Backpacking Burma on a Budget – 2017 Ultimate Travel Guide

myanmar backpacking

I first travelled to Myanmar in 2011 and instantly fell in love with this truly special country. In a month-long backpacking trip, I met under a dozen other travellers. The country seemed almost completely empty of backpackers and I couldn’t understand why – Myanmar was the most incredible place I had ever been at the time. With ancient temples, untouched tribal areas, some of the world’s friendliest people, dirt cheap beer and pristine mountains, Myanmar is backpacking gold…

Myanmar is hands down my favourite country in South East Asia and in January 2017, I returned for a month-long backpacking trip. I was shocked to see how much the country has changed… Don’t get me wrong, backpacking in Myanmar is still an incredible experience but it’s now so much easier to travel to Myanmar (most nationalities can get an e-visa on arrival) and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists in the country’s best known spots.

Luckily, Myanmar is absolutely massive and it’s still relatively easy to get off the beaten track, away from the tourist hordes, and discover the Asia of thirty years ago. Backpacking Myanmar can still be low-key… Simply pull up a chair and watch life go by as you sip on tea and soak in the chilled vibes.

myanmar backpacking

Arriving into Myanmar

Backpacking Myanmar has exploded in popularity and with increased international flights and relaxed border crossings, it is now quite easy to get into Myanmar. Yangon is served by numerous airlines and you can pick up cheap flights from most other South East Asian countries into Myanmar. Most backpackers flying into the country start their adventure in Yangon but you can also fly into Mandalay (which puts you closer to Bagan) if you’re coming from Thailand.

There are four border crossings between Myanmar and Thailand

Mae Sot – Myawaddy (central). This is the easiest way to get from Bangkok to Yangon and by far the most popular crossing due to its proximity to various places of interest in Myanmar. Ignore any advice that says this crossing is one-way only; this is not the case anymore since a new road was completed in 2016.

Phunaron – Htee Kee (central). Buses go from Kanchanaburi in Thailand to the small border town of Phunaron. It’s a small and remote crossing (you can’t find it on Google Maps) and on a slow mountain road, though it’s fully accessible.

Mae Sai – Tachileik (north). You can cross here into Myanmar from Thailand’s Chiang Rai province, but you’ll get stuck if you don’t have a permit to travel further overland which is rarely issued. This crossing is, broadly speaking, not usable for independent travellers intending to go into Myanmar overland without restriction.

Ranong – Kawthaung (south). This crossing lets you enter Myanmar from the far south. The roads here are reportedly rough, and in bad weather conditions, overland travel to Myeik may not always be possible. This is, however, THE place to enter if you want to check out the stunning Mergui Archipelago.

Myanmar backpacking budget travel guide

India – Myanmar Border gate

The border crossing between India and Myanmar has been open for about eighteen months at the time of writing and, finally, makes it possible to travel overland from Europe to South East Asia without having to go through China. It is currently not possible to bring a vehicle from India unless you agree to have a Myanman government tour guide with you for your entire time in Myanmar at a cost of $100 a day. It is, however, possible to drive a motorbike up to the border, sell it, cross the border and then buy a cheap Chinese bike on the other side for around $300. Some reports indicate that you need a permit to be able to cross the India / Myanmar border but this information is outdated. Be aware however that on account of the escalating situation in nearby Rakhine State, the India / Myanmar border rules are subject to change without notice.

It is not currently possible for backpackers to travel overland to Bangladesh (and I doubt it will be for many years) or Laos (this will probably change soon) from Myanmar. Onwards overland travel to China is only possible with relevant permits.

Entry requirements for Myanmar

Over one hundred nationalities can now apply for an e-visa online through this website. E-visas can only be used if arriving by air or crossing overland from Thailand. I have heard some mixed reports that it is possible to cross from India with an e-visa if you have some additional paperwork. Visas typically cost around fifty dollars and are valid for thirty days. They can be overstayed by 14 days at a charge of three dollars per day plus an additional admin fee. If you’re not on the e-visa list and are from say, Iran, it’s still possible for you to get a visa – you just need to go to a Myanman consulate. I secured my Myanmar visas from the Bangkok and Chiang Mai consulates and on both occasions, it took just a couple of days – be sure to take passport size photos with you! If you do need to acquire a visa I suggest checking out iVisa for assistance.

Money in Myanmar

Whilst it IS now relatively easy to find ATMs pretty much anywhere in the country the ATM fees can be as high as nine dollars a pop so I recommend bringing cash and changing it instead. If you are bringing in cash, you need perfect US dollars or Euros. As of February 2017, the current rate of exchange is between 1330 – 1400 MKK to the USD. The exact rate you get depends on the size of the note you are changing (100 dollar bills get the best rate) and where you are changing it (rates in rural parts of the country are not as good as the cities).

myanmar backpacking

Money, money, money!

AR Security Belt

You should always have some emergency cash hidden on you and I’ve written an entire post on the best places to hide your money. If you want to carry a fair bit of cash safely on your body, your best bet is to get hold of a backpacker belt with a hidden security pocket.

GET IT HERE

Getting around Myanmar

Travel costs, in general, are more expensive in Myanmar than other countries in South East Asia but it’s easy to hitchhike whilst backpacking Myanmar if you’re low on funds. Trains and long-distance buses are plentiful with the buses normally working out faster than the trains. I took a few buses in Myanmar and always travelled at night (to save having to pay for accommodation). Travelling in Myanmar by bus is getting more organised. Rather than just rocking up at the bus stop in the hope they will have space to fit you on, you can now book tickets in advance for most of South East Asia using 12Go.

Internal flights are relatively cheap, according to Skyscanner – I didn’t fly whilst backpacking Myanmar. In some parts of the country, you can travel by boat and this is a really unique way to get around – the slow boat between Mandalay and Bagan is well worth doing if you have the time. Local buses are very cheap but can be very crowded and uncomfortable – if you’re familiar with local transport in India or Central America then this won’t be anything new to you but if you’ve only travelled on ‘tourist transport’ before then you might find it a bit of a shock! For the really long distances, if you’re not going to hitch, I recommend spending a bit more and going with a half decent bus company – JJ Express are relatively affordable and are clean, comfortable and reliable. Avoid travelling in the ‘private’ mini-vans.

myanmar backpacking

The Famous Gotiek Viaduct Train bridge in Myanmar – Image source: Flickr

 

Motorcycling Myanmar

Motorcycling Myanmar is definitely the best way to get around and a recent relaxation of rules governing foreigners driving around has made things a lot easier. It’s possible to buy or rent a bike in Mandalay and other cities and from here you can embark on an epic loop of the country… I intend on returning to Myanmar via India by motorbike, watch this space.

