We’ve built these pages around an example of a classic itinerary (done within 10 days without the trek in Kalaw and taking only plane transfers): Yangon – Bagan- Mandalay – Inle Lake – Ngapali beach – Yangon.
2 days in each city is a good option, especially if you travel by plane. The flights are early in the morning. You will not arrive later than 10am to the city, this will give you plenty of time to discover the area. Taking early flight is worth it as you don’t lose a day between each city – you may have to get up at 6am but don’t worry nightlife is not Myanmar’s highlight anyway.
If you do not have much time, you should probably focus on Yangon (1/2 day), Bangan (2 days) and Inle Lake (2 days). Mandalay is not as breathtaking as the other places. Ngapali, although it has amazing beaches and is a great place to relax or fish, can be skipped. You can find beautiful beaches elsewhere in the region.
How accessible is it from Singapore?
There are frequent flights from Singapore to Yangon so it’s relatively easy.
The total door to door journey takes 5 hours 30 minutes from (your home/office in) Singapore to your room in Yangon. If you want to enjoy Myanmar, you need a minimum of a week but if you are short on time you could visit Yangon only in 2 or 3 days or go only to Inle Lake or Bagan for 3 or 4 days.
How much is this going to cost us?
Myanmar remains relatively cheap although prices are going up rapidly as the country opens up to tourism and infrastructures are not ready to support the inflow.
Transport from Singapore will cost you from SGD 460 return for 2 with a direct flight.
Accommodation wise you should be able to find a wide range of accommodation from backpacker guesthouses to decent hotels. The hotels can be pretty expensive for the value you get.
How remote and risky is it?
Myanmar is safe but very poorly equipped when it comes to medical infrastructures. Most roads are in good condition (although the driving wheel on the wrong side creates additional risks). Access to the internet or telecommunication can be limited making any attempt to call for help a bit more challenging. Access to money can also be a problem (limited ATMs and currency exchange opportunities). Take a basic medicine kit with you, just in case.
What about the kids?
You can take your children to Myanmar. You can also take babies or infants provided you are equipped with the necessary first aid and careful. Not sure I would take a baby on a day boat tour on Inle Lake though…You could use a stroller in most cities and in Bagan if you stay on the roads. However, prefer a baby carrier if you want to walk around and have more freedom to move around.
When should we go?
Myanmar is still a unique country in many ways (currency, politics, infrastructure, etc). Expect surprises.
Because there is too much information to share, we have made an exception (for an exceptional country with yet limited information for tourists). You will see that the structure of the website is slightly different for Myanmar. All general information is in the first tab. The following tabs gather all you need to know (getting there, staying, what do see & do) by main city / area.
Connections with this trip
If you have more time, we would recommend you to spend more time… in Myanmar! If you fly via Bangkok, you can always visit the Thai capital if you have more time.
- Language: Burmese
- Time zone: GMT +6:30 hour. Myanmar is 1.5 hour behind Singapore.
- Currency: Myanmar Kyat (MMK) – pronounced “chat”. Exchange rates in the Black-market are far better than the official ones.
There is no ATM in the country (in 2012) so bring enough USD or EUR and make sure your banknotes are in good shape (not dog-eared, not torn, with no annotation) otherwise you will not be able to pay or exchange them. In some big hotels you might be able to get cash paying with your Visa card (but it is not guaranteed). Don’t be afraid of receiving a pile of Kyat banknotes in exchange of a single 100 USD banknote.
- Phone: + 95
- Electricity: 220V 50 Hz. Power outages occur but large hotels and shops run generators.
Immigration and airport taxes on arrival
A valid passport with entry visa is required for all visitors. Infants and children also require a separate visa even traveling on parent’s passport. The Tourist Visa is valid for 28 days.
