Getting to and around Yangon, Myanmar; Travel/Tourist Information Guide
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Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, is the biggest city in Myanmar. Although replaced as capital by Naypyidaw, it remains the country’s most important and developed city.
Getting to Yangon
If the saying “All roads lead to Rome” was once true for the ancient world, it can now be applied to Yangon, if we limited to the roads in Myanmar, of course. Every significant traffic route leads to or from this city.
Yangon International Airport is located some 15 kilometers north of the city. It service flights to and from every bigger city in Asia, as well domestic flights from all over Myanmar. Arrivals and departures are performed from two terminals; international and domestic.
International terminal is larger and newer. From this terminal, tourists and visitors can get to Yangon by one of the many taxis waiting in front of the airport. The fare is generally pretty cheap, and costs around $8. Of course, as so many other prices in Myanmar, this can also be bargained down. There is also an option of getting to Yangon by bus. This option includes walking some 3 kilometers to the nearest bus terminal. The bus ticket is very cheap, and costs around 30 cents. Domestic terminal is a little down the road from the international one, approximately 150 meters. It services flights from every airway company and city in Myanmar. Same transportation options apply to Yangon as is the case with the international terminal. Of course, walking to Yangon is the cheapest, and to so rarely used option.
The biggest train station in Myanmar is located in Yangon. It connects the city with every region and all big cities in Myanmar to the country’s biggest city. Yangon Central Railway station conducts railway traffic on the country’s biggest route, Yangon-Mandalay, and the one way ticket for this journey costs around $30. There are also trains coming in from Bagan, Inle Lake, north of Yangon, or Mawlamyine to the south. There are two kinds of tickets to be bought at Yangon Central Railway Station; the “regular” tickets, meaning that they apply for any departure of a specific railway destination, and “the same day only” tickets, which, as the name suggest, only apply for departures on the day they were bought. Interestingly, they are not bought at the same counter, “the same day tickets” being sold at the main station’s building, and the “regular” ones some 20 meters to the east. The Yangon Central Railway Station’s building is listed in the Yangon Heritage Site List, as one of the city’s prominent landmarks.
There are two main bus terminals in Yangon. Long-distance buses are air-conditioned with reclining seats. Tickets are sold at one of the terminals, or any other place designated for the purpose. Unfortunately, most of them are marked only in Burmese, so it is recommendable to buy tickets either directly at a terminal, or one of the many bus companies’ ticket offices just north of the Yangon Central Train Station, and near Aung San Stadium. The main bus terminals in Yangon are Aung Mingala Highway Bus Terminal, northeast of the Yangon International Airport; Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal, on Highway 5, on the other side of the Yangon River; and Tha Khin Mya Pan-gyan Gate, near Tha Khin Mya Park, within walking distance from downtown. As there are many bus terminals and bus companies in the city, prices of the tickets vary significantly, but can nonetheless be characterized as cheap. For instance, tickets for a ride to Mandalay, the most frequented route, cost from $10 to $18.
Being located very near to the Andaman Sea (at its bay, to be precise), and with the Irrawaddy and many other smaller rivers floating through and around the city, Yangon is readily accessible for boats and ferries. Ferries to Yangon arrive from all over the country, as well from some international ports. Prices are very variable, depending on the route, ferry company, etc.
Getting around Yangon
When it comes to getting around the bustling city itself, there are five main options: by train, by bus, by taxi, by ferry, or by trishaw. Motorbikes are not allowed within the city, while renting a car is forbidden to foreigners. Bicycles can be rented, for some $2 per day, and might actually be both the cheapest and most convenient means of transportation in the city. Excluding walking, of course, which is not very recommendable, since traffic does not stop for pedestrians in Yangon.
There are many circular train stations in Yangon, used by both tourists and locals alike. The ticket for one ride in either direction (clockwise or vice-versa), are very cheap and cost around a quarter, or $0.25. Some tourists, and rightfully so, consider the ride to be an attraction by itself. Tickets can be bought at one of the many stations, or in a little office on Platform 7 at the Central Railway Station.
There are thousands of city buses running on approximately 250 bus lines. Most of the buses are privately owned, and ticket prices are next to free. Most buses, vast majority in fact, are very uncomfortable and old, not to mention how crowded they can get. Still, tickets to virtually anywhere in the city are very cheap, and some drivers don’t even bother to charge for shorter rides. A big problem might be that all of the routes and signs are written in Burmese, but tourists can usually reach an agreement with drivers by simply shouting the name of the station or attraction where they want to get off. Sounds silly, but it works.
One of the most popular and probably most comfortable way of getting around Yangon is by taxi. Foreigners are not allowed to drive in Yangon, so this is the best way to visit many touristic attractions that Yangon offers. Standing taxis are almost always more expensive than roving taxis. So, tourists will in most cases pay significantly less for a taxi they have stopped on a street, than for the one waiting in front of the hotel. Drivers know the major landmarks, and they can understand basic English. The fare for locations in and around downtown should be about 1,000 to 2,000 Kyat, which is from $1 to $2. Taxis can be hired by the hour for around $3, or by the day for about US$20 to $30. Taxis are equipped with meters, but they are not always used.
This used to be the most popular form of transportation around Yangon for tourists. Understandably, since the city is very much located on water surfaces. Yangon's four main passenger jetties are located near the downtown waterfront. Passenger ferries still travel the major waterways, but they are now mostly local ferries to cross the river, and regional ferries to the Irrawaddy delta.
The ever-popular trishaws are a common sight in many suburbs and peripheral areas of Yangon, but are not permitted in the downtown area before 10am. Of course, like in every other city in Asia that has an abundance of trishaws, the fare depends solely on one’s bargaining skills, but shouldn’t be higher than $1 for a 15-minute ride.
It can be noted that getting around Myanmar’s biggest and most crowded city might be a little tricky, and the advices listed in this article are meant to help tourists in getting the best and cheapest options available to them. To be honest, all options seem to be cheap, but it is always helpful to have some additional information about getting around Yangon.