A Mandalay - Lashio train on the famous Gokteik viaduct in Shan state, Myanmar.

The railroad to Mandalay...  A train from Lashio to Mandalay crosses the famous Gokteik Viaduct in Shan state, northern Burma.  Photo courtesy of Bernhard Heiser of www.asiaphoto.de, which has excellent pictures of what to see in Burma...   

 

Click here for interactive train route map

 

I recommend a hotel search at hotelscombined.com:

See Burma by train...

Burma is not noted for the attractiveness of its regime, to put it mildly, but things are improving.  www.burmacampaign.org.uk used to tell tourists not to go to Burma at all, but it changed this advice in 2012.  If you decide to go, you'll find a fascinating country which is easy and safe to visit, with friendly and honest people.  Paradoxically, the lack of mass tourism due to the boycott of the regime has preserved Burma from westernisation, making it one of the most interesting places to visit now, before it's too late.  Burma's British-built railways are less developed than others in Southeast Asia, but you'll find the trains are a wonderful way to get around and experience the country at ground level, avoiding unnecessary domestic flights and cramped buses.  The journeys are as much an adventure as the country itself.

Train times, fares & information...

  Yangon - Bago - Naypyitaw - Thazi - Mandalay

  Yangon - Bagan

  Yangon - Thazi - Kalaw - Shwenyaung (for Inle lake)

  Yangon - Bago - Kyaikto - Mawlamyine (Moulmein) - Ye - Dawei

  Yangon - Pyay

  Mandalay - Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo) - Gokteik - Hsipaw - Lashio

  Mandalay - Kawlin - Myitkyina

  Mandalay - Kalaw - Shwenyaung (for Inle lake)

  Mandalay - Bagan by train

  Mandalay - Bagan - Pyay - Yangon by Irrawaddy river steamer

  Mandalay - Bagan by The Road to Mandalay luxury river cruise

  How to buy tickets

  What are Burmese trains like?

  Yangon Circle Line trains

  Map of train routes in Southeast Asia

  Useful country information - visas, currency, time zone...

  Hotels & accommodation in Burma

Is it Myanmar or Burma?

Myanmar is the Burmese-language name for Burma, and always was, even in colonial times.  Burma is the English-language name for Myanmar, and still is.  The Burmese government switched to using the Burmese-language name for the country in 1948, and in 1989 also switched to using the Burmese-language names for a number of places around the country.  On this webpage, the Burmese names are used first, with the familiar English-language name in brackets, for example Yangon (Rangoon) or Mawlamyine (Moulmein).

International travel to or from Burma...

There are no trains, buses, or ferries between Burma and neighbouring countries.  In fact, it can be difficult to enter Burma overland from India, China or Thailand because most borders are closed to foreigners and in many cases foreigners are not permitted in key border areas anyway.  Things are changing, slowly, and there are now two or three border crossings open to Thailand, although none as far as I know to India.  Overland travel to or from Burma remains a problem.

Can you help? 

The Burmese Railways don't have a website, and this page is kept up to date by feedback from travellers.  If you find that fares or times have changed, or can fill gaps in the information, please email me.  If you find times or prices have changed from those shown on this page, a photo of the fare & timetable boards at the station would be much appreciated!

Sponsored links...

 

Useful country information

Train operator:

Myanmar Railways (MR) - No official website, but try agency sites  www.yangonow.com/eng/transportation/train/fare.html or www.myanmarmtetours.com/myanmar_train_schedule.htm.

Time zone:

GMT+6½ all year.

Dialling code:

+95

Currency:

US$ widely accepted.  Credit cards and travellers' cheques are NOT accepted in Burma.  Local currency is Kyat (pronounced 'chat'), £1 = approx 1,600 kyat, $1 = approx 950 kyat.

Hotels:

Hotels in Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake

Flights:

Flights to Burma

Visas:

UK citizens need a visa to visit Burma (Myanmar), obtainable from the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar, 19a Charles Street, London W1X 8ER, visa section open 10:00-13:00 Mon-Fri, visa fee £14.  Call 020 7629 4486 or 24 hour visa info line (premium rates) 0891 600306 or 0891 600 306.  Fax 020 7629 4169.  In 2012 there were rumours of a new 'Visa on arrival' system about to be introduced.  Health & vaccinations

Page last updated:

20 July 2014


Yangon (Rangoon) to Mandalay

Inter-city, Burma-style...

The Rangoon to Mandalay express trains are a pretty comfortable and in fact relatively fast and punctual option for travel between these cities.  Pretty bumpy in places, that's true, but much more comfortable than cramped buses and infinitely more of a genuine Burmese experience than any flight.  In fact, the train ride is a highly recommended experience, over the old British-built colonial railway.  Most Rangoon-Mandalay trains were rescheduled to run by day rather than overnight in 2006 when the government moved the capital to Naypyitaw, but switched back to being mostly overnight from January 2012.  The timetable below comes from confirmed data from 2014, beware of a number of Burmese websites showing out-of-date timetables.

 Yangon Mandalay

 Train number:

11

31

9/141

5

3

7

 Classes:

U,O

U,O

U,O

S,U,1,O,R

S,U,1,O,R

U,O

 Yangon (Rangoon)

depart

06:00

08:00

11:00

15:00

17:00

20:30

 Bago (Pegu)

arrive

07:45

09:40

13:01

16:41

18:45

22:10

depart

07:48

09:43

13:16

16:44

18:48

22:13

 Taungoo  

arrive

12:21

14:07

19:22

20:49

23:15

02:20

depart

12:31

14:10

19:37

20:59

23:25

02:23

 Naypyitaw

arrive

15:19

17:00

22:50

23:29

01:54

05:00

depart

15:22

-

22:55

23:32

01:57

-

 Thazi

arrive

18:12

-

03:30

02:08

04:55

-

depart

18:15

-

-

02:11

04:58

-

 Mandalay

arrive

21:00

-

-

05:00

07:45

-

S = upper class sleeping-car   U = upper class seats  1 = first class seats  O = ordinary class seats  R = restaurant

The timetable shown here is new for 2014, all these trains run daily.  Beware of travel agency websites with outdated times.  ? = Estimated time.

Rangoon to Mandalay is 622 km (388 miles).  Rangoon to Naypyitaw is 372 km (233 miles).  Rangoon to Thazi is 493 km (308 miles). 

Train 9/10 runs to/from Kalaw & Shwenyaung becoming train 141/142, see below.  It's a slow train, and isn't always shown on station timetable boards.

 Mandalay ► Yangon

Train number:

8

142/10

32

12

6

4

 Classes:

U,O

U,O

U,O

U,1,O

S,U,1,O,R

S,U,1,O,R

 Mandalay depart:

depart

-

-

-

06:00

15:00

17:00

 Thazi

arrive

-

-

-

08:51

17:46

19:46

depart

-

22:00

-

08:54

17:49

19:49

 Naypyitaw

arrive

-

02:04

-

11:51

20:33

22:48

depart

20:00

02:09

08:00

11:54

20:36

22:51

 Taungoo

arrive

22:32

05:16

10:56

14:41

23:08

01:17

depart

22:35

05:36

10:59

14:51

23:18

01:27

 Bago (Pegu)

arrive

02:55

11:59

15:20

18:56

03:13

05:46

depart

02:58

12:11

15:23

18:59

03:16

05:49

 Yangon (Rangoon) arrive:

arrive

04:35

14:40

17:00

21:00

05:00

07:45

How to buy tickets      What are Burmese trains like?      Hotels & accommodation     Map of train routes in Southeast Asia

Upper class car, Rangoon-Mandalay express train.   Modern Upper class seats on Rangoon (Yangon) to Mandalay train 5.

Upper class seats:  Upper class cars on a Rangoon to Mandalay express are actually quite comfortable.  There is no air-conditioning, which is almost an advantage because the windows open for a cool breeze and unrivalled views of the Burmese countryside.  Sleeper photos.

