The Complete Myanmar Travel Guide
With ancient temples and pagodas, untouched landscapes and an emerging culture, Myanmar is slowly opening up to the modern world. There is much to learn and discover about this magical country. If Myanmar is in your dreaming list, please find the useful information about the country in our Myanmar travel guide below.
Table of Contents
- I. Myanmar Travel Facts
- II. Safety in Myanmar
- III. Myanmar Visa
- IV. When to visit Myanmar?
- V. How to get to Myanmar
- VI. Highlights of Myanmar
- VII. Get around
- VIII. Hotels in Myanmar
- IX. What to eat in Myanmar?
- X. Suggested Myanmar itinerary
- XI. Things to know before arrival
I. Myanmar Travel Facts
- Country Name: Officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
- Capital: Naypyidaw
- Location: in Southeast Asia, bordered by Bangladesh and India at the northwest, China at the northeast, Laos and Thailand at east and southeast, and the Andaman Sea at south and southwest.
- Time Zone: GMT+6:30
- Land Area: 676,578 km2, the largest country in Mainland Southeast Asia
- Climate: Tropical
- Official Language: Burmese
- Religion: Buddhism (87.9 %), Christianity (6.2%), Islam (4.3%) & Others (1.6%)
- Ethnic Groups: Bamar (68%), Shan (9%), Karen (7%), Rakhine (4%), Chinese (3%), Indian (2%), Mon (2%) and others (5%). Myanmar has total 135 ethnic groups
- Country Calling Code: +95
- Driving side: Right.
II. Safety in Myanmar
In general, Myanmar is an extremely safe country, especially in the main tourist areas. Myanmar may not appear safe at times, because of on-going ethnic civil war or political tensions. But as a tourist, these hardly affect you. However, there are few things you should be aware of
Crime and theft
Petty theft is low, likely due to the country’s strict penalties it imposes on criminals. However, like every country on earth, petty crime (like pickpocketing and purse snatching) does happen in Myanmar, so you should take some basic precautions to keep your valuables safe. Standard safety measures should be exercised, such as keeping valuables concealed and a firm grip on bags, just in case. Wearing a money bag or wallet is an easy way to avoid pickpockets.
Touts and pests
Tourists can see some touts who try to approach and recommend some particular services (hotel, restaurant, souvenir shops…). Touts make their money by collecting commissions from the service they recommend successfully. However, it is not dangerous. You just need to refuse them politely but firmly, then they’ll back down and let you carry on your way. Compared to other parts of Southeast Asia, this really is a minor problem in Myanmar – you may not ever come across a tout in your travels here.
In main tourist destinations, vendors may increase their prices, trying to scam tourists into spending more for what you buy. You might find a few rude and pushy locals trying to guilt-trip you about their poverty, just to get a few extra-dollars. Although this will make you feel uncomfortable while you’re there, there is no threat to your safety. Simply walk away without playing their game.
III. Myanmar Visa
List of Visa Exemption countries
|30 days||Japan||South Korea||Hong Kong||Macau|
Except for these countries mentioned above, all nationalities are required to get a Visa to Myanmar. Traditionally, you can do Visa in Myanmar Embassies in your country. Find the nearest embassy here: https://evisa.moip.gov.mm/Home/EmbrassyLink
It is easier than ever to travel to Myanmar now, thanks to the recent move to processing visas online. Nowadays, residents of 100 countries can apply for an E-visa through the official Myanmar government website: https://evisa.moip.gov.mm/
E-visa fee is US$ 50 per person and you can get it within 3 working days. For express service, it costs US$ 56 per person and you can get Visa done within 24 hours even in holidays and weekends. E-visa is valid within 90 days from the issued date. You can use it to enter Myanmar through international airports and land border crossing points. For more information, view our link: https://myanmartravel.com/myanmar-visa/
Visa on Arrival
Visa on Arrival is the newest option to get Visa to Myanmar. As 2020, there are 13 nationalities are allowed to get Visa on Arrival for tourism purpose
To get Visa On Arrival, you need to queue up at Visa on Arrival desk at International airports to make the visa done before going through Immigration counters. Visa fee is US$ 50 per person. However, Visa on Arrival are granted at 3 international airports only. View more information in our link: https://myanmartravel.com/myanmar-visa-on-arrival/
IV. When to visit Myanmar?
Myanmar climate is subtropical/tropical and divided into three seasons:
- A “cool” winter from November to February
- A hot summer season in March and April
- A rainy season from May to October
Tourists tend to avoid the rainy season and travel in the dry season which runs between October and April. The peak inflows occur between November and February when it is considered as the best time to visit in Myanmar thanks to cooler and dry weather. Days remain warm but it can get chilly at night in the hills. In March, the thermometer can leap from highs of around 28C in central Burma to over 40C, with debilitating levels of humidity.
In fact, you can visit Myanmar all year round. The rainy season depends on location. Annual rainfall in the delta region is approximately 2,500 mm (98.4 in), while average annual rainfall in the Dry Zone in central Myanmar is less than 1,000 mm (39.4 in). As a result, if beach vacation is not your plan, you are still able to visit highlights of the country as Bagan, Mandalay as they are located in Dry Zone. The advantage of traveling in rainy season is that you can book hotel and air ticket at half price of normal season. The places are also less crowded which allows you to freely enjoy the location.
Try to time your visit to include a Full Moon day as this is a popular time for street parades and festivities in monasteries. Avoid the Maya Thingyan Water Festival (usually in April) when a lot of businesses is closed, sometimes for ten days.
V. How to get to Myanmar
Flights to Myanmar are the usual option for travelers as the first mode of entry. But, considering the location of Myanmar – shares the border with China, Thailand and Laos, India and Bangladesh – there are multiple avenues for land entry even not all of them are advised due to safety. Besides, some international cruises stop at Yangon Thilawa Port and passengers may disembark there for tours in few days.
Myanmar has 3 international airports:
- Mandalay (located right in the middle of Myanmar)
- Yangon (located in the south)
- Nay Pyi Taw (situated in between Mandalay and Yangon)
Almost everyone arrives in Myanmar at either Yangon or Mandalay airport. Few airlines use Nay Pyi Taw at present.
