How to Travel Around Myanmar | Thahara Blog
Trishaw driver in Yangon

How to Travel Around Myanmar

There are a few options available to you when deciding how you are going to travel around Myanmar. From cars to airplanes, buses to trains, all have there up and down sides. So we’ve decided to explore this a little bit more, and come up with our top suggestions.

 

Flying

Myanmar is big, surprisingly so. It’s ranked as the 40th largest country in the world by area. So with that in mind, distances are far. Combine this with roads that have seen better days, and you’re left with a long slow road trip ahead of your.

Flying on the other hand eliminates this problem straight away, and is very easy to book. It’s still possible to book your flight the old-school and visit a travel agent in country, or you can go onto various new online websites that provide up to date pricing and availability.

There are many airlines in Myanmar, but all of them offer a very similar service. If push came to shove, then we would recommend KBZ Air if you have a choice, because their flights are much less likely to be cancelled.

Flying in Myanmar might be a little bit different to what you’re used to, but don’t worry. Check-in often involves being ticked off a list on a piece of paper, baggage claim usually means grabbing your bag off a trolley close to the plane. You’ll likely not hear your flight being called while waiting, but will see a sign being held up with your flight number in it. It’s an experience lets just say.

Finally comes the price. In general it’s not cheap. Most flights will set you back around $100 one way, and when considering you can get a return from Yangon to Bangkok for as little as $60 these days, that is surprising. That being said, what you pay for is easily the quickest way to get around the country.

 

Buses

Buses are affordable and with a variety of different companies competing to get your custom, you also have quite a bit of choice. We’d recommend either JJ Express or Elite as our preferred buses, but that’s not to say we’d rule out other companies either.

There are quite a selection of ticket options you can choose from, and here we would absolutely recommend going for the best. The difference in price can often be as little as $2, but the difference in what you get is huge. A VIP ticket will have you sitting in individual leather seats and with a TV monitor in front of you. A Deluxe ticket, will have neither of these.

Most buses travel overnight, which is great for not losing a day sightseeing, and also lends itself to getting the best ticket you can, so you can enjoy a good night’s sleep. The downside to this, is you’ll usually arrive at your destination at the crack of dawn, and won’t be able to check-in to your hotel until after lunch. We often help out our guests with this, so be sure to ask!

If you think that a bus ticket is around $20, and you don’t need to pay for the cost of a night in a hotel either, you are saving upward of $100 compared to flying. Over the course of a 2 week trip, that’s a fair amount!

We’d recommend booking your ticket through a local travel agency, rather then online. This eliminates any online errors that can happen, and you’ll also find there is a much larger selection to choose from.

Top Tips:

  • Buses are cold. Really cold. So make sure you pack a jumper with you on-board.
  • Check your ticket with a second local person to make sure you’re at the right place, and near the right bus. There are often a lot of buses leaving at the same time, and you don’t want to be on the wrong one.

 

Taxis

You probably won’t use these for travelling between destinations, but might do when you’ve arrived and need to get to your hotel/the sights.

In Yangon a general rule is it costs $5 for one hour in a taxi. So estimate how long you’re going to be in the taxi (easier said then done in the traffic in Yangon), and go from there. You will almost certainly have to haggle, and we would encourage this.

Traffic in Yangon

In other destinations things get a bit trickier. Taxi drivers are often unwilling to come down on their price, and this price is much more then you would expect. This is especially true around airports, bus stations and harbours. If possible, we would recommend walking a little bit away from the main entrances of these locations, and wait for a passing by taxi, rather then one that has been waiting for you to show up.

Final thing to note here is that the quality of car, and in fact the driver, varies a lot from taxi to taxi. General rule: If you’re not sure, then don’t bother, there will be plenty more taxis around the corner that you can take.

 

Private Car

It’s possible to rent a private car for your entire trip in Myanmar. Unfortunately you won’t be able to drive it yourself, but a driver is supplied and will be with you for the duration of your stay.

This is by far the most expensive option, but it does have its benefits. The obvious one being that you have a car on demand wherever and whenever.

Some people find it a bit awkward having a driver hovering around for the duration of their trip, but you’ll quite often find that you become good friends, and they will have an incredible amount of knowledge that they can impart on you.

If you’re hiring a car then you have the option of still flying, and have the car meet you at the airport upon arrival, or you can travel between destinations by car.

The types of car available vary, but a Toyota Alphard  model is widely used throughout Myanmar, and provides plenty of comfort.

 

Other Options

There are often more interesting options that taking the bus of flight, and these can certainly be factored into your trip. These will quite often take a little bit more time, but can be very much worth it for the cultural value they bring.

A train in Myanmar

Whether it’s taking a boat from Bagan to Mandalay, a 10 hour long trip winding along the Irrawaddy River, or a train from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw along one of the world’s great train bridges, we find these excursions add real value to your experience in Myanmar.

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