Mandalay is a great starting or ending point to any trip to Myanmar. The best of Myanmar is located in this part of the country, and if your main Myanmar itinerary focuses on Bagan and Inle Lake start your trip in Mandalay.
On our recent two week Myanmar trip we had a direct flight from Chiang Mai to Mandalay with Bangkok Airways for $225 round trip. We spent 2 nights in a Mandalay hotel giving us one full day to explore all the Mandalay attractions.
After our time in Mandalay, it was time to head to Bagan. When traveling from Mandalay to Bagan you will have several modes of transport options to choose from. There are boats to Bagan, buses or shuttle buses from Mandalay to Bagan, the infamous Myanmar train ride, or you can even hire a private driver to take you from Mandalay to Bagan.
We’re going to show you all the options when traveling to Bagan and you can choose what fits your travel budget and travel style.
*When looking for the best price and biggest selection of hotels in Myanmar check prices on Booking.com, we’ve found they are the best option and have a great cancelation policy.*
How To Get From Mandalay To Bagan
Mandalay to Bagan by Boat
We opted to travel from Mandalay to Bagan by boat as we hoped this would be a scenic way to get there. Taking a boat cruise down the Irrawaddy River is the most comfortable way to get to Bagan.
There are a few companies running boats from Mandalay to Bagan and the prices and duration vary based on which boat trip you go on. No matter which boat you take it will be an early morning, but the upside is you’ll get to see the sunrise as you’re cruising down the river.
- Price: 50,000 – 85,000 Kyat
- Duration: 8-11 hours
- Distance: 113 miles / 181 kilometers
- Departs: 6am-630am
We wish we would have booked this boat as it not only is transportation to Bagan but it visits the local Myanmar village of Lekkapin. You can sit back and relax on the sundeck or join the crew who will show you how to wear the traditional Longyi, the garment worn by local Myanmar people.
The staff will also explain the yellow makeup you may have noticed on the locals, it’s called Thanatkha and they’ll even apply some to your face if you’d like. Breakfast & lunch are included and the meals look way better than what we were served on our boat.
Click here to book online, boats to Bagan do sell out in advance so it’s best to book in advance.
We booked our trip with Go-Myanmar.com and the boat we took we would NOT recommend ( MGRG cruise). Our trip included “breakfast & lunch” but it was the saddest looking meal. The included breakfast was: 1 cup of coffee an extra cup cost 500k, 2 pieces of toast, and bananas were available for 500k for two.
Lunch was fried rice or fried noodles, but we opted to skip this meal as it looked like it had the potential to get us sick – one of our many Myanmar tips. Other drinks and snacks were available for sale, but we suggest bringing some with you on the boat.
When the boat arrives in Bagan you’ll be swarmed with taxis and horse carriages offering to bring you to your hotel. We were staying at Kumudara hotel in New Bagan, taxis originally wanted 20,000k we said no and walked away to talk with other drivers. After about five minutes of negotiating, we paid 12,000k.
If you are staying in a hotel in Old Bagan you shouldn’t pay more than 10,000k and if you are staying at a Nyaung-U hotel it shouldn’t be more than 5,000k.
Mandalay to Bagan Taxi or Private Driver
The fastest way to travel to Bagan would be by taxi or private driver. Prices are much more affordable than you would imagine.
- Price: $69+
- Duration: 4-5 hours
- Distance: 113 miles / 181 kilometers
- Departs: Flexible
The best price you can get is booking online here with Viator for only $69. This is what we would do so that we can pay in advance on our credit card and not have to haggle with a taxi driver while on vacation in Myanmar.
Traveling to Bagan by taxi gives you the freedom to leave when you want, let’s get real no one likes to get up super early while on vacation. You’ll also have the freedom to stop along the way for breaks and photo opportunities.
If you prefer to book a private driver in Mandalay we highly suggest Ko Fatty (Yes, Fatty is his name). We booked Fatty for a full day tour to explore all the things to do in Mandalay, but he can also drive you to and from Bagan or Inle Lake.
