The Most Spectacular Myanmar Backpacking Itinerary

The ultimate Myanmar backpacking itinerary is here! Follow this itinerary to see the best of Myanmar; a country that has only opened its borders to tourism in recent years. Find the perfect route, things to do, costs, tips and more.

Monks in Mandalay, Myanmar

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How to get to Myanmar

Most nationalities need a visa before entering Myanmar. U.K. citizens can buy a visa online but must fly into the country for it to be valid. Flights are relatively cheap from other destinations across Southeast Asia, so check Skyscanner for the latest deals.

If you plan to enter Myanmar overland, then you need to obtain a visa in your passport beforehand, by going to the Myanmar embassy in either your home country or in a neighbouring country. We got our visas in Vientiane, Laos. The visa process was very easy! We went into the embassy, filled in a form, and then picked the visa up 2 days later. The visa cost was just $25 and half the cost of what it was online.

To get to Myanmar from Laos we made a very long, 38-hour, treacherous journey from Vientiane through to Yangon. You can read all about that journey here. In the post, you will also find out how to reach Myanmar overland from Thailand too.

Myanmar backpacking route

Things to do in Yangon – Myanmar backpacking stop 1

This backpacking Myanmar trip starts in the capital; Yangon. Yangon is a buzzin’ city and a great introduction to the culture, people, and food. Unlike Bali, which has become the tourist paradise of Asia, Myanmar still holds its authentic untouched charm. Yangon is the perfect starting point to get a feel for this unique country. Whether you have 2-days in Yangon or a week, it’s an integral part of this Myanmar backpacking itinerary.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda is the most popular pagoda in Myanmar. It’s made of gold and can be seen among Yangon’s skyline. The easiest way to get to the pagoda is to take a taxi from your accommodation. When you arrive, there is a market that you will need to walk through before reaching the pagoda. You will need to take off your shoes to walk through the market which has many stalls selling plenty of Myanmar souvenirs. The cost to enter the pagoda is $8 per person.

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar
Yangon’s most popular attraction, Shwedagon Pagoda

Circular train

Jigging around on the rickety train was one of our most memorable days in Myanmar. The train does exactly what it says on the tin; circles the city. The train takes around 3 hours to complete the loop. Whilst on the train, you see how local people live; some locals get on the train just to get from one place to another, some to sell their produce, or some just to sit and cut up their fruit and veg ready to sell. The ticket to ride costs just 200 Kyat ($0.14) and you can get off at any stop and then get back on with the same ticket.

The circular train in Yangon, Myanmar
The circular train is a great way to see local life in Yangon

Yangon City and 19th Street

At night, the most popular street to grab a bite to eat and to have a few drinks is 19th Street. The number of backpackers in Myanmar is moderately low. But for the few that are around, 19th Street is where you can meet up with fellow travellers. During the day you should walk around and explore the city. Whilst exploring we came across a cool shopping mall, where we could buy bits of food, play in the arcade, and drink local Burmese tea.

19th Street in Yangon, Myanmar
19th Street is the place to be to drink beers, eat good food, and meet other travellers

Movies with the locals

There are plenty of cinemas in Myanmar. Most of them are old-looking and are only showing about 3 movies at a time. Cinema tickets are extremely cheap, so here is your chance to catch up on movies that you have wanted to see. At the start of the movie, the national flag appears on-screen and locals stand up to pay their respects.

Where to stay in Yangon

Agga Youth Hostel – One of the few properties that have dorm rooms. Whilst the hotel has many room options to choose from, we stayed in a 12-bed dorm because it worked out cheaper than a private room. The dorm room is very clean and has plenty of lockers. A bonus with this hotel is that breakfast is included in the price.

For more prices and deals on properties in Yangon, CLICK HERE.

How to get to Bagan from Yangon

You can easily reach Bagan from Yangon by overnight sleeper bus. The overnight JJ express sleeper buses cost 18,000 Kyat ($12.25). The day buses cost 15,000 Kyat ($10.21). Tickets can be bought from your hostel, a tour shop, or online.