New Myanmar e-visa – Effective 26 April 2012. Easy 4 steps process:
- Go to http://evisa.moip.gov.mm/ and fill out online application form
- Confirm and pay with your credit/debit card
- Receive your approval letter (within 5 working days)
- Receive your visa upon arrival in Myanmar
For more information, log on to http://evisa.moip.gov.mm
Old process at the Myanmar Embassy
The Embassy of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in Singapore is located 15, ST. Martin’s Drive, Singapore 257996.
- Visa Application Hours: 9:30 AM to 12PM
- Visa Collection Hours: 4:PM to 5PM.
The process takes 2 working days. You can visit the embassy website for updated information. For your application, you need to provide:
- One copy of duly filled Entry Tourist Visa application form.
- One photocopy of a page of passport with the applicant’s photo shown
- One photocopy of IC/ PR/ EP/ Student Pass ( Both sides)
- 2 recent photos of 1 ½ x 2 inches with white colour background (Scanned photos are not allowed)
- A valid passport (at least 6 months validity)
- 35 SGD fees
National Public Holidays in Myanmar
Full Moon of Tabaung
Armed Forces Day
13/4/2015 to 16/4/2015
Maha Thingyan (Water Festival)
Myanmar New Year
Full Moon of Kason (Buddha’s Birthday)
Full Moon of Waso (Beginning of Buddhist Lent)
Full Moon of Thadingyut (End of Buddhist Lent)
Full Moon Day of Tazaungmone
* check the exact date here as it varies from one year to another.
What to pack for Myanmar?
Your main bag
That’s the one you leave at the hotel. Ideally you want to avoid checking in your luggage when flying. So check the weight and dimensions for hand carry luggage with your airlines (some airlines will allow only 7kg, some will allow up to 10kg). From head to toes.
- Short sleeves tops: your main outfit. Everybody will see them on all your pictures. You really want to take that old Mickey Mouse T-shirt? Be mindful that you will be in a different environment so it might be a good idea to adjust your wardrobe.
- Long sleeves tops: to protect yourself from the sun (if you’ve stayed for 5 hours on a motorbike with short sleeves you know what I mean) or to enter religious buildings or to protect yourself from mosquitoes in the evening.
- Pullover. Yes I know, you’re going to a country where the temperature never goes down below 25 degrees and you need to pack a pullover? You will thank us when you’re back. Remember that flight during which you were freezing? Or this museum where the aircon is set to the “polar bear” temperature?
- Short/skirt (you should be able to chose the appropriate one by yourself).
- Trousers for the same reasons you need to take long sleeves tops. Jeans are usually not a good option. They are heavy and keep you too warm.
- Underwear: well, you know. If you plan to walk or ride motorbikes for long hours, take something comfortable as the combination heat + friction can make you regret this sophisticated silk underwear. Cotton is good.
- Shoes: one pair of flip flap and one pair of confortable shoes. Remember that you are going to spend most of the time on your feet. Forget about high heels and leave your Westons at home.
- Swimsuit: even if you don’t plan to go to the beach, you never know. A nice river, a swimming pool, a heavy rain? Always have one with you.
- Raincoat and protection for your bag. Even if you are visiting the country during the “best season”, you never know what the sky will be like.
- Torch: take a pocket torch with you if you visit countries where the power is not reliable… Can come very handy when stuck in the dark in your room.
- Toilet bag: Shampoo, soap, toothbrush & toothpath, deodorant, sun screen, tiger balm. Ideally, all these in miniature formats.
- Sleeping bag liner (if you plan to stay in very cheap or dirty places, not required if you are staying in a 5-star hotel…)
- Your IT stuff: iPad, eBook, laptop, chargers, memory card, batteries, etc.
- Dryer sheets: they will help keep a fresh smell in your bag.
Your small bag
That’s the one you keep with you, all the time. Hence, a backpack is the best option.
- Your passport, cash, credit cards and other life saving items like your insurance card with emergency contact details. Not a bad idea to put them in a zip-lock bag in case it rains. It will keep your documents dry.
