How to Plan a Trip to Myanmar - Local Guide

How to Plan a Trip to Myanmar - Local Guide

By Wendy Updated Jul. 1, 2021

A visit to Myanmar (Burma) can be a magical experience with its stunning landscapes, spectacular archaeological sites and special cultural traditions. The following guide may help you develop your plans for visiting Myanmar.

Begin in Yangon and move on to Mandalay. Then visit Bagan, with its amazing pagoda complex. Relax at Inle Lake, before departing from Yangon. This is the 9-day highlights program. Between October and April, a 3-day supplementary trip to Ngapali Beach, after Inle Lake, would create a perfect tour conclusion.

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When to Visit

It’s always a good idea to avoid the intense heat and high humidity periods of weather when considering a visit to Myanmar. The period from November to February is the ideal time to travel.

Dry Season — November to February

The tourist season starts in early October and peaks between December and February. At this time of year, temperatures rarely rise above 32°C (90°F) during the day, making exploring the archaeological sites comfortable and interesting.

The beach at Ngapali is a perfect place to relax during this time. There will be great pressure on hotels and other travel services in the tourist destinations. It’s advisable to make reservations at least a few months in advance.

The price is much higher in the dry season, especially during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

ngapali beach

Hot Season — March to May

The heat builds steadily from the beginning of March, and the temperatures will exceed 40°C (104°F) by the end of the month. As temperatures are really high, outdoor exploration can be rather challenging.

The Myanmar New Year is celebrated nationwide in mid-April. If you visit around then, you will see crowds of people playing music, dancing, and throwing water over each other, and you can enjoy a carnival atmosphere.

All domestic flights are fully booked during the Myanmar New Year, so it’s not easy to buy a ticket.

Wet Season — June to October

The rains start in May and by June the monsoon storms sweep into the country. Humidity is quite high during this time and the wettest months are July and August. Temperatures are hovering around 30°C (86°F).

Beach resorts at Ngapali will be closed and flights to the area reduced to one per week. At times of heavy downpours, road travel can be difficult with road blocks caused by flooding. Flights are sometimes diverted, causing delays.

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Getting In

Most visitors arrive in Myanmar at Yangon International Airport or Mandalay International Airport.

Visitors from Europe, America, or Australia need to transfer at some Asian cities, such as Bangkok and Singapore, as there are no direct flights from those regions. These two cities are served by most major international airlines, so it’s easy to make connections.

The following cities also hold direct flights to Yangon: Kuala Lumpur, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Kunming, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Kolkata, Dubai, and Doha.

From Bangkok to Yangon

There are about 20 flights a day from Bangkok to Yangon and the average flight time is 1 hour.

The following airlines provide direct flights to Yangon: Myanmar Airways International, Myanmar National Airlines, Bangkok Airways, and Thai Airways. It will typically cost about US$100–150 for a single, one-way fare.

Good deals are often available on low-cost airlines, such as AirAsia and Nok Air, for just US$50.

Getting Around

The most convenient way to travel around Myanmar is by air, which could save the most of your time and provide a comfortable experience. If you have more time, a cruise along the Irrawaddy River will be a good option, as it allows visitors to get a real taste of life on the river.

The train and bus are not recommended because they are slow and uncomfortable. For example, to reach Mandalay from Yangon, it takes about an hour by plane, 7 hours by car, and 15 hours by train.

Domestic Flights

Domestic routes are mainly operated by seven airlines: Air KBZ, Air Bagan, Air Mandalay, Asian Wings Airways, Yangon Airways, Golden Myanmar Airlines, and Myanmar National Airlines. Most airlines fly small planes, such as an ATR 72, which can seat up to 78 passengers.

Online booking is available on any of the airlines' websites, but the process is far from seamless. It’s recommended to purchase tickets via a travel agent for the same price as the published fare.

aircraft

The flights sometimes change, so you should have prior notice of changes, especially timings. If you have booked via an agent, he or she will inform you of any changes and help with the new itinerary.

Do note that most airlines share codes with other airlines, which means they may regroup passengers from different flights onto one joint flight if there are not enough people.

The ticket prices of different operators are much the same, because they fly at a similar time and on the same route. The single, one-way fare for key routes costs about US$70 to US$120.

We often book flights with Air KBZ for our customers because its service and schedules are more convenient.

cabin

Road Travel

Traveling by bus is slow and bumpy for long-distance journeys. The schedules of most long-distance services start in the evening between 4pm and 10pm, traveling overnight with stops at cafés along the road every two hours, so don’t expect much sleep. Passengers will arrive at their destination early in the morning.

