I travelled around Myanmar for 9 days and spent a total of $868.19. Here’s how I did it.
Myanmar appeared on my list on countries to visit after I saw pictures of the hot air balloons above Bagan but it was only years later that I managed to plan a trip there. I met Jane in 2015 during my OW dive trip and we became fast friends. While talking one day, we both realised that Myanmar was on our to-go list – particularly because of Bagan. So we started talking about going there together!
In 2017, Jane and I blocked off our calendars over the Chinese New Year period in 2018 and would chat about planning our trip but our plans only started taking shape after we booked the plane tickets in December 2017.
I have to give a HUGE shout out to her for literally planning the whole trip. I just bought the air tickets and she did the rest. The trip was well planned with notes made to the hotels for early check-ins and breakfasts. Color me impressed. Without further ado, this was how it went.
Day 1 – Singapore to Yangon via Mai Airlines. Overnight bus to Bagan.
Day 2 – Arrived in Bagan at 5:30am, check in to Sky View Hotel in Nyaung U. Explored Bagan.
Day 3 – Explore Bagan.
Day 4 – Sleep in and lunch in Bagan. Afternoon bus to Mandalay, arrived at 7pm. Checked in to Unity Hotel.
Day 5 – Explored Mandalay.
Day 6 – Explored Mandalay. Overnight bus to Inle Lake.
Day 7 – Arrived in Inle at 5am. Checked into Apex Hotel. Hotel rest / Boat tour. Left Inle on the 6pm overnight bus.
Day 8 – Arrived in Yangon at 4:30am. Checked into Ten Mile Hotel. Day spent exploring Yangon.
Day 9 – Return back to Singapore.
For our ease of calculation, we went with 1,000 kyat (Ks) = S$1. But if you really want the exact numbers, this was our exchange rates:
S$1.31 = US$1 = 1,315 Ks
We changed out USD in Singapore at the rate of US$1 = S$1.315 then changed out our USD to Kyat at the airport. But if I ever go back to Myanmar, I’ll skip the extra step of changing to USD just bring SGD.
Most of the money changers we saw in Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay accepted SGD. I didn’t withdraw any money from the ATM because I brought extra SGD just in case.
Flight on Myanmar Airways International: S$254.30
Hotels: S$120.45 for 6 Nights
Bagan – Sky View Hotel – 2 Nights – S$39.45
Mandalay – Unity Hotel – 2 Nights – S$38.48
Inle Lake – Apex Hotel – 1 Day – S$18.04
Yangon – Ten Mile Hotel – 1 Night – S$24.48
JJ Express Buses: S$86.60 for 4 bus rides
I don’t have the breakdown since Jane was the one that booked the busses but it was an average of S$20 per ride.
Spending money (for food and misc): S$374.84
Travel Insurance from Tenet Sompo: S$32.00
Total spent: S$868.19
Jane booked the bus tickets online through JJ Express and Myanmar Bus Ticket. The tickets are pricier if you get them online but it saves the hassle of booking at the bus station itself. In Yangon, we relied on Grab.
Depending on the type of trip, I would sometimes decide not to buy any data but since we were unfamiliar with Myanmar, I got a data sim card for my peace of mind. I got a 5.3GB data sim card for 10,500 Ks (for my Google Pixel) and a 2.9GB data sim card for 6,500 Ks (for my iPhone). The booths are easily found once you exit after collecting your luggage.
We didn’t scrimp on food. Actually, we ate at restaurants almost every day. If we have to crown the best meal we had in Myanmar, it would be the delicious carbonara we had at La Terrazza in Bagan, we went back to eat it the 3 days we were in Bagan.. Other restaurants worth mentioning are Sanon and Weather Spoon’s Bagan Restaurant and Bar both also located in Bagan.
We flew in and out of Yangon, staying just one night at the end of our trip. Yangon is like any other city in South East Asia, me thinks. It’s crowded, hot, noisy and dusty. We went for a massage on the first day then took the overnight bus to Bagan in the evening. At the end of our trip, we had one day in Yangon where we spent it shopping at some of the newer malls then chilled out at a café before heading back to the hotel.
Bagan was the main reason we wanted to visit Myanmar. The beautiful sunrises and sunsets amongst the pagodas coupled with the floating hot air balloons called our names. Sadly, just a month before we left for Myanmar, a new law came out prohibiting the climbing of the pagodas. So we had to find other places with good vantage points.
We arrived in Bagan after a semi restful bus ride. The haggling of taxi prices at the drop off point quite drained us and we decided to take the horse carriage from the bus station to our hotel. It was most probably the scariest ride of our entire trip. The road was pitch dark with a couple of cars and bikes whizzing by, having a horse who thought that it would be fun to race with the cars was NOT a good idea. Jane and I were bounced around the carriage at the back.
Staying at Nyung U was a good decision as the location was near enough to reach most of the ‘must-sees’ within 30 minutes on the e-bike. Also, we were about 5 minutes away from the restaurant street where we ate carbonara every single of the 3 days we were there.
We were all covered up because we didn’t want to be burnt.
We rented e-bikes for about $6-7 a day and just rode around to the different pagodas and viewing spots. The e-bikes are basically scooters which go at a maximum of 35-40kmph. The roads are safe enough to ride on – just be careful of the dirt roads and when you’re riding at night. We did see some people lose control of their bikes but since Jane and I both have our motorcycle license (which we took together), we found it really easy to handle the bikes. Except for the time we took an unknown dirt path, my bike did a mini wheelie in the sand and I fell – cutting my calf on the bike and leaving a scar till today.
Like I mentioned, most of the pagoda’s are closed for climbing so you will have to ask around for other alternatives to see the sunset/sunrise. Two places I can recommend are Temple 863 (for sunrise – you’ll be able to see the hot air balloons as well) and Sulamani Temple (there is a special viewpoint on a hill for sunsets).
I would say that two days in Bagan is more than enough to see most sights.
We left Bagan around 2 pm and arrived in Mandalay in the evening. Our two days in Mandalay was perhaps one day too many. We hired a driver for a day to drive us around to Mandalay for 40,000ks. He pretty much just drove us around and waited for us while we walked around and took photos. We ended our evening taking pictures of the sunset at U Bein Bridge.
Our second day in Mandalay saw us sleeping in, walking to a mall, walking to a café, taking GrabBike back to the hotel, resting in the hotel then taking a cab to the bus stop for our overnight bus to Inle. It was also when my food poisoning kicked in and made me miserable for the rest of the night.
Hightlight of Mandalay: U Bein Bridge.
After an uncomfortable bus ride filled with throwing up in plastic bags and an emergency run to the toilet (thank you, diarrhoea), we arrived in Inle in the early morning. Jane had requested for an early check in which was a life saver because all I wanted to do was to crash on a proper bed and sleep for the next 8 hours. So my time in Inle was spent in a hotel room sleeping. I insisted Jane go ahead for the tour and from the pictures she took, it looked pretty nice.
The tour starts early (around 6am, I think) and it will bring you to a few places.
Afternoon fell and we left the hotel at around 5+pm for another overnight bus ride – this time back to Yangon.
Myanmar is an underrated place to visit for now. It is not as touristy and commercialized as other places but it’s definitely on the road there. If you’re looking for a place to visit that will not break your bank, go with a flexible schedule, a charged camera, a friend (friends make trips all the better) and just spend your time wandering around.