Myanmar is one of 2016’s ‘hot-pick’ travel destinations and it’s easy to see why with Tripmashers’ top 21 images photo essay.

If the photos have inspired you to make travel plans, then read on for Tripmashers’ two-week itinerary and budget for Myanmar. A full and enriching experience, all for $32 USD a day per person.

Myanmar – Two week itinerary and budget

Day 1 – Fly into Yangon

Colonial heartland of Myanmar, you are greeted with trees finding home in the cracks of colourful buildings. There’s an organised chaos on the roads intersected by darting pigeons. If this wasn’t enough, the air is like a hot, sweet perfume coming from tea and coffee houses.
Colonial heartland of Myanmar, you are greeted with trees finding home in the cracks of colourful buildings.

Evening: Shortly after arriving at our accommodation we met a fun couple from Holland who had completed their 2-week trip around Myanmar. Over beers and dinner we got some tips from them and in particular learnt about ‘tips’ i.e. bottle caps from the Myanmar beers. The ‘tips’ have a white rubber covering on the inside, and if you are in the know you can peel it back to reveal if you have won. Two long lines state in Burmese “chei-zu tin-bar-te” meaning “thank you (for playing, but you didn’t win)”. 

Myanmar
Any shorter lines in Burmese meant a win! A free beer or 200 kyats off your next purchase. We generally left the caps as part of a tip if there were winnings but enjoyed playing the game around Myanmar. A great icebreaker as locals see you are ‘in-the-know’.

Budget for 2 people:
Transport from airport to hostel: 0 (provided free of charge by accommodation)
Accommodation at Motherland Inn 2: 45,200 kyats

Dinner and drinks: 12,000 kyats

Day 2 – Yangon

Morning: For a change we delved into a fellow traveller’s Lonely Planet and found “Yangon’s Colonial Treasures’ walking tour which is 2 – 3 hours visiting 23 sights in the city’s downtown area.

Myanmar - top 20 photos 2-1Myanmar - top 20 photos 5-1

You walk past city workers lunching in Mahabandoola Gardens, admire the grandeur of the still-in-use post office, thumb pages at Yangon’s open-air library of bookstore sellers and munch your lunch at Bogyoke Aung San Market. 

Afternoon: After lunch we took a taxi to Shwedagon Pagoda. I recommend taking a tour with a guide, as it will help you understand the story of Buddha and the importance of pagodas going forth travelling through Myanmar.

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Late Afternoon: A mad cab ride back to the hostel to collect our luggage and get another taxi to the bus station in time. We made it (only just!) I would leave 1 hour – 1.5 hours to get to the bus station for the 7pm bus.

Budget for 2 people:
Accommodation: Overnight bus to Inle Lake: 45,000 kyats

Sule Paya entry: 6,000 kyats
Lunch at Bogyoke Market: 9,200 kyats
Shwedagon Pagoda entry and guide: 26,000 kyats
Taxi to and fro from Shwedagon Pagoda: 8,000 kyats
Taxi to bus station: 10,000 kyats
Dinner and drinks: 5,100 kyats

Day 3 – Inle Lake

Morning: Morning with a happy face it was not. The overnight bus was bouncy, with lots of windy roads and a stop for dinner at 10.30pm at night; we soon got used to the late eating times of bus travel. Also to be fair, they provided extra food as a ‘present’. These people knew the way to my heart.

Hearing so much about Inle Lake, I had high hopes for this fishing and handicraft village and it didn’t disappoint.

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The overnight bus gets you in at about 5am and we then took a cab ride to our accommodation at Inle Apex. They kindly had our room ready with a refreshing drink (at no extra cost), so we could get a few zzz’s before checking out this small town.

Noon: First stop was hiring our bicycles and taking a short ride to the local markets. 

markets-1
A market for locals selling clothing, fruit, vegetables and meat plus a few small food stalls for lunch.
It was time to burn off lunch with the 40-minute ride to the hot springs. On flat, but at times a bumpy road, it's a beautiful ride through rice fields and over streams to a chorus of locals shouting Min-ga-la-ba (Hello).
It was time to burn off lunch with the 40-minute ride to the hot springs. On flat, but at times a bumpy road, it’s a beautiful ride through rice fields and over streams to a chorus of locals shouting Min-ga-la-ba (Hello).
hot springs-1
We spent far too long at the hot springs drinking beers and chatting with newfound friends about their travels around South East Asia. Everyone agreed Myanmar is amazing.