Exploring Myanmar by motorcycle

Accommodation in Myanmar

Myanmar backpacking accommodation is still fairly poor compared to the rest of South East Asia. There are a few cool hostels popping up in places like Bagan, Inle and Mandalay but you only have to take one step off the beaten path and your options rapidly dwindle. This can actually be kind of cool as you will often end up staying in ‘Mom and Pop’ family run guesthouses where you will be welcomed into the family. I very rarely endorse booking accommodation in advance as my own travel plans change so frequently that I prefer to wing it but in Myanmar if you don’t book accommodation in advance you may well not be able to find a place to crash… All of the half-decent, half-affordable, accommodation sells out weeks in advance and I strongly recommend that you book your rooms (especially for Bagan and Inle!) before you travel.

LocationAccommodationWhy Stay Here?!
YangonLittle Yangon HostelAwesome hostel, clean, cozy, a great place to meet people and comes with free wifi!
KyaiktiyoKyaik Hto HotelA prime place to crash in Kyaikhtiyo, make sure you book it in advance as it gets booked out real fast!
Hpa-an/KayinLittle Hpa An HostelCentrally located, this is an excellent choice for broke backpackers who are looking for a cheap place to stay.
MandalayOstello Bello MandalayCurrently one of the best backpacker friendly hostels in Mandalay, they have free breakfast and wifi!
HsipawRed Dragon HotelEven though this is not a hostel, it is ridiculously cheap AND they offer free breakfast!
Lake InleOstello Bello InleThe Ostello Bello chain just started a brand new funky hostel here and they have great deals on happy hours!
BaganOstello Bello BaganClearly, these guys are killing it in the backpacker market! Can't recommend them more!
Mrauk UMrauk U Palace ResortIt is a bit difficult to find backpacker style properties here. So splurge a little and enjoy this chilled out resort.
Ngapali BeachNgapali Banyan boutique HostelAgain there are no backpacker friendly options. This is the cheapest we could find there!
Mergui or MyeikWhite Pearl Guest houseThis is currently the cheapest property around. Again they offer free breakfast. Make sure to load up on that before you start your day!
Pyin Oo LwinOrchid Nan Myaning Hotel This is a cozy little hotel at a cheap price and it has dorms! It has a great common area where you can meet a ton of other travellers.
KalawRailroad HotelThis is where most of the backpackers stay when doing treks to/from Inle lake. The private tent room is great value for money & you get free breakfast.

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Where to go in Myanmar

myanmar backpacking

Backpacking Yangon

Many travellers backpacking Myanmar will start their route in Yangon, arriving on a cheap flight from Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. A taxi from Yangon airport to downtown costs between 8000 MMK and 12000 MMK – you will need to haggle to get a good rate. I have heard it is possible to hitch a ride from the airport but I had no luck attempting this myself. Buy a Telenor Sim Card from the airport so you can stay connected around the country – 2GB and some credit will set you back around 10,000 MMK. You should definitely spend a full day in Yangon to check out the truly stunning Shwedagon Pagoda. It currently costs 8000 MMK to enter the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Book Your Yangon Hostel Here

myanmar backpacking

The grounds of the stunning Shwedagon Pagoda

In Yangon, I recommend staying in the fantastic Shwe Yo Vintage Hostel a dorm bed is eight dollars and comes with free breakfast. Like most hostels in Myanmar, it really is advisable to book your room in advance, there are very few cheap accommodation options in Myanmar at the moment. There’s a huge amount of things to do in Yangon and it’s one of my favourite cities to wander around in the world. Although not the capital, Yangon is leading the way for cultural change in the country, check out this report on gay life in Yangon for a glimpse of just how quickly things have changed since reform in 2010.  Make sure you check out 50th Street Bar & Grill, they’ve got half price beer every day from 6-8pm & have a pool table, dart board, Foosball & shuffleboard table. Exploring the city is easy and it’s a fun place to walk around although you may want to catch a cab for longer distances – taxis don’t have a meter and you need to negotiate before getting in, it’s always possible to score a discount. From Yangon, you can head East to the famed Golden Rock at Kyaiktiyo, West towards Mrauk U or you can head north to Bagan or Inle.

Backpacking Kyaiktiyo

Climb the mountain (45 minutes) to see the Golden Rock on the same day that you arrive. You can stay in Kinpun town in the Sea Star Guesthouse. The next day catch whatever transport you can arrange, probably by hitching on local pickup trucks, to Hpa-an (4 hours). If you end up having the morning free there are a couple of interesting short hikes around Kinpun. 

Book Your Kyaiktiyo Hostel Here

myanmar backpacking

The mighty Golden Rock, balanced perfectly with a single hair of the Buddha

Backpacking Hpa-An

Stay for three nights in the Little Hpa An Hostel or head out of the town and ask to crash in one of the monasteries nearby. There is a lot to do around Hpa-an and during my first trip, in 2011, it was the highlight of my time travelling in Myanmar. I highly recommend visiting Mt Zwegabin and climbing to the top (4 hours round trip), keep an eye out for the colourful freshwater crabs! On top of the mountain is a monastery with amazing views, it is possible to stay here for free.

myanmar backpacking budget travel guide

Novice monk watching the mists roll in

Nearby is a local lake where you can swim before heading to the incredible Saddar cave (take a head-torch). Kawgun cave is also well worth a look.  To get around you will either need to hire a motorbike for 8000 MKK or hire a tuk tuk for the day for 20,000 MKK, you can arrange this through your guesthouse. You can catch a night bus from Hpa-an to Mandalay or head to Inle instead. From Hpa An, you can head further into Southern Myanmar. This part of Myanmar has only become accessible to backpackers very recently and offers some awesome adventure travel opportunities… Probably best taken on by motorbike! I have heard incredible things about Dawei and Maungmagan Beach which is supposed to be totally untouched.

Book Your Hpa-An Hostel Here

myanmar backpacking budget travel guide

The stunning Saddar caves

Backpacking Mandalay

I first visited Mandalay in 2011 and thought it was a great place to spend ONE day. I have since revisited and whilst the city is a popular jumping off spot for backpackers due to its good transport connections I have to be honest… I don’t particularly like Mandalay. The temples are so much more impressive in Bagan that it’s kind of hard to get excited by Mandalay and the once-gorgeous U Bein bridge has become the very definition of a tourist trap, the litter problem here is truly awful. If you are going to crash out in Mandalay for a bit, hire a motorbike and explore that way – it’s easy to sort and there are a few expat run operations hiring out bikes. U Bein bridge should only be visited at sunrise, for sunset, you will have to share it with literally thousands of people… Mandalay does have an admittedly interesting history (maybe I’ve just been there too many times – four in total!) and it’s well worth checking out the gold-pounding district and buying a small square of gold leaf to place upon the mighty sitting Buddha at Mahamuni Paya. The Shwe In Bin Kyaung Monastery is also well worth visiting and the Nylon Ice Cream Bar serves up the best ice cream in all of Myanmar! I recommend crashing out at the Ostello Bello MandalayFrom Mandalay, you can head up towards Hsipaw (six hours by bus) or travel to Bagan. If heading to Bagan, I recommend catching the scenic riverboat rather than travelling by bus. 

