Due to its location, midway between Yangon and Mandalay, the biggest cities in Myanmar, and the construction of a new highway, which is currently going on, Bago (spelled formerly as Pegu), Bago is readily accessible and, unlike for instance the city of Kawthaung, not isolated. In fact, Bago is the fourth biggest city in Myanmar and an ex, multiple times, capital of various kings and rulers of Burma. Today, it is the capital of the Bago Division of Myanmar. The city itself has around 245,000 residents, by the 2005 census, but it probably has significantly more than that actually.
Getting to Bago
Being located some 80km north-east of the ex-capital, and still the biggest city in Myanmar, Yangon, there are many options to get in and out of Bago. There are regular bus lines arriving to the city from Yangon a few times every day, and continuing for other cities, such as Mandalay or the current capital of the country, Naypyidaw, to the north. The highway which is the newest in Myanmar goes through this city, making it very accessible by road traffic. The very famous town of Kyaiktiyo, known for its golden boulder and pagoda balancing precariously over a cliff, is also pretty close, some 120 kilometers southeast of the town.
Bago has one main bus station (the Highway Bus Station), and many smaller ones, which are more of a bus stops or terminals.
From Yangon, there is a regular line coming from the Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal every hour, starting from 7am. Price of the ticket is around K7000, or $6. This is the price for foreign tourists, domestic passengers are charged much less, so don’t be surprised if you notice the difference. This trip lasts about 2 hours. There is also an alternative way to get from Yangon to Bago, a cheaper one; get to the Saw Bwar Gyi Gone Bus Station near the airport, and from there a bus leaves to Bago. The trip lasts about an hour, and the price is K1000, or slightly less than $1. The roads from Yangon to Bago are pretty well-maintained and safe, and the buses are comfortable.
From Mawlamyine, located around 230 kilometers south-east from Bago, the buses leave to the city at 7am, 8am, 9am, and at 12:30am. The trip lasts for about 4 hours and 15 minutes. Tickets cost about K 10,000, or around $9.
From Hpa-An , there is one bus leaving for Bago from the city’s Clock Tower, and getting into Bago in some 4, or 5 hours. Ticket costs around K10,000, but can even be cheaper, around $6. There are also other buses going from Mawlamyine , stopping in Hpa-An, and continuing to Yangon, stopping in Bago on the way.
There are also regular bus lines from Kyaiktiyo to Bago, a 100 kilometers trip, which takes about 2 hours to complete. Some of these bus routes continue to Yangon. Being on the highway, many more buses can be taken for this trip. Perhaps for that same reason, the price can be bargained down to some $4. There are currently 4 departures from Kyaiktiyo to Bago, at 6am, 8am, 9am, and 1pm, but new routes are being opened daily, especially since the construction of the new Burmese super highway, so make sure to check all the info before making a decision.
Inle Lake is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Myanmar, so there are regular bus lines from and to the Lake from every bigger city in the country, including Bago. It is a lengthy trip, though, passing through the capital Naypyidaw, on a super highway, and continuing further on to Bago. The trip takes almost 9 hours, and the ticket costs around $10 to $20, depending on which bus does one decide to take. All three arrive to Bago in the morning. Perhaps the better alternative is to take a plane from the city of Heho, some 20 km from the Lake, to Yangon, and from there getting a bus to Bago. There are 8 to 10 daily flights, and they last about 45 minutes, directly, or about 2 hours and 20 minutes with connecting flights. Admittedly, the tickets are more expensive, but it s definitely a good alternative to taking an exhausting bus ride.
It should be pointed out that a taxi ride can be taken from Yangon, which is a lot more comfortable and fast, and costs around $40, or whatever one manages to bargain to. Being so close to the capital Yangon, and on a newly constructed highway, Bago is easily accessible from practically any part of the country.
Bago has a Central Train Station, which is a pretty busy place. You guessed, because many trains continue to, and leave from, Yangon. It is also a cheap and pretty comfy alternative to flying or riding on buses.
There are at least three arrivals to the Bago Train Station daily from Yangon. It takes around 2 hours for trains to get from Yangon to Bago.
From the city of Mawlamyine, there are also three departures daily arriving to the Central Train Station. The trains from Mawlamyine pass through Kyaikto, and arrive to Bago in about 7 hours.
Trains from Mandalay arrive to Bago in just above 8 hours, which is understandable having in mind the distance and the fact they pass through Naypyidaw on the way, stopping there and in some other places on the way. There are three daily departures to Bag from Mandalay, just like in the case of Mawlamyne and Yangon.
Of course, there is also a direct railway line from the capital Naypyidaw going to the ex-capital Yangon and passing through Bago. Depending on which of the three trains going this way daily one chooses, they should arrive in 7 to maximum 9 hours.
It might be good to know that the Bago International Airport is under construction, and is scheduled to be finished by 2022. It was supposed to be ended by 2015, but this was postponed for unknown reasons.
Getting around Bago
When it comes to moving around the city itself, the best way is, probably, walking. The city isn’t that big, and its landmarks and attractions are scattered throughout the city, but the alternative ways of getting around Bago should be considered.
Just like in some other, or many other, cities in Myanmar, this is the most commonly used and the cheapest and most convenient mean of transportation for locals and tourists alike. The streets are swarming with motorbikes, many of which are available for rent, with or without a driver. Of course, the cheaper solution does not include a driver, but this is a two-edged sword, since getting around can be confusing for the first timers. The good thing is that all attractions are pretty close to each other, so not much of navigating skills are required. Nevertheless, it is safer to try and find a driver/guide who can speak, or at least understand English or French, and bargain for a decent price. Usually, the price for the entire day is K6,000, or around $5.
Tuk tuk is also very popular in Bago, just like in other Myanmar cities. Sharing a tuk tuk is the cheapest option, although not the safest and most comfortable. Tu tuks are very convenient for sightseeing in Bago, due to the proximity of its sights, which are all close to each other. The price shouldn’t be higher than K1,000, or $1. This is the highest price, so one can feel free to bargain for less.
Common throughout the country, but still a very affordable and safe way of getting around cities. Besides obvious advantages, present in all cities in the country, renting a bike in Bago is especially convenient due to its low price, fair quality and, of course, the locations of its main attractions. One shouldn’t pay renting a bike more than K1,000 or $1 for the entire day.
This is necessary for those in a hurry or wishing to visit some other sights around Bago, but pretty expensive for those who just want to get around the city. Additionally, most taxi drivers will try to rip-off tourists by asking them to pay a fraction of a K10,000 fee which the government demands for visiting some sights in the city. This can be avoided, so be very careful when opting for this way of getting around town. The fare is entirely a matter of one’s bargaining skills and persistence.
Compared to most cities in Myanmar, Bago is very accessible, and the quality of the roads is very high. Travelling around city should be a pleasant experience for those who read the advices we gathered here.