Myanmar is a vast country and journeys can take a long time if you use public transport. It is also worth bearing in mind that traveling around Myanmar is not as economical as other countries in Southeast Asia. Researching beforehand can help you to travel to Myanmar on a budget and plan.
Although the roads in Myanmar are safe, renting a car in Myanmar as a tourist is not easy so many tourists prefer to travel by public transport. Flying is the quickest and most convenient way of getting around Myanmar but it is also much more expensive than catching buses or trains. Traveling by boat is also a viable option for some routes (the Mandalay–Bagan service is very popular).
This guide will explore the pros and cons of the various ways of getting around Myanmar including by plane, train, bus, and boat.
What’s the Best Way of Traveling Long Distances in Myanmar?
Traveling long distances in Myanmar takes time (unless you travel by plane). For example, Mandalay to Yangon takes over 9 hours by bus. There are multiple ways of covering longer distances and the best method depends on your priorities.
Traveling by Plane Around Myanmar
Flying around Myanmar is quick but more expensive than public transport. Most flights cost around $100 one-way. There are more than 40 airports in the country and Yangon International Airport is the largest.
Most flights are operated by 7 national airlines (Air KBZ, Air Bagan, Air Mandalay, Asian Wings Airways, Yangon Airways, Golden Myanmar Airlines, and Myanmar National Airlines). They offer similar prices and quality of service. Booking a flight is easy, you can either do it online or visit a travel agent in the country.
Flying in Myanmar is a little different compared to western standards but it runs relatively smoothly. The checkin involves ticking your name off a list and your flight will not be called, instead someone will hold up a sign with your flight number on it.
Sometimes flights are cancelled or rescheduled just a few days before departure. It is worth confirming the flight time the day before or on the morning of the flight.
Traveling by Bus Around Myanmar
Buses are an inexpensive way of getting around Myanmar (or Burma). There are many companies to choose from including some low-cost options where tickets are only around $2.
You can also pay a little more for VIP tickets. These include individual leather seats with a TV monitor. For very long journeys it can be worth paying the extra to be more comfortable.
Most bus services run overnight which means you can normally enjoy a good night’s sleep and not lose a day of sightseeing. However, sometimes it can be difficult to sleep if the ride is bumpy.
Long distance bus tickets cost around $20. Which means you save around $80 (plus the cost of a night’s accommodation) in comparison to flying.
Traveling by Train Around Myanmar
Traveling by train around Myanmar offers spectacular views of the countryside. However, the downside is the journey time. Flooded tracks and mechanical problems invariably mean that trains are delayed. Buses are generally a quicker option.
Overnight sleeper cars are available and they are much more comfortable than night buses.
Tickets cost between $10 to $25 when booking long-distance journeys online. The prices are generally higher if you buy them from the station.
Traveling by Boat Around Myanmar
Boats are not the quickest way of getting around Myanmar but they offer a quality experience. There are lots of different types of boats including ferries and luxury ships.
The most popular routes follow the Irrawaddy River, the backbone of Myanmar which flows from north to south. There are also several sea routes that follow the coast. They reach locations which are not easily accessible by land, such as the ancient capital of Mrauk U.
Slow boats are the most economical way to travel on water and where you can meet the most locals. For longer trips you may have to sleep on board but not all boats have cabins.
Tickets generally cost between $10 and $70 dollars. Tickets for fast boats account for the higher end of the price bracket.
If you are already planning your trip, read about the most popular sights and attractions to visit in Myanmar so you don’t miss out on any of the highlights.