The night bus left from the Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal at 6 pm and arrived in Bagan at 4 am. The easiest way to get to Aung Mingalar Bus Station is to hop in a taxi for 10,000 Kyat ($6.80). However, we opted for the local bus that costs less than 1,000 Kyat ($0.68). When arriving in Bagan, you will be greeted by many taxi drivers offering to take you directly to your accommodation. Most likely either in New Bagan, Old Bagan or Nyaung U.

Things to do in Bagan – Myanmar backpacking stop 2

Ancient temples of Bagan

Temples in Bagan in Myanmar
Temples in Bagan in Myanmar

The majority of tourists in Myanmar are here to capture incredible sunrises and sunsets over the ancient temples of Bagan. Before entering the Bagan archaeological zone, tourists need to pay a government tax entrance fee of 25,000 Kyat, which lasts for 5 days. The fee allows you to visit all the temples in the complex. You will be given a pass to show you have paid, and you will need to present this if asked for it by officials.

Temple exploring in Bagan, can easily take up 2 full days. To get around the temples we highly recommended renting an electric scooter. Burning around on a bike on the empty sandy roads, in and out of the temples, gives a feel of stepping back thousands of years in time.

See also  The Most Amazing 3 Month Southeast Asia Itinerary

If you’re lucky enough to be in Bagan during hot air balloon season, then you could also consider the magical experience of floating over the temples in a hot air balloon.

Jasmine Lacquerware Factory

Lacquerware is a speciality in Bagan. Located on U Khin Maung Nyo Street is a small run lacquerware workshop. Upon arriving, we asked to see if we could take a tour of the place, to which the people at the desk gladly agreed. One of the workers even stopped what he was doing to explain the process. He fully explained step by step how lacquerware furniture is made. The tour was completely free, but we did make sure to tip the kind man who took his time to show us around with such enthusiasm.

Jasmine Lacquerware Factory in Bagan, Myanmar
Watching the lacquerware process is fascinating

Where to stay in Bagan

Shwe Na Di Guesthouse – Very clean guesthouse boasts private double rooms with private bathrooms and TVs. The rooms are spacious and well-kept. A large breakfast is included in the price. The guesthouse also rents out electric bikes for 8,000 Kyat ($5.44) per day.

For more prices and deals on properties in Bagan, CLICK HERE.

How to get to Mandalay from Bagan

To get to Mandalay from Bagan take a 6-hour bus. We booked the bus from our hotel the night before and were picked up in the morning by a tuk-tuk that took us to the bus station. From the bus station, we took the bus straight through to Mandalay. The cost of the bus ticket was 12,000 Kyat ($8.17). When arriving at the terminal station in Mandalay there are plenty of tuk-tuks to take you to your accommodation. The cost of the tuk-tuk depends on the length of your journey.

If you’re looking for a more exciting way to get there, check out this post on taking the boat from Bagan to Mandalay.

Things to do in Mandalay – Myanmar backpacking stop 3

City tour

Whilst we were wandering the streets for food, a local man stopped us to ask us where we were going. He directed us to a delicious Indian eatery and helped us to order our food. Turns out he works as a tour guide taking tourists around the city on his bike.

He and his friend (Mynt) picked us up the next day and took us on a tour of Mandalay. They spent the day with us showing us local places and informing us of the history of the area. The tour consisted of a trip to a local monastery, a bronze statue-making site, a marble statue-making site, an old British fort, and a few temples. Finally, you will end your tour at one of Myanmar’s best landmarks, the U-Bein Bridge for a magical sunset. The tour was very educational, and our guides taught us so much about Burmese culture and traditions. The cost of the tour was 20,000 Kyat ($13.61) each, and it was worth it!