Evening: Our intention was to get to the winery for sunset and a wine tasting, but our stewing in the hot springs meant that we got to catch the best sunset on a boat with our bikes crossing Inle Lake. 

It was completely worth it; even it meant for the 1-hour ride back to town I only had my mobile 'torch' in my bike basket as a form of light.
It was completely worth it, even if it meant riding back to town in the complete darkness with only my mobile for light.

Budget for 2 people:
Entry to Inle Lake: 26,000 kyats

Accommodation at Inle Apex: 46,000 kyats
Breakfast: 1,400 kyats
Lunch at the markets: 5,000 kyats
Hot springs and drinks: 30,000 kyats
Bike hire: 2,000 kyats
Dinner: 11,000 kyats

Day 4 – Inle Lake

Early Morning: It was time to board the coveted trip in Inle Lake for sunrise.

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We met our friend Pia (from Antarctica travels) at 5.20am and with our boat driver we set off on a long tail motorboat.
Myanmar - top 20 photos 10-1
Completely touristy, but worth every penny, the full day took us to various handicraft workshops on the lake and the jumping cat monastery.
cat-1
The cats are not so jumpy these days.
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The best part of the day was watching families come together for the pagoda festival and races.

Afternoon: We went for a late lunch at Sin Yaw. Highly recommend all the food, but in particular the fried tofu and mojitos:) A chilled afternoon chatting with Pia and talking to the staff about the upcoming elections. Sadly we learnt how the community only see 5% of the Inle Lake preservation fee. At least it’s better than the 0% they received in years gone by.

Budget for 2 people:
Accommodation at Inle Apex: 46,000 kyats
Inle Lake boat tour and tip: 10,500
Breakfast: 2,600 kyats
Snacks at the boat driver’s family restaurant: 2,000 kyats
Lunch: 18,300 kyats
Dinner: 12,100 kyats

Day 5 – Inle Lake

A lazy day exploring the outer skirts of the town on our bikes.

Riding along the lake, we meet a carpenter who sat us down for some tea. Previously he was primary school teacher for English, maths and geology and happy to share his story. We also laughed heartily about the height differences between him and Richard.
Riding along the lake, we meet a carpenter who sat us down for some tea. He  used to be a primary school teacher and happy to share his story. Check out the height difference; oh how we laughed!
mohinga-1
Our fave lunch lady of Inle Lake. We had to return to the market food stall for a late lunch of Mohinga. This meal became our go to over Shan noodles throughout Myanmar.

A quick shower after a good cycle day, it was time to board the overnight bus (departing 8pm) to Mandalay.

Budget for 2 people:
Overnight bus to Mandalay: 32,500 kyats
Bikes: 2,000 kyats
Lunch: 1,300 kyats
Dinner: 10,000 kyats
Bus supplies: 1,900 kyats

Day 6 – Mandalay

I was reading Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace set partly in Mandalay during the British invasion of 1885. The story is full of power struggles, love and imagery of drifting merchants along Irrawaddy River.

life on the river-1

Sometimes books are better. Arriving at 4am is never a good time to get an impression. But friendly faces at Hotel 1 made it all better.

Morning: Even though it was another fitful sleep on the bus, we powered through and got ourselves out the door for the 9am boat to Mingun. 

A relaxing boat ride on the Irrawaddy, moments of the book returned to me.
A relaxing boat ride on the Irrawaddy, moments of the book returned to me.

Whoever said size doesn’t matter obviously didn’t tell King Bodawpaya. Mingun is all about size.

White pagoda of Mingun.
White pagoda of Mingun.
Biggest temple in the world if it ever was completed
Biggest temple in the world if it ever was to be completed…
 ...and the second largest ringing bell in the world.
…and the second largest ringing bell in the world.

Tips:

  • Watch for the chaps who help you climb up the Mingun temple. They will expect a tip for holding your hand to cross a platform.
  • Bullock ride is not very comfortable and certainly not a speedy way to get around. I would give it a miss.
  • It is worth carrying small notes like 1,000 kyats if you are looking to buy from the kids selling flower garlands or the shoe keeping ‘donations’.