- Your driver’s licence if you plan to rent a car or a motorbike (some countries are quite particular about this so take it with you in case you are not sure, even for a motorbike rental).
- Your emergency medical kit: painkillers, mosquitoes repellent, dressing/plaster, disinfectant, anti diarrhea, eyewash
- Tissues and toilet paper (you will thank me later). Remember that in a lot of countries, you will not be provided napkins when having a meal.
- Water – plastic bottles are a good option as they are lighter than a gourd/flask.
- Biscuits (always buy some before you go when you are not sure what you will find. Always have “emergency” biscuit and water in case you cannot find food around and need to recharge batteries)
- Sunglasses: you’ll need them. Take them even if it’s raining. Weather can change very fast in the region.
- Scarf (krama, or any kind of fabric that you can use to put around your neck, put on your head to protect it from the sun, cover your shoulders in temples, dry your sweat, etc). Can come very handy in some situation. It will not stay clean for long so it’s wise to pick a dark color…
- Camera and its protection.
Remember that this one comes on top of the Regular pack (above)
- Beach towel or equivalent (pareos / sarongs are lighter)
- Snorkeling equipment: mask, scuba, (fins?)
- Shoes you can wear on the beach or in the water (to protect your feet from being cut by corals)
- Dry bag if you plan to go on a boat and want to keep your stuff dry.
Well, you will probably adjust your bag after a few trips. Remove the stuff that you have not used and add the one that you missed. Post a comment to share your tips!
Happy packing (it’s the worse part of the trip but it’s worth it…) and travelling!
Getting from Singapore to Yangon
Silkair, Jetstar and Myanmar Airways International operate direct flights from Singapore to Yangon (RGN). You can also fly via Bangkok
Getting there: Jetstar – Singapore to Yangon – 9.10 AM – 10.40 (3h flight)
Coming back: Jetstar – Yangon to Singapore– 11.45 AM – 4.20 PM
Return ticket from SGD 185.
Get your ticket NOW to enjoy the best fares.
The taxi fare from the airport to the city center (15km) will cost you around USD 10.
Where to stay in Yangon?
Yangon downtown area is best- where you’ll directly dive into the local life and culture. There are options for all budgets. As Myanmar welcomes more and more tourists, it is wise to book in advance during the high seasons (December but even July and August as many tourists on holidays come although it is the rain season).
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What to do in Yangon?
This is the highlight of Yangon. This pagoda is one of the most sacred sites for Buddhists, many Burmese pilgrims coming with their family, spending the day there, praying, having a pic nic, smoking cheroots,… the golden stupa glitters day and night, with either the sun rays beaming on it or with the power light at night. The best time to visit is either as the sun rises or sets – the light is quiet amazing at these times. Shwedagon is located north of the city center (about 1,5km) and is visibe from everywhere in the city. You should spend at least 2 hours there, discovering each corner of the place, chatting with monks and enjoying the quietness of the religious site. Open from 6AM to 10PM. USD 5 per pax, USD 5 for camera fees (but not systematically requested)
The Sule Pagoda is located in the very center of Yangon, its octagonal shape with a 48m high golden dome is a major landmark of the capital. Nothing like Shwedagon but still worth a visit. Open from 6AM to 10PM. USD 3 per pax. Extra Camera fee.
Kandawgyi Lake & Park
About 10min walk from the Shwedagon pagoda, it is a nice park to wander. The architecture of the restaurant Karaweik is uncommon with its royal barge shape. Entrance fees: USD 2 per pax.
This market gathers many shops selling handicrafts, foodstuffs, clothing, jewelry, fashion and consumer goods. It is worth spending some time there.
Also known as Lake Victoria, this is a popular recreational place for locals, located 10km north of the city center. Nearby the lake some nice private properties such as Aung San Suu Kyi residence (don’t expect to sneak up to close as it is well protected). Free entrance.