Yangon international airport
Although of former capital, Yangon International Airport remains the primary entry point for most international visitors. Flying in and out of Yangon is cheaper and has more connections than Mandalay. You can book direct flights from many countries in Asia to Yangon and vice versa. There are regular direct flights to Yangon from:
- Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) with Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia;
- Bangkok & Chiang Mai (Thailand) with Bangkok Airways and Air Asia;
- Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) with Vietnam Airlines and Vietjet;
- Guangzhou (China) with Myanmar Airways International;
- Hong Kong with Cathay Dragon;
- Kunming (China) with Air China;
- Kolkata (India) with Myanmar Airways International;
- Dubai (UAE) with Emirates;
- Doha (Qatar) with Qatar Airways.
- Tokyo (Japan) with All Nippon Airways
Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Doha and Dubai are the hubs that most travelers from Europe, North America and Australia go through to get to Myanmar. You can easily find direct flights through these cities.
From Yangon airport, it takes at least 45 minutes to drive downtown. Local taxis are available. For information on Yangon airport terminals, domestic connections and how to get to central Yangon from the airport, go https://myanmartravel.com/yangon-international-airport/.
Mandalay international airport
Mandalay International Airport offers just few international flights. It hosts direct flights from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Singapore and Kunming. Except for Bangkok, the other flights to Mandalay are not operated daily.
From the airport, it takes an hour’s drive to downtown Mandalay. Visitors on prearranged tours will be picked up by private car, while independent travelers may need to take a taxi or buses to downtown. Find more information here: https://myanmartravel.com/mandalay-international-airport/
As you can see, Bangkok has very good connections with Myanmar as well as other countries all over the world. Thailand offers visa-free travel for the citizens of many countries; the length of the stay period depends on what country you are from – varying from 14 days to 3 months.
Hence, we highly recommend travels to book return flights between your original country and Bangkok. If so, you can fly to Yangon and depart from Mandalay or vice versa. This helps to save time and money. The Bangkok to Yangon flight time is around one hour and will typically cost between US$150 and $250 return (depending on time of year and which airline you use).
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport is served by many major international airlines, and flights from there and from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport to Yangon are frequent, fast and cheap (in case you need to change airports in Bangkok between two flight, the journey between the two airports is one hour by free shuttle bus or taxi).
Naypidaw international airport
Naypyidaw airport is located 16 kilometers southeast of capital city Nay Pyi Taw. Although it serves the capital, there is very small number of direct international connections, mainly from Bangkok, Thailand and few major cities in China as Beijing, Kunning, Shenzen & Nanning. However, flight schedule is not reliable as Naypyidaw is not major tourist destination.
It takes about 30 minutes to drive from the main hotel zones and most government offices and ministries. Taxis are around K15,000; there are no public transport options.
At present it is possible to travel freely over land between the Myanmar borders with Thailand and India. The border crossing with Laos is remote and permission to cross remains uncertain, and the borders with both Bangladesh and China are closed to foreigners.
Get to Myanmar from Thailand
There are four Thai/Myanmar border points opened to foreigners
- Mae Sai – Tachileik(in the Shan State of eastern Myanmar on the border to northern Thailand)
Foreigners can cross the border at Mae Sai in Thailand (near attractions of Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai) to get to Tachileik in Myanmar side. From Tachileik, you can travel overland to Kyaing Tong in Myanmar. Both Kyaing Tong and Tachileik have airports with internal flight connections to Mandalay, Yangon and Heho (for Inle Lake, Kalaw and Taunggyi).
- Mae Sot – Myawaddy (in the Kayin State of southeastern Myanmar on the border to western Thailand)
It is the most practical crossing point for tourists because of its relative proximity to the main Myanmar transport network and places of interest such as Mount Kyaiktiyo (the Golden Rock), Hpa An and Mawlamyine. Mae Sot has daily direct flights and frequent buses to Bangkok. On the Myanmar side, buses from Myawaddy run daily to Mawlamyine, Hpa An and Yangon. The new road connecting Myawaddy to the rest of Myanmar, so the drive is much better than it was before.
- Ranong – Kawthaung (in the southernmost part of Myanmar, Tanintharyi Region on the border of the Thai Peninsula and the cluster of islands)
The crossing point offers options for further travel in Myanmar – buses or flights on to Myeik, Dawei and north to Yangon, plus cruises to the Myeik Archipelago. In fact, this point is preferable to be the ending point of Myanmar trip, after few days relaxing at the cruise or private island resorts in Mergui.
- Phu Nam Ron – Htee Khee (in the south of Myanmar, near Dawei on the border to the Central Thailand)
This remote border crossing point allows access between Phu Nam Ron in Thailand (nearest Kanchanaburi) and Htee Kee in Myanmar (the nearest town is Dawei). Note that e-visa is not valid for entry at this border crossing. You need to prepare a normal paper visa.
Get to Myanmar from India
There are two opened border crossings connecting Myanmar and India. Both accept e-visas, require no special travel permits and are not in areas of restricted travel.
- Moreh – Tamu (in the Sagaing Region of northwestern Myanmar on the border to northeastern India)
In western Sagaing Division is the border crossing between Moreh (India, Manipur state) and Tamu (Myanmar, Sagaing Division). The small town of Tamu serves primarily as a transport and logistics hub for cross border trade between India and Myanmar. There is also an ATM, a variety of restaurants, and several hotels that accept foreigners.
- Zokhawthar – Rih Khaw Dar (a six-hour drive from the border village of Khawmawi in the northwestern Chin State of Myanmar on the border of Southeastern India)
The Myanmar government opened this border crossing to increase the trade flow to remote northwestern Chin State. That being said, this mountainous region offers incredible scenery, rugged roads, and a unique cultural experience. Just outside of Rikhawdar village is the heart-shaped Rih Lake.
Get to Myanmar from Laos
There is a Myanmar/Laos border crossing that connects Kyainglap in eastern Shan State with Xieng Kok in Luang Namtha Province by the Myanmar-Laos Friendship Bridge. The bridge was opened in 2015 and the only bridge crossing the Mekong River to connect the two countries. The towns on both sides are very remote, with undeveloped infrastructure and unpaved roads.
On the Myanmar side, the nearest towns to the border are Tachileik at 97km and Kyaing Tong at 164km (six hours drive). It has been announced that by authorities that the border crossing is open to foreigners, but you attempt it at your own risk. E-visa is also not available for entry from this point.