If you are looking to hire a private driver in Myanmar for your entire trip he also does provide multi-day trips in which he’ll be with you on your entire trip. Ko Fatty was awesome and spoke great English, definitely contact him to get pricing. We messaged him on Facebook and he got back to us within an hour.
Ko Fatty – Mandalay Private Driver
- Facebook message him
- Phone: +95 9 40372 7817
- Email: [email protected]
Mandalay to Bagan by Train
Traveling by train in Myanmar is an experience, but it’s not for everyone. The Myanmar trains are known to be nutritiously bumpy and one heck of a ride. Even if your train ticket says first class don’t have too high of expectations. If you are open for an adventure we recommend taking a train at least once in Myanmar.
- Price: $15
- Duration: 7 hours
- Distance: 95 miles / 151 kilometers
- Departures: Once a day 7 pm
You can book Bagan train tickets online here but note that the Myanmar Railways doesn’t issue e-tickets and a paper ticket is required to board. If you book online they’ll deliver your ticket to your hotel for free.
If you choose to purchase the tickets yourself at the train station you have to go a few days in advance to purchase. We highly suggest getting them online so you don’t have to run around purchasing the tickets yourself.
Related Article: Ultimate Inle Lake Guide
Mandalay to Bagan Flights
It is now possible to fly from Mandalay to Bagan. The nearest airport is in Nyaung-u (NYU) which is one of the three main cities to stay in when visiting Bagan. There are several Bagan hotels here as well as some of the best restaurants. There are several airlines flying in Bagan but only Mann Yadanarpon Airlines has a direct flight from Mandalay (MDL) to Nyaung-u (NYU).
- Price: $60+
- Duration: 30 minutes
- Distance: 77 miles / 124 kilometers
- Departures: Several a day
For some reason taxis to/from the Mandalay airport is cheap as there is a set rate to & from the airport $10USD or 12,000k. All other taxis rides in Mandalay will cost you at 6,000k to just go to a restaurant 5 minutes away.
The Mandalay airport is super small and there would be no need to be at the airport more than 90 minutes before the flight. Once you land in Nyaung-U there will be taxis to bring you to your hotel or most hotels offer airport pickups too.
Airport taxis are said to have a set rate of 10,000 to hotels in Old Bagan and 5,000k to Nyaung-U hotels. Always feel to negotiate if you think the rate is inflated. If you’re on a Myanmar honeymoon we suggest flying as there isn’t anything romantic about the buses & boats in Myanmar.
Mandalay to Bagan Bus
When looking for the cheapest way on how to get from Mandalay to Bagan the bus is it. We, however, do not recommend this option. The buses from Mandalay to Bagan or not large coach buses, but instead minibusses.
These minibusses are known for driving crazy and overloaded with people. Not only will you see your life flash in front of your eyes but you’ll be crammed in the van like sardines.
- Price: $12
- Book Online Here
- Duration: 5-7 hours
- Distance: 113 miles / 181 kilometers
- Departures: Several a day there are Bagan day buses and Bagan nights buses
Myanmar travel tip SKIP the night bus! Budget travelers in Myanmar often take the night buses as it saves on accommodation for the night but then they are dropped off in Bagan at 4 am. So not only did you not sleep but now what are you going to do considering most hotel check-in isn’t until 2 pm.
Our friends took the bus from Mandalay to Bagan and said the driver had the bus full of packages that kept flying all over, the driver was passing other vehicles on turns, driving at high speeds, and said they’ve never been any other bus as scary as this ride.
The above ways on how to get from Mandalay to Bagan can be reversed if you are looking for how to go from Bagan to Mandalay.
Once you arrive in Bagan the journey will be so worth it. Bagan was our favorite place in Myanmar and cannot be missed. We suggest spending at least 3 nights in Bagan, we spent 5 nights and think this was the right amount of time.
Recommended Mandalay Hotels:
- Luxury Mandalay Hotel $100+ Mandalay Hill Resort 5 star resort located just outside the moat within walking distance several Mandalay attractions.
