February 18, 2013 by farbolino
Travel within Myanmar without the use of taxis may seem daunting for the uninitiated, but here are a few tips to help you avoid paying significantly more for taxis in Yangon and Mandalay, which are Myanmar’s largest cities.
A taxi from the airport in Yangon to downtown costs 8000 kyats, but the local bus costs only 200, so if you want to save nearly $10, here’s how to do it:
Walk out of the airport and kindly refuse the taxi drivers asking if you need a ride with a simple ‘Mahaboo’ which means ‘No’ in Burmese (they often burst into a fit of laughter when you answer in Burmese, so try it!). Take a right onto the road and walk for roughly 15-20 minutes until you reach a main road. During the summer months it will be brutally hot, so be sure to wear sunblock and bring some water. Once on the main road you’ll see a sign that says ‘Welcome to Myanmar’. Cross the street and make a right onto that street. Shortly afterwards there will be a bus stop which will have a bus headed to downtown. The bus number is 51, but it’s written in Burmese numerals. Ask the bus driver ‘Sule Pagoda?’ After about an hour you’ll reach downtown where there are lots of guesthouses. For a cheap place to stay see my previous post.
If you have an iPhone (or other smartphone) you can download an app called iBurmese for a few dollars. This App isn’t the best, and has a lot of useful phrases missing, but it’s the only Burmese app there is and it shows what the numbers look like and how to pronounce them. I saved countless dollars with this app, and it’s always nice to learn a few phrases in the local language.
Also in Yangon, there is a bus (#43) which heads north past The Swedagon Pagoda. You can pick this bus up just north of Sule Pagoda in downtown. Cost is 200 kyat, and the trip will take about 15 minutes. Just tell the guy collecting the money ‘Swedagon’ and he’ll tell you when to get off.
Bus 43 also heads all the way to the northern bus station, but during rush hour this journey can seemingly take forever. The northern bus station serves all destinations to the north including Bagan, Mandalay, Hsipaw and other northern locations like Inle Lake. A taxi from downtown will cost roughly 5000-8000 kyat depending on your bargaining skills. The bus again costs 200 kyat.
In Mandalay, the bus terminal is 8km from the city, so a taxi ride isn’t cheap at 6000-7000 kyats. Luckily there are mini trucks that run into the city along 84th street straight into the heart of the city. Walk two blocks west from the station until you reach the first main road (84th street) and head right (north) for another two blocks until you reach a bus stop. From here pretty much all the trucks are headed downtown, so just ask the driver. These mini trucks are a little more expensive then Yangon at 500 kyats. For shorter distances within Mandalay they charge 200 kyats also.
Two of the main sights in Mandalay are Mandalay hill and the U bein bridge in a southern village outside Mandalay. It’s possible to visit both in one day by only using public transport. Bus #30 (Roman numerals!) leaves from downtown to head up past Mandalay palace and runs right by the steps to walk up to the hill lookout.
You can catch the same bus headed all the way south to the U Bein bridge for 400 kyats. Be warned that this bus (like most others in Mandalay annoyingly stops running at 4pm. If you’re coming to catch the sunset, there is an alternative mini truck that runs past dark. Mini truck #8 will take you the 13km back into town and will drop you off at the clock tower. Cost is 500 kyats.
All other cities in Myanmar are significantly smaller and walking from one end to another is not a daunting task. Once you’ve figured it out in Mandalay and Yangon though, maybe you’ll want to give it a shot in other places just for the fun of it. Good luck!