Some international cruises stop at Thilawa, a deep river port south of Yangon. From Thilawa, it takes about one hour to drive to Yangon downtown. Normally, travelers will have 2 or 3 full days to explore the country. You can choose day excursions to visit Yangon or overnight trip to further areas of Bagan or Inle Lake.
VI. Highlights of Myanmar
Many people think that the attractions of Myanmar are only Buddhist sites, so they do not want to spend much time in the country. But this it absolutely not true. The country is filled with everything from culture exploration, multi-day hikes, cycling tours and river journeys. And with Myanmar’s location next to the Andaman Sea (and the Bay of Bengal), beach time and diving are also on the list.
Although Yangon is no longer the capital of Myanmar, it remains largest and busiest city (the military regime decided to move the capital from Yangon to Naypyidaw in 2006). The city has many fabulous things to explore.
For beautiful cultural and spiritual attractions, the most important site is the gold-covered Shwedagon Pagoda. The National Museum will give you a good introduction to the nation’s fascinating history. There are many other Buddhist sites of significance in Yangon such as the Sule, Botahtaung, and Chaukhtatgyi pagodas.
The other charm of Yangon is meandering through its narrow streets, winding market lanes, and past its colonial stone buildings. Pagodas are thickly embedded in this bustling commercial hub and the waterfront is always busy and interesting.
The circle train is nice experience to get acquainted with local life. It is the cheap mode of transportation which people use to travel through the outskirts of Yangon. The slowly traveling train gives you unique opportunity to enjoy observing the lively and colorful life of the rural Burmese people
Lastly, you’ll find the best selection of shops and restaurants in Yangon. From humble street food stalls, sprawling markets and fancy restaurants, Yangon can suite all taste. One must-try experience is having Burmese tea in a tea house, the social hub of local people. Tea has very important role in Burmese life. People use lots of time at Tea houses, like Westerners hang out at cafes and pubs. Tea houses can serve some traditional noodles for quick breakfast or some deep – fried or sweet snack for break meals.
Bagan is home to more than 2,000 pagodas between the 9th and 13th centuries which nestles in the green hills. It is really a world wonder and are certainly worth checking out when you’re traveling to Myanmar. History lovers are also sure to be amazed of artifacts and architecture on show in Bagan. Here you will see the efforts to the conquering, uniting and empire-building Buddhist kings and queens. Many travelers stay for at least two days to cover the temple grounds and have adequate rest from doing so in the heat.
Spend your time to explore as many as you can, and clamber the high hills for sunrise and sunset. The area is beautiful at any time of the day, however, things are especially enchanting when the sun go up or down.
Fortunately, there’s now another and perhaps equally fantastic way to see all of the Bagan plain – you can take a hot air balloon as the sun rises – truly unforgettable. Between the months of October and April, hot air balloons rise in the sky around the pagodas, giving visitors an epic view of the landscape below.
From Bagan, you can do day excursions to some nearby attractions such as Mt. Popa, Salay..
Mandalay is the second-largest city in Myanmar. Life here is a little bit slower than it is in Yangon, allowing you to slow down a little and scratch the surface of this enchanting city.
It is one of Myanmar’s most significant spiritual areas, with over half of the country’s monks residing in Mandalay. You’ll find plenty of beautiful temples, including the famous Shwenandaw Monastery – noted for its exquisite wood carvings, gold leaf beating workshop, Kuthodaw Pagoda – known as the world biggest book or Mahamuni Pagoda – contains a relic of the Buddha which has true significance to the Burmese people. Mandalay is also home to the restored Mandalay Palace.
Part of the beauty of Mandalay owes to its setting between the river and hills. As well as exploring the city on foot, it’s a delight to walk up Mandalay Hill for a beautiful view of the city Mandalay is also a base to explore the nearby former royal capital cities, such as Sagaing and Inwa. One of the most beautiful moment you should not miss is sunset over U Bein bridge, the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. In Mandalay, you can take boat trip along the river to Bagan or up the North to visit the remote areas as Bhamo, Myitkyina…
It is the second largest lake in Myanmar in the northern Shan State. It is a vast basin, snaking off into tiny canals with small hand-built dams and floating gardens. People come here to see the fisherman using traditional fishing methods. They do not handle the oar by hands but using one leg. In addition, their daily life in floating villages is also highlight of the trip. You can take a boat trip to discover these villages including Phaungdawoo pagodas which is believed the holiest in Inle Lake, floating gardens, 5-day market and their traditional work (lotus weaving, cigar making…)
Kalaw is particularly known as a base for treks of varying lengths. It is a former colonial hill station in the Shan hills, 2 hours driving from Inle Lake. Travelers can simply enjoy the cool breeze and colonial architecture. However, it’s better to explore the surrounding villages by foot. Kalaw has been visited by tourists even during the regime’s days, when a seven-day stay was the maximum Myanmar visa granted for tourists. Although this beautiful destination is growing in popularity, it has not lost its sense of authenticity and tranquility.
Treks range from a few hours to a few days, meaning there is something for everyone – from the total novice to the enthusiast. For long trek, travelers will stay overnight in monastery in villages. The villages you will visit on these treks will be a lasting memory of Myanmar.
The other highlight in Kalaw is Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp. It is home of retired elephants. They aim to provide friendly home and environment for elephants. So, elephant riding is not available here but you will have a chance to play and bath for them.
Hsipaw is known for its hiking trails, but less popular than Kalaw due to more remote location (6-7 hours to drive from Mandalay). Hsipaw is a small town with limited accommodation and infrastructures. But it has important meaning in Burmese history. Here you can visit Shan Palace where the last Prince of Hsipaw lived with his Austrian wife. If you want to discover the off beaten track places before the crowds come, Hsipaw is a good idea.
You can do 1 to 3-day trek to nearby villages and meet different ethnic people. Following that, the three-hour train journey from Hsipaw to the former colonial summer hideaway of Pyin Oo Lwin, across the Goteik Viaduct is a heart-racing journey and an unforgettable experience in Myanmar.
Mrauk U used to be the capital of the Mrauk U Kingdom, a powerful empire that existed from 1430 until 1785. Today Mrauk U is a small town where the Myanmar’s the second largest archeological zone is located. You can see centuries old monuments forming the backdrop for daily life of local people. With fog that is often appeared, the area has very mystical atmosphere to visitors.