Afternoon to sunset: Arriving back around 1pm we negotiated with a pick up driver to takes us to the sights around Mandalay. You could get an aircon taxi for 20,000 kyats, but we found it fun riding in the back open air.

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Shwenandaw Monastery (Teak Monastery), Mandalay
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Kuthodaw Pagoda, the largest book in the world is in Mandalay.
Entrance to Mandalay Hill stairs
Entrance to Mandalay Hill stairs
Busy, but a beautiful spot to watch the sunset
Busy, but a beautiful spot to watch the sunset

Tips: 

  • Leave 3.5 hours for the three sights and walking up Mandalay Hill.
  • We avoided the Palace as we had read it was reconstructed using forced labour.

Budget for 2 people:
Accommodation at Hotel 1: 27,000 kyats
Taxi to hotel: 6,000 kyats
Boat trip to Mingun (return): 10,000 kyats
Mingun entry: 10,000 kyats
Donations to ‘informal guides’ and shoe keepers: 4,700 kyats
Bullock ride: 5,000 kyats
Brunch: 8,000 kyats
Pickup to sights around Mandalay: 15,000 kyats
Mandalay Zone Admission: 20,000 kyats (ticket includes entry to the Teak Monastery and other sites)
Dinner & drinks: 21,000 kyats

Day 7 – Mandalay

Day trip: With the same pick up driver the Tripmasher duo and our friend went for a day trip to outer Mandalay to see the sights.

Classy way to travel :)
Classy way to travel 🙂
Maha Gandayon monastery compound monk feeding. Conflicted about attending the tourist spectacle, it was pleasing to see genuine interaction from the novices. Perhaps the senior monks are far more over it.
Maha Gandayon monastery compound monk feeding. Conflicted about attending the tourist spectacle, it was pleasing to see genuine interaction from the novice monks.
Myanmar - top 20 photos 16-1
I feel the senior monks are far more over it.
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Sagaing Hill
Sagaing Hill
Sagaing Hill
Sagaing Hill
Sagaing Hill
inwa-1
Take a horse and cart around Inwa, otherwise it’s a long, hot walk.
Inwa
Inwa
inwa 5-1
What a setting for a lesson!
U-Bein Bridge, Mandalay
U-Bein Bridge, Mandalay

Tips:

  • We dawdled walking up Sagaing Hill, but that left us very little time to see Inwa. Give yourself at least 1.5-2 hours in Inwa.
  • I’ve read from other posts not to bother with Inwa, but would say it would be a loss to not see this forgotten capital overtaken by nature. 

Budget for 2 people:
Accommodation at Hotel 1: 27,000 kyats
Pick up to sights: 17,000 kyats
Lunch: 3,000 kyats
Snacks and donations: 3,100 kyats
Inwa boat: 2,000 kyats
Horse & cart: 3,000 kyats
Laundry: 8,500 kyats
Dinner & drinks: 13,600 kyats

Day 8 – Mandalay to Hsipaw

Day: It was a lazy morning, organising our laundry and luggage plus having a proper sleep-in before our 6-hour bus ride to Hsipaw. The bus ticket we organised through our hotel at a fair price with the stop being around the corner before transferring to the bus station.

Nightime: That night however was a super active evening eating more tea leaf salad (I became an addict!) and having a pretty heavy chat session with a couple of Burmese and Thai people we met. The Thai guys were using Mr Charles as a film set for their romantic tale entitled from Bangkok to Myanmar. It’s a love story in English due for release next year. I’ll be certain to check it out.

Bone, our new Burmese bestie (everyone is your best mate at 3am) organised for a scooter ride to a waterfall and pagoda the next day after his work shift.

Budget for 2 people:
Bus to Hsipaw: 10,000 kyats
Accommodation at Mr Charles: 18,000 kyats
Lunch: 3,000 kyats
Dinner & drinks: 11,000 kyats

Day 9 – Hsipaw

Afternoon: A mighty sleep in was needed after the late night d&m(deep and meaningful conversations). 

