With overland border crossings close to impossible for independent travellers, almost everyone arrives in Myanmar at either Yangon or Mandalay airports. There is also an international airport in the capital Nay Pyi Taw, although few airlines use it at present. The international flag carrier, Myanmar Airways International, only serves destinations within Asia.
There are two international airports in Myanmar.
- The International airport of Yangon is located in Mingaladon, 20 minutes from the town centre.
- The International airport of Mandalay is 45 km (1h transfer) from the center of the town.
The cheapest way to reach Myanmar from outside the region is usually to fly to a regional hub such as Bangkok or Singapore. Current routes within Asia include flights to Yangon from Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok. Connections with Mandalay are limited to Dehong, Kunming and Bangkok.
There are three Thai and Myanmar border crossings for visitor to reach Myanmar: Mai Sai, Mai Sot and Ranong. It’s possible to get a visa free entry, but extra paperwork and an enter fee around 10 dollars are needed.
By Air: Air travel is an efficient and relatively cheap way to get around Myanmar, and is particularly appealing given that bus and train journeys between major tourist sites tend to be long and often uncomfortable. Myanmar National Airlines covers all major domestic routes including some out-of-the-way places. Many of the airlines operating in Myanmar had strong links to the military junta, and some of the owners have been subject to international economic sanctions.
By Road: With trains slow and unreliable, road travel is the best way to get around if you are on a budget. It is worth noting, however, that many routes are off-limits to foreigners – usually when they run through sensitive border areas or regions where the government is in conflict with ethnic minority militias.
Road quality: Many roads are poorly maintained and can become impassable in the rainy season, from May to October.
Car hire: The amount of bureaucracy involved means that foreigners rarely hire self-drive cars: you’d need a special permit and to have a local with you in the car at all times. It’s easy enough, however, to hire a car and driver for a day or more.
Taxi: Taxis are easily available in Yangon, Mandalay and a few other large cities and popular tourist destinations. In Yangon there are blue government taxis with set fares. Taxi drivers do not expect a tip and it is wise to pre-arrange fares. Elsewhere, motorbike taxis (where passengers ride pillion) are more common, alongside pick-ups (small pick-up trucks with seating in the back, running set routes) and cycle rickshaws (which have a sidecar).
Bike: It’s possible to hire bicycles in most towns visited by tourists, usually from accommodation or travel agents, although in some places (Bagan and Nyaungshwe for example) there are several separate rental outlets. The bikes are usually quite basic and/or old, and are generally used for day trips and short rides around town rather than for multi-day rides.
Coach: Long-distance buses are usually cheaper and faster than trains running the same route. Most buses run overnight, typically arriving at an inconvenient pre-dawn hour.
It’s always not suggested take train to travel in Myanmar for the frequent delays, slow speed, poor service and terrible sanitary condition of the toilets. Oftentimes foreign visitors are even overcharged
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