U-bein bridge in Mandalay. Myanmar
U-bein Bridge in Mandalay is one of the top attractions

Attend a football game

Heading to a football game in Myanmar is an amazing experience! Get down with the locals and support the local Mandalay team, Yadanarbon. The atmosphere is crazy, and the locals are so surprised that you are there. If you’re looking for an unusual and fun experience, then attending a football game is perfect. To get to Ba Htoo Stadium you can easily take a motorbike taxi or car taxi. The entrance cost to a football game was around 2,000 Kyat ($1.36).

Yadanarbon fans in Mandalay, Myanmar
Yadanarbon fans celebrating the crucial win

Where to stay in Mandalay

Hotel 82 – This hotel is extremely clean and luxurious for a relativity cheap price. The beds are very comfy, and each room has a large-screen TV. Breakfast is also included in the price. The staff members at the hotel are very helpful. They even drove us 10 km to a pizza restaurant at no cost at all.

For more prices and deals on properties in Mandalay, CLICK HERE.

How to get to Inle Lake from Mandalay

The last stop on this backpacking Myanmar itinerary is Inle Lake. To reach Inle Lake from Mandalay, you can take an 8-hour day bus. The cost of the bus is 16,000 Kyat ($10.89) and buses can be booked from your hotel or a tour shop. In the morning, a tuk-tuk will pick you up and take you to the bus station where the bus will leave from. Buses run directly to Nyaungshwe Town, where many backpackers stay to explore Inle Lake.

Things to do in Inle Lake – Myanmar backpacking stop 4

Tour Inle Lake

Like Bagan, before arriving in the Inle Lake area you are required to pay a government entrance tax. However, the cost of the tax is slightly lower 12,500 Kyat ($8.51). Inle Lake is stunning and makes for fantastic photo opportunities. When you arrive there are many tourist shops where you can book an Inle Lake boat tour. The trip consists of taking a speed boat around the lake and the floating villages. You will stop off at different stops along the way; a silverware factory, umbrella factory, silk factory, wooden boat factory, and a stop to see the long-neck Karens. The total cost of the trip is around 20,000 Kyat ($13.95), which can be shared with a small group. However, there are different packages, and prices vary depending on how many people there are in your group.

Inle Lake, Myanmar
Inle Lake is a stunning place for photographers

Explore by bicycle

Roll around the small town of Nyaung Shwe, just north of Inle Lake, on a bicycle. As you cycle around get a feel for local life and take in the many scenic points. The cost of a bicycle rental for the day is just 1,500 Kyat ($1.02).

Handmade umbrellas from Myanmar
Handmade umbrellas from Myanmar

Where to stay at Inle Lake

Silver Lake Hotel – Highly rated and great value for money! Rooms are clean, modern and well-kept. A delicious breakfast is also included and rooms are well-equipped with TVs, tea/coffee-making facilities and hairdryers.

For more prices and deals on properties in Inle Lake, CLICK HERE.

Inle Lake to Yangon

Ready to finish this Myanmar backpacking trip? To reach Yangon from Inle Lake you can take a 10-hour night bus. The bus cost 24,000 Kyat ($16.33). Beware though, the roads between Inle Lake and Yangon are bendy and if you get travel sick easily you may want to bring along a plastic bag with you.

See also  The Most Amazing 2-week Laos Itinerary for First-Timers

Costs of backpacking Myanmar

Currency: The local currency is Kyat (pronounced chat). The exchange rate is 1,469 Kyat to $1. You may have read that ATMs across Myanmar are limited. However, Myanmar is now starting to advance to the latest technologies, and we didn’t have any issues finding working ATMs at any of the destinations we have mentioned above.

Daily budget: We recommend a budget of 60,000 Kyat ($40) per day, per person. Myanmar is slightly more expensive than the rest of Southeast Asia, partly because of the government tourist tax to enter certain locations, and because hotels are more expensive.

Accommodation: Hostels are not widely available in Myanmar. We only managed to find a few hostels is in Yangon. So, if you’re a single traveller you may need to fork out for a private room. Private rooms range from 25,000-30,000 Kyat ($17-20).

Food and drink: Traditional Myanmar food at local eateries is easy to come by. Meals range from 2,000-5,000 Kyat ($1.36 – $1.40). Local beer costs between 1,000-3,000 Kyat.

