Guidebook to Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan is an ancient town, with the largest density as well as number of temples and pagodas in the world. Here are some experiences you need to know for the first time traveling to Myanmar.

Located on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River (Irrawaddy), a few miles south of Mandalay and north of Yangon. During the heyday of Bagan, this was the center of the Pagan Kingdom, now Myanmar. More than 10,000 Buddhist works have been built here. However, today only about 2,000 works remain. These Buddhist buildings are the main reason to attract visitors to Myanmar.

The best time to travel to Bagan

Bagan has tropical climate, only rainy season and dry season. The months you should avoid to Bagan are from March to May - very hot months, and from June to October - heavy rainfall. So, the best time to get to Bagan is from November to February of next year. However, this is also the peak tourist destination in Myanmar, so you have to book everything from air tickets or train tickets, hotel, guest houses to sightseeing tours.

How to get to Bagan

There are no direct flights to Bagan, so you have to fly to Mandalay or Yangon first. From there you will have many options to continue.

Flight: If you want to save time, the plane is the fastest way to get to Bagan. Many domestic airlines from Mandalay, Heho and Yangon have direct flights to Nyaung U Airport (the nearest airport to Bagan). It takes about 30-40 minutes from Heho, and an hour and 20 minutes from Yangon. Ticket price is around MMK80k (equivalent to over 520 USD).

Bus ride: Day or night bus are the most popular choice because the bus system in Bagan is very good and inexpensive. Bagan routes depart from Yangon, Mandalay, Nyaung Shwe, Taunggyi, Kalaw and Pyin Oo Lwin. The car will stop at a stopover for several hours, and provide wet towels and free bottled water to guests.

Train: Take the train, you will be watching the beautiful countryside of Myanmar through the window. However, the train system in Myanmar has not developed very well and often departs later than expected. There are three types of compartments, the normal compartment with wooden chair, the first class with chair and cushion, and the sleeping cabins with a bed. However, whether you choose to sit in any compartment, must also prepare for a long and rocky ride ahead.

Cruise: If you feel a bit more adventurous and have more time, sailing to Bagan will be an interesting option. Cruising to Bagan on the Ayeyarwady River and will take an average of 12 hours to arrive.

Transport in Bagan

What you need to do when you arrive in Bagan is to find a map. Some hotels will provide guests with free maps. If not, you can buy for only MMK1k (0.5 USD).

Once you have the map, you can start your Bagan journey! These are the means of transportation in Bagan as below:

Take a Taxi: Renting a taxi is the most comfortable way to explore Bagan, because it is sunny and dusty in Bagan. However, one day taxi ride you will have to spend MMK35k (about 24 usd). You should also give the taxi driver some tips, especially when they take time to introduce you the highlights in Bagan as a tour guide!

Horse riding: If you want to explore Bagan in a "traditional" way, you can rent a carriage of about MMK15-20k (12 USD) a day. However, the carriage is not so fast!

Riding a bike or electric motorcycle: This is the most fun way to get around Bagan, and also the cheapest means. You can rent an electric motorcycle for MMK6-8k (6 USD) or a bike for MMK2-5k (2 USD) for the whole day! However, cycling around Bagan in hot weather requires that you have good health and enough water. You can choose electric scooters, but remember before you go to check that the battery pack has been fully filled and record the phone number of the garage so you can call when something goes wrong.

Hot air balloon: This is the most expensive means of transportation, but if you are feeling well, it is worthwhile to have a hot air balloon watching the temples at sunset. Currently there are two companies - Balloons Over Bagan and Oriental Ballooning - operate balloon flights and they only run this service from October to March when the weather is good.

How much money should I bring on the Bagan trip?

You can spend US dollars (USD) or Burmese kyats (MMK) in Bagan. However, your US dollar must be new to be accepted.

If you bring USD, you can exchange money right at the airport, or at the banks of Myanmar. DO NOT exchange money at hotels, restaurants or shops because of bad exchange rates. A small tip for you is that you will get better rates if you exchange US dollars with denominations of US $ 100, instead of giving smaller denominations.

Alternatively, you can use your credit card or withdraw cash at the ATMs of the hotels.

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