time more often than not because of poor road quality. So, you should consider resorting to this transport option for transfers and covering short distances.

Before planning this means of transport, you should note that most buses depart late during the day. That way, they cover most of the ground during the night, arriving at the final destination early in the morning. To their credit, buses are typically faster than trains, although not necessarily than boats, and less expensive.

Regarding comfort, you should note that luxury buses feature air-conditioning. More ordinary vehicles don't have that luxury, but you should find these quite acceptable, though. The catch about traveling by bus in Myanmar is that you will probably have to pay the full fare regardless of your starting point. So, you can board a bus traveling between Mandalay and Yangon halfway and still pay the full price nonetheless.

Bus tour in Myanmar
Bus tour in Myanmar

While travelers can pay in USD for various products and services in the republic of the union, they have to purchase bus tickets with Kyat. Also, foreign visitors might pay a higher fare than locals on occasion.

Some approximate prices for traveling the most popular routes by bus in ex-Burma are:

•Mandlay to Bagan - $6.5

•Yangon to Mandalay - $15

•Bagan to Yangon - $14

•Yangon to Thandwe (Ngapali Beach) - $15

•Yangon to Chaung Tha Beach - $7

Depending on the type of bus, some of these fares can be lower or higher.

Voyaging by train

Getting between points of interest by train should be your last resort if efficiency is what you value. In this case, you should travel by railway in former Burma only to reach destinations cut off from roads.

However, note that travel times are very likely to be longer than specified. The only exception to this unwritten rule is the route between Yangon and Mandalay. Still, traveling by Burmese railway gives you a chance to socialize with pleasant locals.

The advantage offered by trains compared to buses is higher comfort, although not necessarily in all of them. So, if speed isn't your priority when getting from one place to another, you could travel more comfortably by train.

Train tour in Myanmar
Train tour in Myanmar

International visitors need a passport to purchase a train ticket. Unlike bus tickets, these cost foreign nationals the same as they do the locals. Depending on the distance and the class, deals typically range from $10 to $25.

Payments are accepted only in Kyat and fares are more affordable when you buy tickets at railway stations. However, English-speaking agents can assist you when booking online.

There are several train classes available in Myanmar. First Class features cushioned wooden seats, while Ordinary Class trains lack cushion. Upper Class has larger seats compared to those.

Standard compartments offer the convenience of four or two berths. Toilets and washbasins are available in the same wagon. Trains running between Mandalay and Yangon offer such a service.

Finally, special trains have personal compartments with toilets, living areas, and the separate entry. You can enjoy such a personal service onboard trains running between Yangon and Bagan.

Summary

Given the alternatives, Myanmar offers transport options suitable for any type of traveler. If speed is your priority when traveling long distances, nothing beats airplanes here. For combining speed and low price, the bus service should be your first consideration.

Budget-conscious vacationers that don't wish to sacrifice a certain level of comfort should opt for trains when possible. Finally, traveling by boat tends to be slow, but provides a great opportunity for socializing with friendly locals, just like a train ride does.

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