We met up with Bone and his friend Chocolate and rode to a waterfall about 30 mins out of town. It’s one of the falls you would see as part of your trekking from Hsipaw. Similar to ‘Sticky waterfalls’ in Chiang Mai, you can climb up these ones.
We met up with Bone and his friend Chocolate and rode to a waterfall about 30 mins out of town. It’s one of the falls you would see as part of your trekking from Hsipaw. Similar to ‘Sticky waterfalls’ in Chiang Mai, you can climb up these ones.
Then onto an amazing turquoise mirrored temple nearby.
Then onto an amazing turquoise mirrored temple nearby.

Evening: We took our scooter up to Sunset Hill, for another spectacular day’s end over this quaint agriculture town.

Sunset hill-1

Budget for 2 people:
Accommodation at Mr Charles: 18,000 kyats
Bike: 12,000 kyats
Petrol: 2,000 kyats
Snacks: 3,600 kyats
Lunch: 5,000 kyats
Dinner & drinks: 16,300 kyats

Day 10 – Hsipaw

Day: We didn’t book any treks in Myanmar, be it from Kalaw to Inle or around Hsipaw, so it was time to get the legs moving. We opted to walk to the nearby waterfall through rice fields and villages, which are about a 2-hour return trip. We had hoped to also get to the hot springs, but they have built a dam nearby so the hot springs no longer exist (damn you dam). Instead we walked around the town watching how people live and work in their community.

waterfall 2-1

train station-1

fields-1

 

bathing-1 balloons-1

sunset by quarry-1

Budget for 2 people:
Accommodation at Mr Charles: 18,000 kyats
Bike: 12,000 kyats
Petrol: 2,000 kyats
Snacks: 1,900 kyats
Lunch: 4,500 kyats
Dinner & drinks: 22,800 kyats

Day 11 – Hsipaw

Day: Sad to be leaving Hsipaw, we had another travelling day to get back to Mandalay for an onward journey to the land of temples – Bagan.

We had all good intentions to visit the candlelight market at 3.30am, but were advised that market sellers now use electricity and there isn’t the same Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon glow. Perhaps we were wrong, but such are travel choices.

Now onto the train ride over the Goetek Viaduct.

richard on train-1

viaduct-1

Do you like milkshakes? Do you want to feel like a human version of one? Then the train to Pyin U Lwin over the Goetek Viaduct is for you. I don’t get motion sick, but glad I took a couple of travel sickness pills and watched the world go by in my sleepy daze. Here’s some footage:


After arriving in Pyin U Lwin, we joined a family of locals travelling to Mandalay and got a ride in their already packed songtaew. An equally windy and bumpy journey, but at the speed of Road Runner you are at least getting your fill of fresh air and the 2 hours back to Mandalay seems to pale in comparison to the 7 hours on the ‘Shake what your mamma gave ya’ train. NB: The train was expected to arrive at 4.05pm, but we pulled into Pyin U Lwin at 5.00pm. Do not expect this train to run on time. There are also lots of reports of bed bugs, but we didn’t experience any of this (travelled 25 October 2015).

Budget for 2 people:
Train to Pyin U Lwin: 5,500 kyats
Snacks: 1,500 kyats
Lunch: 2,700 kyats
Songtaew/ Pick-up from Pyin U Lwin to Mandalay: 4,000 kyats
Taxi to hotel: 4,500 kyats
Accommodation at Hotel 8: 32,500 kyats
Dinner & drinks: 20,000 kyats

Day 12 – Mandalay to Bagan

Day: Another travel day and we opted to book the OK mini bus to Bagan. Originally I was planning for a boat trip along the Irrawaddy but I decided against this for two reasons: 1) The price tag at $50USD per person we spent on better accommodation in Bagan. 2). We also experienced a boat trip along the Irrawaddy when we visited Mingun and I can’t see how another 8 hours of a similar journey would add much more to our experience.

We were driving into Bagan as the sun was setting, and it was incredible. The side of the road is dotted with temples. No amount of photos of Bagan could really prepare me for what was in stall.

The night was tame with a swim and a puppet show; our first in Myanmar. It’s a big thing here but the Hotel Kaday Aung provided this free, so not sure I would go out to pay for it.

puppet-1

Budget for 2 people:
Bus to Bagan: 18,000 kyats
Accommodation at Kaday Aung: 50,500 kyats
Lunch: 4,300 kyats
Snacks: 3,000 kyats
Dinner: 27,000 kyats

Day 13 – Bagan

Day: Our first day in Bagan and it was also our friend’s birthday and a full moon. We were in for a treat!