Among hundreds of pagodas, the remarkable sites include Shitthaung Temple, known as “80,000 Images”, erected in 1536, after King Meng Ba conquered Bengal, the unique stone carvings in the multi-spire Andawthein Ordination Hall, the circular Ratanabon Pagoda, vaulted passages with impressive stone sculptures in the huge fortress-like temple of Dukkhanthein and the first erected pagoda at Laymyetnha. In addition, you can do day trips to Vesali ancient city and scared Mahamuni Buddha Image, similar to the one in Mandalay.
Lastly, you can visit some ethnic villages nearby and the most well – known is Chin people with tattooed face. Compared to Bagan, Mrauk U receives very few visitors. Due to internal conflicts in Rakhine area, the area has been usually closed to foreign visitors. Before travelling to the area, make sure there are no travel restrictions.
It is one of Burma’s most sacred Buddhist sites, located in Mon State. It is a small pagoda built on the top of a granite boulder, covered with gold leaves pasted on by its male devotees. The pagoda enshrines Buddha’s hair relic. Coming here, you can see an amazing sight of the massive boulder hanging over a steep cliff. After dark, the Golden Rock is a mystical place with the candle lights. The complex consists of several viewing platforms, a number of pagodas, shrines containing Buddha images and shrines for Nats, the Burmese spirits. There are also a few restaurants and guest houses nearby.
A beautiful coastline and tropical climate making beach is one of the best experience in Myanmar. Of Myanmar’s coastal regions, Ngapali is the best known and most popular beach for foreign visitors. With over seven kilometers of beautiful white sand, clear blue water and a generally peaceful atmosphere, many visitors declare Ngapali to be the best beach in Southeast Asia.
Life here is slow and relaxing, although a selection of modest restaurants, beach bars, and shops are available to make your stay enjoyable. In the future, this area can be another Southeast Asian beach hotspot like Pattaya or Phuket in Thailand. But right now, it still hosts only small numbers of tourists.
Mergui Archipelago, off the far south coast of the long peninsula mainland of Myanmar, has hundreds of islands. While many people come here for pristine beaches, it’s coral reefs attract divers to the region for undiscovered territory. To reach to the islands, you will need to catch a flight from Yangon to Kawthaung, a base for boat trips to islands. The best thing to do here is to stay at eco resorts on private islands to immerse in unspoiled nature.
These eco resorts cost from one hundred to nearly thousand US dollars per day including everything your trip trip. The resorts will offer trekking to surrounding jungles, water sports or diving service. This is also convenient ending point of your trip if you want to exit Myanmar for Thailand. It takes 30 minutes to reach Ranong, Thailand from Kawthaung. From Ranong, you can take a bus to Phuket or fly directly back to Bangkok.
VII. Get around
For short sightseeing
There are plenty of options available to explore one site, depending on each location.
Taxis are available in large towns and cities. They range from 1970s Toyotas to occasional new left-hand-drive imported vehicles. Traditionally, taxis have no meters but drivers tend not to overcharge as outrageously as in many other Southeast Asian countries. At the moment, there are many taxi apps (Grab, Oway Ride, Hello Cabs…) operating in Myanmar. The aim to provide fixed fares, safety and comfort to clients.
But unfortunately, these apps just focus mainly in Yangon. Grab and Hello Cabs provide service in Bagan and Mandalay as well but options are still limited. In other areas, you must reply on your bargaining skill. Expect to pay around 2,000–4,000 kyats (1.50–3 USD) in short distance. For longer journeys, such as from Yangon airport to the city centre, you’ll most likely be charged 18,000 –20,000 kyats (12 – 15 USD).
Public buses run only in the largest cities, including Yangon and Mandalay. Recently, they’ve been regulated and there is an actual schedule in place. However, the buses are usually quite crowded. A one-way journey costs 200 kyats (less than 0.5 USD).
A local version of public bus in Myanmar. They are popular in most of towns through the country. Pick-up trucks cover set routes and pick up and drop people off on the way. They usually depart regularly throughout the day and can get so full that passengers must sit on the roof. If you want the most comfortable seats, in the cabin, then you can pay a little extra. However, it is not easy for tourists because they do not show the route in English.
Except for Yangon where motorbike is banned, motorbike taxi can be seen everywhere in Myanmar. Motorbike taxis are cheaper than car taxis, so a typical ride between two destinations in the city should come to less than 5,000 kyats (3.5 USD).
They are still in use in many towns, although they are being edged out by motorcycle taxis, which are much faster and normally around the same price. They are available on most street corners. It is more authentic way to go in short distances.
Cycling is a wonderful way to explore the local area, especially in the smaller towns and villages. With about 5 USD, you can rent a bicycle for whole day. This provides you with the ultimate freedom to move at your own pace and leisure. Most hotels offer bicycle for rent, even some hotels offer for free. The best spots to hop on two wheels are when exploring the ancient pagodas of Bagan, peaceful surroundings of Pyin Oo Lwin (included in your trip) or around the villages and gardens on the banks of Inle Lake.
It is used as a key form of transportation in small towns, or to ferry tourists around in a number of places, notably Bagan, Inwa and Pyin Oo Lwin. Price is about US$5 for half – day rent.
Another way to get around is by hiring a private car. You’ll be on the move independently by more modern and comfortable vehicle. Private transfer gives you the flexibility and convenience to your trip. You no need to follow the existed schedule but can set your own one. The rental fee is not so high. A full day city tour in Yangon or Mandalay costs about US$ 35 in 4-seater car. It is more than economic if you share it with family or friends.
For long distance
Although the infrastructure in Myanmar has been developing, there are plenty of transportation mode to travel between destinations
Given the long journey overland, travelling by plane is the easiest way to travel, especially to the remote areas (such as Kengtung) where overland routes are closed to foreigners. As now, Myanmar has 5 airlines which run services on domestic routes: Air KBZ, Golden Myanmar Airlines, Mann Yadanarpon Airlines, Myanmar National Airlines, and Air Thanlwin (formerly Yangon Airways). Most of them are private airlines, except for Myanmar National Airlines.
Most of flights base in Yangon. If you choose to depart from Yangon, you can fly to anywhere in the country. However, while private airlines operate flights from/to main destination, only Myanmar National Airlines operate flights to the remote areas such as Loikaw, Myitkyina,.. Few private airlines also operate flights to these areas but the schedule is not reliable.