 New cheaper fares - from April 2014

 One-way, either direction, in kyat  

Upper class

sleeper

Upper class

seat

First class

seat

Ordinary

seat

 Rangoon to Mandalay

12,750 ($14)

9,300 ($10)

?

4,600

 Rangoon to Thazi

10,100 ($11)

?

?

?

 Rangoon to Naypyitaw

-

5,600 ($6)

?

?

 Rangoon to Bago

-

1,150 ($1)

?

600

 Mandalay to Rangoon

12,750 ($14)

9,300 ($10)

?

4,600

 Mandalay to Thazi

?

?

?

1,000

 Mandalay to Naypyitaw

?

?

?

?

 Mandalay to Bago

?

?

?

?

Children under 3 years old travel free, children under 10 pay half fare.

£1 = approx 1,600 kyat, $1 = approx 950 kyat.  If you can help fill the gaps in this table, please email me!

How to buy tickets   Important update:  From April 2014 foreigners no longer need to pay in US dollars

About the journey...

  Passing Bago on the special sleeper from Rangoon (Yangon) to Mandalay...
 

Night express to Mandalay...  The afternoon train from Rangoon to Mandalay passes Bago.  The open windows and relatively slow speeds make train travel a great way to see Burma.  The semaphore signals are unmistakably British...

Contrary to what you might read in your guidebook, the Rangoon to Mandalay express trains are a comfortable, fairly fast and reasonably punctual way to travel between Rangoon and Mandalay.  Trains are available for boarding at Rangoon in good time (normally at the platform right in front of you when you enter the station), and they generally depart promptly with whistles blown, flags waved, and a long low hoot from the locomotive.

The train trundles out of Rangoon at just 15mph with the local children trying to hang on to the outside, accelerating to 40-45mph once clear of the city, clickety-clacking past small villages of palm-thatched cottages built on stilts, ox carts trundling slowly along dusty roads, and occasional white or gold stupas.  Burmese children love to wave at trains, especially if they see a western face at the window, and will smile broadly when you wave back.  You'll be travelling along a railway originally built by the British - look out for the old-fashioned semaphore signals and mock-Tudor signal boxes at Bago.

Even when night falls, you'll see the palm trees silhouetted in the moonlight, and the smell of the village cooking fires will drift into your sleeper compartment through the open window.  Make sure you have a jumper or fleece handy if you travel overnight, as it can get very cold a few hours after dark.  The track is not the best in the world and in places it will put your carriage suspension through its paces, but you stand a good chance of arriving at the other end within 5 or 10 minutes of the advertised time.  However, delays of 30 - 60 minutes or more are not uncommon, so make allowances.

Travellers' reports...

Traveller Roger Minns reports:  "After a last shower we set off on the midday walk to the station and our rendezvous with our upper class seats of the ’Chinese 29 up train’ from Rangoon bound for Mandalay leaving at 12.30 [this particular train no longer runs].  And there it was!  A spacious carriage with collapsed but still surprisingly comfortable seats (albeit in the permanently fully-reclined mode) some 40 years old but mercifully with windows which opened fully and a ceiling full of fans which worked!  The carriage was full with polite local people including a couple of monks.  We left on time through the outskirts of Rangoon and then through an arid farming area.  People working on the land with oxen but no tractors or farm equipment – unbelievably arduous work.  Occasionally our train slowed or stopped at a station when a multitude of vendors would get on – often emerging from the roof with a range of hot and cold food offerings – including, to Tom’s undisguised delight, a bloke with tins of coldish Myanmar beer.  There was also a restaurant service of sorts on board and Graham in particular took full advantage of the supply of noodles, curries and, inevitably, coffee.  After dark the lights didn’t really work so we tried to sleep in fairly uncomfortable circumstances.  It was chilly, but with the windows closed not excessively so, and we all managed to kip for a bit. Any urge Tom and I might have had to visit the loo rapidly evaporated when a rather shaken-looking Graham returned with a report that there was a loose turd rolling around on the lavatory floor!  Then, suddenly at 3am, our arrival on time at Mandalay Station!  We had worried about arriving at Mandalay at 3 in the morning expecting the place to be dead. Far from it! The station was humming with music, tea houses, people sleeping on the platform and, inevitably, taxi drivers! "

Rangoon (Yangon) railway station   Train to Mandalay leaves Rangoon (Yangon)

Rangoon's colonial railway station...

 

The train leaves Rangoon...

Signal box on the Yangon to Mandalay railway   Sleeping-car on a Yangon to Mandalay train

A green flag from Bago signal box...

 

Upper class sleeping-car at Bago...

On the Rangoon (Yangon) to Mandalay train   Village seen from the Rangoon (Yangon) to Mandalay train

People walk the tracks...

 

...you can smell the village fires.

On the Rangoon (Yangon) to Mandalay train   Me, on the train to Mandalay

...there's even the odd golden stupa.

 

Mandalay here we come!

On the Rangoon (Yangon) to Mandalay train   Me, on the train to Mandalay

More village scenes from the train...

 

Mandalay station. Courtesy of Lindsay Stubbs


Yangon to Bagan

Bagan, where 800-year-old temples and stupas litter a huge plain as far as the eye can see, should not be missed, and it's a highlight on most visitors' itineraries.  There is a daily direct train from Rangoon to Bagan introduced in early 2010, with a sleeping-car with 2 and 4 bed compartments, see the photo below.  Expect a bit of a bumpy ride, but a real adventure, across Burma on a sleeper train passing occasional golden stupas with the smell of the village fire wafting in on the cool breeze through your open window.  For an account of a journey on this train with photos, see http://lesleyleephotography.com/myanmar-by-train.  Alternatively, you could take an express train from Rangoon to Mandalay, visit Mandalay, then travel to Bagan using the express ferry, a wonderful journey.  Here are the details for the direct train.  Feedback always appreciated!  There's an entrance fee for foreigners for the Bagan, US$15.

 Yangon ► Bagan

 

 

  

      

 

 Bagan ► Yangon

Train number:

61

 Train number:

62

Days of running:

Daily

Days of running:

Daily

Classes:

S,U,O

Classes:

S,U,O

 Rangoon (Yangon) depart:

16:00 day 1

 Bagan (Pagan) depart:

17:00 day 1

 Bagan (Pagan) arrive:

09:31 day 2

 Rangoon (Yangon) arrive:

10:30 day 2

S = upper class sleeping-car;  U = upper class seats;  O = ordinary class seatsHow to buy ticketsWhat are Burmese trains like?

 New cheaper fares - from 1 April 2014

  One-way, either direction in kyat

Upper class

sleeper

Upper class

seat

First class

seat

 Rangoon to Bagan

16,500 ($17)

9,000 ($10)

4,500

Children under 3 years old travel free, children under 10 pay half fare.

Important update:  From April 2014 foreigners no longer need to pay in US dollars

How to buy tickets

Bagan station is a modern pagoda-style station in the middle of nowhere about 5km southeast of the Nyaung Oo township, roughly 9km from Old Bagan.  It's possibly one of the few stations in the world further from the town it serves than the airport!

To buy tickets in Bagan, you don't have to go all the way out to the station as there's a Myanmar Railways ticket office in Nyaung Oo, on Lanmadaw street, opposite the Grand Empire Hotel.  The office is in a shop for kitchen equipment, called the 'Blue Sea Kitchen Mart'. Tickets are sold up to 3 days in advance.  The office opens at 09:00 and closes late afternoon, around 17:00 or 18:00.

Sleeper on the Yangon to Bagan train   The Bagan to Yangon train being shunted at Bagan station

Sleeper on the Yangon to Bagan train.  Courtesy Eckart Spindler.

 

The Bagan to Yangon train being shunted into the platform at Bagan.  Courtesy of Eckart Spindler.