If you are interested in geology and in gems then stop by this museum. If you want to buy gems (assuming you know how to select them), they have a huge gems shop. Closed on Monday, USD 7 per pax
Wander around in the city
You should definitely take a few hours to walk in the city center and have a look at some colonial monuments such as the City Hall, the old railway station, the St Mary’s Cathedral… Walking across the streets will give you the chance to witness Burmese lifestyle and culture. And to see some curiosities from another age such as the door bells made of hanging rope, outdoor public phone shops (wired to the street’s main electrical poles), some betel stalls, etc. The city is motorbikes free.
Bagan is located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River and the area around Bagan provides a home for the largest number of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins; many of them dating from the 11th and 12th centuries.
Getting from Yangon to Bagan
Fly from Yangon (RGN) to Nyaung U -Bagan (NYU) -Airmandalay – 6.30 AM – 7.50 PM. Daily flights. One way ticket: USD 120/ pax
The taxi ride from the airport to the city will cost you around USD 10.
Where to stay in Bagan?
Bagan temples are scattered across 42 km² plains. You can visit the temples from 3 cities: New Bagan, Old Bagan & Nyaung U. We recommend you to stay in Old Bagan which is in the middle and enables you to go one day South and the other day North East. However you might find it difficult to find budget accommodations, therefore Nyaung U can also be a good option. This hotel in Old Bagan is quite nice.
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What to do in Bagan?
Bagan is known as the city of thousands of temples. We highly recommend you to spend 2 full days (or more) in Bagan.
- Day 1: You can spend a day wandering from one temple to another by bike (biking enables you to go off the beaten track and visit small villages on the way whenever you feel like to drop the bike and talk to local people – roads around Bagan are flat and easy to ride, though it is better to start early morning & as the sun sets to avoid the heat). Check your bike and tires before you go and take the name, address and phone number of the renter so that you can try to contact him in case you have a problem.
- Day 2: Then another day using a horse-cart among the temples and stop by the local market in Nyaung U (selling veggies, spices, dry fish,… colorful and lively market) and lacquer-making factory. Travelling on the horse-cart takes more time than if you were biking as you need to stop quiet often for the horse to rest (because of the heat).
There is no need to hire a guide as the best of Bagan is to get lost and stroll among the temples.
- Entrance fees to Bagan Area: USD 10 /pax
- Bike rental is: USD 2.5 /day
- Horse cart rental with driver: USD 20-25/day, 2/3 seats per horse cart
Getting from Bagan to Mandalay
- By bus: it is not recommended during rainy season. From Yangon departure around 5PM and arrival around 3AM, USD 14/pax.
- By plane: Fly from Nyaaung U (Bagan) – NYU to Mandalay (MDN) 8.05 AM – 8.35 AM. Airmandalay. Daily flights. One way ticket USD 60 / pax. To book your flight click here
Taxi fare to the city from the Airport ~ USD 18-20.
Where to stay in Mandalay
To enjoy the lively Mandalay, you should stay between the Zegyo market and the Royal Palace. So you will be near by restaurants and biking / trishaw distance from the main attraction listed below.
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What to do in Mandalay?
Mandalay is the largest city after Yangon and is also the former capital of Myanmar. The city is the economic and the religious hub, where the majority of the Burmese monks live.
What to do IN Mandalay?
You can rent a bike and easily go from one place to another . 1 day should be enough to visit most of the below places. Bike rental is: USD 2 /day
This monastery is entirely made out of teak wood with beautiful intricate carvings. Nice & quiet place which is the last and authentic part of the royal palace piece remaining from the WWII bombings. This is a must-visit place.
The Palace 2km wall, the gates and the moats are really impressive. Inside you will see some reconstructed buildings such as the Watch Tower, the Great Audience Hall and other pavilions. Consider spending 1h as you need to walk from the East Gate entrance to the buildings. Entrance fees USD 5 / pax.