Airlines in Myanmar use mainly ATR aircraft, so no business class is available. One flight may have several stops before the final destination. At each stop, some passengers will get off, some will get on, and some will stay on board and wait for a later stop. Please be aware of this, so that you are not surprised while on plane. One fun fact is that it possible to make a journey one way in few routes (for example, Nyaung U to Thandwe) than the other way (Thandwe to Nyaung U).
Bus is good option to travel on a budget. There are many different bus companies and most are privately owned. You can take buses to every corner of the country. Buses are usually faster and cheaper than trains. For long distance journey (from Yangon to other highlights), overnight buses are very comfortable with air-conditioned, reclining seats, a place to charge your phone.
You will be provided a pillow, blanket, snack, and water bottle on bus. Make sure you bring warm clothes as they tend to crank up the air-conditioning. There are also local buses running segments of longer routes which are in worse condition. They are smaller and tend to be jam-packed with luggage. On major routes, such as Yangon to Mandalay, it’s worth to take a more modern bus at a small additional fee
The railway system in Myanmar is antiquated, making the journey very slow and generally uncomfortable. It can take up to 17 hours from Yangon to Mandalay while bus takes 9 or 10 hours only. Trains are usually preferable to travel from Yangon to Bagan or Mandalay. It is also possible to get to Inle Lake by train but there is no direct train. So, you need to change the train between. Due to the long time spent on these routes, night train is usually preferable.
Sleeper carriages accommodate four passengers and come with blankets and linen. They can be reserved 3 days in advance at train stations. Long-distance trains often have restaurant cars, and food vendors either come on board or carry out transactions through the windows whenever the train stops. The bathrooms onboard are basic and often unclean. However, train journey in Myanmar is not just for the transportation. It is for the experience itself: many routes run through areas of great beauty (the Goteik viaduct between Pyin Oo Lwin and Hsipaw is a good example), plus there is the chance to interact with local people (the circle train in Yangon)
With so many rivers running through the country, river boat & cruise are the good way to experience the life of the Myanmar people.
In several destinations, you can take a boat as a slow and cheap mode of transportation. The boat journey between Mandalay and Bagan takes about 10 – 12 hours depending on which direction you take. Mandalay – Bagan is recommended as it faster and have one stop for sightseeing at local village. It is operated daily from October to April. Price is about US$ 40 – 50 per oneway ticket. It is also popular way to get to Mrauk U from Sittwe as road condition is not very good.
Overnight cruises are usually operated along Irrawaddy and Chindwin River. Irrawaddy River is the largest and the most important one in the country. It’s 2,210km and navigable for over 1,600km. On Irrawaddy River, the popular route is between Mandalay and Bagan which may take from one to several nights. The longer cruise will take you to upper destinations as Katha, Bhamo… The cruise from Yangon to Mandalay is sometimes operated as well.
The Chindwin River is the main tributary of the Irrawaddy and is navigable for 965km. Following its flow, you can cruise up to remote areas in the North as well as Homalin or Nagaland. Most of local cruises such as Irrawaddy Princess II or Royal Princess only provides one or two nights cruise between Bagan and Mandalay. For longer routes, you should check with international brand cruises including Pandaw, Paukan or Ananda Sanctuary Cruise.
If you want to combine some stops on the way which other modes hardly reach, private car is the best way. For example, you can do overland journey from Yangon to Golden Rock, then Bago, Naypyidaw and finally Mandalay. It gives you the different scenes of Myanmar life and nature. But the downside is the high cost.
VIII. Hotels in Myanmar
Hotel prices in Myanmar can vary anywhere between US $30 – 500 per night for one or two people, catering for all budgets and preferences. Most of hotels have their prices in US dollars, however they will accept payment in both US dollars and kyat. The vast majority of hotels include buffet breakfast.
Hotel price in Myanmar has actually decreased in recent years, due to improved infrastructure and increasing tourism levels. Interestingly enough, this was not the case ten years ago, when there was a huge shortage of accommodations due to the newly-opened tourism across the whole country. At the moment, with hundreds of new hotels popping up throughout Myanmar, travelers are easier to find good hotels with more reasonable price.
Although, accommodations are quite basic and are slightly more expensive compared to other Southeast Asian countries as Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia. If you’re traveling during peak season or holidays, it is best to book your accommodations in advance. To help you in planning out, we would like to recommended some of the best places to stay in Myanmar from middle range to luxurious hotels
Hotel in Yangon
As the biggest and the most commercial city of Myanmar, Yangon has a bloom of hotels in different categories. Beside old aged hotels such as Strand, Belmond Governor’s Residence, Savoy or Sule Shangri – La, there are many international brand luxury hotels (Pacific, Melia, Lotte) as well as basic local hotels going into operation. Therefore, this makes hotels’ price in Yangon much more reasonable than it is in other areas. With about US$ 100, you can book a room at luxurious hotels as Wyndham, Chatrium… For the best options, please view our post here
Hotel in Bagan
In recent years, Bagan also has an increase of hotels but they are mainly middle ranged ones. Bagan still lacks options for luxury hotels when there are just few choices such as Aureum Palace Hotel, Bagan Lodge or the newest one Heritage Bagan Hotel. Actually, middle ranged hotels in Bagan are quite good when they offer big rooms with nice decoration, modern facilities and especially swimming pool. It helps travelers to hide from the heat in Bagan. Please find out our recommendations in this post:
Hotels in Mandalay
Although being the second biggest city in Mandalay, the development here is not really equal. In recent 5 years, there is only new luxury hotel which is Pullman Mandalay Hotel. While the number of new hotels in Yangon is much more. The middle – ranged and basic hotels are also increased but cannot be compared with ones in Yangon or Bagan. Hotels in Mandalay tend to be city hotels with small rooms and basic facilities. Here is the link for hotels in Mandalay:
Hotels in Inle
In Inle, travelers have many options to choose for overnight stay from budget to luxury. Nyaung Shwe town is the main gateway to Inle Lake. So, it is the busiest area where you can find shops, restaurants, bars and markets. Hotels in this area are mainly boutique and basic ones. It is popular are for backpackers and young travelers who are interested in party and nightlife.