Restaurant car on the Yangon to Bagan train   Bagan railway station

Restaurant car on the Yangon to Bagan train.  Courtesy of Eckart Spindler.

 

Bagan railway station.  Courtesy of Eckart Spindler.

Sunset over the Irrawaddy, from the Bagan Thande Hotel   The temples of Bagan

Sunset over the Irrawaddy, from the recommended Bagan Thande Hotel.

 

In Bagan, ancient temples litter the plain as far as the eye can see...


Yangon or Mandalay to Kalaw & Inle Lake

A journey to Inle Lake on the Slow Train From Thazi...

Inle Lake is one of the most beautiful places in Burma, and it's not surprising that it attracts many visitors.  The usual base for exploring the lake is Nyaungshwe, at the north end of the lake.  Trains and buses don't go directly to Nyaungshwe, but go to the main town of Shwenyaung 11 km away, from where there are plenty of local taxis or buses to Nyaungshwe.  So to reach Inle Lake, first take an express train from Rangoon or Mandalay to Thazi and stop overnight, then travel to Shwenyaung on either a bus taking 4-5 hours on bad roads or by far the better option, on an absolutely amazing scenic ride on the 'Slow Train From Thazi' as shown below.  The train ride might be the highlight of your trip!

 Yangon ► Kalaw ► Inle Lake

 

 Inle Lake ► Kalaw ► Yangon

Train №:

5

143

3

141

 Train №:

142

144

12

Classes:

S,U,1,O,R

U,O

S,U,1,O

U,O

Classes:

U,O

U,O

U,1,O

 Yangon (Rangoon)

depart

15:00

 

17:00

 11:00*

 Yaksauk

depart

-

06:00

 

 Naypyitaw

depart

23:32

 

01:57

22:55

 Shwenyaung (for Inle Lake)

arrive

-

09:10

 

 Thazi (mainline connections)

arrive

02:08

 

04:55

03:30

depart

08:00

09:40

 

depart

 

05:00

 

07:00

 Heho

arrive

09:05

10:40

 

 Kalaw

arrive

 

11:35

 

13:15

depart

09:20

11:10

 

depart

 

11:40

 

13:30

 Aungban

arrive

 10:55?

12:20

 

 Aungban

arrive

 

12:15

 

 11:40?

depart

 11:00?

12:35

 

depart

 

12:30

 

 11:45?

 Kalaw

arrive

11:30

13:10

 

 Heho

arrive

 

13:40

 

15:30

depart

11:45

13:25

 

depart

 

13:45

 

15:40

 Thazi (mainline connections)

arrive

19:00

20:45

 

 Shwenyaung (for Inle Lake)

arrive

 

14:50

 

17:00

depart

22:00

-

08:54

depart

 

15:20

   

 Naypyitaw

arrive

02:04

-

11:51

 Yaksauk

arrive

 

19:00

   

 Yangon (Rangoon)

arrive

  14:40**

-

21:00

* Leaves Rangoon the previous day as train number 9 and has no sleepers, see mainline timetable above.  It's better to travel with a change at Thazi, as recommended below.  But if you want to take it, read this blog by traveller Lucas Wall!

** Arrives Rangoon the day after leaving Shwenyaung as train number 10, and has no sleepers.  You may prefer to travel via Thazi, as recommended below.

? = Estimated time.  The timetable changed in February 2014, and train 141/142 now runs via Thazi instead of by-passing it.  The times shown without a '?' are confirmed, intermediate times have had to be guesstimated but are probably within +/- 15 minutes of the actual scheduled time.  Feedback would be appreciated, a photo of the timetable board at Thazi, Kalaw or Shwenyaung stations would be ideal.

S = upper class sleeper   U = upper class seats  1 = first class seats  O = ordinary class seats  R = Restaurant car   

How to buy tickets    What are Burmese trains like?     Map of train routes in Southeast Asia

Thazi to Kalaw is 197km (123 miles), Thazi to Shwenyaung is 247km (154 miles).  All the trains shown here run daily. 

Coming from Rangoon, you have a choice of several options.  Train 9/141 runs direct from Rangoon to Kalaw & Shwenyaung as shown above, but it's a very slow train and has no sleeping-car just upper class reclining seats.  It is overtaken by expresses.  It's better to leave Rangoon at 15:00 by express train number 5 with sleeping-car, arriving Thazi at 02:08, and change onto train 143 leaving Thazi at 05:00 for Kalaw & Shwenyaung, as shown above.  Or even better, leave Rangoon 17:00 on train 3 with sleeping-car arriving Thazi at 04:55, changing onto train 141 leaving Thazi at 07:00 for Kalaw & Shwenyaung.  Or you can leave Rangoon earlier, at 06:00 by express train number 11 arriving Thazi at 18:12, get a proper night's sleep in the Moonlight guesthouse in Thazi and continue next morning on either train 141 at 05:00 or train 143 at 07:00 for Kalaw & Shwenyaung, an amazing scenic ride on the Slow Train from Thazi.  The choice is yours...

Coming from Mandalay:  Take an afternoon or evening train from Mandalay to Thazi (train 6 or 4), see the Rangoon-Mandalay timetable above.  Stay overnight in Thazi, the Moonlight Guesthouse is 15 min walk along the road from the clean, simple, great food.  Next day, take train 141 or 143 to Kalaw or Shwenyaung, an amazing scenic ride on the Slow Train from Thazi...

The Moonlight guest house in Thazi is clean & simple with great food, singles with fan $10, doubles $15.  It's 15 minutes walk or short (horse-powered) taxi ride along the road from the station into town, and you'll normally find rooms available without any advance reservation.  They are used to people leaving early for the trains and can make a breakfast bag for you to take.

On arrival at Shwenyaung station, walk 15 minutes (or take a taxi, 1,000 Kyat) along the main road to the Tuk Tuk stop for Nyaungshwe. A Tuk Tuk directly from the railway station to any hotel in downtown Nyaungshwe costs 8,000 Kyat per car.  There's an entrance fee for foreigners for the Inle Lake region, US$ 5 ($10 from 1 October 2013) which has to be paid before entering Nyaungshwe.  If you're visiting Nyaungshwe during the high season, make sure you reserve accommodation as soon as you can and to confirm it a week before you arrive, as hotels and guesthouses can sell out.  Feedback appreciated.

 New cheaper fares - from 1 April 2014

  One-way in either direction, in kyat

Upper class

sleeper

Upper class

seat

First class

seat

Ordinary

seat

 Thazi to Kalaw

-

1,850 ($2)

-

?

 Thazi to Shwenyaung for Inle Lake

-

3,000 ($3)

-

?

 Kalaw to Shwenyaung for Inle Lake

-

?

-

?

 Rangoon to Kalaw by direct train

-

8,500 ($9)

-

?

 Rangoon to Shwenyaung by direct train

-

?

-

?

 Rangoon to Shwenyaung via Thazi

Add Rangoon-Thazi + Thazi-Shwenyaung fares

 Mandalay to Shwenyaung via Thazi

Add Mandalay-Thazi + Thazi-Shwenyaung fares

How to buy tickets  Children under 3 years old travel free, children under 10 pay half fare. 

Important update:  From April 2014 foreigners no longer need to pay in US dollars

What's the journey like?

Buses may be faster, but the Slow Train From Thazi is a wonderful experience which should not be missed.  Stock up on mineral water and beer, then recline in your Upper class armchair (you may have no choice - the recline mechanism may be broken), and gaze through wide open windows at the wonderful scenery passing by at just 15-20 mph.

After crossing the plain from Thazi, the train enters the hills and climbs up a steep mountainside on a series of switchbacks, reversing several times and backing up the slope to gain height.  In several places, the train loops around and doubles back on itself.  Look out for the very English mock-Tudor station building at the old British hill station of Kalaw.  When you arrive in Shwenyaung, the journey to Nyaungshwe takes 25 minutes by taxi or public pick-up.