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myanmar backpacking

The longest wooden bridge in the world

Backpacking Hsipaw

One of my favourite places in Myanmar and a great place to sort out some treks, many backpackers stay in Red Dragon Hotel. Hsipaw itself is a quiet town and a good place to chill for an afternoon before catching a pickup truck (6 hours, 5000 MKK) up towards the remote village of Namhsan. Again just stay here the one night, there is one guesthouse and it doesn’t have a name, it costs 3,500 MMK per person to crash on the floor. It is also possible to camp on the town outskirts. The next day begins a three day, two night trek back to Hsipaw. You should take a guide to arrange accommodation in monasteries and home-stays as very few people in the hills speak English. Ask at the guesthouse in Namhsan for Momo, he speaks excellent English and charges 10,000 per person per day for guiding and breakfast, dinner and accommodation. Sleeping is cold and uncomfortable. Take a fleece. You may meet rebel fighters from the Kachin Independence Army, don’t photograph them without permission.

Book Your Hsipaw Hostel Here

myanmar backpacking budget travel guide

Stunning Shan State

Update February 2017: Due to renewed fighting, the road to Namhsan is now closed again. The situation here is extremely subject to change. There are other treks you can do around Hsipaw instead. 

Once you get back in Hsipaw, keep yourself busy by checking out ‘Valentines’ for ice cream, ‘Mr Food’ for beer on tap and an unnamed pool hall almost directly opposite the bank (across bridge) which has a cinema in the back, here you can choose from their extensive pirated films collection and it costs just 300 MMK to watch something. The next day, take the very scenic train to Pyin Oo Lin, spend one day here and check out the waterfalls. Really your main reason for visiting Pyin Oo Lin is to experience the train journey. From Pyin Oo Lin, you can connect to Inle or head to Bagan via Mandalay. 

Backpacking Lake Inle

Try to stay in the very popular  Ostello Bello Nyaung Shwe where dorm beds are for ten dollars and include a fantastic breakfast. ‘Inle Pancake Kingdom’ does awesome snacks and has free WiFi, nearby ‘Kaung Kaung’ has cheap draft beer. In the evening arrange a boat trip (16,000 MMK for 8 people) for the next day. On your boat trip, you can hope to see the villages on stilts, aquaculture and traditional fishermen. The best part of the day is the journey itself and passing through small stilt hamlets and past locals, the main ‘sites’ are pretty good (although busy) but the atmosphere on the lake itself is wonderful. On your second day in Inle hire a bicycle, 1000 MMK, and visit a market – the markets in Inle constantly rotate but there will be one somewhere. The tofu village and local vineyard are both worth visiting. The ‘Smiling Moon Restaurant’ is a good place to arrange boat tours and bus tickets, the woman who runs the restaurant is very friendly and can arrange almost anything you may need. I recommend two full days in Inle; one for a boat trip and two for cycling and relaxing. It is well worth having a tent for Lake Inle. Bear in mind that Inle is, now, the very definition of ‘tourist trap’ and is probably the most expensive place in all of Myanmar. It can be a good place to party though… 

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myanmar backpacking

The famed leg-rowing fishermen of Inle

Backpacking Pindaya

Just a two hour drive from Inle is the rarely visited town of Pindaya, a tranquil place that is often buried in mists. It’s well worth popping up here for a night or visiting as a day-trip in order to visit the truly mesmerising cave of eight thousand Buddhas… From Pindaya, you can arrange a two night, three day trek back to Inle. It’s possible to do this without a guide if you have a GPS.

myanmar backpacking

The cave of eight thousand Buddhas

Backpacking Bagan

The temple studded plains of Bagan is hands down the most incredible place in all of South East Asia. I’ve spent a total of about two weeks exploring Bagan by bicycle (in 2011) and electric-bike (in 2017) and I still feel like I’ve seen less than half the temples… The biggest, most impressive, temples are now usually heaving with tourists and in my opinion, are best avoided. It costs 25000 MKK to enter the Bagan site but out of the four times I have visited I have only had to pay this twice – whether or not you get checked seems to depend on what road you enter the Bagan area.

Stunning Bagan sunrise

The real Bagan can only be reached with a bit of off-roading… There are plenty of stunning isolated temples where you will be the only person exploring. It’s possible to camp out (although it’s not exactly legal) on some of the temples and I spent a magical two nights beneath the stars, surrounded on all sides by illuminated temples stretching as far as the eye could see. At 4 am a gong whispered across the wind and shortly after Buddhist chanting from one of the monasteries began. The sun crept up behind one of the largest temples at around 7 am and I can honestly say it was one of the most magical mornings I’ve ever experienced… Here’s a quick video to give you a sample:

Accommodation is spread across two main areas, New Bagan and Nyaung U. Most of the backpacker’s accommodation is in New Bagan although Nyaung U has a better selection of restaurants. There are some truly great places to eat in Bagan, my favourite place was Star Beam – it’s a little hard to find, just outside New Bagan, but so worth it. Be sure to try the strawberry juice… Accommodation in Bagan, especially during high season, tends to sell out extremely fast so it’s worth booking ahead. I can recommend Ostello Bello if you want a backpacker vibe or Lux Pillow Hostel if you want an affordable hostel with a pool. If you choose to camp out, I recommend scoping out your temple during the day first. Take warm clothes, plenty of water and a blanket – it gets damn cold at night. You probably won’t actually get any sleep but camping out is an amazing experience all the same.

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myanmar backpacking

Thousands of temples to be explored

You can get around Bagan by walking or cycling but the best way to get around is by e-bike. These are electric scooters with a maximum speed of about 40km an hour. You can rent these out for 8000 MMK a day (as a duo or 5000 MKK if you’re by yourself). If you ever want to learn to ride a scooter, this is probably the easiest thing in the world to drive and Bagan is probably one of the best places to learn… even if you do come off, you’ll probably land on sand. Remember to use your mirrors and go easy on the front brake.

myanmar backpacking

Off-roading in Myanmar

Bagan is a truly stunning place and for a really unique view, you can take to the skies in a hot air balloon. There are a few companies that offer hot air ballooning services although they tend to book out quickly – I recommend liaising with FlyMya if you’re dead keen on giving the balloons a whirl!

myanmar backpacking

Ballooning above Bagan

There are SO many amazing temples in Bagan that, honestly, it’s hard to give recommendations… My real recommendation is to simply get an e-bike and to head off into the bush to get away from the bus-tourist-hordes and discover some incredible temples for yourself! Please don’t go for a horse and cart ride, the animals are overworked.

myanmar backpacking

Bagan is a pretty good place to buy souvenirs and although you have to shop around there are some good paintings to be had… Bagan is fairly easy to reach from Mandalay, Inle and Yangon. From Mandalay, you can catch the Government boat to Bagan. This takes about twelve hours but it is pretty relaxing and very scenic. I did not book in advance. Currently, the Government boat leaves on Wednesday and Sunday mornings but this is subject to change. From Bagan, you can connect to Chin State for some off the beaten track treks… 

