Mandalay is the religious and economic center of upper Myanmar. One of the old capitals of Burma, its very name sounds exotic, connected to the romance of the Kipling poem, the Sinatra song, and Las Vegas’s Mandalay Bay casino.
Thanks to the Myanmar eVisa, it is now easier than ever to visit Mandalay and its historic temples, palaces, and monasteries considered as UNESCO world heritage sites.
Discover the road to Mandalay and what to see when you get to the country with this quick guide to Myanmar’s second-largest city.
Flying to Mandalay Airport
For international visitors, traveling to Mandalay will involve flying. The city is served by Mandalay International Airport, which receives domestic flights from 11 other Burmese cities including Yangon as well as international flights from China, India, Singapore, Thailand, and Hong Kong.
The airport is located around 45 km from the city, taking around an hour to drive to downtown Mandalay. Travelers can catch a taxi for about 13,000 Myanmar kyats (MMK), which translates to roughly US$8.70.
Before arriving in the country, it is essential to have the correct documentation. For many travelers, this will mean the Burmese online visa.
Traveling to Mandalay from Other Parts of Myanmar
The distances between Mandalay and other places in Myanmar are relatively far. Yangon is 626.8 km away (around 8 hours by road), while Bagan is 180 km (3-4 hours’ drive) away. It is possible to fly from some locations, including Yangon, to Mandalay.
Can You Rent a Car in Myanmar?
It is worth noting that foreign nationals cannot rent a car in Myanmar. Travelers who do not wish to use public transport must hire a private car and a driver.
This may be a handier option for getting around Mandalay itself, but can cost US$150-450 to make the journey to or from Yangon. Travelers on a budget may prefer to use public transport for longer journeys.
How to Travel From Yangon to Mandalay
Yangon is Myanmar’s largest city and was the center of British occupation during the colonial era. It remains one of the country’s most important cities.
There are various ways of getting around Myanmar. Travel between Yangon and Mandalay can be done by:
- Car — 8 hours
- Bus — 8-9 hours; overnight options
- Train — 14-15 hours; overnight options
- Plane — 1 hour from Yangon International Airport to Mandalay
Trains from Yangon to Mandalay
Several trains run each day from Yangon to Mandalay, including overnight trains. Travelers should bear in mind that the Burmese railway system is dated and the tracks can be bumpy. On the other hand, tickets tend to be cheap (around $4-8).
Tickets must be bought from the advance booking office on Bogyoke Aung San Road on the south side of the tracks, rather than from the main station in Yangon.
How to Travel From Bagan to Mandalay
Bagan is an ancient city and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Mandalay Region. It is around 180 km from Mandalay itself. Visitors can travel between Bagan and Mandalay by the following modes of transport:
- Car — 3-4 hours
- Bus — 6+ hours; overnight options
- Train — 6-7 hours
- Plane — 30 minutes from Nyaung U Airport (NYU) to Mandalay (MDL)
- Fast boat down the Irrawaddy River — 8-12 hours
- Slow boat down the Irrawaddy River — up to 2 days
Traveling to Mandalay by Bus
Buses in Burma tend to be comfortable and affordable and ferry passengers to Mandalay from a number of locations.
Mandalay has 3 major bus stations:
- Pyi Gyi Myat Shin: has services to Pyin U Lwin, Kyaukme, Hsipaw and Lashio
- Thiri Mandala: served by buses to Shwebo, Hopin (to Indawgyi Lake), Katha, Bhamo and Myitkyinar
- Kywe Se Kan Highway station (aka Chan Mya Shwe Pyi).
The last of these is the largest and most important. It is also located furthest from the center of Mandalay and visitors may have to get a taxi to and/or from this bus station. Long-distance buses run between Kywe Se Kan Highway and the following locations:
- Inle Lake
These long-distance buses tend to have modern amenities such as air conditioning and are generally fairly comfortable, although some of the roads may not be well-maintained.
How to Get Around Mandalay
Visitors staying in the center of Mandalay will find that they can easily walk to most places and explore the city on foot. Caution is recommended when crossing roads, as there are few traffic signs and traffic lights at intersections.
Bicycles and motorbikes can be hired by tourists, although given how chaotic traffic can be in Myanmar, many people prefer to hire a private car and driver.
Taxis can be hired for around MMK6,000 (around US$4) one way or MMK10,000k (around US$6.70) for a round trip.
Find out more about what to see and do when you reach the city with this tourist guide to Mandalay.