Rangoon or Mandalay to Inle Lake:  Take an express train from Rangoon to Thazi, see the Rangoon - Mandalay timetable above.  One option is to travel the day before and stay the night in Thazi, there are guesthouses at the end of the station approach on the main street.  You are unlikely to have any difficulty buying a ticket for the Slow Train to Shwenyaung at Thazi ticket office when you get there.  In Thazi, the Red Star restaurant, where the station approach joins the main road, is a good choice for a meal while you change trains.  A deluxe waiting room for foreigners is also available at Thazi station for $1 per person.  Complete the last few kilometres from Shwenyaung to Nyaungshwe by bus or taxi.

Inle Lake to Rangoon or Mandalay:  In Nyaungshwe, there are lots of travel agencies who can arrange just about anything except train tickets!  But don't worry - just turn up at Shwenyaung station 30-40 minutes before the departure of the Slow Train To Thazi and you're unlikely to have any difficulty getting an Upper class ticket for the train to Thazi.  For onwards trains from Thazi to Rangoon or Mandalay, see the Rangoon - Mandalay timetable above.  You can buy a ticket for one of the expresses to Rangoon when you get to Thazi.

The train from Shwenyaung to Thazi will probably arrive in Thazi either on time or even 15 minutes early(!).  If you change onto an express, these get priority so you can expect an arrival Rangoon either on time or maybe 20-75 minutes late.  In Thazi, the Red Star restaurant, where the station approach joins the main road, is a good choice for a meal while you change trains.  A deluxe waiting room for foreigners is available at Thazi station for $1 per person.

The Slow Train from Shwenyaung to Thazi in the hills...

Into the hills...  The Slow Train to Thazi winds its way through the hills.

  The Thazi to Shwenyaung (Inle Lake) train, Myanmar

Wayside halts...  The Shwenyaung-Thazi train stops briefly at village stations...

The Thazi to Shwenyaung (Inle Lake) train, Myanmar

The  train to Thazi at a wayside station...

  Kalaw's mock Tudor station

The mock Tudor station at Kalaw...

Village on stilts in Inle Lake, Burma

Village on stilts on Inle Lake

  Fisherman on Inle Lake...

Local fisherman on Inle Lake.


Yangon to Mawlamyine (Moulmein)

Taking the train to Kipling's Moulmein...

Moulmein is not on every visitor's itinerary, but if you have the time it's well worth a visit for its colonial buildings and historic mosques.  Rudyard Kipling wrote the Road to Mandalay, but Moulmein was the only Burmese city which he actually visited, and the main pagoda on the ridge overlooking the city is the setting for his poem Burma Girl.  Kyaikto is the stop for the famous Kyaiktiyo Pagoda.

 Yangon ► Moulmein Dawei

 

 

     

 

 

 Dawei Moulmein Yangon

  Classes:

U

U,O

U,O

U,O

Classes:

U,O

U

U,O

U,O

Train number:

Sats*

89

175

35

Train number:

90

Suns*

36

176

 Yangon (Rangoon)

depart

06:25

07:15

18:25

21:00

 Dawei Port

depart

-

-

-

05:40

 Bago (Pegu)

arrive

??:??

09:02

20:14

22:47

 Ye

arr/dep

-

-

-

14:38

depart

??:??

09:04

20:19

22:50

 Mawlamyine (Moulmein)

arrive

-

-

-

20:25

 Kyaikto

arrive

11:00

11:55

23:17

01:27

depart

08:00

-

19:30

20:55

depart

-

11:57

23:20

01:30

 Kyaikto

arrive

12:31

-

23:52

01:23

 Mawlamyine (Moulmein)

arrive

-

16:50

04:00

06:00

depart

12:33

??:??

23:55

01:30

depart

-

-

04:30

-

 Bago (Pegu)

arrive

15:22

??:??

02:42

04:10

 Ye

arr/dep

-

-

10:25

-

depart

15:24

??:??

02:45

04:13

 Dawei Port

arrive

-

-

19:00

-

 Yangon (Rangoon)

arrive

17:30

??:??

04:20

06:20

* = new special train launched September 2013.  Runs Saturdays only from Yangon to Kyaitko, and Sundays only Kyaikto to Yangon, times not known.  Upper class seats only, using ex-Japanese air-conditioned coaches.  Special fare applies, $10 for foreigners.  Feedback would be appreciated.

U = upper class seats  O = ordinary class seats   What are Burmese trains like?    Map of train routes in Southeast Asia

There are no sleepers on any of these trains, just seats.  How to buy tickets

Trains used to terminate at Moatama for a ferry across the Thanlwin river to Moulmein, but the new road+rail bridge and new railway station in Moulmein opened to trains on 18 April 2006.  Trains from Rangoon now run beyond Moatama across the new bridge direct to and from Moulmein itself and one runs on to Ye and Dawei as shown.  The new station is behind the ridge with the pagodas.

Rangoon to Moulmein is 281 km (176 miles).  All the trains shown here run daily except the one marked *. 

 New cheaper fares - from 1 April 2014

  One-way in either direction, in kyat  

Upper class

seat

First class

seat

Ordinary

seat

 Rangoon to Bago

1,150 ($2)

?

600

 Rangoon to Kyaikto

2,450 ($3)

?

1,200

 Rangoon to Moulmein

4,250 ($5)

-

2,150

 Rangoon to Ye

?

?

?

 Rangoon to Dawei

?

?

?

 Bago to Moulmein

?

?

?

Children under 3 years old travel free, children under 10 pay half fare.

How to buy tickets    Important update:  From April 2014 foreigners no longer need to pay in US dollars

About the journey...

The train follows the Rangoon-Mandalay main line as far as Bago, where it branches off and heads across the plains to the broad Sittung River which it crosses via a huge and heavily-guarded road/rail bridge.  The scenery becomes more interesting on the other side - look out for primitive brickworks on the left in several locations, with brick kilns and bricks drying in the sun, and of course you'll see lots of stupas especially on the mountain ridge to the east.  Historically, the railway from Rangoon ended at Moatama (Martaban) which was the ferry terminal for ferries across the Thanlwin River to Moulmein itself.  A new road+rail bridge has now been built, opened to road traffic in February 2005 and to trains in April 2006.  Trains now rumble slowly across the bridge into a brand-new station behind the hill with Moulmein pagoda.  The Moatama-Moulmein ferry service has been discontinued.  Expect an arrival generally around 30-60 minutes late. 

A local bus outside a mosque, Moulmein...   On the train to Moulmein (Mawlamyine)

A brick factory, seen from the train...

 

...On board the train from Rangoon to Moulmein

A local bus outside a mosque, Moulmein...   The old British church at Moulmein (Mawlamyine)

A local bus, outside a mosque in Moulmein

 

The old British church at Moulmein.


Yangon to Pyay

 Yangon ► Pyay

 

        

 Pyay ► Yangon

Train number:

63

75

71

Train number:

76 

64

72

 Classes:

U,1,O

U,1,O

U,1,O

 Classes:

U,1,O

U,1,O

U,1,O

 Yangon (Rangoon) depart:

07:00*

11:00*

13:00

 Pyay (Prome) depart:

02:00

06:15

23:30

 Pyay (Prome) arrive:

18:00

22:15

21:30

 Yangon (Rangoon) arrive:

13:40*

17:30*

07:50

* Trains 63/64 & 75/76 use Rangoon Kyemyindine station, not Rangoon main station.  Kyemyindine station is a few stops northwest of Rangoon main station on the city's circular train line.  Times for these trains are not confirmed.

U = upper class seats  1 = first class seats  O = ordinary class seats

Rangoon to Pyay is 257 km (161 miles).  All the trains shown here run daily.

