Overall Trip Planning – What You Need To Know About Burma/Myanmar

Remember to factor in jetlag if traveling in long-haul. Personally I wouldn’t arrive and do heavy travelling day the next day, if I’d just flown from the US, Europe, or in my case New Zealand. Plan to spend at least the night before an international departure in your departure city.

The Big 4


Underrated, seen mainly as a gateway for many I really liked the town and did not consider 3 days too long. Although the city is large, the centre is compact, and walkable if it’s not too hot. Taxis are cheap and plentiful as are the eating options.

Sule Pagoda, Central Yangon


Although a childhood dream to go to Mandalay, I’d pick Yangon over it any day. It’s very spread out. Taxis are hard to find and you will invariably end up on motorbikes or (rare) tuktuks – which aren’t particularly cheap. Hotels are well spread out and there is no real centre which has a good range of restaurants – they are very spread out. I ended up having to note their location so we had somewhere to eat on our return! Unusual in Asia!

Central Mandalay


Shoot me now – but I was somewhat underwhelmed by Bagan. Given the choice I would go to Marauk U in preference just because it sees so many fewer visitors. (Off limits when I was there). For monumental Buddhist sites I’d recommend Angkor Wat (Cambodia) or Borobardur (Indonesia). You are dependent on horse cart or taxi to get around which gets expensive. Bikes are available for hire but we saw plenty of lost and hot tourists, the going is tough in the sandy tracks and the area is very poorly marked (in English). It would be a brilliant place to hire motorbikes but these weren’t allowed when we were there. Of the 3 towns: old Bagan, New Bagan, Nyaung U: we stayed in the later which at least feels like a real town. Old Bagan just has a number of very expensive hotels isolated amongst the ruins. New Bagan seemed to a few more local options but not many.

Buddhas at Bagan

Inle Lake.

Is a bit of a one-hit wonder. We went primarily because we were both suffering in the extreme heat/humidity of the south. The climate is a delight. The boat trip is well worthwhile if just for the photo ops – yes you will get the current LP cover image of the fisherman – they pose near the lake entrance. The villages are genuine and the best I’ve seen. Ngaungshwe is very much a tourist town – a midrange tourist town. There appeared to be no cheaper places (except one near the docks not licensed for foreigners) All were very tidy midrange – charging $30 and up.

Floating Village - Inle Lake Burma

Transport Options

Flying – easy – easier than the west Prices aren’t low but they are stable – we paid $80 for a flight to Bagan 3 days in advance, the price would have been the same if we’d booked six months in advance. There appears to be plenty of flights and availability, even in peak season. At the airports it’s pretty quiet and there is little security nonsense. The only pain is that, at both Inle and Mandalay the airport is a good 3/4 hour’s drive from town!

Buses. The cheapest option if you are prepared to take overnight buses and save the hotel. We didn’t – if I don’t want to see the scenery I’d prefer to fly. The buses we did take were shorter hall and were generally on time. However they were also crowded, the seats small and the leg room non-existent. The roads are rough – so even a good bus won’t go fast (exception new Yangon-Mandalay road).

Trains. We were warned off these but their fares haven’t changed for many years while bus fares have gone up the trains the prices are stable. It’s easy to get tickets, but they only go on sale a few days in advance.

I have a lot more to say about travel in Myanmar – but I thought I should get a summary out for people travelling now.

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  1. Bessie on December 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Nice overview post, Lis! You hit the highlights and practicalities of getting around to the main destination. I totally agree with you that Bagan doesn’t quite compare to the awe of Angkor Wat, but it does have charm. I went during October just after the rainy season, so everything was green, and it was cooling down – needed long sleeves at night, and the expansiveness & relatively few people there was wonderful.

    The other “sight” I always mention to visitors is to make friends with the locals – they are a delight and experience unto themselves if you slow down enough to enjoy them.

    I hope you enjoyed your time there!

    • Elisabeth on December 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm

      Hi Bessie – yeah I agree – it’s the people and the smaller places which captured my heart, it’s hard to explain to people used to ticking off the sights though!

  2. Philip on December 22, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Nice summary Lis. I am headed to Thailand and Burma very soon. Enjoyed your photo ebook as well. Cheer

    • Elisabeth on December 22, 2012 at 10:35 am

      Hi Philip – I’m sure you’re have a great time in both – very, very different – Burma really is like stepping back in time!

  3. desiree on January 9, 2013 at 7:06 am

    thanks for the trip report, going there in two weeks and i’m quite nervous about the accommodation situation that I’ve been reading online

  4. Reena Kaplowitz on September 13, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Thanks so much for your informative postings on TA and here- very helpful- especially the info on clothing! I am headed to Myanmar Oct 14-Nov6. Mandalay 1st and try to book a room there in advance. A little concerned about the spread outness so many are mentioning. Anyway- thanks so much again.

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