If you are planning a visit to upper Myanmar including Bagan, Pyin Oo Lwin or Inle, Mandalay is a hub for most trips to upper Myanmar. Here in this article, I will cover all means of best available transportation from Mandalay to Bagan by flight, bus, train, boat or car.
Mandalay to Bagan via Flight
Time : 30 min
Cost : $50 – $100
Airport Name: Mandalay (MDL) to Nyaung U Airport (NYU)
If you are in a tight schedule, this is the best option to travel to Bagan. One of the drawbacks of Bagan is that there is no direct airport there. So, if you want to travel from Mandalay to Bagan, you need to land at Nyaung U airport.
Taking Bus from Mandalay to Bagan
Time – over 6 hours
Cost – $6.9 – $11
Bus terminal Name – Depends on the company
This is a common way that local people choose to travel. But the buses are popular to be crowded. If you don’t want the hustle, you can book private cars or flight. Make sure to check the type of the bus if it is 28 seater or mini-bus.
Buying bus ticket online
You can book the ticket from myanmarbusticket.com. Make sure the bus company arranges the shuttle bus to your hotel. Otherwise, you will end up taking another taxi to your hotel.
Available buses are Hello Express(28 seaters) which costs around $6.9, JJ Express(Recommended, premium economy) which costs around $7, Moe Thout Tun(28 seater which costs around $6.9).
Buying a bus ticket at the local agent
Here is a list of local agents where you can visit and purchase at the store. JJ Express is a popular Mandalay to Bagan bus chosen by locals which is a good quality service for a reasonable price.
Train to Bagan from Mandalay
A train is an ideal option for budget travelers like me. The road is bumpy and the scenery may not be as beautiful as you expect. Make sure to buy yourself some food and water. If you travel at night, take care of your belongings when you sleep.
Buying train ticket online
You can either purchase the ticket from websites that deliver to your hotels. But you need to print out. E-tickets are not accepted.
You can choose some agents like 12go.asia and myanmartrainticket.com. The rates are around $10.
Myanmartrainticket.com deliver the ticket to your hotel but you must book the ticket a week in advance. Myanmar Railways does not accept e-ticket. So you only have to bring the Original Paper ticket when boarding.
Paper tickets are issued 3-4 days before departure. Pick up/delivery of paper tickets can be available 1-3 days before departure. They will inform the exact date for pickup/delivery via email.
Buying a train ticket at the station
Make sure you go there early(at least one day in advance) to buy the ticket. The best time to travel is in the early morning. Economy seats cost around $5 and special seats costs around $13.
Traveling with Ease by Boat
The pros are that you can travel with ease and catch good views along the Irrawaddy River. Cons are that it could be expensive and slow because the fastest boat takes 8 to 12 hours to get to Bagan.
Boats trips normally start in the early morning. When you spend a few minutes in the boat, the sun starts to rise. That is the bonus when you can enjoy the great views of the Irrawaddy River.
There are still a few boat service providers in Myanmar. MGRG express is a well-known company that provides trip from Mandalay to Bagan. There is also another cruise called the Malikha River Cruise. You can google it.
Private Cars are also luxurious
Myanmar doesn’t allow foreigners to drive cars. So if you plan to rent a private car, you can choose to book from Oway and Flymya which are the most popular local agents.
There are also some lesser-known options to choose from such as tmtmtour.com, getyourguide.com, and myanmarprivatecar.com. You can contact and negotiate how you want with your car, tour guide, and trip itinerary, etc.
What to do in Bagan
If you have reached Bagan, there are tons of interesting things to do. Check out the updated information about where to see sunset in Bagan recommended by the locals.
If you are looking for clean and cheap hotels near Bagan, find out more in this article.