 Old fares - until 31 March 2014

 One-way, either direction, US$  

Upper class

sleeper

Upper class

seat

First class

seat

Ordinary

seat

 Rangoon to Pyay

-

$ 13

$10

$5

Children under 3 years old travel free, children under 10 pay half fare.

 New cheaper fares - from 1 April 2014

Foreigners no longer pay the higher-rate fares in US$ shown above.

You now pay the same fares as Burmese citizens, in local currency (kyat).

Information on the new prices is not available (if you can help, please email me), but to give you a rough idea of how much cheaper this is, Rangoon to Bagan in an upper class sleeper used to be $40, it is now 16,500 kyat (about $17).

How to buy ticketsWhat are Burmese trains like?


Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin, Hsipaw & Lashio

Into the hills at dawn & over the Gokteik Viaduct...

Pyin Oo Lwin, also known as Maymyo after its founder Colonel May, is well worth a visit for the colonial buildings, its botanic gardens, and a ride in the miniature stagecoaches that are used as taxis.  Many visitors also head off to the market towns of Shan state such as Hsipaw.  The early-morning train ride from Mandalay up into the hills is a fabulous experience, see the description below.  South of Hsipaw, the train crosses the famous Gokteik viaduct, a historic landmark in its own right.

 Mandalay ► Pyin Oo Lwin ► Lashio

 

     

 

 

 Lashio ► Pyin Oo Lwin ► Mandalay

  Train number:

131

 Train number:

132

Classes:

U,1,O

Classes:

U,1,O

 Mandalay

depart

04:00

 Lashio

depart

05:00

 Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo)

arrive  

07:52

 Hsipaw (Thibaw)

arrive

09:25

depart  

08:22

depart

09:40

 Gokteik

arrive

11:03

 Kyaukme

arrive

11:05

depart

11:08

depart

11:25

 Nawngpeng

arrive

11:58

 Nawngpeng  

arrive

12:22

depart

12:25

depart

12:30

 Kyaukme

arrive

13:19

 Gokteik

arrive

13:23

depart

13:39

depart

13:25

 Hsipaw (Thibaw)

arrive

14:55

 Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo)

arrive

16:05

depart

15:15

depart

17:40

 Lashio

arrive

19:35

 Mandalay

arrive

22:40

U = upper class seats   1 = first class seats   O = ordinary class seats.    Map of train routes in Southeast Asia    The train runs daily. 

Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin is 67 km (42 miles).  Mandalay to Hsipaw is 206km (129 miles).  Mandalay to Lashio is 280 km (175 miles).

 New cheaper fares - from April 2014

  One-way in either direction, in kyat  

Upper class

seat

First class

seat

Ordinary

seat

 Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin

1,200 ($1.50)

?

600 ($1)

 Mandalay to Nawngpeng

?

?

?

 Mandalay to Hsipaw

3,950 ($4.50)

?

?

 Mandalay to Lashio

?

?

?

 Pyin Oo Lwin to Nawngpeng

1,600 ($2)

?

700 ($1)

 Pyin Oo Lwin to Kyaukme

?

?

?

 Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw

?

?

1,250 ($1.50)

 Pyin Oo Lwin to Lashio

?

?

?

Children under 3 years old travel free, children under 10 pay half fare.

Important update:  From April 2014 foreigners no longer need to pay in US dollars

How to buy tickets

About the journey...

Don't let the early start put you off, the ride into the hills as dawn breaks is absolutely fabulous...  It's an early start from Mandalay, but this train ride is easily the best way to reach the old British hill station of Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo) and the Shan state towns of Hsipaw (Thibaw) and Lashio.  Leaving Mandalay heading south the train soon turns northeast across the plains.  It's still dark at this time, but traders with torches and fires flock to the train when it calls at wayside stations.  At dawn, the train reaches the foot of the mountains and starts climbing.  It gains height using a series of zig-zags, stopping and reversing up the steep gradient twice to reach the plateau at the top of the escarpment (see the picture below).  Soon after reaching the plateau, the train arrives at Pyin Oo Lwin.

After Pyin Oo Lwin the train snakes its way through pleasant countryside to the highlight of the trip, the crossing of a spectacular valley on the dramatic Gokteik viaduct, just after Gokteik station.  You'll see the viaduct on the left-hand side of the train as you leave Gokteik station,  The train then curves left onto the bridge.  The Gokteik viaduct was built in 1901 by an American firm of contractors who won the tender with a design allegedly far more advanced than any of the other bids.  When built, it had the highest span of any bridge in the British Empire, and was the only American-built bridge in the Empire, too.  Rumour has it that the Burmese government did no maintenance on the bridge whilst a British insurance policy was still in force, but you'll be relieved to hear that the bridge was renovated in the 1990s.  The train passes over at walking pace, and you may be prevented from taking photographs as the Burmese consider the bridge to be of strategic importance.  Don't lean out of the window and look downwards if you suffer from vertigo!  Expect an arrival at the other end around 15-60 minutes late.

If you want to do a day trip over the famous Gokteik viaduct:  Gokteik station is on the Mandalay side of the famous Gokteik viaduct, in other words, coming from Mandalay or Pyin Oo Lwin, the train arrives at Gokteik station before crossing the viaduct.  If you want to cross the viaduct on the train and immediately return south, you should buy a ticket to the station beyond Gokteik, a little place called Nawngpeng, see the timetable above.  This is where the northbound and southbound trains pass each other on the single line, so you can go from Mandalay or Pyin Oo Lwin to the viaduct and back in a day.  Make sure you're ready to jump off the northbound train and onto the southbound train on the adjacent track, as if the northbound train is late and the southbound already waiting, it will leave as soon as the northbound train arrives and it gets the 'right away'.  You won't have time to buy a ticket at Nawngpeng station, just jump onto the southbound train back to Pyin Oo Lwin or Mandalay and pay on board.

The sun cuts through the early morning mist on the train to Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo)   Station trader selling fresh flowers, at a station on the Mandalay - Pyin Oo Lwin - Lashio line.

Dawn on the train... Having left Mandalay in darkness, the sun now comes up...

 

Traders flock to the train - some stations on this line seem to specialise in fresh flowers!

The train to Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo) stops at a station   On board the train to Pyin oo Lwin (Maymyo)

Another wayside halt...

 

...wooden seats in ordinary class.  Cheap and fun.

The train to Pyin oo Lwin (Maymyo) winds its way into the hills   Horse-drawn carriage in Maymyo

...up into the hills to Maymyo!

 

Local transport from the station to your hotel...

Westerners boarding the upper class car of the train to Lashio   Upper class seats on the Mandalay to Lashio train

Upper class seats on the Mandalay to Lashio train...  Photo courtesy of Richard Herring.

View of Gokteik Viaduct, taken from northbound train

The Gokteik viaduct...  Beyond Pyin oo Lwin, the highlight of the journey to Lashio is the crossing of the famous Gokteik Viaduct across a deep river gorge covered with thick bush.  When built in 1901, it had the highest span of any bridge in the British Empire.  Above, a view of the viaduct seen from the northbound train soon after it leaves Gokteik station on its way towards the bridge.  Photo courtesy of Richard Herring.

A Burmese train on the Gokteik Viaduct   A train crosses the Gokteik Viaduct

Crossing the Gokteik Viaduct en route to Hsipaw & Lashio.  Photos courtesy of Marilyn Le Ruyet.

Traveller's reports...