Bagan is best told in pictures. Here you go:

bagan-1  bagan 19-1 bagan 9-1 bagan 4-1bagan 8-1 bagan 7-1 bagan 2-1

Budget for 2 people:
Accommodation at Kaday Aung: 50,500 kyats
Painting souvenir: 15,100 kyats
E-bikes: 10,000 kyats
Lunch: 9,500 kyats
Souvenir gift: 4,500 kyats
Snacks: 2,200 kyats
Donation: 1,000 kyats
Dinner: 41,600 kyats 

Day 14 – Bagan

After a festive evening the three of us in dark sunglasses travelled to Mt Popa, about an hour away from Bagan to climb the many stairs to the top.

We were feeling special. Like real special.

mt popa-1

At the top, we may have as well been celebrities. With rural Burmese people in town for celebrations around the Light Festival. Babies were handed to me and I was rocking the peace sign. (For whatever reason, that was my thing for these photos).

We spent the rest of the afternoon eating dragon fruit and going for a refreshing dip in the pool before a walk along candle lit streets for the Light Festival. We visited a nearby temple and monastic school. Magical, magical!

thumbs up-1

light festival-1

Budget for 2 people:
Accommodation at Kaday Aung: 50,500 kyats
Tour to Mt Popa: 20,000 kyats
Lunch: 3,700 kyats
Snacks: 2,350 kyats (including dragon fruit- Yum!)
Dinner: 16,300 kyats

Day 15 – Bagan

You better like early starts, because Bagan is best at dawn.

bagan 11-1

We opted for a scooter today, with Rich in the driving seat as we had a lot of ground to cover and whilst I could ride an e-bike, I’m a bit slow 🙂

bagan 13-1

Budget for 2 people:
Scooter: 8,000 kyats
Souvenir bowl: 5,500 kyats
Souvenir painting: 10,000 kyats
Lunch: 2,000 kyats (you got to love Mohinga, cheap and good)
Iced coffee treat: 4,000 kyats
Dinner: 5,800 kyats
Dinner: 16,300 kyats
Overnight bus to Yangon with JJ Express: 51,500 kyats

Day 16 – Yangon

The over night bus was with JJ Express. Their motto is “the way of the true and the way of life”. Well I felt like I was ready to meet my maker. Easily the worst transport ride I have had and that includes the train from Hsipaw and the Elvis hips of boat rides in Honduras.

Drug yourself and go to sleep. It’s the only way.

So on this note, the day in Yangon was very slow and a groggy one. We caught up on photo sorting, work and emails with the little Internet we had.

That night we hit the town for a sensible final night at Faranheit with lush cocktails and ceviche starter.

Budget for 2 people:

Taxi from Yangon bus station to accommodation: 7,000 Kyats
Accommodation at Motherland Inn 2: 45,200 kyats
Lunch: 15,000 kyats
Snacks: 3,000
Dinner: 32,000 kyats

Day 17 – Fly out of Yangon

We had a midday flight to Bangkok, leaving us time only to have breakfast and go to the airport in a 7,000 kyats cab ride.

Myanmar on $30 a day

You will be able to see we flash-packed in Bagan and Inle Lake and went cheap everywhere else. We utilised overnight buses to get more bang for our kyats. While not always the most comfortable, you have to get around and flights are not cheap.

Our total spend not including flights and visas was 1,412,650 kyats and a conversion of 1290 kyats to $US over 17 days it works out to be US$32 per person per day. Now I think it would be easy to get that to $30 per day, given we had some major drink and food blowouts plus being suckered into buying souvenirs. 

Two week itinerary

I call it a two week itinerary because I messed up on doubling up in Mandalay. You can get to from Hsipaw direct from Inle Lake. It’s a long bus ride of 12-14 hours and overnight but saves you two days of travel. You can also cut Hsipaw down to 2 nights instead of 3.

Tripmasher coming soon…

This is where Tripmashers’ web application will come into its own. You can store details by date, change things around, discover attractions and things to do in nearby towns. Record all those great blog posts with important details and insights. I could share this itinerary and you could store it for your own upcoming trip, making tweaks to suit your travelling style and needs. It’s coming soon, but until then, we must manage 🙂

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Myanmar – Two week itinerary and budget
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