Backpacking Chin State

Chin State has been on the backpacker radar for about five years now thanks to the many trekking opportunities and the famous women with tattoos upon their faces. Until recently you needed permits but the whole area is now open and can be discovered on foot or, if you have wheels, by motorbike. The Chin people are friendly but reserved and you DO need a guide to help you sort out accommodation and food in the villages you pass through. I went on a challenging five day trek from Mindat, where most backpackers arrive, along the valley towards Ma Hlaing. It was damn hot during the day and damn cold at night, the trails were accessible but steep in places and our guide taught us a lot about local living and some of the challenges the area is facing – namely poaching of tigers and leopards to sell to China for herbal remedies. Chin State is in the process of being slowly connected with new government funded road projects and some of the trekking opportunities will be reduced here in the near future so if you’re keen to check out Chin, go soon! In Mindat, there is an excellent locally run museum which is well worth checking out. You can crash in the Floral Breeze Hotel in Mindat, be sure to book in advance as there is very limited accommodation around. It’s possible to travel to Mindat by local transport but the buses are sporadic and most travellers opt to hire a car and driver and travel from Bagan – the journey takes seven hours.

myanmar backpacking

Home-run museum in Chin

Backpacking Ngapali Beach

Often described as the Naples of the East, Ngapali offers gorgeous beaches in a tranquil environment. Unfortunately, accommodation here is very expensive but if money is not an issue it’s a great place to unwind. You can arrange fishing trips and boat tours from Ngapali or if you fancy venturing further afield, push on down the coast to find other beaches that offer cheaper accommodation – I’ve heard good things about Ngwe Saung. If you want to get totally off the beaten track and have miles of undeveloped coastline all to yourself, head to Gwa and Kanthaya. 

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myanmar backpacking

Stunning Ngapali Beach

Backpacking Mrauk U

If you want to explore some stunning temples and have them all to yourself, Mrauk U is the place to go. Picture hundreds of abandoned temples (almost all of them unlocked) spread across a rolling landscape of lush green hills and small villages… The only reason that Mrauk U isn’t as popular as Bagan is that it’s a total bitch to get to (although this may change with time). Currently, you have to first travel to Sittwe from Yangon – the best option is to catch a flight although it is possible to do it on a (very long) bus journey. Once you are in Sittwe you need to catch a boat or another bus onwards to Mrauk U. There isn’t much of a backpacker scene here yet but it’s a great place to do some Indiana Jones-esque exploring! 

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myanmar backpacking

Inside one of the temples of Mrauk U – Image Source: flickr

Backpacking Mergui Archipelago

Perhaps one of the last true adventure frontiers in all of Asia, The Mergui Archipelago remains almost entirely untouched. If you travel here you are unlikely to meet any other backpackers… It’s impossible to explore the Mergui Archipelago without a boat and although day-trips can be arranged from the port-town of Myeik with local fishermen, if you want to head deeper into the islands and meet with the Moken Sea-Gypsy people you will probably need to charter a boat. A few companies have started offering eight day tours of the area but they are decidedly pricey… Most of the longer operations run out of Kawthaung and this is where you should head if you’re hoping to snag a last minute bargain cruise. To get to this truly incredible part of the world you can travel from Yangon to Myeik and then onwards to Kawthaung or travel directly from Thailand (this is actually easier) via the Ranong border crossing.

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myanmar backpacking

Endless unexplored beaches and islands

Off the beaten path travel in Myanmar

You could easily spend two months exploring Myanmar, there is a huge amount to do here. Realistically, the longest you can easily spend in the country is six weeks – the full month visa and the fourteen days overstay that are allowed. With six weeks, I would definitely aim to explore some of the beaches of Bengal as well as the South of the country; there are some true backpacking gems down there which have yet to be properly discovered. Bagan is without a doubt the highlight of Myanmar and, if you can afford the time, I recommend spending four or five days at Bagan… The map below shows the main spots you can explore in Myanmar but remember, unless you have a motorbike, getting around in some of the more remote areas can be a bitch and getting from A to B is not as easy as it looks on the map. I strongly recommend travelling at night, to save on accommodation and time, if you are travelling by bus.  There are a lot of different Myanmar backpacking routes but the most popular is the ‘backpacker triangle’ between Bagan, Inle and Mandalay and shooting up to Hsipaw to get some trekking in… If you only have ten days or a couple of weeks, I recommend sticking to this route but if you’re feeling adventurous, lose the map and head South. If you have a tent, you will have significantly more options for getting off the beaten track – check out this post on the best tents to take backpacking. 

Trekking in Myanmar

Myanmar is a fantastic place to head out on a trek and the sky really is the limit… You can head off on extremely ambitious two week treks around Shan or Chin state and the Chinese Himalayas, which require special permits, are one of the last backpacker frontiers in South East Asia offering a whole bunch of unclimbed peaks…

myanmar backpacking

Trekking in Chin

Most people opt to do the very easy trek from Kalaw back to Inle Lake, although Pindaya to Inle is a better trek. Trekking in Myanmar is a fantastic experience and you can expect to crash out in local monasteries and homestays which will give you a great chance to interact with the very friendly local people. Shan state is also a popular place to go trekking and there are some great hikes to be had around Kachin state as well… There are definitely plenty of off the beaten track adventures in Myanmar which have never been written about, go and find them! It is well worth taking a tent, especially if you are on a budget.

Organised tours in Myanmar

Independent travel in Myanmar is totally possible for the majority of the country but if you want to do something truly special and to get far off the beaten track you will often need help sorting permits and sorting a guide – I strongly recommend FlyMya as your first port of call for sorting out guides, permits, accommodation and transport. FlyMya is a great new company set up in Myanmar to provide travellers with a one-stop shop for sorting adventures across the country. Crucially, FlyMya runs numerous social initiatives throughout Myanmar so you can be certain you’ll be supporting a good cause. If you want to do something really unique or need the latest intel on what is and isn’t possible when it comes to driving Myanmar, these are the guys to talk to. If you want to arrange something really plush, My Way Travel organise luxury tours of Myanmar. 

Best time to travel to Myanmar

The dry season in Myanmar runs from October to May. It starts to get real hot between March and June so the high season (when accommodation often runs out) is between November and February. I’ve travelled in Myanmar during June and would not recommend it; it was unbelievably hot. If you want to try and catch Myanmar without the crowds; consider rocking up early on in March.

myanmar backpacking

Myanmar backpacking travel costs

On my first Myanmar backpacking adventure in 2012, I spent a total of $700 in one month. In January 2017, over a three week period, travelling as a couple with Esme, we spent a total of $900.

myanmar backpacking

Haggling for paintings in Bagan

It’s possible to go backpacking in Myanmar on a comfortable budget of about $25 per person per day assuming you stay in cheaper accommodation, eat local food and avoid internal flights. You can quickly blow your daily budget if you eat in tourist-trap restaurants (of which there are MANY in Inle) or if you insist on travelling in VIP coaches. If you’re on a real tight budget, it would be possible to backpack Myanmar on a budget of around $10 a day if you hitchhike, camp out and stick to local food but I ain’t gonna lie to you – Myanmar IS more expensive than most of South East Asia and you need to plan your budget accordingly.

