Traveling in Myanmar – getting around

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Getting around Myanmar

Myanmar has not been open for tourists very long. But now that it is, Myanmar is becoming increasingly more popular with tourists. People say that Myanmar is the Thailand of 20 years ago; not yet spoiled by mass tourism, still authentic and incredible nature, architecture and people. In essence, we agree. No wonder that the first adventurers are heading towards Myanmar as we speak. As there are so many wonderful places in Myanmar that are worth a visit, it makes sense to visit multiple places while you are there. Consequently, the question arises: How to get from one place to another?!

For our own Myanmar inland Travel trip we did some digging and later on the experience followed. Below we will share the ups and downs for the different means of transportation in Myanmar.


Getting in Myanmar

To get into Myanmar, most likely you need a visa. However, the requirements can differ per nationality. As basic rules though, we note the following:

Keep in mind that:

  • Some Visas allow you to only enter Myanmar at certain points via the air, for instance, if you are going to book a flight, make sure that you land at one of the airports you are allowed to enter Myanmar. Most of the time, the bigger airports like Mandalay or Yangon are allowed to land on to enter Myanmar. But it is always wise to check before booking anything.
  • it is hard to arrange a multiple entree Visa. Keep that in mind when planning your trip.
  • an e-visa may or may not be sufficient when arriving over land. Make sure you know the difference between the Visas to make sure it matches your itinerary.

Typically, Myanmar does not have any Visas on arrival.


Trains in Myanmar

The trains are an experience. If you have the time, it is definitely worth it as you get to see the Burmese inland some more. Note though that the tracks are not as straight as in Western countries. There are many bumps to be expected, so don’t be surprised to suddenly hit your head on the ceiling. It is going to be a bumpy ride!

Myanmar train tracks map, accessible to foreigners. source: go-myanmar.com

The track Yangon – Mandalay is the most used track, and the trains are more ‘luxurious’ in comparison with trains on other Myanmar tracks. We can divide the normal train and the sleeper train. The normal train has 3 classes:

  • Ordinary class – wooden seats/crowded
  • First class – wooden seats with cushions
  • Upper class – large comfortable seats

For the sleeper train, there are 2 options:

  • Standard sleeper – 2 or 4 bed lockable area, with shared toilet
  • Special sleeper – 4 bed lockable area incl, toilet

There are many organizations offering to buy train tickets online. Alternatively, you can just buy a ticket at the train station. In Yangon, the signs are pretty clear.

Do note that a train ride is much slower than taking a bus. If you have sufficient time, taking the train may be a better experience though.

Gotheik viaduct

The Gotheik viaduct is the famous Burmese bridge, North of Mandalay. Taking the train on this bridge is a great picture opportunity and an attraction on itself!


Busses in Myanmar

There are different bus organizations in Myanmar. JJ Express Bus and OK Bus have come up as most reliable. The bus goes faster than the train. However, there are a few side notes we like to make:

  • Road safety: not like in Western countries. We have witnessed many near collisions.
  • With the smaller mini-vans; people get picked up from alongside the road. The bus does not go straight from A to B.

In general, you can book your ticket online. They are not that expensive. Take a look here.


Airlines in Myanmar

We found that the big cities are relatively good reachable as they have big(ger) airports. With big cities we mean cities such as Mandalay and Yangon. The smaller cities can typically be reached by air too, but is way more expensive.

Most travelers nowadays want to get to Bagan. Bagan does have a (tiny) airport, 15 minutes from the city: Nyaung-U Airport. You can fly there from Yangon or Mandalay. However, for a cheaper option, Bagan can also be reached by train or sleeper bus from Yangon or by minivan from Mandalay.

Getting to the Myeik Archipel (Dawei) or Kawthaung, both in South Myanmar, can be somewhat tricky. Getting to Kawthaung within Myanmar via land is not possible as there are no roads between the mountains. Consequently, best place to head to the South is catching a plane in Yangon. Note that the flight may be more expensive in comparison with other inland flights, as the flight is usually indirect, via Dawei. We paid approximately USD 290.

The two most popular Burmese airlines are:

  • Golden Myanmar Airlines
  • Myanmar National Airlines

We cannot really say something about safety of the airlines, however, we flew with Myanmar national airlines from Yangon to Kawthaung, and everything was perfectly fine. You can use Skyscanner as a tool to find the cheapest flights.


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