From all the countries in our itinerary for our South East Asia backpacking trip, Myanmar is the country that we were looking forward to visit the most. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, opened its doors to tourism a few years ago. Since then, it has been on top of the list for travelers visiting South East Asia. Myanmar, with its years of isolation and mystery, people are brimming with curiosity as to how the country is doing in the present time. We did some research online and via other travelers before coming to Myanmar. We got bits of information; however, we still did not know exactly what to expect from this country. Myanmar was our last stop in our South East Asia itinerary and we indeed saved the best for last. So here is our guide to visiting the “Land of Pagodas” – Myanmar. This is the first part of our travel guide series for Myanmar.
Fly to Myanmar.
We learned this one the hard way. Most of our trip was made overland except for the flight to Vietnam. As we were on a tight budget, we planned to enter Myanmar by crossing the border from Northern Thailand in Mae Sai to Tachileik in Myanmar and travel onwards to see the rest of the country. We found information online about border crossings to Myanmar but it was rather inconsistent as some sites indicate that you can only travel as far as Keng Tung if you enter the country from this border. This was not acceptable for us as we wanted to see the Big Four (Mandalay, Inle Lake, Bagan and Yangon).
Visa limitations and Stress
We also had only one day left in our Thai visa and we needed to get out of the country the next day. So, we surveyed our options. We were in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand at that time and flights from there going to Myanmar were outrageously expensive for us backpackers nearing the end of our trip. That option was definitely out. Next, we checked flights from Bangkok to Myanmar and they were cheaper but we needed at least half a day to get to Bangkok and we would not make the flight to Myanmar in time. That means we would overstay our visa for one day in Thailand and there would be a 500 baht penalty per day. We decided to take the risk and headed out to Bangkok by bus on their earliest trip.
When searching flights from Bangkok to Myanmar, choose the ones departing from the old airport (Don Muang Airport) as the flights are relatively cheaper than the ones departing from Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Book your flights as early as possible to avail of seat sales.
Search both prices for Yangon and Mandalay. We booked the cheapest option the night before our departure to Myanmar. The cheapest option we found was flying in to Mandalay from Bangkok and flying out of Myanmar from Yangon to Bangkok. Our roundtrip airfare amounted to Php 6,540.51 or USD 145.41 per person. Not bad at all for booking the flights the night before!
Airasia also offers a free bus shuttle from the airport to the city center. This helps you save money too as the airport is quite far from the city center, around 45km.
The Philippines is part of the ASEAN community, so they did not require a visa for us to enter Myanmar and were allowed to travel the country for 14 days. For other nationalities, please check the current visa policies for Myanmar.
Overall: Flying to Myanmar is the best option especially if you have limited time to spend in the country. Overland travel can cost a lot of time and money. In addition, transportation options are limited for isolated parts of the country.