If you look for romantic and quiet, you should stay in floating resorts on the lake or in the East and Southeast area of the lake. Here you can find luxurious hotels with direct view of the lake. However, it is not convenient to go out after dark from these areas, so you have only option to entertain yourselves at your resort.
Below are our recommendations:
Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Inle
- Location: Mine Thauk Village, East Inle Lake. It is 13km from Nyaung Shwe Town
- Features: traditional style villas with half of them are floating over the water.
- Facilities: Fitness centre, swimming pool, Souvenir shop
- Price: from US$ 160 per room per night
Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min
- Location: Thalae Oo Village, Southeast Inle Lake, 20km from Nyaung Shwe
- Feature: modern design with duplex buildings. Some rooms offer direct view of the lake
- Facilities: Wifi, swimming pool, spa, bar & fitness center
- Price: from US$ 150 per room per night
Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min
- Location: Mine Thauk Village, East Inle Lake, 13km from Nyaung Shwe town
- Feature: modern design with duplex buildings. Some rooms offer direct view of the lake
- Facilities: Wifi, swimming pool, spa, bar & fitness center
- Price: from US$ 100 per room per night
Inle Resort & spa
- Location: Myaung Yoe Gyi Village, near Nyaung Shwe town. Can access by boat or car
- Feature: nice hotel with traditional decoration and lush garden
- Facilites: Wifi, swimming pool, spa & fitness center
- Price: from US$ 70 per room per night
Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort
- Location: On the lake
- Feature: floating bungalow are decorated in royal Burmese style. Family room is available for a family of three or four people
- Facilities: Wifi, swimming pool & spa
- Price: from US$ 90 per room per night
Paramount Inle Resort
- Location: On the lake
- Feature: traditional setting with all rooms has private balcony
- Facilities: Wifi & spa
- Price: from US$ 55 per room per night
Amazing Nyaung Shwe Hotel
- Location: Yone Gyi Street, in the heart of Nyaung Shwe,
- Feature: a boutique hotel in traditional style
- Facilities: Wifi, a garden & spa
- Price: from US$ 50 per room per night
Hotels in Kalaw
Kalaw has many lovely hotels which offer beautiful view of mountain. Being a hill town, most of hotels in Kalaw locates in hills surrounding the town which are in walking distance to the centre.
Amara Mountain Resort
- Location: it takes 20 minutes walking or 5 minutes driving to the town.
- Feature: The hotel is set in the old colonial building, surrounded by beautiful garden. Each room is located in duplex villa and decorated in local style
- Facilities: Wifi, restaurant, bar, garden & spa
- Price: from US$ 100 per room per night
Kalaw Heritage Hotel
- Location: 5 minutes to drive to downtown
- Feature: Another hotel setting in the colonial building and lovely garden. Its rooms are decorated in colonial style
- Facilities: Wifi, restaurant & bar, free shuttle to/from downtown
- Price: from US$ 60 per room per night
Dream Mountain Hotel
- Location: 10 minutes walking to centre of town, easy to access restaurants and attractions
- Feature: Spacious room with big windows offering nice view of mountains
- Facilities: Wifi, restaurant & bar, free shuttle to/from downtown
- Price: from US$ 75 per room per night
Hotel in Hsipaw
Hsipaw is quite new in tourism map. Although the infrastructure has developed, the options are still limited. Almost of accommodation are guesthouses, just few hotels can be used for foreign standard.
- Location: on the eastern bank of the Dokhtawady River, opposite to the town. You need to take a quick boat trip to reach hotel which is offered free.
- Feature: the hotel offers 28 comfortable river view rooms located in 14 duplex bungalows. All rooms are in rustic style.
- Facilities: restaurant & bar
- Price: from US$ 55 per room per night
Mr. Charles Hotel
- Location: in the central town. Convenient to access attractions.
- Feature: the best hotel in town which offers clean rooms and professional staffs.
- Facilities: restaurant & garden
- Price: from US$ 40 per room per night
Hotel in Mrauk U
Mrauk U has been suffered from many civil wars. This makes Mrauk U a sleepy town with very poor living conditions. As it has been closed to tourists many times, hotels in Mrauk U are old and expensive. Below are two best ones:
Mrauk U Princess Resort
- Location: 4km from key temples. It takes about 15 minutes driving
- Feature: a boutique hotel setting in the lovely garden and lotus pond. All are villas decorated in traditional style
- Facilities: Wifi, restaurant, garden, swimming pool & spa
- Price: from US$ 220 per room per night
Shwe Thazin Hotel
- Location: in walking distance to key temples and town centre.
- Feature: the lowest rooms are in new building without character. Superior and deluxe are in bungalow types and decorated in traditional style
- Facilities: Wifi, restaurant & garden
- Price: from US$ 70 per room per night
Hotel in Golden Rock
Normally, Golden Rock requires just 1 night stop to explore the site. There are not many options to choose and all of them are very basic. Travelers have the options to stay at the base of Kyaikhtiyo mountain or at the top. From the base to top of the mountain, it takes at least 2 hours while the most beautiful moment to visit the Rock is at sunset. Therefore, travelers prefer to stay on the mountain so that they do not miss this magical moment. We recommend following hotels:
Mountain Top Hotel
- Location: at the top of mountain, just 5 minutes walking to the Golden Rock.
- Feature: Rooms are spacious and has beautiful view of nature.
- Facilities: Wifi, restaurant & bar
- Price: from US$ 100 per room per night
Golden Rock Hotel
- Location: next to the open truck stop point where all vehicles must be stopped. From here, you need to walk to the Golden rock in about 45 minutes.
- Feature: Clean and comfortable rooms
- Facilities: Wifi, restaurant & bar
- Price: from US$ 80 per room per night
Hotel in Ngapali
As one of the most beautiful beaches in Myanmar, there are many beautiful beach resorts in Ngapali. Hotels in Ngapali are not big buildings like ones in neighbor country Thailand but designed mostly in villa/bungalow type. So, clients will have private and peaceful atmosphere. In general, hotel prices in Ngapali are high and can be increased double during Christmas and New Year period. Despite of this, the availability can be quickly in full. So, if you have plan to come during this period, you had better book at least one month in advance to get good hotels.