A 230m high hill located near Mandalay, from there you can enjoy a nice view over the city and the surrounding plains. There are many pagodas and temples on the way. It is recommended to get there at sunset, when it is less hot and when monks come up to pray and to practice their English with tourists. You can either climb up the 1700 stairs or you can take a taxi up to the top of the hill (leaving every 20 min from the foot hill) walk the way back. Taxi costs approx USD 5. Entrance fees to the upper temple is USD 3/pax.
This Pagoda is located at the foot of the Mandalay Hill and contains a large iron Buddha image. But the most interesting part of this pagoda are the numerous stupas which house the 1774 marble slabs inscribing Buddhist text. Free entrance.
Like the Sundamuni Pagoda, the Kuthoda Pagoda is surrounded by 729 ancient marble tablets inscribed with Buddhist religious texts in the Pali Language (undecipherable but fascinating rounded writing). Free entrance.
Located at the corner Street 84 and 26 this is the oldest and most important market in Mandalay. A very busy place where you’ll see mainly locals and where you’ll find local products ranging from spices and fabrics to gems and jewelery. Memorable Burmese experience.
Moustache brothers show
Mandalay Marionettes Theatre, 66th St., Bet. 26th & 27th St. It may get a little too commercial nowadays but it can be nice to see the performance one night. This is a trio comedy, written by 3 brothers who were jailed 12 years for their political performance and jokes. They are only allowed to perform from their home for tourists. The show takes place every night at 8PM and lasts 1h30. Tickets must be bought on site. USD 10/pax.
What to do AROUND Mandalay?
The best is to rent a typical small blue taxi for the day and visit 2-3 places around the city. Car rental with driver: around USD 20-25/day. You can also find motorcycle drivers willing to drive you around Mandalay for the day (you are not allowed to drive your own motorcycle). The bravest should be able to bike to Amarapura & Inwa within a day.
3km south from Mandalay, on the way to Amarapura, this is the 2nd holiest pilgrimage site in Myanmar. Inside there is a 4m high golden Buddha statue. If you get there around 4:30-5AM you’ll have the chance to see the fascinating ceremony of washing the Buddha’s face, occurring daily with many attendees. Free entrance.
One of the 3 former royal capitals (with Inwa and Mingun), Amarapura is located 13km south from Mandalay. You should stop at the Bagaya monastery, mainly made of carved wood. Open from 9 AM to 5 PM. You will also see some other interesting places on the way such as the Maha Gandhayon, the Amarapura palace ruins. And finally the legendary U-Bein bridge entirely made of teak. The 1.2 km walk on the wooden footbridge will leave you with good memories. During the dry season you will see Burmese working in the fields around the bridge and during the rainy season you will enjoy the quietness of a lake. This spot is popular with Burmese lovers. You can also spend some time wandering on the island at the other side of the bridge.
Located 23 Km south East from Mandalay (45 min drive), Inwa is reachable by boat – 5 min ride. Surrounded by rice fields and coconut trees, you can visit the Royal palace ruins, the Inwa Tower and some monasteries. Ask the locals for the way to the different places, they will show you the way. You can rent a horse cart to visit this city for few dollars or go walking if you have time.
Mingun is just at 1h boat ride from Mandalay, the boat leaves from the Ma Yan Chan pier in Mandalay at 9AM daily and returns to Mandalay at 1PM sharp (reconfirm with the captain of the boat). Some pagodas to visit, one of the biggest bell and walking in the small village are the highlights of Mingun. Visiting Mingun is a half day trip from Mandalay.
- A boat round trip ticket costs about USD 6.
- Pass Entrance fees to Mandalay Area (including Amarapura and Inwa): USD 10/pax.