In large cities, such as Yangon and Mandalay, the long-distance bus stations are far from the downtown areas. Tickets are sold from counters at the bus stations or via local agents. The cost depends on the length of your journey, usually between US$10 and US$20.

Rail Travel

Traveling by train is a little more appealing, as it provides scenic views and the chance to mingle with locals. Trains are less reliable and slower than buses. Delays often happen, so there will be changes on arrival and departure times.

Tickets can be purchased at the railway station ticket offices and it usually takes a long time. Fares are much more expensive than on buses and foreigners need to pay in dollars at a higher rate, about five times as much as the locals.

Cruising the Irrawaddy

Traveling by boat provides a more relaxing way to experience the timeless charm of the country. The most popular route is the one between Mandalay and Bagan on a 2-day cruise, which usually leaves in the morning.

If you take a luxury cruise, you will sail along the more scenic stretches of the river, which include some interesting stops at riverside villages, such as a pottery village to see the pottery making process.

river cruise

Guests on luxury cruisers are treated to spacious and well-furnished cabins, delicious meals, swimming pools, and a good observation deck to see beautiful views over the water.

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Local Transport

Larger cities in Myanmar offer a variety of transportation, such as buses, taxis, hire cars, motorbikes, trishaws, and horse-drawn carts. Public transport is poorly resourced, so most visitors tend to rely on taxis and hire cars.

Bus

Buses of all types run the streets of main cities in Myanmar. As most vehicles are dilapidated and filled with the locals, taking a bus can be crowded, airless, and uncomfortable. There are few English route maps, so it’s hard to know where to get off.

Taxi

Taxis are plentiful and can be flagged down in the streets of big cities, such as Yangon. Some taxis are air-conditioned, but most are not.

There will be taxi service information outside the airport and the fares are fixed. It’s easy to call a taxi to take you to a central hotel if you don’t book a pick-up service.

Remember to negotiate the price before getting in a car. If you think the driver is insisting on an excessive price, try to find another one to negotiate with.

Private Car

Private cars with drivers can be hired via tour agencies or hotels. Given the itineraries, they will arrange the car and ensure the driver knows where you want to visit.

Most of the cars are imported from Japan so the steering wheel is on the right side. The price starts at about US$60 per day.

car

Horse-Drawn Cart

Horse-drawn carts operate widely at archaeological sites, such as Bagan and Ava. It provides a relaxing way to explore the ruins and countryside. It’s fun to drive all the way through the woods and sandy lanes.

horse cart

Boat

Taking a small boat is the best way to visit Inle Lake. Getting on a boat, you will be taken to several sites on the lake. Some of the highlights include the floating gardens, local markets, and pagodas. The boats can be arranged by the hotels.

If you want to see the sunset views over U Bein Bridge or the Irrawaddy River, a private boat trip lasting for several hours is also a good option.

a boat trip

Where to Visit and How Long to Stay

How many places you can visit depends on the time you have available. With 9 days, you can see the highlights of Myanmar by visiting Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, and Inle Lake. With 12 days, you can have two free days relaxing on the beach of Ngapali or can combine Bangkok with Myanmar.

The following itinerary is designed to give you some inspiration when considering what to see in Myanmar. We provide tailor-made tours to Myanmar and other Southeast Asian countries. Your trip will be arranged according to your particular interests.

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Day 1 Yangon

Arrival

Day 2 Yangon

Morning: Colonial District – National Museum – Yangon Circular Railway

Afternoon: Bogyoke (Scott) Market – Shwedagon Pagoda

shwedagon

Day 3 Mandalay

Morning: Domestic flight to Mandalay

Afternoon: Mahamuni Buddha Temple – Shwenandaw Monastery – Kuthodaw Pagoda and the world’s largest book – Mandalay Hill to watch a sunset

Day 4 Mandalay

Morning: Mahagandayon Monastery

Afternoon: Inwa – U Bein Bridge to watch a sunset

mahamuni

Day 5 Bagan

Morning: Domestic flight to Bagan

Afternoon: A boat trip to see the sunset over the Irrawaddy River

Day 6 Bagan

Morning: A hot-air balloon ride – Shwezigon Pagoda – Ananda Temple

Afternoon: Horse-drawn cart sightseeing – Shwesandaw Pagoda to watch a sunset

shwesandaw

Day 7 Inle Lake

Morning: Domestic flight to Inle Lake

Afternoon: Inwa – A boat trip to see the sunset over Inle Lake

Day 8 Inle Lake

Morning: A boat trip to see the floating gardens – Five-day market – Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery

Afternoon: Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda – Indein Pagoda Complex

inle lake

Day 9 Yangon

Departure

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Take a Balloon Ride in Bagan

The sight of hot-air balloons drifting serenely over the plains of Bagan has become an iconic image. Most balloon rides start a few minutes after sunrise, offering an unrivaled perspective over the vast plains, from the thousands of temples to the Irrawaddy River.