Here are the best hotels in Ngapali: https://myanmartravel.com/best-hotels-in-ngapali/
Hotel in Mergui Archipelago
Mergui has little modern beach hotels with full amenities like other beaches of the country. Instead, Mergui offers a variety of eco resorts which are located in different islands belonging the Archipelago. These resorts are accessed by boat from Kawthaung jetty. They also arrange pick-up service from Kawthaung airport in Myanmar or from Ranong airport/jetty in Thailand. In these resorts, do not expect TV and Air – condition but you will have a chance to immerse yourselves into unspoiled nature and clear water. Due to the remote location, resorts in Mergui will sell a package which includes everything, not only room.
Victoria Cliff Nyaung Oo Phee Resort
- Location: In Nyaung Oo Phee Island. It takes 1.5 hours by speedboat from Kawthaung jetty
- Feature: the modern resort in Mergui with many choices of accommodation from tent, basic room to beach villa. Swimming pool, bar and fitness centre are available.
- Shuttle speed boat schedule: daily
- Activities: Fire show, snorkeling, kayaking, diving, massages, coral planting & sunset cruise
- Package Price: from US$ 250 per person per night including full board, snorkeling equipment, fire show and shuttle boat transfers
Andaman Eco Resort
- Location: In Macleod Island. It takes 1.5 hours by speedboat from Kawthaung jetty
- Shuttle speed boat schedule: operated on every Wednesday & Saturday. Depart and return on the same day.
- Activities: snorkeling, kayaking, diving, massages and jungle trekking
- Package Price: from US$ 300 per room per night including breakfast, dinner, snorkeling equipment, scheduled hiking and shuttle boat transfer
Boulder Bay Eco Resort
- Location: in Boulder Island. It takes 5-6 hours by normal boat from Kawthaung jetty and 2 hour by speed boat (on request and extra charge applies)
- Shuttle boat schedule (normal boat)
Depart from Kawthaung: on Monday, Thursday & Saturday
Depart from resort: on Tuesday, Friday & Sunday
- Activities: sea canoeing, boat trip, walking, jungle trekking, snorkeling, diving & yoga
- Package Price: from US$ 1380 per room for the shortest package 4 days/3 nights, including full board meals, scheduled boat transfer, land transfer to/from the airports & all activities in the resort.
Awei Pila Resort
- Location: In Kyun Pila private island. It takes 2 hours by speedboat from Kawthaung jetty
- Feature: luxury eco resort with beach villas. Swimming pool & bar are available.
- Shuttle speed boat schedule: not fixed. Stay 3 consecutive nights and above receive free return transfer.
- Activities: snorkeling, kayaking, diving, massages & cultural exploring (Moken village)
- Package Price: from US$ 650 per room per night including full board, non-motorized activities and non-alcoholic beverages. The transfer cost of US$ 240 per person is added if you stay less than 3 nights.
Wa Ale Resort
- Location: In Lampi Island Marine National Park. It takes 1.4 hours by speedboat from Kawthaung jetty
- Feature: top luxury eco resort which offer comfort accommodations, from luxury tented and treetop villas to private houses…all with spectacular views of the Andaman Sea.
- Shuttle speed boat schedule: on Tuesday & Saturday
- Activities: snorkeling, kayaking, diving, massages & cultural explorer.
- Package Price: from US$ 600 per person per night including full board, House wine, beer and non-alcoholic beverages, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, land transfer to/from airports and shuttle boat transfer
IX. What to eat in Myanmar?
Compared to neighbor countries as Thailand, China and India, Burmese cuisine is totally overshadowed. With Myanmar opening to the outside world, visitors now have a chance to discover a cuisine that’s been largely hidden from sight for the past 50 years. Burmese food emphasizes on rich, predominately savory/salty flavors which are much influenced from its neighbors. However, Burmese food combines many ingredients which are not found in any other cuisine, so it is absolutely worth a try. As in most of Southeast Asia, Myanmar restaurants and stalls tend to specialize in a single dish or culinary style.
For a comprehensive taste of the cuisine, we’ve chosen these 5 Burmese dishes and snacks which visitors should try in the first visit. Please check out them on our post: https://myanmartravel.com/myanmar-cuisine-where-to-eat-in-yangon/ Besides, you may be interested in checking out few other posts to have more idea if what to eat in other regions outside of Yangon
- What to eat in Mandalay: https://myanmartravel.com/best-food-in-mandalay/
- Best restaurants in Mandalay: https://myanmartravel.com/best-restaurants-in-mandalay/
X. Suggested Myanmar itinerary
As listed above, you won’t be short on options to visit in Myanmar. There are many itineraries for travel, depending on your time and hobby. Normally, travelers will spend at least 3 nights to explore the country. If you are in such short time, one place you should not miss is undoubtedly the pagodas of the Bagan plain.
Either you enter the country through Yangon or Mandalay, you can catch a morning flight to Bagan and return in late afternoon next day. It allows you to have 2 full days and 1 night to visit the area. Then, take the rest of time exploring the city you choose for arrival and departure. In Yangon, a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda is a must. In Mandalay, do not miss sunset at Ubein bridge.
Longer itineraries would involve Inle Lake. A week would give you Mandalay and its deserted cities around it or Yangon with its pagodas, markets and colonial-era streets, the Bagan plain and Inle Lake. The reason I put “or” between Yangon and Mandalay that it is fine to skip one of big cities and spend time for other highlights. Actually, Mandalay is nearer to other main attractions, so choosing Mandalay as starting and ending point is good idea in case you it fits your flight schedule. If you love to stay on beaches, spend 3 days more for Ngapali and 5 days more for Mergui.
Best itinerary for 1 week in Myanmar
Fly into Yangon or Mandalay where you can spend one to two full day(s) experiencing either city, spend two full days in Bagan, two full days in Inle Lake (one day for a boat tour and one day for biking around the lake) and another one or two days in your city of departure.
Suggested tour itinerary: https://myanmartravel.com/tour/captivating-myanmar-journey/
Best itinerary for 2 weeks in Myanmar:
Two weeks would allow you to add Golden Rock and few days relaxing at beautiful beaches of Ngapali.
Suggested itinerary: https://myanmartravel.com/tour/myanmar-discovery/
With two weeks or more, you can have more flexibility with your chosen way to get around the country, whether that is with night buses or train instead of domestic flights. One or two night on the boat between Bagan and Mandalay can be an option. Keep in mind that taking a domestic flight will take up a morning, afternoon or evening (most will be around one hour), and that a night bus, while ‘costing’ you 8 to 12 hours, will save money, but might leave you very tired when you arrive.
