Getting Around

Myanmar has many wonderful places to see and lots of things to explore although it is still in the state of developing and visitors may encounter its poor infrastructure and slow transportation system. But apart from this inconvenience, one will understand the glorious nature of Myanmar once being experienced.

One has to bear in mind that many roads can close down during heavy rainfall so it is advisable for the visitors to travel around the dry seasons.

Another important factor affecting the ability to travel within the country of Myanmar is the weather. During heavy rainfall many roads can close down; so traveling to Myanmar during the dry seasons when weather is pleasant is a great idea.
Travel within the country is pretty much unrestricted in the for tourists accessible areas. You may travel freely without being questioned.

Some methods of local transport are still powered directly by people such as the trishaw or horses, although there are many places to rent a bicycle if you would prefer that. Taxis and other modes of travel are available for long journeys within Myanmar.

Myanmar Diaries recommends traveling by air, riverboat or private vehicle for long distances. Domestic flights are arranged only with Myanmar’s three privately owned airlines that are very well regulated. Please be sure to remember that the weight limit for luggage on flights is 20 kilograms. All cars used on tours are of the best available quality and are air-conditioned. Other vehicles such as jeeps, vans, coaches and buses are available upon request. There will also be the opportunity for you to charter a ferry and/or a cruise ship.

Planes

Flying with the state airline Myanmar Airways is not advised in Myanmar. This is due to the fact that Myanmar Airways does not abide by the elementary rules of flight safety. Their aircrafts are old and have a very poor reputation for being in disrepair. The three airlines to fly on are either Air Mandalay, Air Bagan or Asian Wings Airways. These three companies have ATRs 42 / 72 planes and undergo continuous maintenance and regular security checks. Some pilots are even European citizens. These companies use more modern aircraft and as a result operate a much safer airline. During the dry season in Myanmar some airports might be closed due to the runway maintenance that occurs during this period.

Buses

Tourist buses in Myanmar are roomy and are air-conditioned making travel on them comfortable and desirable. Taking a local bus can be a fun experience but be aware that they tend to be very full, unsafe and uncomfortable. You might feel like an anchovy in a tin can when traveling more than 10 minutes on them. However, the cost of traveling by local bus in Myanmar is very affordable.

Trains

Myanmar’s railway network comprises 2900 miles of railway track and 550 train stations. Traveling by train in Myanmar can be very enjoyable, especially if you are a fan of trains. Some train rides feature some of the most gorgeous views in the world. However the ride on trains in Myanmar can be on the other hand very bumpy due to bad but steadily improving rail conditions at times. Major problems with trains in Myanmar are most certainly delays.

• The Yangon – Mandalay line has the least problems of staying on schedule of any train.
• The Hsipaw-Mandalay (150 km) is very popular and offers some of the most stunning views ever. (Paul Theroux managed to do this back when foreigners weren’t supposed to, in his book The Great Railway Bazaar).
• Most of the other lines are slower and are less comfortable and are not desirable to travel on.

The most popular trip among travelers is the 400-mile train ride from Yangon to Mandalay, although a much more scenic and interesting trip is the one from Mandalay to Lashio via Hsipaw that traverses many hilly areas.

Aside from the most popular routes (Yangon–Bago–Pyinmana–Thazi–Mandalay) or the express line between Bagan and Mandalay there are far more available such as routes from Pyinmana to Kyaukpadaung and Thazi to Shwenyaung (a very rural and different kind of trip) Yangon to Pathein and Pyay and Bago to Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock) and to Mottawa, just a stone throw away from Mawlamyine.

When the English colonized Myanmar they made it a point to lay train tracks all over Myanmar that have aided Myanmar trains greatly in stretching across the country. Trains that travel long distances have dining cars that are accessible to passengers traveling by first, upper and sleeper class. It is also possible to order food from your seat and have it brought to you but food quality is very poor. There is also the opportunity to buy food from vendors on the platforms when the train stops which happens quite frequently.