A local bus in Yangon
A local bus in Yangon

Backpacking Myanmar travel tips

Friendly locals – The local people are extremely friendly and helpful. Sometimes this may be a little overwhelming but be assured they are only trying to help you. You should stay on your guard like anywhere else but do make the effort to speak with curious locals. They want to know about you and your culture, just like you are interested in theirs.

Beware of yucky Western food – There were a few times that we opted for a burger and chips, and each time was hit or miss. Myanmar doesn’t seem to have developed its culinary skills in European/ American cuisine yet, so you may be taking a risk when ordering these types of food. Play it safe and eat either local food or at places with good reviews on TripAdvisor.

Red stains all over the ground – In Myanmar, you will notice that there are red mark stains on the streets. This is a result of people chewing on “pan” and then spitting it out. Pan is a leaf that is brushed with menthol flavouring and sprinkled with tobacco and pieces of areca nut. Locals chew on it for fresh breath, and it has the same effect as cannabis. When chewed, it creates a lot of red liquid which is spat out; hence why the streets are FULL of red stains.

Be wary of budgeting – Backpacking in Myanmar is slightly more expensive than backpacking in the rest of Southeast Asia. Accommodation is more expensive because it is new, and in certain places, you must pay a government tourist tax. Be sure to factor this into your daily budgeting costs so you don’t get caught out and go over budget.

Packs of dogs in Mandalay – There are many stray dogs in Mandalay. When walking the streets at night they can seem a little intimidating. Try to avoid their path, and if you need to pass by them, be careful! The last thing you want is to have to go to the hospital for rabies jabs as a result of being bitten by a dog.

No need to barter – Unlike other countries in Southeast Asia, Myanmar hasn’t yet caught on to the tradition of charging foreigners more. We found prices for goods to be fair, and often the same as what local people were paying.

No motorbikes in the city of Yangon – There are a few different stories about why motorbikes are banned. One is that the King’s brother was badly injured in a motorbike accident and therefore he decided that they are unsafe to use in the city.

Need more detailed travel tips for Myanmar? Check out these top Myanmar tips!

Essential resources for travelling in Myanmar

Travel Insurance – No matter where you’re travelling to, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re covered for any accidents or losses. We spent days and weeks searching for insurance, but most insurers would not allow us to take out a policy as we were already abroad. Our personal choice is Safteywing. You can opt for automatic monthly payments, just like a subscription. More importantly, it is available in 180 countries and can be purchased whilst already travelling. There is no cap on the duration of travel.

Visa – Before you travel to any country, make sure to check if you need a visa. iVisa is a fantastic website that is super easy and quick to use. Just type in where you are from. and where you are going. to check if you need a visa. If you do, you can quickly make an application online.

AccommodationBooking.com is our go-to when looking to pre-book accommodation online. Booking.com tend to almost always have the best rates and a FREE cancellation policy for most properties.

Overland transport – Our go-to website for overland transport is Bookaway. Bookaway offers multiple forms of transport, from buses, mini-vans, trains, and ferries. The routes on offer are extensive and certainly cover most of the backpacker trails. Bookaway works a little like Skyscanner but for overland transport. You will find plenty of transport options from a range of companies. All you simply need to do is book online and receive your ticket by email. The email will contain essential information, such as where the bus leaves from and departure and arrival times.

Tours & Activities – If you want to book tours and activities online, make sure to check out Get Your Guide. Get Your Guide takes the stress out of booking activities abroad. You will also find a range of benefits, such as skip-the-line passes, lunch included in your tours, and so much more.

Travel tips ebook -Before you head off on your adventure, make sure to download our free ebook. It has a whopping 109 budget travel tips to help you make your hard-earned cash go further. Click here to download your FREE ebook.

Are you ready for some beach time now? Check out our backpacking Thailand guide, where you can find a mix of beautiful beaches in the south and lush nature in the north.

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The Ultimate Myanmar Travel Itinerary + Guide

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