Myanmar’s highway network is becoming more developed each year. However, most visitors to the country will still find Myanmar’s road and traffic conditions are significantly different from those in Europe or the USA.
Travelers arriving in the country with a Myanmar electronic Visa should be prepared for what they might encounter when using the nation’s road network and the logistics of traveling by car on arrival. To help make the situation about Myanmar’s national roads a little clearer, this article will explain in more detail the state of the road network and give a better idea of how straightforward it is to travel throughout the country safely and securely by car.
Myanmar’s National Road Network
Whilst the country’s road network is lagging behind the standards expected in the Western World, Myanmar’s main roads are relatively well developed compared to some neighboring countries. The government of Myanmar has made a big push over the last few years to extend and enhance the 27,000km road network around the country.
Myanmar’s Highway System
The country has an extensive national highway system with 9 major highways running through the length and breadth of the country. These allow drivers to travel easily between cities and also connect up with some of Asia’s main highway routes. The main national highways in Myanmar include:
- Highway 1: Yangon to Mandalay via Bago, Meiktila, Taungoo, Pyinmana
- Highway 2: Yangon to Mandalay via Pyay, Myingyan, Magwe, Kyaukpadaung
- Highway 3: Mandalay to Muse
- Highway 4: Meiktila to Tachileik
- Highway 5: Taungoo to Hopong
- Highway 6: Yangon to Pathein
- Highway 7: Mandalay to Moreh
- Highway 8: Hpagyargyi to Myeik
- Highway 31: Mandalay to Myitkyina
Aside from the highway system, there is one major expressway, which runs from Mandalay to Yangon, via the country’s administrative capital city: Naypyitaw. The expressway is fully paved for its entire 587km distance and is one of the only road systems in the country that functions in its entirety as a dual carriageway.
Traffic Conditions and Road Quality in Myanmar
In the country’s last published national survey in 2005, only 12% of the country’s roads were fully paved. Whilst this has improved over the proceeding 14 years, it is still quite likely that visitors may spend some of their trip time on unpaved roads. This can sometimes impact the comfort of a ride on Myanmar’s roads and can affect journey times in the event of bad weather (check the perfect time to go to Burma).
Traffic in Myanmar is relatively light compared to some of the neighboring countries like Vietnam or Thailand which are known for high levels of gridlock in cities. The majority of traffic on public roads and highways consists of buses, pickup trucks, cars, and motorcycles. However, the roads in the biggest cities like Yangon, where some of the best sights for tourists in Myanmar can be found, do experience daily rush-hour congestion.
Traffic and Road Safety in Myanmar
Drivers must travel on the right on Burma’s roads. The country is notable for being one of the few to have changed from driving on the left to the right in a move to distance itself from its former status as a British colony.
Tourists must be mindful that motorbikes are prohibited in Yangon. This law came into effect in 2003 and is strictly enforced by police officers who will confiscate any vehicles breaking the legislation. Motorbike riders are also required to wear helmets by law in all parts of the country.
Visitors are advised to take care when crossing busy roads as there are almost no zebra crossings and drivers are often unwilling to allow pedestrians to cross in most circumstances. Instead, tourists should do as the locals do and cross carefully where there are traffic signals in place or by carefully maneuvering around the traffic.
How to Hire a Car in Myanmar
Hiring a car in Myanmar is more expensive than traveling by train or bus to a destination, but it is relatively easy to arrange. In almost all cases it’s best to hire a driver. Foreign visitors need to obtain permission from the national MTT and Road Transport Administration Department in order to drive themselves, which can be a costly and bureaucratic process. So, it’s difficult for foreign nationals to rent a car in Myanmar. Travelers who do not wish to use public transport must hire a private car and a driver.
There are a number of ways that a tourist to Myanmar can hire a car and a driver to journey around the country. These include:
- Arranging hiring the car and driver with a hotel or guesthouse
- Organizing car and driver hire through a travel agent
- Renting a car and driver online with Europcar Myanmar
The Cost of Travel By Car in Myanmar
There are a few costs that tourists will encounter if they’re traveling on roads in Burma by car. However, these are relatively few in number and are quite inexpensive. So if you want to travel on a budget to Burma, consider the following:
Buying Gasoline in Myanmar
Gasoline in Myanmar is cheap at around 650 Burmese Kyat (approximately $0.45) a liter. It is easy to find gas stations nationwide, although in more remote or rural areas it is more usual to find it sold in roadside stalls and is sold by the bottle.
Road Tolls in Myanmar
There are also some toll charges that road users may come across when traveling around the country. It is common for example to pay a small 100-200 Kyat ($0.06 – $0.13) charge when entering towns and villages nationwide by car. Additionally, there is also a toll for private cars using the Yangon-Mandalay Expressway, which costs 5000 Kyat ($3.12) per car for the use of the road’s whole distance.
Being ready to travel on Myanmar’s roads does take a little forward planning. However, it is not an overly complicated process and as the national infrastructure network grows and improves, travel times are falling significantly and journeys are becoming a lot smoother.
Remember if you are traveling to Myanmar as a national of 100 eligible countries, you can enter the nation quickly and easily with a Myanmar eVisa. This electronic authorization allows tourists to spend up to 28 days in the Far Eastern Republic. The Burma eVisa application form can be easily completed online and a visa can be approved in as little as 3 working days.