Myanmar transportation guide for first-time visitors

A fairly closed economy and society, Myanmar didn’t open up its doors to the world until very recently. Now that it has, it gives us the perfect opportunity to get a peek into the wonderful sights and sounds of this underrated destination. With thousands of pagodas and stupas peppered across the land, orange-clad Buddhist monks chanting in perfect sync, and a land shrouded in mystery and fascinating history, Myanmar’s uniqueness lies in its ability to keep its past intact while taking a step towards the future. 

Travelling through a country like Myanmar also requires thorough planning, primarily because of the fact that the country is still in the process of building infrastructure to support tourism activities. Although the most popular tourist destinations (Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Inle Lake) are well connected, your choice of transport will largely determine your travel experience. With domestic flights, intercity buses, taxis and more at your disposal, here’s a detailed guide on how to travel across Myanmar and within its various cities.

Travelling across Myanmar

Explore Myanmar by air

Myanmar is divided into seven states, all of which have at least one airport each. Domestic airlines like Golden Myanmar Airlines, Myanmar National Airlines, Air Yangon, Air Mandalay, Air Bagan run frequent flights between some of the biggest cities like Manadalay, Yangon, Nyaung-U and Naypyidaw, out of which Yangon has the biggest and busiest airports in the country. 

If you prefer the convenience of flying, you’ll be able to find plenty of flights to connect you to  the different regions of Myanmar. The downside to flying is that you’ll end up spending quite a bit of cash on expensive tickets, in addition to missing out on experiencing the local life that train or bus travel offers. If you don’t have too many days to spare, it’s a good idea to fly between your destinations for the least commute time.

Explore Myanmar by bus

There are four kinds of long-distance or intercity buses available in Myanmar: Air-conditioned buses, VIP buses, Economy/standard buses and Air-conditioned minibuses. Typically, one or more of these buses are available on every route, depending on your journey start and end points. Here are some of the most popular routes you can explore in Myanmar:

Mandalay to BaganUp to seven times a dayStarts at USD 6
Yangon to MandalayUp to four times a dayStarts at USD 10
Yangon to Inle LakeOnce a dayStarts at USD 11
Naypyitaw to YangonUp to 9 times a dayStarts at USD 7

Travelling through Myanmar on a bus is probably one of the most comfortable, cheap and popular means of covering long distances between cities. There are plenty of buses available on every route, thus keeping the cost competitive and the amenities onboard (for example – entertainment, toilets etc.) up to the mark. Many travellers also prefer to opt for overnight buses as a way to save money on hotel expenses, and not compromise on comfort at the same time. It’s the perfect middle ground for when you’re on a budget trip!

Explore Myanmar by ferry

The Mandalay-Bagan ferry that runs on the Irrawaddy River is probably the most famous water transport in Myanmar. With the option of an Express ferry and a Standard ferry, this is one leisure trip that’ll give you the peace and quiet that you may have found missing on Myanmar’s buses.

The Express ferry takes a good 10 hours to complete the one-way journey, offering travellers a wonderful opportunity to sit back and take in the natural bounty of the Burmese countryside. In addition to being slower than other transportation options on the same route, ferry tickets also cost upwards of USD 39 per person which may seem a little steep. However, the experience it offers in exchange is truly priceless and is highly recommended!

Getting around Myanmar’s cities

By taxi

Myanmar’s busy cities are best explored by hiring local taxis, which can either be the conventional cabs or motorbike taxis. Both kinds are available easily across all major towns like Yangon and Mandalay, and are a cheap and safe option for local commuting.

You can either book a cab from Grab, one of the most reliable cab hailing apps in Asia or just stop an empty one that’s passing by. In case of the latter, it is also possible to rent a cab for an entire day if you’re looking to hop around town for sightseeing; a great way to see the cities without constantly worrying about transportation.

By tuk-tuks

If you ask us what’s the most fun way to explore Asian cities, we will all unanimously say it’s the tuk-tuk!

These tiny motorized vehicles are the perfect combination of convenience and fun, and are typically able to accommodate a small group of people (usually 2-4). Ideal for a day of sightseeing, they are easy to spot near famous tourist spots or temples, eager to get hired.

By shared pickup trucks

Commonly found in many smaller Burmese cities, these shared pickup trucks are like mini buses or vans that pickup people on the way from multiple stops. There is a particular route they follow and usually cover small areas in the city. It’s a great way to cover short distances within the city for less than USD 1-2 per person. 

Tips for travelling in Myanmar

Now that you have all your options laid out in front of you, we think that these additional tips will help you explore Myanmar and make the most of its transportation system with much more ease.

  1. When travelling on overnight buses, carry noise-cancelling headphones, eye mask and an extra shawl or warm jacket if you want to catch a few hours of snooze. Most long distance buses in Myanmar are known to be loud, noisy and very cold at night. 
  2. As mentioned before, there are several domestic airlines in Myanmar. While that’s a good thing, it’s important to choose a reliable operator when booking your flights. Opt for airlines that have the lowest cancellation rate and a fairly large fleet of aircrafts so you know there are higher chances of flying to your destination.
  3. If hiring a local taxi for an extended time period, like half a day or a full day, make sure to negotiate a rate in advance either based on the number of hours or the distance.
  4. If taking a long distance or local bus, keep an eye on your belongings. If that’s not possible (in case of an overnight journey), it’s a good idea to lock your bags and keep valuable items as close to yourself as possible.

Myanmar has opened up a world of exciting new travel opportunities for those who seek adventure and there has never been a better time to explore it. Whether you want to visit the temples of Bagan or wander through the local markets of Yangon, we hope this transportation guide helps you plan your journey seamlessly and remember Myanmar as the magical destination that it is!

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