Cars

This is by far the most convenient and scenic way to travel in Myanmar except walking. The cost of renting a car however might be more expensive than one would think due to a shortage in gasoline and car parts in Myanmar. The cost of renting a car for drive between cities is between $70 and $150 US dollars. Bear in mind that you cannot drive a car in Myanmar and if you do so it could cause some problems with local authorities.

Myanmar Diaries can propose a vast array of automobiles available for you to choose from for your drive. These vehicles are in good condition and have air conditioning.

Among the most popular and reliable rental cars in the country are second-hand, reconditioned Toyota Corona hatchbacks imported from Japan from 1988. These cars can cost up to $40,000.00 USD. Cars that are slightly more up to date are Toyota Chasers (from 1990 to 1992).
Myanmar also produces its own Mazda jeeps – MJs – 80% local parts. These jeeps are great for off-roading.

Boat

Myanmar possesses a huge fleet of riverboats, remnants of the old ’20s-era Irrawaddy Flotilla Company (IFC), still ply Myanmar’s major rivers. This is where most of the riverside sightseeing occurs.
Some of the boats are in fact dilapidated leftovers of British colonial rule, while others include IFC liners which make for a more leisurely journey. Boating trips in Myanmar should be considered in number of days rather than hours.
With a total of 5000 miles of rivers and waterways across the countries, witnessing the true magic of this incredible nation by boat is one of the best ways to take in the sheer natural beauty. The most important river in the country is the Ayeyarwaddy, which serves as a lifeblood for the agricultural regions of the country, and stretches from the north in Bhamo to Myitkyina in the south.

Other prominent waterways in the country consist of the Twante Chaung and the Chindwin River. The Twante Chaung connects the Ayeyarwaddy to the city of Yangon, while the Chindwin River runs into the Ayeyarwaddy to the north of Bagan. The Thanlwin River is also a prominent waterway which can be navigated for about 125 miles, running from the mouth in Mawlamyine to Hpa-An, five hours away.

Getting around Myanmar by boat is something that requires precision and local knowledge. Rapidly shifting sandbanks and shallow water means that those who operate vessels in the rivers must remain up to date with the patterns and flow of the river. Along the stretch of river from Mandalay to Pyay, a number of local captains have become experts on their own portion of the river, passing on information on their territory to benefit others using the river.

In addition to the endless stretches of waterways throughout the country, some of the world’s best and idyllic beaches can be reached by boat in the Bay of Bengal, between Sittwe and Taunggok, to the north of Ngapali.

Although the river boats are generally not regularly used by travelers, some of the key routes include:
• Mandalay to Bagan – on IWT (Government ferries) or privates boats such as the RV Malikha or RV Yandabo
• Myitkyina to Mandalay via Bhamo – Operated by a number of privately owned speed boasts and IWT ferries.
• Mawlamyine to Hpa-An – Daily IWT government ferries
• Sittwe to Mrauk U – Small private boats of IWT ferries

No direct ferry or boat service operates directly between Mandalay and Yangon, and travelers must change boats in Pyay. This route is quite unpredictable and travelers who attempt this should have other transport arrangements planned.

Luxury Boats

For more affluent travel on newer vessels, some luxury boats operate in the upper and lower regions of the Ayeyarwaddy River. A number of tour operators offer cruises of between two and 14 nights along the river between the cities of Yangon and Mandalay. Please check out our latest cruise programs.

Transportation

Schedules and Prices

Travelling by train in discovery of natural secret beauty of Myanmar will fill up your memory with one of the most unforgettable travel experiences. It will sketch your hazy memory to brighten up by making alive with natural beautiful scenery, undestroyed rural life and greenish paddy fields along the road side and among mountain ranges.

Circular Train

Yangon city tour by circular train would be such a great experience. It takes about two hours in circular route and passes through thirty seven stops on the way. It would be of very great opportunity to observe the lifestyles of suburbanites.
Note: Train schedules may change due to weather condition or passengers’ demand or any other inconveniences.
S = upper class sleeping-car; U = upper class seats; O = ordinary class seats.