Bus Travel in Myanmar

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

Myanmar is such a beautiful country that backpackers have been trying to take full advantage of. Going from Yangon down south, to Bagan in the middle, even all the way up to Hsipaw in the north. But domestic flights are either way too expensive, or way too difficult with airports being far away from desired destinations. This is where bus travel comes into play! It is the easiest and most efficient way to travel the country. You will most likely take multiple buses during your time in Myanmar, so here are a couple of tips to help you out!


Take the VIP bus

It's typically only $3-7 USD more expensive than the regular bus, and it is WELL worth it. You get to recline very far back with a foot rest that comes up. They also provide you with a blanket, pillow, food/snacks, water, and an attendant on board to help you with anything you need. When you're on a bus for 8-15 hours trying to sleep, comfort is key.



JJ Express

Both VIP bus experiences I had were with JJ Express. They were a great company that I would highly recommend. Even the local people or hostel workers I asked when booking recommended this company to me because they said their buses are the newest, the chairs are the comfiest and recline the most. The staff is very friendly on board, and I definitely think they are your best option.


Night Bus

I highly recommend taking the night bus so you don't waste any of your days in Myanmar sitting on a bus. When I booked the VIP bus I was able to sleep pretty well (considering I'm on a bus), and I was able to see so much of Myanmar in a short amount of time. Plus, you don't have to pay for a hostel for the night! It's a win-win.


Booking

When booking you have 2 options: either book through your hostel/local tour agency (usually cash only) or book online with your credit card. My advice is to look up the price online first and then compare it to what's being offered by the hostels/agents. My first bus trip from Yangon to Bagan was cheaper to book online directly, but my second bus from Inle Lake to Mandalay the online price was the same price as my hostel, so I just booked with them. Consider all of your options before booking right away to make sure you get the cheapest price!


*Bonus- when you book you get to choose your assigned seat. There are 2 seats together on the left, and a solo seat on the right of the bus. If you're able to, book the very front solo seat so you don't have anyone next to you AND you get more leg room than everyone else. It's also really nice because they show you online which seats are booked by male, female, or group customers. So if you feel more comfortable being near a female, you can choose that option.


Once you either have your email confirmation from booking online or your receipt from booking through a hostel/agent, you just show up to the JJ Express (or whichever bus company you booked) stall at the bus station, check-in, and board! Super easy.


Don't take the Mini Vans

I made the mistake of letting my hostel talk me into taking a mini van transportation from Bagan to Kalaw. It was 15,000 MMK and they said it took 5 hours. Since it was significantly cheaper and faster than taking the regular bus, I agreed. However, the actual trip ended up taking over 8 hours because we made so many unsolicited stops. The driver pulled over in literally every town trying to advertise the empty seats in our van. We kept piling in more and more local people. There were so many people in our van they were sitting on the ground, and I couldn't even move. For almost 2 hours the guy next to me was literally sleeping on my shoulder, and I kept trying to push him off. I would never recommend this option to anyone!


Common Routes

Yangon-Bagan:

10 hours, $12 USD regular, $19 USD for VIP


Yangon- Mandalay:

10 hours, $12 USD regular, $19 USD for VIP


Bagan-Kalaw:

7 hours, $13 USD regular, $18 USD for VIP


Inle Lake- Mandalay:

8 hours, $10 USD regular, $14 USD for VIP


Yangon- Inle Lake:

12 hours, $12 USD regular, $19 USD for VIP




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