Traveller Jerome Luepkes reports: "I took the train from Hsipaw to Pyin Oo Lwin, the downhill journey on the Lashio line, an eventful journey of 7 hours through some of the best scenery in Burma.  You could have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, then hop on the train for a day of sights and sensations, arriving at the other end with plenty of daylight left to check into your hotel.  The trains are usually fairly punctual, but no one actually expects everything to be perfectly on time anyway, a typical characteristic of life in Burma. My train was delayed by forty minutes, so I had plenty of time to sample the tasty food the local vendors had on offer at the station.  When the train arrived there was plenty of time to find seats and settle in.  The trains are old Chinese carriages, built for a different gauge to the tracks in Burma. This results in an awe-inspiring amount of sideways movement as the train accelerates out of the station and through the hills.  There is so much swing that passengers have to hold on for dear life as they move about the carriage, but it's all in good fun.  The seats of the "Upper Class" are the softest and widest on the train, but that's about all the difference, as the whole train is fairly old and dirty.  A lot of the fixtures were broken as well, but that didn't diminish the experience for me one bit. I loved the entire train trip as it gave me a chance to talk to the locals, meet other travellers, and have a truly Burmese experience. We stopped several times along the way, each stop affording the chance to get onto the platform for a while, buy some food and a cup of tea while taking photos of the smiley Burmese people.  The highlight of the trip was the spectacularly colossal Gokteik Viaduct which we passed over in the early afternoon.  All the doors of the train can be opened at any time, and budding photographers were busy taking photos out of the carriages the whole way over.  The scenery continued to be breathtaking all the way into the afternoon.  Arriving at Pyin Oo Lwin was both a relief after a physically demanding trip, but also the end to an epic and highly enjoyable train journey."


Mandalay to Kawlin & Myitkyina

 Mandalay ► Myitkyina

        

 Myitkyina ► Mandalay

 Train number:

37

33

55

57

41

 Train number:

38

56

42

34

58

Classes:

U,O

S,U,O

S,U,O

S,U,O

S,U,O

Classes:

U,O

S,U,O

S,U,O

S,U,O

S,U,O

 Mandalay depart:

04:30

13:00

14:10

16:20

19:45

 Myitkyina depart:

04:30

07:45

09:10

13:50

15:10

 Sagaing

??:??

??:??

??:??

??:??

??:??

 Kawlin

14:31

19:19

00:25

23:55

03:36

 Shwebo  

??:??

??:??

??:??

??:??

??:??

 Shwebo  

??:??

??:??

??:??

??:??

??:??

 Kawlin

11:07

19:33

22:08

00:57

06:08

 Sagaing

??:??

??:??

??:??

??:??

??:??

 Myitkyina arrive:

22:00

06:30

10:45

13:30

21:05

 Mandalay arrive:

22:00

04:15

11:20

07:20

12:20

All trains take one night.   S = sleeping-car  U = upper class seats  O = ordinary class seats.

Mandalay to Myitkyina costs $36 in a sleeper.   Mandalay to Myitkyina is 539 km (337 miles).

One or two of these trains have a sleeping-car, but which trains isn't confirmed.  Times correct as at September 2013, and believed to be the same in early 2014, but always check times locally.  Feedback or photos of the timetable boards would be much appreciated.

 Old fares - until March 2014

  One-way in either direction, US$  

Upper class

sleeper

Upper class

seat

 Mandalay to Myitkyina train 33

$ 45

$ 39

 Mandalay to Myitkyina train 37

$ 36

$ 31

 Mandalay to Myitkyina train 55, 57

$ 30

$ 27

 Mandalay to Myitkyina train 41

$ 25

$ 20

 Mandalay to Kawlin train 33

$ 21

$ 18

 Mandalay to Kawlin train 37

$ 17

$ 15

 Mandalay to Kawlin train 41

$ 12

$ 10

Children under 3 years old travel free, children under 10 pay half fare.

 New cheaper fares - from April 2014

Foreigners no longer pay the higher-rate fares in US$ shown above.

You now pay the same fares as Burmese citizens, in local currency (kyat).

Information on the new prices is not available (if you can help, please email me), but to give you a rough idea of how much cheaper this is, Rangoon to Bagan in an upper class sleeper used to be $40, it is now 16,500 kyat (about $17).


Mandalay to Bagan by train

This is the train service between Mandalay and the temples of Bagan, although you may prefer the river journey aboard the Mandalay-Bagan express ferry service.  Mandalay to Bagan is just 179km, making this a very slow train, even though the line was only built in 1996!  You may prefer to take the excellent Mandalay-Bagan express ferry for this journey, especially in the Mandalay to Bagan direction as the train runs overnight, but has no sleeping-car, and and the ferry runs faster with (rather than against) the flow of the current.

 Mandalay ► Bagan

 

 Bagan ► Mandalay

Train number:

120

Train number:

119

Classes:

U,1,O

Classes:

U,1,O

 Mandalay depart:

21:00

 Bagan (Nyaung Oo) depart:

07:00

 Bagan (Nyaung Oo) arrive:

04:50

 Mandalay arrive:

14:30

O = ordinary class seats   1 = First class seats  U = upper class seats    How to buy tickets    What are Burmese trains like?

Bagan station is a modern pagoda-style station in the middle of nowhere about 5km southeast of the Nyaung Oo township, 9km from Old Bagan.  It's possibly one of the few stations in the world further from the town it serves than the airport!  The station does, however, feature a spacious if spartan 'tourist lounge' in which to wait.

Mandalay to Bagan is 179 km (112 miles). 

 New fares from April 2014

  One-way in either direction  

Upper class

seat

First class

seat

Ordinary

seat

 Mandalay to Bagan

2,900 kyat (£2, $3)

?

1,300 kyat (£1, $2)

Foreigners no longer pay the higher-rate fares in US$ shown above, but pay the same fares as Burmese citizens, in local currency (kyat).

Children under 3 years old travel free, children under 10 pay half fare.

How to buy tickets


What are Burmese trains like?

On the premier Rangoon to Mandalay route, the express trains are reasonably clean, comfortable and even relatively speedy.  On other routes, don't expect western standards, as train travel in Burma is an adventure!  Trains are often wonderfully slow, grubby, and fittings such as lights and seats are usually not in the best state of repair.   But best of all, the glass panes and metal shutters over the windows are normally secured out of the way, giving you a clear and unobstructed view of the countryside and villages of 'real' Burma as it trundles past, with nothing between you and it!

Burmese trains have three classes:  Upper class, First class and Ordinary class.  In addition, Upper Class sleeping-cars operate on several Rangoon to Mandalay trains, on the Rangoon to Bagan overnight train, and in some Mandalay-Myitkyina trains, and they come in two types, standard sleepers and special sleepers, details shown below.  The best Rangoon-Mandalay trains have restaurant cars, with 4-seat tables, serving meals, drinks and snacks.

Upper class sleeping-car     Upper class seats    First class seats    Ordinary class seats

Upper Class...

Upper class has comfortable reclining seats, sometimes two-abreast on each side of the aisle, sometimes one-abreast on one side of the aisle and two abreast on the other.  The seats normally all face the direction of travel, but can be rotated to face each other (for example, to make a group of 4 seats) if required.  Upper class on the main Rangoon - Mandalay express trains is relatively clean and comfortable, with fresh seat covers and curtains at the window.  Upper class on secondary trains is much grubbier but still quite comfortable, although you will find your seat recline mechanism in various states of repair...

Upper class car, Rangoon-Mandalay express train.   Modern Upper class seats on Rangoon-Mandalay train 5.   Older Upper class seats on the Shwenyaung-Thazi train.

Upper class on a Rangoon - Mandalay express.  The windows have both glass & a metal shutter, normally secured out of the way.

 

Upper class seats of the most modern type on a Rangoon-Mandalay express.  Trains 3, 4, 5, 6, 11 & 12 have the most modern cars.  The Rangoon-Bagan train also has a fairly smart upper class car.

 

Upper class seats on secondary lines are grubbier and in a worse state of repair, but still comfortable.  This is Upper class on the Slow Train from Shwenyaung (Inle Lake) to Thazi.

First Class...