 

What to pack for Myanmar

On every adventure, there are five things I never go travelling without.

AR Security Belt

1. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.

GET IT HERE

 

leatherman skeletool a must have while travelling

2. Leatherman Multi-Tool: I’ve been travelling with my Leatherman Skeletool for years now, my current one is actually my third one as I’ve had one stolen and another is in a Pakistani ravine. This is hand’s down the best multitool I have ever owned and if you are going to be hiking, camping, wild cooking or going on any kind of adventure, I strongly recommend packing a multitool.

GET IT HERE

 

AR microfibre towel

3. Microfibre Towel: It’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if needs be.

GET IT HERE

 

 

Headlamp4. Headtorch: I would never travel without a headtorch. Even if you only end up using it once, a decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must. Currently, I’m using the Petzl LED headlamp with red light (which insects can’t see).

GET IT HERE

 

Hammock for backpackers5. Hammock: Taking a tent backpacking is not always practical but hammocks are lightweight, cheap, strong, sexy (chicks dig hammocks) and allow you to pitch up for the night pretty much anywhere. Right now, I’m rocking an Active Roots parachute hammock – it’s light, colourful and tough.

GET IT HERE

 

For plenty more inspiration on what to pack, check out my full backpacking packing list.

Meet the people

Most Burmese people are very very nice and genuinely friendly. The majority of locals refer to the country as Myanmar and prefer this to Burma as the old name only referred to the dominant ethnic group. Hitching, especially short distances, is easy and often people won’t ask for money, however, I think it’s only fair to offer as gas is pretty expensive by local standards. Be sure to be a decent human being and don’t ruin Myanmar… The people are probably the main reason that Myanmar is such a special place.

Trekking in Myanmar

Food in Myanmar

Burmese Curry – You can’t go backpacking in Myanmar without trying a proper Burmese curry. The curry is usually serviced with pork, fish, shrimp, beef or mutton. It includes rice, a salad, a small dish of fried vegetables, a small bowl of soup and a side of fresh crunchy vegetables and herbs-  a pretty wholesome meal I would say!

myanmar backpacking

Yummy Burmese food!

Local Tea Shop Snacks – Apart from serving tons of milk tea, local tea shops serve baked sweets as well as meaty steamed buns and dim sums. Enjoy a cheap snack with your tea, cause why not!

Shan Style noodles – The dish is a combination of thin, flat rice noodles in a clear, peppery broth with marinated chicken or pork and pickled vegetables. Yummy, healthy and bloody cheap!! Backpacker gold…

Shan Rice – Also known as fish rice, this Shan dish is one of the most typical Myanmar food and you can find it in most local places. The Burmese usually pair it with leeks, garlic and pork rind.

Nom Nom Nom!

Deep Fried stuff – The Burmese love frying up stuff!! You get fried samosas, spring rolls, fritters, sweets, bread, noodles topped with deep-fried crispy garnishes. Sinful but delicious!!

Nan gyi thohk – Popular with tourists, this dish has rice noodles with chicken, thin slices of fish cake, bean sprouts and slices of hard-boiled egg. Pretty light on the stomach if you’re not feeling so great…

Mohinga – This is the favourite breakfast dish. It is made from rice noodles in a tasty herbal broth. And of course it has to have some crunchy stuff, in this case, it is banana pith that adds the crunch.

Learning Myanman whilst travelling in Myanmar

Not many people know this but the Burmese speak a total of 111 different languages. The official language is Burmese and some of the most important secondary languages are Shan, Kayin, Rakhine, Mon, Chin and Kachin. Burmese is a Sino-Tibetan language and is one of the most widely spoken in the world. It was first spoken by the Bamar people and related ethnic groups. Today, Burmese is the primary language of instruction, and English is the second language taught in schools.

Here are a few useful phrases in Burmese for your backpacking Myanmar adventure:

Hello – kyaosopartaal

How are you? – Shin ne-kaùn-yéh-là?

Good Morning – Min-ga-la-ba

I don’t understand – Nà-m?leh-ba-bù

How Much – Blau leh?

Stop here – Dima seh meh

Where Is The Toilet? Ein tha beh meh lay?

What Is This? – Da ba lay?

Sorry – Wùn-nèh-ba-deh

Help! – Keh-ba!

Cheers! – Cha Kwa!

Dick head! – Lee Gon!

Internet in Myanmar

WiFi in Myanmar is pretty slow so your best bet for staying connected is to get a Telenor Sim and to simply load it with data, you can then hotspot your laptop if staying connected is absolutely essential. Some bloggers bitch and moan about the situation in Myanmar but frankly, they should try travelling in Pakistan…The internet situation in Myanmar is not as bad as a lot of people make out and you will be able to stay on top of emails with no worries. Downloading large files is fairly impossible though.

Dating in Myanmar

In my humble opinion, Myanmar boasts the most beautiful women in all of South East Asia. Yangon has a growing party and rave scene and it’s possible to meet up with local girls in bars and clubs (most of which close at 3am). Bear in mind that this is a fairly traditional country and whilst Myanmar is opening up to the West, many girls are pretty shy, especially around Westerners. Be polite and be aware that dating in Myanmar is usually a long-game. If you have anything to add to bulk out this section, please get in touch!

myanmar backpacking

That’s one sexy watering-can…

Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll in Myanmar

Myanmans love to drink and good quality beer and rum is available very cheaply meaning there is always a party happening somewhere. Myanmar is part of the infamous Golden Triangle and produces a huge amount of opium but almost all of this is exported. Despite being part of the Golden Triangle I was never once offered drugs of any kind whilst travelling in Myanmar – which goes in stark contrast to India or Thailand. The growing expat scene in Yangon are fond of crushing up Ritalin (which can be purchased without a subscription in some parts of the country) and snorting it – the effects are very similar to speed. It is possible, but extremely difficult, to find low-quality marijuana in Myanmar but without a reliable connection (make friends with expats) your chances of scoring are practically zero. Rumour has it that one backpacker hid a small geocache amongst the temples of Bagan with a few tabs placed inside… Happy treasure hunting amigos! Check out Blazed Backpackers 101 for tips on how to stay safe, whilst getting fucked up!

