Myanmar’s Travel Guide: The cheapest transportation in Myanmar
Travelling in Myanmar (Burma) can still be extremely difficult, and unless you are prepared to pay a lot for a flight, time-consuming. Road conditions can be poor, transport can break down and you may find yourself arriving at your destination at strange hours of the night. It can also be relatively straightforward, a great way to meet people and is, by ground, invariably extremely cheap. With these points in mind, here is our guide to transport in Myanmar.
Cheapest transportation in Myanmar #1: Trains
At first glance trains seem to be the best option for travelling in Burma, and in some senses they are. Built by the British, the (ageing) rail network is large, runs reasonably regularly and on time, offers the best chance of meeting people and affords you great views of the countryside. Unfortunately trains are also slow; quite often a bus can do the same journey in half the time. Your choice here comes down to how you view transport – solely as the means to getting somewhere or an interesting experience in itself. If you answered the former, take a bus. If you answered the latter, take a train. You’ll likely make some inquisitive local friends along the way.
Cheapest transportation in Myanmar #2: Long distance buses
Long distance buses are the quickest and easiest way to travel around Myanmar. Regular departures take place from city to city; run by different companies all over the country. It is particularly important to note the company you are booking with, because this will correspond to the cost and quality of the bus you are taking. Cheaper companies will offer a basic service on an older bus for very little money, whereas premium companies such as JJ’s offer all manner of conveniences, including a television in the back of each seat!
Cheapest transportation in Myanmar #3: Local buses
Local buses run around Myanmar cities, particularly Yangon, and are notoriously hard to work out if you don’t speak Burmese. There are no timetables or directions stated, simply a bus worker who calls out the destination and helps passengers board. While you may not end up where you want to go, the journey will certainly be an entertaining one.
Cheapest transportation in Myanmar #4: Taxis
Taxis are particularly abundant in Yangon, but can be found everywhere in Myanmar. There are no meters and a price should be negotiated beforehand, and while drivers tend to be reasonably honest about prices they will definitely overcharge by as much as they think they can get away with. Be sure to bargain politely but firmly; there is always another taxi coming if the first one is too expensive.
Cheapest transportation in Myanmar #5: Boat
Boat is an unusual mode of transport in Myanmar, but may offer a genuine alternative to land travel in some cases. The most common route is along the Irrawaddy river between Mandalay and Bagan. Local boats are inexpensive, crowded and slow (it is common to sleep on the floor if the boat continues overnight, for example). Travel-agency organized cruises are more expensive, but offer comforts you would never find on a local boat. Please get in touch if you would like us to arrange a cruise for you; we have a large variety on offer.
Cheapest transportation in Myanmar #6: Motorbikes and E-Bikes
Motorbikes are banned in Yangon (and have been replaced by E-bikes in Bagan) but are present in the rest of the country. In Mandalay, for example, a motorbike taxi is a common and cheap mode of transport, although it can be a little stressful if you have a speedy driver! As with taxis, be sure to arrange a price beforehand and always bargain as much as you can.
Cheapest transportation in Myanmar #7: Trishaw
Trishaws are a common sight in Myanmar, and are a novel and inexpensive way of getting around. You may find it easier simply to walk, however, as they are not known for their speed.
Cheapest transportation in Myanmar #8: Internal flight
Internal flights are still the domain of tourists and the wealthy, unfortunately, as they are still comparatively expensive. There are airports in Yangon, Heho, Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw, Bagan and Thandwe (Ngapali beach) amongst others. Safety has improved enormously in recent years (although delays are still frequent) and cost aside, they are a very quick and easy way to get around. We would definitely recommend flying if time is a major constraint.
Transport in Myanmar presents a good variety of options for tourists, and you tend to get what you pay for in terms of comfort and time saved/spent. If you have the time, we would recommend trying as many types as possible to ensure a truly authentic Myanmar experience.
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