First class has basic wooden seats, almost identical to Ordinary class, but with a padded leatherette seat bottom.  For the first half hour, this padding seems to make the extra cost worthwhile.  After that, you wonder if the Ordinary class wooden seats would be less sweaty in the heat!  First class is only available on certain trains.

First class car, Mandalay-Lashio train.   First class car, Rangoon-Mandalay express train.   First class car, Mandalay-Lashio train.

First class car, Mandalay-Lashio train.

 

Fairly smart first class seating on a Rangoon-Mandalay express...

 

Grubbier First class on the Mandalay - Lashio train...

Ordinary class...

Ordinary class has basic wooden seats, and is quite bearable for many journeys such as Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin or Hsipaw.  The seats are numbered on the back (in Burmese numerals) and every passenger has a specific seat number written on their ticket, so there's no overcrowding or scrum for seats.  Just watch out for the local produce stacked all over the floor!

Ordinary class car, Rangoon-Mandalay train 5.   Ordinary class seats, Mandalay-Lashio train.   Ordinary class seats, Mandalay-Lashio train.

Ordinary class on a Rangoon-Mandalay express.

 

Ordinary class on the Mandalay-Pyin Oo Lwin-Lashio train...

 

Ordinary class on the Mandalay - Lashio train.

Upper class sleepers...

Upper class sleeping-cars operate on Rangoon-Mandalay trains 3, 4, 5, 6 and on the Rangoon to Bagan overnight train, as well as in some Mandalay-Myitkyina trains, usually just one sleeping-car per train.  Sleeping-cars come in two varieties, the standard sleeper with conventional side corridor and 4-berth and 2-berth compartments, and the less common 'special' sleeper which has several totally separate full-width compartments each with 4 longitudinal berths a toilet and entrance door, but no access through the train.  The Rangoon-Bagan train has the standard sleeper type, train 5 & 6 Rangoon-Mandalay has sometimes been reported as having standard sleepers and sometimes special sleepers.  Train 3 & 4 has the standard type.

A pillow, sheet and light blanket are provided, but it gets very cold at night so make sure that you have socks, a jumper and a fleece with you.  It's a noisy and bumpy ride, so you will snooze rather than sleep, but it's good to be able to lie down on a flat bed in a safely locked compartment on the great adventure of crossing Burma by train.  There's a ceiling fan and the windows open for ventilation or reflection-free photography.  More photos & feedback is always appreciated.

...Standard type sleeper.

The standard sleeping-car as used on the Rangoon-Bagan overnight train and trains 3 & 4 Rangoon-Mandalay has four largish 4-berth compartments and two smaller 2-berth compartments, opening off a side corridor giving access to the rest of the train.  There are western-style toilets and a washbasin at the end of the corridor, usually kept pretty clean, but bring your own toilet paper.

Sleeping car on train 5, Rangoon to Mandalay   4-berth sleeper on train 5, Rangoon to Mandalay

Upper class sleeping-car on train 5 from Rangoon to Mandalay, showing the top bunk in a 2-berth compartment (above centre) & corridor (above right).  This car has been refurbished with smart varnished wood panelling.

4-berth sleeper on a Mandalay to Rangoon overnight train   Mandalay to Rangoon sleeping-car

Upper class 4-berth sleeper on train 4 from Mandalay to Rangoon.  Whilst some cars have been refurbished, others retain the older aircraft-cockpit-green approach to interior décor.  Photos courtesy of Michael Walker.

...Special type sleeper.

These 'special' sleepers run in train 5 & 6 Rangoon-Mandalay, although feedback suggests standard sleepers are sometimes used on this train either as well as or instead of the special sleepers, so more feedback would be appreciated.  They have an unconventional layout:  A special sleeping-car is divided into four separate self-contained compartments, each taking up the full width of the car, each with its own entrance vestibule, its own toilet and seat/berth area.  In the seat/berth area, a pair of wide upholstered armchairs face each other by the window on each side of the car.  At night, these seats pull together to form a wide lower berth.  The upper berths are fixed in position above the seats.  There is no corridor and no access between compartments or from your compartment to the rest of the train, so travellers in special sleepers cannot use the restaurant car. 

Special sleeping-car, train 18 Mandalay to Rangoon.   4-berth special sleeper, train 5 Rangoon to Mandalay.

A special sleeper from Rangoon to Mandalay.  Pictured above right, a 4-berth special sleeper compartment on train 5.  The photographer is standing in the compartment entrance vestibule, which has entrance doors on both sides of the car.  The door to the toilet is behind him.  The berths are longitudinal, along the coach sides.  If he panned the camera left you'd see the other upper berth and seats on the left-hand side of the compartment, the mirror-image of those on the right visible here.  The compartment takes up the full width of the car, there is no access to the rest of the train or car either through the end wall in the background of the photo, or through the wall behind the photographer, other than the door into the toilet.  Interior photo courtesy of Chris Querée.


How to buy tickets

From April 2014, foreigners no longer need to pay in US dollars...

Until 2014, foreigners had to pay higher train fares than Burmese citizens, and had to pay in US dollars.  However, from 1 April 2014 visitors now pay the same fares as Burmese citizens, and pay in local currency (kyat).  This makes train travel even cheaper, even though it wasn't expensive before.  Feedback and any info on the 'new' locals-rate fares would be appreciated, especially a photo of any new fares posters.  Children under 3 years old travel free, children under 10 pay half fare.  Although the Myanmar Railways has no official website, you can check train times & fares on several travel agency websites - try www.myanmarventure.com/train/index.html, or www.yangonow.com/eng/transportation/train/fare.html.

How to buy train tickets in advance from outside Burma...

You can't book trains online, in fact the Burmese railways don't even have a website.  It's usually easiest just to buy in person when you're there, booking opens a few days before departure.  However, if you want to secure tickets for departures from Rangoon in advance from outside Burma you can do so by email through a number of Rangoon travel agencies including:

Pre-booking is no bad thing if you want a sleeper, as these are in relatively short supply.  These agencies will buy your tickets on your behalf and have them delivered to your hotel for a nominal fee.  They'll first ask you to send them a scan of your passport, this is quite normal.  I have not used either agency myself, but Exotic Myanmar Travels & Tours has so far had at several very positive reviews.  Feedback is always appreciated!

How to buy train tickets when in Burma...

Train timetable and fare information boards at Yangon   Yangon (Rangoon) main station

English-language information boards:  All main Burmese stations have English-language information boards showing timetables & fares for foreigners, like this. Courtesy Alex Diment.

 

Rangoon station.  Surprisingly, Rangoon's impressive station building is on the far (north) side of the tracks from the city centre.  But don't go there to buy tickets!

Entrance to the booking office in Rangoon   Inside Rangoon advance booking office

Entrance to Rangoon advance booking office on Bogyoke Aung San Road, on the southern (city centre) side of the tracks.  At first sight more like a farmyard than a booking office, but look for this sign!

 

Inside Rangoon advance booking office on Bogyoke Aung San Road.  The far left window is the one for tickets to Mandalay.  Booking opens 3 days before departure.  Feedback would be appreciated!

A Burmese train ticket from Yangon to Mandalay

Train tickets in Burma are hand-written!  This is a 2014 ticket, you can see that payment is now in kyats, even for foreigners.  Photo courtesy of Ioannis Karagiannis.


Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) steamers

Taking a river steamer along the Irrawaddy is perhaps the best way to transfer between Mandalay & Bagan.  The Mandalay-Bagan express ferry is a wonderful way to travel, revealing Burmese life on and along the river.  There are now 3 ferries:  A twice-weekly slow ferry mainly for locals, the original daily Shwekeinnery express ferry for tourists, and a new twice-weekly express ferry Malikha also aimed at tourists. If you want the Orient Express 4-night luxury option, see the Road to Mandalay section below.

