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 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

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0 thoughts on “How to Get From Yangon to Mandalay

  1. This is a great blog. It has given me more details on Myanmar than any site I’ve read by far.

    Would you bea able to advise on what is the best way to go from Inle lake to Mandalay and from Bagan to Yangon?
    Are there any convenient trains or flights from Bagan to Yangon?

    Many thanks in advance.

  2. This is a great blog. It has given me more details on Myanmar than any site I’ve read by far.

    Would you bea able to advise on what is the best way to go from Inle lake to Mandalay and from Bagan to Yangon?

    Many thanks in advance.

  3. Hey, a friend and I are traveling to Burma at the beginning of March. We’re trying to book a flight from Jakarta to Indonesia, but we’re unsure if we’ll be able to travel back to Yangon in time from Inle Lake. I’m aware that there’s a scenic train route from Kalaw to Thazi which is highly recommended and we plan on doing that! However, I was wondering if you had any information on the last leg from Thazi to Yangon. I heard there’s a slow train that takes like 16 hours but we’re trying to get back to Yangan sooner rather than later. Is there an overnight bus or quick overnight train that runs from Thazi to Yangan or do you have any suggestions? I would really appreciate it!

    1. I found the easiest way to get back from Inle was to fly. It saves worrying about getting connecting trains. I believe there are coach trips that take you as well, but having done a trip from Bagan to Kalaw, it was very uncomfortable and if travelling at night, absolutely freezing cold with the air con pumped up full blast as well as the music volume!
      I initially took a train from Yangon up to Mandalay over night and would recommend it a lot as you get to see the countryside and village life along the way.
      It does stop at Thazi so you could always pick it up from there if travelling back in that direction.
      Having been there, Id spend less time in Inle and concentrate on some of the other places instead, Inle was the most touristy place I saw and least authentic, a bit of an anti climax to finish the trip on, thats just my opinion though. The hiking from Kalaw down to Inle was a highlight of my trip, taking three days, it was great and I would definitely try to include it in your trip if you can.

  4. I would like to spend 3-5 days in Myanmar in early March to visit friends in Yangon and Mandalay. Due to time constraints, I would definitely fly between these two cities. Do I need to schedule my flight in advance or is it pretty easy to do so once I’m there? Thanks!

    1. I bought plane tickets when I was there and it wasn’t a problem, although it was a few days in advance, but there was still availability.
      I did that actual route by train though which was a great experience in itself. You can book a sleeping compartment setting off late afternoon and you travel over night, waking up early in the morning in Mandalay. You’ll avoid a long boring wait in a stuff airport and you’ll see some of the country on your journey as the train passes sleepy villages and open farmland.

  5. JC
    Did you do your Myanmar trip by now ?
    Eager to know from you the best itenerary to cover yangoon,bagan,mandalay and I lake …..especially the boat travel options.We are planning a trip in march 2015.
    Thanks

    1. Hi, just my own personal opinion in case you’re interested, but Inle Lake was my least favourite place out of all the ones you’ve mentioned. It’s a lot more commercial than other places in the country and I made the mistake of ending my trip there which was a bit of an anti climax after seeing some other wonderful places.
      The trekking routes you can take from Kalaw down to Inle lake are well worth doing though and I would definitely recommend fitting that in your trip, you’ll see real Myanmar doing so…
      We also took a boat trip from Mandalay down to Bagan on the Irrawaddy river and again this was a great experience, not to be missed. Bagan is a fascinating place to visit and definitely worth a few days.
      If I were to go again I would probably do the following route:
      Yangon> train ride to Kalaw via Thazi > 3 day trek to Inle lake > train/plane/coach to Mandalay > boat to Bagan > boat/train/coach > Yangon

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

  7. 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.

    1. 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!

  8. 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! 🙂

  9. 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!

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

    1. 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 🙂

  12. 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?

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