Live in Myanmar

Yangon is fast emerging as one of the hippest places to live in South East Asia. The WiFi is still fairly shit so if you require the internet to make a living then this might not be the place for you but on my recent trip backpacking Myanmar I was sorely tempted to move to Myanmar myself; the people are so incredibly friendly, the food is good and the country is so massive, with so many adventure opportunities, that it’s no wonder more and more expats are setting up shop here.

Perhaps one of the best options for backpackers wanting to explore Myanmar long-term and experience living in this truly incredible country is to get a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course online. TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Alternatively, if you want to find a cheap way to stay in this incredible country for as long as possible, check out Workaway – for just $29 a year you get access to literally thousands of projects around the world where you can volunteer in exchange for food and accommodation.

Top Tips for Broke Backpackers

To keep your spending to an absolute minimum whilst backpacking Myanmar I recommend sticking to the basic rules of budget adventuring….

Hitchhike; In Myanmar, it is relatively easy to thumb a ride. Hitchhiking is an ace way to keep your transport costs down.

Camp; With plenty of gorgeous natural places to camp, Myanmar is a great place to camp. You can often crash in Buddhist temples for free when trekking. Check out this post for a breakdown of the best tents to take backpacking or maybe you prefer a camping hammock?

Eat local food; You can get a bowl of tasty Shan noodles for under a dollar. If you’re on a real tight budget; it’s worth taking a portable stove – check out this post for info on the best backpacking stoves. 

Volunteer: If done properly, volunteering is an excellent way to cut down your costs on the road. I strongly recommend Workaway – you pay just $29 for the year and then have access to literally thousands of projects all around the world where you can help out in exchange for food and board.

To learn how to travel the world on $10 a day, check out the backpacker’s bible. 

Camping out in Kachin state

Being a Responsible Backpacker in Myanmar

Writing your name in black marker on temples, chugging beer while shirtless, swearing loudly and visiting unethical animal attractions? You Sir, are a twat. Luckily, most backpackers don’t fall into this category but, when you’re out and about and have had a few too many drinks, it can be easy to embarrass yourself.  It’s easy to get carried away in South East Asia, everything is so damn cheap and so much fun. I’m in no way the perfect traveller; I’ve been the drunken idiot on the street. I know first hand just how hard it is to be the one person in a group to say no when somebody comes up with a stupid idea that, for some reason, everybody is down for.

By no means am I telling you not to drink, smoke and party. Do it and love it. Just don’t get so drunk you turn into an imbecile your mum would be ashamed of. If you can’t handle drinking buckets, then stick to beer. If you want to see Elephants, then go and see them but do your research first. Look up ethical animal sanctuaries such as The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai, who treat and care for animals properly. Don’t ride elephants. If you’re not into seeing the temples, no worries but don’t be disrespectful, inappropriate or deface them – certainly, do not try to wander in shirtless.

Wear a helmet when you hop on a motorbike in Asia. Despite being an experienced driver, I’ve had a total of three crashes in South East Asia over the last ten years. On the one occasion, I wasn’t wearing a helmet, I split my head open and had to go to the hospital. It was an expensive mistake. The local people are sick of scraping foreigners off the road and, trust me, you don’t look cool for not wearing a helmet.

Humans are humans; treat people you meet along the way with the same respect you would show your friends and family back home. You are not superior to anyone including the girls/guys walking the streets. Sex workers in South East Asia are people like you and me; they may enjoy what they do, or they may be on the darker side of it. Regardless of your beliefs and thoughts on prostitution, remember this is another person with thoughts, feelings and a life outside of the sex industry too. You are not superior to these people, you just happen to be from a more privileged background.

Go to Asia and have the time of your life, do the things you’ve dreamed of but be respectful along the way. Travelling the world makes you an ambassador for your country, which is awesome. We can make a positive impact on people when we travel and get rid of any ugly stereotypes that may be associated with your country…

Myanmar Travel Resources

A Recent History of Myanmar

Myanmar, or should I say Burma, has a turbulent history… Run as a ‘province of India’ under the British Raj, Burma has seen numerous invasions and battles over the years. The Japanese occupied Burma during WWII and the country saw some of the fiercest jungle fighting ever recorded. The Japanese rushed across the country, quickly overwhelming poorly equipped British forces and threatening India with an invasion. Hoping that the Japanese may bring change, Burmese nationalistic groups came together under the leadership of General Aung San to fight against the British. It didn’t take General Aung San long to realise that the Japanese were even worse than the British and towards the end of the war General Aung San switched sides and helped advancing British forces kick out the Japanese.

General Aung San fast emerged as a national hero and is often referred to as ‘the father of the nation’. He penned an agreement with the British for Burmese Independence within a year but in July 1947 he was assassinated along with several other prominent figures by political rivals. Burma went into mourning and a few months later, on 4 January 1948, the country gained its independence.

General Aung San, Photo Courtesy – The Famous People

From here, things spiralled rapidly out of control. For ten years, the government struggled to contain ethnic uprisings by groups who wanted to stand apart from Burma. Communist and other insurgencies kept the army busy and many atrocities were committed as the country slid further into bankruptcy due to poor management and the ravages of WWII. In 1958, General Ne Win announced that he would govern the country in a ‘caretaker’ position. Two years later he solidified his dictatorship with an army coup.

Ne Win’s new revolutionary council suspended the constitution and began authoritarian military rule. Tens of thousands went ‘missing’ as the army waged numerous wars against insurgencies on every front from groups determined to live in a free Burma. The countries economy withered further and international visitors were limited to a handful of major cities which could only be visited with some serious paperwork. In 1988, Ne Win announced he was retiring and hundreds of thousands took to the streets to demand fair elections. The army intervened and fired blindly into crowds of protestors, killing an estimated ten thousand civilians.

Thousands of student and democracy groups fled to the border regions which were largely under Ethnic militia group control and began to plan. At this time, as if a sign from the God’s themselves, Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of the father of the nation, General Aung San, returned to Burma after many years of absence and threw herself into the political fray.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Photo Courtesy – Prezi

In an attempt to quell international condemnation for violence against civilians, the military announced it would hold multi-party elections. After much convincing by student groups, Aung San Suu Kyi and like-minded colleagues founded the National League for Democracy. The new party swept across Burma gathering more and more support. In the final hour, when victory seemed imminent, Ne Win orchestrated another army coup from behind the scenes and the country was thrown backwards once more.

Although committed to non-violence, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest in July 1989 for “endangering the state” and kept there for the next six years. Desperate to improve their image and generate foreign investment, the generals held the multi-party elections they had promised. Despite the army’s severe repression against members of opposition parties and the complete lack of freedom of expression throughout the country, Suu Kyi’s NLD party swept to victory with 82% of the vote. Surprised and outraged, the army refused to acknowledge the election results and has retained its repressive grip on power ever since. In a bid to promote unity amongst the country, Burma was renamed to Myanmar in 1989 so that not only the Burmese people were reflected in the name of the country. In a further bid to protect their grip on power, the capital was moved from Yangon to Naypyidaw – a ghost-town in the middle of the jungle…

Deserted Naypyidaw, Image Source: Flickr

In 2002, Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest and the political situation began to thaw as her party was given some minor powers. The first tourists began to trickle into the country and slowly but surely word got out about Myanmar… An incredible, beautiful country with a dark history, filled with some of the world’s kindest people and an uncertain path ahead of it.

