To travel in Myanmar was a unique and fantastic experience for us. Myanmar has only been open for tourists since 2012, and the people aren’t as used to foreigners as in other countries in Southeast Asia. This can sometimes be difficult with the language barrier. But overall we had a very good experience with the people that were usually very friendly and interested in us. The positive aspect of it is that the country is not touristy at all. Even at the most famous places like in Bagan, we never experienced a place very crowded from tourists.
In this blogpost, we share the best places we visited in Myanmar, our tips, and what we experienced while traveling this exciting and very cultural country.
How to get around in Myanmar
In Myanmar, it is quite easy and comfortable to travel by overnight bus from one city to the other. The distances are quite long, so it makes sense to travel overnight. You could fly instead, but this would be much more expensive. To travel by bus will cost you around 20$ per route. We traveled with the company JJ Express and booked our bus rides in advance on 12Go.Asia or Bookaway.
We also traveled by train one time because we usually prefer to travel by train over the bus, but we can NOT recommend you to travel by overnight train in Myanmar. It is very cheap (about 5$ for two people), but the experience was a nightmare for us. The train is extremely dirty, and there are insects everywhere (dead & alive).
Best places to visit in Myanmar
We first landed in Yangon, which is located in the south of Myanmar and has an international Airport. We stayed at a lovely boutique hostel called Bodhi Nava Boutique Hostel, which is located very central and close to the main attraction of Yangon. They have double rooms and also shared dorms. But what we loved most were the super friendly guys who run this place and the lovely café on the main floor. Even if you don’t stay here, make sure you come over for a coffee when you visit Yangon.
Where to eat in Yangon
Best things to do in Yangon
We mainly visited Yangon to see the Shwedagon Pagoda, which is a large golden stupa surrounded by many temples. It is the most sacred Buddhist Pagoda in whole Myanmar. We visited the Pagoda before sunrise, and it was one of the most magical experiences we made in Myanmar. When we arrived there at 5 am it was already very busy. Not from tourists, but from local people who come here for prayers. We spent there hours to observe the whole spectacle. The entrance fee was about 6$ per person.
Right next to the Shwedagon Pagoda, we found another smaller Pagoda, which is called Maha Wizaya Pagoda. You shouldn’t miss that one, it’s very pretty.
Bagan was definitely our favorite place in Myanmar. The town itself has a new and an old part. We stayed in new Bagan at a lovely Guesthouse called Morning Star Guesthouse. The town itself is small, and no matter in which part you stay, you will never be far from the first Pagoda to explore.
Where to eat in Bagan
We had amazing vegan/vegetarian Burmese food in Bagan, and these are our favorite places to eat:
- Yati Organic Garden and Restaurant (lovely owner, cute garden to sit and delicious food for very reasonable prices)
- 7 Sisters (great food but a bit more pricey)
- The Moon – Be Kind to Animals (very tasty food and beautiful garden)
- Khaing Shwe Wah Vegetarian Restaurant (good food and reasonable price)
Best things to do in Bagan
Bagan is the place for the most magical sunrises and sunsets and exploring many many beautiful temples. To enter Bagan, every tourist has to pay 15$ for a Bagan zone ticket for all the temples. Most of the guesthouses are renting e-scooters (for 4$ per day), and they are perfect for exploring the temples. The area is quite big, and there are over 2200 temples to discover. You probably won’t make it to see all of them during your stay, that is why we have listed our favorites here:
Most of the temples are officially closed now. Bagan has applied to get a world heritage site, and for that reason, they have to take care of the temples more and renovate them. However, to enjoy the sunrise in Bagan is beautiful from every place and especially when you see the balloons crossing over the temples.
You can also do a balloon ride during your stay in Bagan. This must be a magical experience too. We didn’t do it because it is quite expensive (between 300 to 400$ per person).
Mandalay isn’t a very beautiful city itself, but it has many amazing things to offer around it and should not be missed when in Myanmar. What we loved about the city is that there is so much going on in the streets every evening. From fantastic street food to a charming self-made fair with shooting ranges and carousel.
Where to eat in Mandalay
- Marie Min Vegetarian Restaurant (delicious Burmese dishes for a reasonable price)
- Healthy Me (Make your own salad bowl)
- What’s Up Cafe (for the best coffee in town)
- There is a lot of fantastic street food in Mandalay
Best things to do in Mandalay
U Bein Bridge for Sunset
Enjoy the sunset at the U Bein Bridge and watch the bustle.
Kuthodaw Pagoda – The world’s largest book
Visit the Kuthodaw Pagoda for sunrise and enjoy it almost to yourself. It is called the world’s largest book because of the 729 shrines around the Pagoda. Each of them is a single marble slab whose two sides were inscribed with Burmese scripts. Each slab is like a page of the book.
Hsinbyume Pagoda and Mingun Pagoda
Hsinbyume is one of our favorite Pagodas we have visited in Myanmar. With its different layers, it remembers us at waves in the ocean. It is located a 1.5 hours drive with the scooter outside of the city. To rent a scooter in Mandalay cost us around 10$ per day.
It is definitely worth the drive, and we recommend you to come here early. It was stunning to enjoy the sunrise from the top of the Pagoda, and we could drive here without traffic early in the morning.
If you feel like escaping the bustle of the city for one day, you can visit the following places:
Dee Dote Waterfall
Turquoise water to swim at in the hills. Very nice place, but be aware that you have to consume something from the little restaurant there to enter the waterfall.
Pyin Oo Lwin & The Croft Organic Farm
The little village which is surrounded by countryside with a lot of farms and coffee plantations. You can visit a farm here. We went to The Croft Organic Farm and had a fantastic tour there. We paid 3$ for two people, and they showed and explained to us everything. In the end, you get some coffee and cakes. Unfortunately they do net sell any of the amazing fruits and vegetables that grow there.
Budget for traveling in Myanmar
The costs of getting around in Myanmar are fair. We stayed nine days in Myanmar, and overall we spent about 60$ per day for food (17$), accommodation (23$), transport (13$), and sightseeing (6$), excluding the visa costs of about 50$ per person.
With the following list of costs, we would like to give you some hints to help you plan the budget for your trip.
- Taxi from Yangon International Airport to the center of Yangon (14 km): 6$
- Grab from the center of Yangon to the Aung Mingalar Bus Station (17 km): 8$
- Taxi from the JJ Express bus station to our guesthouse in New Bagan (10 km): 7$
- Scooter (24 hours): 10$
- Tuktuk from the Kuthodaw Pagoda to the Mandalay train station (6 km): 4$
- Taxi from the center of Mandalay to the airport (38 km): 8$
- Meal at a local restaurant: 6$ to 9$
- Meal at a touristic restaurant: 20$ to 25$
Getting cash in Myanmar
Getting cash is easy, as there are plenty of ATMs available. Unfortunately, they charge you a fee of somewhat between 3.50$ and 4.50$ per withdrawal. During our stay, we only had to get cash two times (200’000 and 300’000 MMK). To save money on fees and because most places only accept cash, we suggest getting the maximum amount of money the ATM offers with each withdrawal.
To get the best exchange rates and save money on fees at the ATM and while paying by card, we use a pre-paid credit card from Revolut.
Are you interested in how to be a more sustainable traveler? Chlick here: Eco Travel – Everything you need to know