These recommendations are based on two separate trips to Myanmar (October 2013 and November 2015) and a steady travel itinerary around the country. If there’s anything you feel should be added, please comment below or shoot us an email.
●Get a sim for internet much faster & reliable than any WiFi in the country. 1,500 kyat (approx. $1.50USD). for the SIM plus 6 kyat. Per MB of data that you can purchase directly from the SIM vendor in increments of 1000, 3000, 5000 etc. Can be bought and activated at any store or street vendor displaying a sign for the major cell companies – Telenor, MPT or Ooredoo. We went with Telenor and it worked perfectly fine in most urban and suburban areas and only cut out in the most rural parts of the country including some parts of intercity bus routes and atop mountains.
●Drink the free tea offered at local restaurants. It’s been boiled germ-free and is pretty good! But, be wary of extra foods placed on your table as you may be charged extra for them if you eat them. Peanuts, pickled vegetables and condiments are typically complimentary with your meal.
●Myanmar is quite safe! The people are sincere, friendly and very helpful and at no point did Jen feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Solo travel is not a problem here and many people – men and women alike – do so freely.
●Bring immaculate US dollar notes or else they will be outright refused for currency exchange. We had a lot of difficulty and were turned away for even the slightest discolouration, creases or dimples in notes. If you’re lucky, some places may exchange poor quality notes but for a very low exchange rate.
TRAIN: Slow, very bumpy and train derailment is common. With that said, we did meet a handful of tourists who did take the trains (and survived) but confirmed it is indeed a ride not for the faint of heart.
PLANE: Flying is around 110 to 120 USD between cities, one way. Tickets can be bought at travel agencies found near popular tourist lodging, or through airlines’ private websites. Areas of the country that have only recently opened up to tourism are only accessible by flights (so we’ve been told).
BUS: We highly recommend taking the bus between cities. Consider +/- 1 hour for the following travel times due to delays and lack of punctuality of buses. You can book bus tickets at your hostel but can also price shop by booking at hotels and even at the bus terminal itself – which we definitely recommend if you’re trying to save a few bucks. There are several different bus companies and you can choose what’d you’d like, based on departure times or quality of bus. Most buses will provide a bottle of water while others will also provide snacks.
NIGHT BUS: We recommend taking the night buses for the long trips (8 to 12 hour trips). Most buses for those routes leave early morning or mid – evening. Take the overnight bus allows you to not only save on one night’s lodging but also prevents you from wasting an entire day on commuting. Some things to keep in mind:
-Local movies or shows are usually played LOUDLY until about 11PM or 12AM. Bring earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones.
-The A/C can get chilly and blankets are provided but it’s a good idea to wear long sleeves.
-Plan for the trip by avoiding drinking to many beverages beforehand.
-If you get on the bus and you see cargo piled at the back at the cabin, GET A REFUND and GTFO.*
*It’s worth paying for a more expensive bus when returning to Yangon. Here’s why:
Twice now, both on the cheapest long routes headed to Yangon, the buses were turned into a zoo of being overflowed with farm goods cargo (veggies & such). One such bus had all the seats inched closer to each other to make space for cargo at the back, which meant our knees touched the seat in front of us and if the passenger in front of you decided to lean their seat back, the back of their seat would be a hand length’s away from your nose. For 11 hours+. Get a good bus returning to Yangon!
Approximate Bus Times & Fares
Yangon – Bagan. 10 hours, 11,000 to 18,000 ks.
Yangon – Inle Lake (Nyuangshwe). 11 hours. 12,000 to 23,000 ks.
Yangon – Mandalay. 8 hours. 9,000 ks (mini bus).
Yangon – Kyatio. 3.5 hours. 4000 ks.
Yangon – Hpa-an. 5.5 hours. 5,000 ks.
Bagan – Mandalay. 5 hours. 9,000 ks.
Bagan to Inle Lake (Nyaungshwe). 8.5 hours. 11,000 ks.
Bagan to Kalaw: 7 hours. 10,000 ks.
Mandalay – Kyaukme. 5 hours, 4,000 to 5,000 ks.
Mandalay to Hsipaw. 6 hours. 5000 ks.
Kyaukme – Inle Lake (Nyuangshwe). 12 hours. 15,000 to 17,000 ks.