- Midrange Mandalay Hotel $50-$100 The Link 78 Mandalay Boutique Hotel 4 star hotel in the center of Mandalay with modern rooms.
- Budget Mandalay Hotel Under $50 Hotel A1 #10 hotel on TripAdvisor is where we stayed located right in the center of Mandalay, great value
Recommended Bagan Hotels:
- New Bagan Hotel: Kumudara Hotel | Agoda | TripAdvisor
- Old Bagan Hotel: Thande Hotel Bagan | Booking.com| Hotels.com| TripAdvisor Reviews
- Nyanung-U Hotel: Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Bagan | Booking.com | Hotels.com | TripAdvisor Reviews
Monday 10th of February 2020
booked your recd boat to bagan: thanks for the advice; about 85000 in feb 2020;
great trip. we slept about 5 hours off and on very comfortable recliners. the 2 meals at 7 and noon were tasty and sufficient. crew were friendly without pandering. getting off and on the boat was not flat but had a good incline with a hand held rail. the highlight was stopping at the village to walk on lanes thru the connecting houses, see people working , observe the ingenuity with designing structures with wood, and knowing that the company supports the village school and other projects for out ability to gawk and peak without the need for us to give money.
Sunday 5th of April 2020
Thanks for the update! Glad you had a great trip, it's such an amazing place!
bobby j jett
Friday 22nd of February 2019
Hi i am going to be in Myanmar next March. I want to use Mr Fatty for the private drive. Is this an interesting drive through small villages and towns, or a highway??
Monday 25th of February 2019
Overall the drive is not super scenic, but there were a few nice viewpoints that we stopped to take photos. We were just going from A to B, but you can probably ask him to make some stops or take a way that incorporates the things you want.
Saturday 19th of January 2019
Hi Adam/ Hannah. Just love this! So much great info; really useful for a solo traveler like myself. Happy now that I booked for 3 days in Mandalay. Just have one or two questions:
1. Due to budget I have to fly in and out of Mandalay. My trip is 11 days. Is it worth trying to make the trip to Yangon and back up to Mandalay? I plan to do a lot around Mandalay, Inle, Bagan etc. 2. Minus hotel costs, what kind of budget would you recommend for touristy stuff, - buses, boat trips, balloon ride at Bagan, e-bike hire, daily food etc? Would $1000 be enough?
Monday 4th of February 2019
With only 11 days I would not make the trip to Yangon - your time is much better spent in Bagan and the rest of your itinerary. Myanmar is not as cheap as it's surrounding countries. You can definitely make $1,000 work, if you are not counting flight/hotel costs - however maybe not the balloon rides because for some reason these are super expensive in Bagan. You could do it but you'd have to pinch elsewhere, the ride in Bagan is $350 per person. Have an amazing trip!
Sunday 16th of September 2018
Thanks for the information which is just what I am looking for and need. One question about the boat tour. Is the boat equipped with a toilet which is ok to use?
Monday 17th of September 2018
Yes, there is a toilet on board the ferry to Bagan, like any ferry toilet in Asia I try and wait if possible. If needed you would be fine. Have a blast in Myanmar.
Friday 17th of August 2018
Thank you for the time you put into this post. Great information. If we were to fly, there is a flight that gets in from Chiang Mai to Mandalay at 5:30pm and a flight that leaves Mandalay to Bagan at 6:00pm. It that crazy to think we could make that connection. How big/small is the Mandalay airport and would we get our baggage off one plane and onto the other on time?
Saturday 18th of August 2018
The Mandalay airport is not huge, and not very busy. However, I personally won not book this flight combination. Flights often run behind and the odds are not in your favor to make this connection. I would actually stay in Mandalay for a night or two. There is a good of good sights to see and it's often overlooked, we were really surprised how cool Mandalay was --> here is our quick stopover guide to Mandalay https://www.gettingstamped.com/things-to-do-in-mandalay-guide/