How to Get From Yangon to Mandalay

 Burma is an awesome country to backpack around, and thanks to the fear-mongering by western media sources you have the country practically to yourself. As far as a ‘tourist-trail’ goes, there are four places you’ll definitely want to visit – Yangon (the countries biggest city), Mandalay (one of the former Capitals), Bagan (home to a temple complex which rivals Angkor Wat) and Lake Inle (serenity in its truest form).

The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

You’ll be arriving in Burma by air, probably to Yangon. From there the majority of travelers (me included) head north to Mandalay. There are a few options here:

 

BUS: $12 USD for an Air-Con bus and $10 for non Air-Con, scheduled around 10 hours but will take closer to 12.

Buses leave Yangon 2 times daily. Around 7am in the morning and around 6pm in the evening.

The buses aren’t completely awful but the roads are! It’s a rickety journey, the buses don’t have any toilets but they do stop 4 times per trip. It’s faster than the train and the night bus can save you a nights accommodation fee if you’re pinching the pennies.

 

Local Burmese Bus

Local Burmese Bus

TRAIN: $30/$35 USD, scheduled for 14 hours but will take closer to 16.

There are 4 trains a day: 5.00 (express), 5.30, 6.00 and 12.15 pm. The 12.15 offers a sleeper, air-con option for $35/$40 and if the train is as late as normal, you’ll be arriving in Mandalay just in time for breakfast. You are stuck with a bed for the entirety of the trip though.

 

Train from Yangon to Mandalay

Train from Yangon to Mandalay

So it’s overpriced AND 100% of proceeds go to the Government coffers. It’s slower than the other options and the train is pretty run down. All that being said, it’s still my favourite way to go. The carriages are spacious, the seats recline a lot and although it’s will almost definitely be late – you’re almost guaranteed some shut-eye as the seats are seriously comfortable. Also, the journey allows for some awesome vies through the Burmese countryside (although it could be argued that 16 hours of any site could be too much!).

 

FLIGHT: $92 USD, around a 60 minute flight with one of Myanmar’s domestic carriers (Air Bagan, Mandalay air, Yangon Air and Myanmar Air).

I try to avoid flights like the plague – it may be foolish but I’m a bit of a sucker for punishment and, for me, there’s nothing quite like earning your arrival in a new place with a disgusting journey behind you! Flights, in my opinion, cost too much, they steal potential experiences from you as you’re not meeting locals on the public transport and they’re a killer for your carbon footprint. But still, it does ‘buy’ you an extra day in the country so it remains a popular choice.

 

air bagan flight

air bagan flight

Ok guys – 3 options to make the 650km trip north. I’ll leave it with you but my personal transport choice will always be in this order 1) boat 2) train 3) bus 4) flight so despite all the cons of the train choice – it wins for me. Good luck and happy travels J

21 thoughts on “How to Get From Yangon to Mandalay

  1. JC

    Hello Johnny,
    Thank you for this very informative post.
    I plan to visit Myanmar and would to ask your expertise,
    How many days should i spend if to travel to Myanmar?
    Most likely, i would like to visit Bagan, Mandalay and Inke Lake

    Looking forward to your positive response.

    Reply
  2. Alex Taylor

    Hi, It’s interesting to hear that you had a similar experience in Mandalay. It would have been nice to see sunset from the bridge too but there was just no way we were going to hang around from lunchtime till 6-7pm, especially when we were feeling so dispirited.

    Reply
  3. Tuey Gjestland

    Thanks for the great idea. From Chiang Mai, what is the best way, should I go from Chiang Mai to Mandalay, and then Yangoon?

    Reply
  4. debbie ann

    nice blog! I found it from grrrl traveler. I’m in Singapore now, about to fly to Yangon at the end of the month. I agree w you about trains, so I’m thinking arrive in Yangon, take the train to Mandalay, but after that I’m not sure whether to go to Inle or Bagan and then Inle. I’m thinking maybe buses after we get to Mandalay. We’re just going to wing it and travel light. We have 11 days. I just can’t seem to figure out a plan.

    It looks like maybe you are in Malaysia right now – we had a great time (well no AC and no food) taking the jungle train from Gemas to Kota Bharu. I really like KB.

    Reply
    1. Zorian Matthews

      Hi Debbie, I was there back in Feb and in my opinion I would go to Inle lake BEFORE Bagan. Its not the easiest way round to do it but Inle lake area was a big anti climax after seeing the rest of the country first. Its very touristy and quite commercial in comparison to other places I visited.
      If I were you I would travel up to Thazi on the train from Yangon, then get the slow train (scenic) to Kalaw, trek for 2 or 3 days to Inle, relax there for a couple days then move onto Mandalay, take the slow boat down the Irrawaddy river to Bagan. This place is spectacular and a great place to finish the trip. (if pushed for time skip Mandalay and go straight to Bagan)
      Have fun!

      Reply
  5. Julie

    Just wanted to say thanks for the post! I’ve been trying to find the cheapest way of doing the Yangon to Mandalay trip. Muchly appreciated! :)

    Reply
  6. Zorian

    Hi, thanks for the information, I’m visiting Burma later this month. Is it possible to depart from the train at each of the stops? I’ve seen the schedule and it indicates theres several hours at various places on the route. Does this provide an opportunity to stretch your legs and see a bit of the towns?
    Many thanks!

    Reply
  7. Beth

    Hi there!
    I am planning to do my Indochina trip next year and I would like to know if
    if I can get to Changmai by land from Mandalay without going back to Yangoon?

    Reply
  8. lorna Lo

    Hi Johnny,

    How about taking a flight. we, 7 of us are scheduled to arrive Yangon on 17/8/12 about 18.05 local time. Booked to stay 2 nights at Yangon then plan to fly to Mandalay (2 days) then by land to Bagan (2 days) then fly back to Yangon. our total stay shall be 17/8/12-24/8/12.

    What i don’t understand is there isn’t any flight to Mandalay other than the very early morning flight at 6.30.

    Any good suggest with your vast experience of travelling

    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      hey Lorna, i’m afraid i don’t know the schedules :S That being said, you can travel by land in less than 14 hours or so if need be :)

      Reply
  9. Kennet Fischer

    Hi

    We are looking in to take the train. We love trains – especially night trains. You say, that we will be stuck on a bed. Is it not possible to make the beds into seats? How do we get tickets? I have read, that it may be difficult to buy tickets the day before departure?

    Reply

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