Southeast Asia Tours Packages
With the long flights from US or Euro to Southeast Asia, travelers from these areas prefer to visit more than one country in their trip. If Myanmar is the main purpose of your trip, you may extend few days or even few weeks to visit nearby countries as Cambodia, Laos, Thailand or Vietnam. Please find our suggested itineraries:
- Vietnam Myanmar Holiday
- Best of Laos and Myanmar
- Cambodia and Myanmar Tour
- Authentic Thailand & Myanmar – 10 Days
- From Angkor Wat to Bagan
For other Myanmar itineraries and packages, refer to our post:
XI. Things to know before arrival
With 135 ethnic groups living together, there are hundreds of different languages throughout the country. However, official national language is Burmese. In main tourist destinations, English is widely used. Many young people and most people who work in the Myanmar tourism industry have a reasonable grasp of English. So you do not need to worry too much about being understood, However, learning a few simple phrases in Burmese will always elicit a smile and courtesy from the locals. Mandarin is increasingly spoken in the cities and border towns of the northern half of the country.
Currency, Credit Cards & Exchange money
If you have researched about Myanmar, you may have heard that the money situation in the country is complicated. In fact, it was the case over the last few years. Things have become much easier now as you can use credit cards in Myanmar to pay for your purchase or withdraw cash from ATMs. You will find some ATMs in big cities and major destinations, however the fees are often high. It is the same for credit cards when you need to pay 5-7% for processing fee on top of bills. Therefore, many travelers prefer to bring foreign currency to exchange to get the best rates.
The currency of Myanmar is the kyat. USD and EURO are widely popular and you can use them to exchange to Kyat. Although they are accepted in some places, kyat is generally preferred and more convenient to use. You can exchange money at exchange shops at airports or at the banks to get the best rate. Be noted that the notes should be new & clean bills. The old and damaged bills may not be accepted or get lower rate. View more details on our post: https://myanmartravel.com/myanmar-currency/
The voltage in Myanmar is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. Myanmar has two different types of plug sockets that are commonly used. One is the European socket with two round prongs and some with socket D type which has three round prongs. However, two round prongs socket are more popular. To avoid the hassle of having to buy new adapters for everywhere you go, we recommend you to bring a Universal Travel Adaptor.
Tipping in Myanmar
Tipping isn’t compulsory in Myanmar, but it is encouraged when you are happy with the service. In fact, they do not care much about it but if they got, it will be a huge encouragement for them to do their business. It’s more expected in hotels, tours (guide & driver) and restaurants that give one of those black booklets when you receive your check. Sometimes, you’ll see that tips are included at a Western-style establishment (upscale or at a hotel) and it’s typically 5%-10%.
Compared to few years ago, it’s increasingly easy to keep your friends and family updated thanks to the increasing availability of Wi-Fi in many parts of Myanmar. In big cities and major tourist areas, most of hotels and guesthouses offer Wifi to clients and it works quite well. But in remote places, you may find that the Wi-Fi is unstable. In this case, you might consider to get a local SIM card. Myanmar has a fast 4G connection throughout the cities, and it is quickly expanding to even less-populated areas.
You will be able to pick up a SIM card either at the airport or from local shops within most cities at very reasonable cost. View more information about SIM card in Myanmar: https://myanmartravel.com/sim-cards-in-myanmar/
What to wear for travel in Myanmar
Most local people in Myanmar dress modestly. You can see in the country that traditional longyi is still wore by both men and women in their daily activities. So, tourists are recommended to do the same. It does not mean that you must dress modestly all the time. Myanmar is a country that is made up of mostly Buddhist people so dressing conservatively is really important when you visit temples/pagodas. You need to keep your shoulders and knees. This will help you to feel comfortable in smaller towns and remote villages where people rarely touch foreigners.
Things are a little more relaxed in major cities and tourist hotspots. Of course visiting Myanmar is not for only temples. For your relaxing time in hotels or on beaches, you can wear your favorite items as shorts, string dress… A must for Myanmar is making sure you have shoes that you can take on and off easily. All religious sites in Myanmar require you to remove your shoes before entering. We recommend simply picking up a pair of sandals.
Due to tropical climate in Myanmar that is hot and humid, you should wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes in natural fibers such as cotton, silk or linen which keep you cooler. Sun glasses and hat are useful to hide from the heat. Light jacket and sweater are advised when you travel to Shan State (Inle Lake, Kalaw or Hsipaw). In case you do trekking, good shoes are recommended.
Food and water hygiene
Travelers most commonly become sick due to diseases spread through food and water. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to make sure you stay healthy. Avoid drinking tap water, and even ice cubes. Instead, drink bottled water, which is cheap in Myanmar. There is no reason to completely avoid street food stalls if food is usually cooked hot and fresh in front of you. Only eat fruit that has a skin that can be peeled, and vegetables that have been cooked. This is especially so outside the main tourist areas.
Insects and bugs
Myanmar is hot and humid, so mosquitoes are everywhere. Mosquitoes can carry infectious diseases such as dengue fever and malaria. Before the trip, it’s a good idea to consult your travel doctor to see if you need any additional vaccines or medication for your personal health. During the trip, avoid them by using bug spray protection, wearing long-sleeved clothing, and sleeping under a mosquito net or in an air-conditioned room. Check your mattress for bed bugs along the seams after turning on the light, and before placing any of your belongings on the bed, or sleeping in it.
Medical in Myanmar
Finding reliable healthcare is difficult in Myanmar, and local healthcare facilities are generally poor, especially outside of big cities. Your best chance will be in Yangon. However, sometimes you cannot wait until you reach Yangon. So, you should prepare personal medications from home just in case. For emergency, you can find the most reliable medical centers in main destinations on our posts
- Hospitals in Yangon: https://myanmartravel.com/best-hospitals-in-yangon/
- Hospitals in Bagan: https://myanmartravel.com/faq/is-there-any-good-hospital-in-bagan-myanmar-1/
- Hospital in Mandalay: https://myanmartravel.com/best-hospitals-in-mandalay/
- Hospital in Inle Lake: https://myanmartravel.com/faq/is-there-any-good-hospital-in-inle-lake-myanmar-1/