In 2007, violence erupted again as the army turned on peaceful protests by thousands of monks across the country campaigning for improved human rights and a proper democracy. The Monks protests became known as ‘The Saffron Revolution’ and Myanmar was, once more, a scary place to be a civilian. Many army units refused to use force against the monks. Sadly, this was not the case across the whole army and an unknown number of civilians and monks were killed in clashes with riot police and army units.

Since 2007, Myanmar has emerged blinking into the light and more and more backpackers have rocked up to explore this truly incredible country. I wanted to cover the history of Myanmar here because if you really want to understand Myanmar it helps if you understand some of the challenges that the nation, and its people, have had to face over the recent years. Hopefully, the future is bright for Myanmar.

Photo Courtesy – Burma Hut

Apps to download before backpacking Myanmar

Maps.Me – Prone to getting lost or taking that ‘shortcut’ that adds another few hours onto a simple walk? This app is definitely for you. My favourite offline maps app, download your map and route before you venture out to keep you on track while backpacking Myanmar.

XE Currency – I used this a lot when backpacking Myanmar. It is a great help while calculating expenses.

HIDE.ME –  I always have a VPN ready to go on both my phone and laptop, I personally use Hide Me which is one of the fastest and most reliable options out there. This particular VPN allows for up to five connections which is handy for keeping all your devices connected without having to purchase multiple VPN packages.

Books to read on Myanmar

The Backpacker Bible – Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building an online income.

The Piano Tuner – The story of an unlikely soul sent on a top secret mission to Burma to tune the piano of an eccentric British officer living deep within enemy territory.

Myanmar Lonely Planet – It’s sometimes worth travelling with a guidebook and despite Lonely Planet’s history of selling out and writing about places they haven’t been to, they’ve done a good job with Myanmar.

War in the Wilderness: The Chindits in Burma 1943-1944 – During WWII, The Japanese were an almost unstoppable force in Burma. The British, desperate to inflict some damage and postpone an inevitable invasion of India, dropped special forces soldiers far behind Japanese lines with orders to disrupt the Japanese War Machine and create havoc. These unique jungle soldiers were known as ‘The Chindits’. War in the Wilderness is a comprehensive narrative of the human aspects of the Chindit war in Burma. It has heartfelt interviews from the veterans of the Chindit expedition – normal men who experienced the very worst of WWII and battled through starvation, jungle warfare and illness to strike a blow at the Japanese Empire. 

Burmese Days – This book by George Orwell is a portrait of the dark side of the British Raj – of an individual trapped in the larger system.

The Glass Palace – This book by Amitav Ghosh is a sweeping story of Burma over a span of one hundred years. The picture of the tension between the Burmese, the Indian and the British, in this rendition is excellent.

Letters from Burma – In these astonishing letters, Nobel prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi paints a vivid and poignant picture of her native land. She also writes about the time when she was placed under house arrest in Rangoon in 1989- an account of one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners.

The Lizard Cage – This book talks about Teza who once electrified the people of Burma with his protest songs against the dictatorship. Arrested by the Burmese secret police, he was cut off from his family and contact with other prisoners.

Staying safe in Myanmar

Check out Backpacker Safety 101 for tips and tricks to stay safe whilst backpacking.

Pick yourself up a backpacker security belt to keep your cash safe on the road.

Check out this post for plenty of ideas on ingenious ways to hide your money when travelling.

I strongly recommend travelling with a headlamp whilst in Myanmar (or anywhere really – every backpacker should have a good headtorch!) – check out my post for a breakdown of the best value headlamps to take backpacking.

Get insured before backpacking Myanmar

Get insurance! Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun on your Myanmar backpacking adventure but take it from someone who has racked up tens of thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.

As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be travelling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! Travelling without insurance would be fucking stupid. I highly recommend World Nomads.

 

Even if you don’t get insurance with World Nomads, Please do get some sort of insurance from somewhere, there are lots of decent options online.

Want to learn how to travel the world on $10 a day? Check out the Broke Backpacker’s Bible…

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backpacking myanmar

Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going. 

43 Comments

  • Kate says:

    Hi Will ,

    Really helpful article, Im hoping to head to Myanmar later this year. Possibly using one of the land boarders I’ve heard have been opened. Thanks in particular for the detailed explanation of how to find the embassy in BKK. Im really looking forward to Bagan!

    Perhaps see you on the road some time.

  • Manuela says:

    Hi Will!
    nice article. Couple of questions: 1) how did you do with the language? For example, for busses or hitchiking, how do you find out/ ask for your destination? 2) In some countries, people are very open and invite you to sleep at their plalce. Is it true that in Myanmar is forbidden for locals to host travellers?
    Cheers.
    Manuela

    • Will Hatton says:

      Hi Manuela! In Burma I found that although most local people did not speak English, everybody was very friendly and usually someone would understand a place name and help me get on the right bus. I found hitchhing very easy – local people pulled over and if they understood where you wanted to go would happily take you there. In Myanmar, it is true that is forbidden for locals to host travellers (for now) so I didn’t do any couchsurfing whilst I was out there which was a shame. However, when trekking in the highlands villagers would often invite me in and let me stay with them for free – I guess it depends on a case by case basis and how strong the Government’s presence is in a region. Hope that helps! 🙂

  • Caroline says:

    Hi Will,

    Thanks so much for all this great info- I’m psyched to see Myanmar! How did you make your way down to the peninsula and to the beaches? I’ve been getting a lot of conflicting info on other blogs. I think I’m set in transportation around central and north Myanmar. Thanks so much again!

    • Will Hatton says:

      Hi Caroline! Great to hear from you! Myanmar is amazing, you will have such an awesome time! How long are you going to spend in Myanmar? I was able to hitch most of the way to beaches on pick-up trucks, it wasn’t too hard to get a life and I sometimes paid fuel money to help the driver out, when asked. I want to go back to Myanmar to spend a full month just trying to explore the islands, it’s hard though – you need to make friends with a fishermen and get him to take you out or go on an organised tour..

  • Van says:

    Hi Will! Great blog. I’m going to Myanmar next month so your information is invaluable 🙂 Btw, do you know how I can book a room at Royal Guesthouse at Mandalay?

  • Simon Espinosa says:

    Hey Will,
    I wanted to tell you ot was very helpful all of this, also that it is very easy to come from thailand overland through mae sot, 9 hr bye bus from BKK. It is near Hpa An and extreamly cheap to get here. Important to know that traffic flows up every other day so if you come in the wrong day you will have to stay in myawaddy for the night. The traffic goes up in 2015 on the even days of February, March, May and July. On the odd days of April, June and August. It could change. They are making the road with two lanes but not done yet.