After an hour drifting through the air, passengers may land next to a pagoda, on a sandbank, or in a field. This magical flight can be the experience of a lifetime and something really special to share with your friends. Add this to your bucket list.

a hot air balloon ride

With a Tour Guide and a Private Car

A local guide will help you make the most of your time. The guides in Myanmar are truly considerate, reliable, and flexible. They are passionate about sharing their culture and lifestyle and will take good care of every visitor.

We recommend you stay with one guide throughout your trip in Myanmar, rather than having different guides in different cities. You will have a more comfortable experience by doing so.

guide

A private car and driver is necessary in such a country, the infrastructure of which is poorly resourced and the public transport is unreliable. The driver will have your itinerary and take you there. You don’t need to work out the maps to know how to get to the sites from your hotel or to find a restaurant.

Temperatures are hovering around 30°C during the day, so it will be a relief when you get in an air-conditioned car and are being driven around. It also facilitates a more flexible experience.

driver

The cost per day is about US$90 for the guide and the car plus driver.

Where to Stay

A wide option of accommodation is available in Myanmar, from low-budget guesthouses to luxury resorts. Most hotels in Yangon and Mandalay are business hotels with high standards of facilities and service, but they are characterless.

Alternatively, some resort hotels in Inle Lake and Bagan are more appealing, as they make the most of their spectacular situations, with special building materials and beautiful views of lakes or temples.

One night in a 3-star hotel costs about US$60 per room and a 4-star hotel costs about US$120–160 per room. The 5-star hotels usually start at US$200 per room per night.

a room in aureum inle resort

The price of all types of hotel in Myanmar is much higher than other Southeast Asian countries due to the shortage of rooms, especially in high season.

Where to Eat

There is a variety of dining options in Myanmar, from local food to Western food, Thai food, and Chinese food. Some tasty snacks are sold by vendors on the streets, while authentic Burmese food is served in some traditional restaurants, which are often built from wood.

Dining at your hotel is also a good option with different kinds of food being provided. You will have a chance to see the Burmese classical dance or an interesting puppet show at the same time. The dining place is well-decorated for clients to enjoy themselves in a relaxed atmosphere.

The main dish can be chosen from beef, pork, chicken, fish, prawns, and squid. The common staples are steamed rice, fried rice, and fried noodles. Italian food, such as pizza and pasta, is also available in the tourist resorts.

Prices for meals vary between restaurants. You can expect to pay less than US$5 for a simple meal. Usually US$10–20 is enough for an elaborate meal.

lunch in inle lake

How Much Does It Cost

Only opened up in 2010, Myanmar still remains relatively untouched and represents today how the other Southeast Asian countries were 30 years ago.

The cost of the trip is the highest among the Southeast Asian countries, but the unique experience is worth the price. The mid-range cost is about US$200 a day. This price includes a private day trip, one night in a 3-star or 4-star hotel, and a decent meal.

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Visit Myanmar with Asia Highlights

We provide tailor-made tours to Myanmar. Tours typically start or end in Yangon or Mandalay and last approximately 9 days; visiting Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake.

You might like:

9-Day Myanmar Highlights Tour

14-Day Myanmar and Thailand Essence Tour

16-Day Myanmar Tour in Depth

You might like to read

Plan a First-Time Trip to Myanmar

Best Time to Visit Myanmar

Top 8 Things to Do in Myanmar

Myanmar Visas and How to Apply for

Why Travel with Asia Highlights

  • Tailor-made experience: All of your ideas/needs will be carefully considered to create your ideal trip.
  • Worry-free planning: Every step of your trip, you will be looked after by your 1:1 travel consultant based in Asia.
  • No-risk booking: We refund as much as we can and adapt flexibly to unexpected changes.

9-Day Private Myanmar Highlights Tour

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