Road Transport in Myanmar
Like most other countries in the world, road transport is the most important way of getting around in Myanmar. Most towns and cities are accessible by land route. The total road network of 37,785 kilometers includes motorways, highways, main or national roads, secondary or regional roads, and all other roads of the country. The transport by road ranges from long-distance buses to cheap local types of transports like trishaw, pick-ups, or horse-carts…
With cheaper tickets than airlines, and faster journey than travel by train, buses has become a premier option for tourist on a budget and time flexibility. Traveling by bus is simplest way to get around Myanmar, and move from well-known places to another without any difficulties.
Bus routes are run by different private companies which serve most parts of the country except some border and mountain areas. Those companies operate on the same routes at the same price, which gives many options to the tourists.
In large cities such as Yangon and Mandalay, there are local bus networks which are popular and sometimes crowded. Understanding routes can be difficult for visitors as signs are not written in English and numbers are in Myanmar script, but you ca ask help from locals. Buses can be a fun and cheap way to get around.
Myanmar buses come in different sizes, including luxury air-con express buses, less luxurious but nice buses (without air-conditioning), local buses or mini 32- seat.
The long-distance buses on major routes in Myanmar are modern, equipped with air- conditioning. These buses are very comfortable. Bottled water, and sometimes a small snack, are supplied on all VIP buses and some other buses. Some have a TV on board. There are no toilets, but it stops frequently during the journeys.
This type of buses are usually used on shorter trips, between cities and its outlying towns like Yangon and Pyay or Pyinmana to Yangon. Similar sized but older buses, with no air-con, in some cases, may have no working windows.
Traveling by local buses may be difficult, but it is certainly an experience and cheap way to get around. In some large cities of Yangon and Mandalay, the local bus networks are popular and often be jam-packed with luggage. There are also local buses running longer routes such as Tangoo to Mandalay.
Tickets can be bought at bus stations, but notice that in Yangon, Mandalay, and Bagan, they are outside of the town, very far from city center. You are possible to buy ticket from in-town bus company offices, where you will be able to select your seat. Your hotel may help you with booking for a small fee. Some bus companies also allow phone booking, but you still need to pick up your ticket few hours before departure. You also can book tickets online through many websites like Myanmar Bus Tickets.
In the peak season, along main tourist routes, you should try to buy your tickets a few day or even longer in advance. If only traveling partway along the major routes, you often have to pay the full fare. This applies also if boarding partway a bus along its journey. Although there are some differences in conditions between types of buses in Myanmar, pricing is very similar.
Myanmar’s bus schedules may be not familiar with foreign visitors. They often depart late in the evening (16:00-22:00 pm) and arrive very early in the morning. There are some buses from remote areas, on the other hand, leave very early in the morning.
Need to know
- Some off-the-beaten-track roads are very rough and dusty and can become impassable in the rainy season. Thus journey times can vary.
- It is worth noting that some routes are off-limits to foreigners – usually when they run through sensitive border areas – especially the Thai border.
- If you travel to less touristic parts of the country (particularly border areas), take with you photocopies of your Myanmar visa and passport photo page which might be asked by officials.
- Air-conditioned buses can get cold, so bring a jacket to cover up with, although blankets are sometimes provided.
Here are some types of local road transport in Myanmar :
There are plenty of taxis in most large cities, they are easy to flag down, and relatively inexpensive. Some taxis are very old and in a poor condition (mostly 1970 Toyotas), while others are modern left-hand-drive models with air-conditioning. In some cities, there are also ‘blue taxis’, which are mini pick-up trucks with two small benches in the back.
You can flag down taxis anywhere, but taxis from hotels or restaurants will be more expensive. Short taxi journeys in Yangon will cost approximately K 1,500 to 2,000. For journeys over 4 kilometers you will have to pay more. In regional cities, there is less competition between taxis so visitors may end up paying more.
There are no meters but Myanmar’s drivers don’t tend to overcharge as in many other countries.
Most taxi drivers in large cities and tourist spots speak some English.
Pick-ups often start from bus stations and some popular destinations, it may cover both short and medium distance. They cost less than K800. The rear of the vehicle, where passengers sit, is made up of basic wooden benches. Pick-ups usually depart regularly throughout the day. They don’t follow a time-table, the driver waits for the vehicle to become full before leaving and will pick up and drop off people along the way. The window seat next to driver is fairly comfortable, and well worth the little extra. If you want an insightful look at how the poor travel, it is the way to go.
Trishaws are the easiest and most convenient mode of transport in Myanmar. You will find them on most street corners. You can expect to pay around K500 to 1,000 for a short journey. Unlike other Asian countries, the Burmese trishaw is a bicycle with a passenger side car attached to it. The passenger seat is not behind the paddler but on its side.
In small towns, or some destinations like Bagan, Inwa and Pyin Oo Lwin, horse-carts are used widely. You may expect to pay the same rate as travel by taxis. Traveling by horse-cart, you will never forgot the feeling of peace- no engine sound- just the clatter of horse’s hooves on the roads.
Note : There are also numerous cycling possibilities in Myanmar, especially in some places such as Bagan and Inle Lake. If you are dedicated cyclists, you are also allowed to bring your own bicycle to Myanmar overland.
With the road network covers almost parts of country, time flexibility is far more than other means of transport, road transport in Myanmar must be the most important ones. The various types of vehicles offer visitors different experiences, opening a window into the authentic life of local people.
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