 Mandalay ► Bagan ► Pyay ► Yangon (Rangoon)

 

Shwekeinnery

Malikha

Local ferry

Local ferry

Local ferry

Mandalay (Gawwein jetty)

depart

07:00 day 1

06:30 day 1

05:30 Sat or Sun

05:30 Wednesday

-

Bagan (Nyaung Oo jetty)

arr/dep  

17:30 day 1

 |

17:30 Sat or Sun

17:30 Wednesday

-

Bagan (Old Bagan)

arrive

-

17:00 day 1

|

-

-

Pyay  (Prome, Pyi)

arrive

-

-

10:45 Sun or Mon

-

-

Pyay  (Prome, Pyi)

depart

-

-

-

-

06:30 Friday

Yangon (Rangoon) Lanthit jetty

arrive

-

-

-

-

21:40 Sunday

Shwekeinnery express ferry = Daily Mandalay-Bagan express ferry Shwe Keinnery, highly recommended, fare US$35 if bought direct, US$40 bought through your hotel.  Just ask at your hotel reception, although the website for this ferry no longer works.

Malikha express ferry = Mandalay-Bagan express ferry Malikha, fare $43, runs on certain dates advertised a month in advance at www.myanmarrivercruises.com.

Local ferry = IWT slow local ferry with cabins, Mandalay-Bagan $15, please double-check days & times when you're in Burma as reports vary, some say Saturday from Mandalay south, others say Sunday, feedback appreciated.

www.myanmarrivercruises.com also seem to run an $80 deluxe ferry on certain dates.

How to buy tickets:  Ferry tickets for any of these ferries can be booked through your hotel or via a travel agency, or through the MTT (government tourist information) offices in major towns (there's an MTT office at Mandalay station or in Rangoon near the Sule Paya) or at Inland Water Transport (IWT) offices.

In Mandalay, the IWT office is located on 35th Street, a few hundred metres from the river on the left hand side looking towards the river.  Ideally, buy a ticket the day before, but it's possible to buy tickets on the morning of departure at the boat, make sure you arrive before 05:00 to be sure of a place.

If you have any feedback from travelling on these ferries, please e-mail me.

 Yangon (Rangoon) ► Pyay ► Bagan ► Mandalay

 

Local ferry

Local ferry

Local ferry

Shwekeinnery

Malikha

Yangon (Rangoon) Lanthit jetty

depart

16:00 Friday

-

-

-

-

Pyay (Prome)

arrive  

16:25 Tuesday

-

-

-

-

Pyay (Prome)

depart

 -

05:30 Saturday

-

-

-

Bagan (Old Bagan)

depart

-

|

-

-

-

Bagan (Nyaung Oo jetty)

arr/dep

 -

??:??  Thursday

??:?? Monday 

06:00 day 1

06:30 day 1

Mandalay (Gawwein jetty)

arrive

 -

14:25 Thursday

??:?? Monday

18:00 day 1

17:00 day 1

On board the daily Shwekeinnery Mandalay-Bagan express ferry...

The Mandalay-Bagan express ferry   Mandalay - Bagan express ferry seating   Mandalay - Bagan express ferry bar/cafe

The modern Mandalay-Bagan express ferry.  You'll spend most time on deck...

 

All passenger get a reclining seat on the lower deck.

 

There is a bar and café on the upper deck.

On board the Mandalay-Bagan slow local ferry...

The Mandalay-Bagan slow river ferry   Mandalay to Bagan slow ferry

The Mandalay-Bagan 5am local ferry, an interesting Burmese experience.  This ferry was built in 1955!  Courtesy Marilyn Le Ruyet

 

Close-up of the Mandalay to Bagan slow ferry.  Photo courtesy of Marilyn Le Ruyet


The Road to Mandalay

Mandalay to Bagan in Orient Express luxury, on a 4-day or 7-day cruise...

A luxury river cruise run by the same company that operates the famous Venice Simplon Orient Express & Eastern & Oriental Express plies the Irrawaddy between Mandalay and Bagan, offering 3 or 4 night one-way and 7-night return river cruises between Mandalay and Bagan.  She also runs occasional 11 night trips covering Bhamo in the North. Originally built in 1964 as the Nederland, she cruised the Rhine Valley for 30 years before being shipped to Burma in 1995, where she was renamed The Road to Mandalay after Rudyard Kipling's poem.  She has just 56 cabins, all with windows.  A 3-night luxury Irrawaddy cruise from Mandalay to Bagan leaving on most Wednesdays costs around £1,640 per person, including private cabin, restaurant meals, tours and transfers.

Prices, departure dates & online booking:  www.orient-express.com/roadtomandalay

Luxury river cruise on Orient Express's 'Road to Mandalay'   Irrawaddy river life...

The Road to Mandalay, seen from the regular Shwekeinnery express ferry between Mandalay & Bagan...

 

River life...  The cruise along the Irrawaddy gives a wonderful insight into Burmese culture...


The Yangon Circle Train...

An interesting ride if you've a spare day in Rangoon...

Many visitors take a ride on Rangoon's circle line, a rickety train that gives a great flavour of local life and is the closest thing Rangoon has to a metro.  Circle trains run every 30 minutes during daylight hours, and you simply buy a ticket from the little office on platform 6/7 at Rangoon main station and hop on the next train.  Some trains make the whole circuit, some terminate before completing the circle, so you need to switch trains.

Yangon Circle Line train   Yangon Circle Train

Scenes from Yangon's Circle Line...  Photos courtesy of Eckhart Spindler

Inside a Yangon Circle Train   Market traders by the tracks of the Yangon Circle Train

International travel from Burma

Overland travel between Burma and either India, China or Thailand is either difficult or impossible.  That's because the borders, and often the whole border regions, are generally closed to foreigners.  Some regions are also dangerous in some cases because of political unrest.  One border crossing to Thailand is indeed open, at Tachileik north of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand.  There are no regular passenger shipping services from Burma.


Hotels in Rangoon, Mandalay & Burma

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Personal hotel recommendations...

The Strand Hotel, Yangon   A suite at the Strand Hotel, Rangoon

The famous Strand Hotel, Rangoon

 

...A suite at the Strand.


Flights to Rangoon (Yangon)

Use Skyscanner to compare flight prices & routes across 600 airlines...

skyscanner generic 728x90

Lounge passes...

Make the airport experience a little more bearable with a VIP lounge pass, it's not as expensive as you think!  See www.loungepass.com


Recommended guidebooks

Lonely Planet China - click to buy onlineYou'll need a good guidebook for Burma, and the Lonely Planet series is about the best there is.  Highly recommended, although bear in mind that things are changing fast in Burma at the moment.

Click to buy online at Amazon.co.uk

Alternatively, you can download just the chapters or areas you need in .PDF format from the Lonely Planet Website, from around £2.99 or US$4.95 a chapter.

 


Travel insurance

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash (up to a limit) and belongings.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you're resident in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you're resident in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low or no ATM fees...

It costs nothing to take out an extra credit card.  If you keep it in a different part of your luggage so you're not left stranded if your wallet gets stolen, this is a form of extra travel insurance in itself.  In addition, some credit cards are significantly better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.  Taking this advice can save you quite a lot on each trip compared to using your normal high-street bank credit card!

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, and if you're not careful you can return home to find some huge bills waiting for you.  I've known people run up a £1,000 bill in data charges just by leaving their iPhone connected during a simple trip to Europe.  However, if you buy a global SIM card for your mobile phone from a company such as www.Go-Sim.com you can slash the cost by up to 85% and limit any damage to the amount you have pre-paid.  It cuts call costs in 175 countries worldwide, and you can receive incoming calls and texts for free in 75 countries.  It's pay-as-you-go, so no nasty bills when you get home.  It also works for laptop or PDA data access.  A Go-Sim account and any credit on it doesn't expire if it's not between trips, unlike some others, so a Go-Sim phone number becomes your 'global phone number' for life.

 


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