  • Just stumbled upon your website when someone shared 10 reasons to go to Myanmar. LOVE this guide. I was in Asia last year, but at the last minute opted to go to Malaysia rather than Myanmar. I will almost certainly be back, probably next year!

    Thanks for such a great guide – much appreciated!

    Beanie

  • Carmen B says:

    Great post!
    I just returned from Myanmar and loved it so much… Check out my blog for more inspiration and tips: http://bonatravels.com/2015/06/13/country-summary-myanmar/

  • Khuyen Tuong says:

    Will,

    In your post you said “You can catch a night bus from Hpa-an to Mandalay”,
    have you happened to know if there is night bus from Mandalay to Hpa-an?
    I googled but have no info.

    Thanks,
    Khuyen

  • Jessica Gray says:

    Hi Will,

    You have a great and very informative guide. It gave me a lot useful tips for my next planning trip to Myanmar. Thank you.
    Jessica Gray recently posted…Vietnam photography: A Mosaic Of ContrastsMy Profile

  • Emelie says:

    Hey Will, thanks for your very much helpful guide to Burma! Im going there in January planning to visit Yangon, Bagan, Kalaw and Ngapali. I would like to go trekking in Kalaw for 1-2 days, to you have any tips on where to stay/where I can find a guide for the trekking? Would appreciate any tips from you!
    Thanks!
    Emelie

    • Will Hatton says:

      Hey Emelie! I didn’t trek in kalaw as even when there four years ago it was becoming a little commercialised. I trekked in hsipaw which was awesome, and I definitely recommend!

  • ritter says:

    this was a good page, bad sadly extremely outdated, there are now 4 landcrossings possible, the dollar is 1300 kyats ( not 850) , no need to take dollars with you, Still impossible to reach Namshan from Hsipaw.( 30 jan 2015)- no more jumping cats at inle, ….after more than 3 years you should update it or close it.

  • Hey Will,
    We just finished a month in Myanmar. The visa process is 100% online now. Much easier than going to the embassy.
    Prices haven’t changed much although we did find accommodation was priced unusually high for SEA. We didn’t spend any USD. Most of the time prices worked out much cheaper in MKK. One guesthouse gave us the option of 30 USD vs 30000 MKK. That’s 20% cheaper in MKK. Go figure.
    We missed out on Mrauk Au as well. Just too difficult and expensive to get to. We plan on returning later this year.
    Pete
    Myanmar backpacking recently posted…The road to MyanmarMy Profile

  • Johanna says:

    Hey Will,

    wonderful article! Full of useful details, thanks for sharing. Just found this after travelling Myanmar for a month. My favorite country so far. People have the most incredible smiles. I agree with your recommendations. Maruk U is a magical place,one of my favorites. it took us 30 h in a local bus from Yangon on super bumpy streets. Flying might be more comfortable. Or taking a few breaks in between 😉

  • mafalda says:

    Hi Will,

    Just wanted to say thank you for you post, as it is helping me planning my trip next month to Myanmar. I can’t do as much as you have done as I will have only 2 weeks. But I will try my best to enjoy every moment possible 🙂
    Regards

  • pei pei says:

    Hi Will,

    I found that your trip is very useful to me.
    May I know how you manage to book your hostel? Normally you walk in to ask the price or do some online booking?
    May I know how you book Hpa-an soe’s brother guesthouse?

    Regards,
    pei pei

    • Will Hatton says:

      Hey Pei Pei,

      I do a bit of both depending on where Im headed and what I think availability will be like.
      Its always good to see a place before booking it, but if very short on time or accommodation is limited in a certain place, I try and get at least the first night online.

      For Soh Brothers Guesthouse, I would recommend calling ahead, by phone, when you arrive in Myanmar. It’s also possible that more places are taking bookings online now, so check out that possibility too. Have a great trip!

  • Hi Will,
    Your photos are very beautiful, it made me add Myanmar to my travel list! It helped me realize how this country was able to preserve its’ culture and with that it’s definitely worth exploring!

  • Yeah! I also have one backpacking trip in Myanmar and visit all places in the post. That’s one unforgettable memories! I love the life, scenery, air and everything here includes the river, mountain, locals…I’ve just write a trip quite clearly about this lands!

  • Shayla says:

    Hey Will! This was an awesome article and super helpful! My boyfriend and I are looking at getting from Mandalay to Chiang by land … I am not finding any good information on this. Have you heard anything about this?

  • Simon says:

    Hi Will,

    Thanks so much for posting this detailed description of your travels, it is most helpful in navigating the fast-changing landscape here! All the travel guides seem out of date!

    My partner and I are planning to head to Pindaya tomorrow upon your advice, to trek from there to Inle instead of from Kalaw. We’re doing this fairly last-minute, so plan A is to look for a guide in Pindaya, but you mention this trek could be performed solo with a GPS, which we have. How would you handle lodgings if you did such a thing? I’m assuming there isn’t much in the way of towns or inns, so we’d have to be pretty bang on with our plans as to where to land…and google’s database is still fairly empty for that area. Thanks for the help, and looking forward to your next travels!

  • Many thanks Will for your detailed and helpful post and itinerary! You are a fantastic source of information. I visited 7 places you mention here and stayed at your recommended accommodations in each town. Your guide was my constant companion and it worked wonderfully. Happy journeys to you! Thank you.

  • This is a great article! Thank you for giving us such detailed guide. This will surely help tons of wanderers. Looking forward to more travel stories from you!

  • stephanie says:

    Wow what an amazing and complete guide..thank you for sharing.
    I want to visit Myanmar someday soon so this is very helpful!
    x

  • Gillian Chee says:

    Hi Will, how are your travels to PNG? You mentioned to “Avoid travelling in the ‘private’ mini-vans.” Why is this the case?

  • khourshem says:

    I live in Germany, Dortmund and I love visiting the city and others around, each time I visit a new city I learn something new. God bless Germany and it’s people

  • Vanessa says:

    Hi Will,

    we are going to Myanmar in July for a month. We fly to Bangkok and will make the crossing by land. Do you have any experience with traveling there in the rain season? Also, is camping out an option or is it not worth bringing a tent during that time? I’m guessing there are fewer tourists during that time and it’s less stressful with accommodation, or am I wrong here?

    Thank you for your answers and your awesome detailed guide

    • Will Hatton says:

      I travelled there in June five years ago and holy shit… it was hot. You can definitely camp out and if you like proper adventures, take a tent and rent a motorbike 🙂 You should ALWAYS book Bagan accomodation ahead of time, no matter what time of year it is.

  • Camille says:

    Hi Will,

    Do you think it is safe for a solo women to backpack Myanmar?
    I am quite used to backpack alone, I did some countries in Africa and all of eastern and western Europe by myself but never been to Asia.

    Thanks 🙂

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