- Mingun Pass entrance fees: USD 3/pax
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Getting to Inle Lake (Heho – HEH)
Getting from Bagan Nyaung U (NYU) to Heho (HEH) : Airmandalay – 8.20 AM – 9AM. Daily flights. One way ticket: 80 USD / pax,
Getting from Mandalay (MDL) to Heho (HEH): Airmandalay – 8.55 AM – 9.30 AM – Daily flights. One way ticket: 60 USD / pax,
- Taxi fare from the airport to the city center around USD20
- Entrance fees to Inle Lake area: 7 USD/pax
Where to stay around Lake Inle?
Staying nearby the lake is the best option to make your stay memorable. There are also accommodation options on the lake.
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What to do around Inle Lake?
Inle Lake is an amazing lake nested among mountains, its altitude (approx 900m above the sea) makes it a good location to enjoy riding a bike and cooler nights.
A MUST do! If you do only one thing in Myanmar, it should be this boat tour. Take a boat trip on the lake early morning as sun rises. Ask your hotel for a group tour or go directly to the boatmen the day before. It is usually a 4-pax boat. It is a 1-day boat trip to visit markets, tobacco, blacksmiths, lotus silk, fishermen village, floating gardens, giraffe women, fishermen paddling with their leg (so they have their hands free to fish -don’t attempt to reproduce their move, unless you like swimming). Boat: USD 30 per boat / day.
You can go biking in the countryside heading to the hot water springs, crossing small villages, rice fields, buffalos,… Bike rental: USD 2-3/ day
Red mountain Estate vineyard & winery
6km away from Nyaungswhe, this winery is the only wine producer in Myanmar. You will be able to enjoy surprisingly nice Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Pinot, and many other varieties. Wine amateurs, you should go for a wine tasting session! USD 3 to 7 / pax. To book a tasting have a look at their website
2-day trek in Kalaw
Kalaw is 2 hours away from Inle. There is no plane flying there. You can either take a day bus from Bagan (8-hour drive, departure 7AM – arrival 3PM, ~USD 18/pax) or fly to Inle Lake from Mandalay or Bagan and take a bus to Kalaw which is only 2h away from Inle Lake. Arriving in Kalaw, walk in the main road and ask around for a trek. If you want to plan in advance your trek you can contact Ananda Travel Agency (firstname.lastname@example.org) or a local guide from Kalaw Thu Thu (email@example.com). Suggestion: 2.5 day trek, ~ 52 km. You will pass by remote places and cut across rice paddies, fields, lush mountain forest, etc. Expect to walk about 6-7h each day.
Ngapali is a peaceful 3km long beach. From your deckchair you’ll enjoy coconut trees, turquoise sea, buffalo carts on the beach and feel you are on the edge of the world… Resorts are designed in a way that preserves this atmosphere. One of the most beautiful beaches in Asia?
Getting to Ngapali
Fly from Heho (HEH) to Thandwe (Ngapali) – SNW : Airmandalay 9.15 AM– 10.15 AM. Daily flights. One way ticket USD 140 / pax,
Fly from Yangon (RGN) to Thandwe (Ngapali) – SNW: 11.45 AM – 12.40 PM. Daily flights except Wednesdays. On Saturdays: 7 AM – 7.55 AM. One way ticket USD 100/ pax
Flying back from Thandwe (Ngapali) SNW to Yangon (RGN) 10.30 AM – 11.25 AM or 2.30 PM – 3.25 PM. Daily flights. One way ticket USD 100/ pax
The taxi from/to the airport to/from the city will cost you around USD 20.
Where to stay in Ngapali?
Hotels in Ngapali are quite expensive compared to the other cities. You will hardly find backpacker hotels and guesthouses in Ngapali. It’s recommended to book your hotel before getting to Ngapali.
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What to do in Ngapali?
Ngapali is a beach destination. Enjoy and relax, go for snorkeling. If you absolutely need to do something, go for a (half) day fishing trip. You can ask fishermen to go fishing with them early morning. The fishing equipment is very basic but you’ll find it fun to fish (when you manage to catch one)