How To Get from Mandalay to Bagan by Boat, Bus, Train, Plane, or Car

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.


How To Get From Mandalay To Bagan

sunrise on the boat from Mandalay to Bagan Myanmar

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: $35 -$40
  • 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.

breakfast on board the boat from Mandalay to Bagan Myanmar

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.


taxi or private driver from Mandalay to Bagan Myanmar

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


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


Flights from Mandalay to Bagan Myanmar

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.


How to get from Mandalay to Bagan Myanmar by Bus

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:

How did travel to Bagan? We’d love to hear from you!

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31 thoughts on “How To Get from Mandalay to Bagan by Boat, Bus, Train, Plane, or Car”

  1. 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??

    • 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.

  2. 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?

    • 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!

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

    • 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/

  5. Thanks for your info here, it is by far the most useful blog I have come across.

    I am planning to travel to Bagan from Mandalay, Ill be travelling on my own and wanted to see what the safest way to travel would be? I was looking at either the private driver or the boat but am conscious that I will be by myself.

    Thanks

    • So glad we could help you out! The boat to Bagan or the private driver are both good options, it really comes down to how early you want to get up and how fast you want to get to Bagan. If you do the private driver then you won’t have to negotiate with a taxi once of the ferry to get you to your hotel, so that’s a perk for a private driver. No matter what you’ll get to Bagan which was our favorite part in Myanmar.

  6. All the informations given in your blog are amazing and kept me dreaming of my intention to fly from Chiang Mai to Mandalay next July. Thank you very much for all the stuff and recommendations. Taxi will be my first choice.

    • God to hear! It’s easy to get to Mandalay from Chiang Mai! Honestly Myanmar is one of our favorite countries in south-east Asia! Hope you make it there soon!

  7. Thanks for the great articles about how to get around in Myanmar! We just arrived in Mandalay yesterday, first time in Myanmar, and your website helped us a lot! Heading to Bagan in 2 days by private driver 🙂

    • Hope you are having a great time so for traveling in Myanmar! Did you check out our things to do in Mandalay article? It’s a city worth staying a few nights, most people just get in and head to Bagan. We think a private driver is a great option on traveling to Bagan. Safe travels.

  8. hi Hannah
    thanks for all the info we are going to myanmar for christmas and contacted Fatty for a price $100 does that seem about right manadalay to bagan?

    • We personally didn’t use Fatty to bring us from Mandalay to Bagan, we hired him for a day trip in Mandalay for 10 hours and I think it was $45 for the day. You can try and negotiate with him, but that price is about the same as you’d pay for 2 boat tickets and you’d get there sooner. Or you can book here http://shrsl.com/?g35b for $70 this would be a good option too. I’d see if Fatty would stop at a few places you want to stop for $100 and make a day trip out of it.

  9. Hi! Could you tell me the name of the boat cruise company you are recommending? I can’t seem to find the name of the company when I click on the link, and wanted to search for some more reviews before committing. When I search cruise companies in Myanmar, I just find MGRG and Malikha. Is it Malikha? Thank you!

    • Sorry, I don’t have the name of the company. We would definitely advise booking with Viator (a Tripadvisor) company just in case you have any issues they should be able to help you out. The boat we went on we would not recommend at all. I am sure you are noticing when researching things & transport in Myanmar you won’t find a ton of information or current information. Sadly the same is once you are there BUT it is an amazing country and you’ll have a great Myanmar trip. Safe travels.

  10. Hi, I came across your blog by chance and now we cancelled the ferry and booked Fetty (should be here any minute. I hope 😉 ) after 3 days on a boot getting to/from/around Mrauk U and Chin villages this sounded like the better option. Your blog’s fun to read and very helpful. Thx!

    PS: Do you know a place to rent scooters in old or new Bagan?

    • Thanks! Hope you are Enjoying Myanmar! Pretty much everyone you talk to in Bagan knows someone who has ebikes to rent so it shouldn’t be a problem. Just make sure they keep them charged at night and they will let you take the early for the sunrises. For that reason, it’s probably better to rent from a place that has many ebikes. We rented through our hotel, so we don’t have a specific one to recommend.

  11. Thank you for a very informative site!
    We’ll be travelling to Myanmar during August and heard that there are few ATM’s & credit card facilities available and that one should bring cash. Is this still true? What was your experience?

    • Glad it was helpful! Bring some US cash but you don’t need enough for your entire trip like in years past. There are plenty of ATMs in the popular tourist cities. There’s even an ATM floating somewhere in one of the towns on Inle Lake. There’s always a chance a machine won’t work or take your card, so have some cash, but it’s not like it was just a few years ago. Enjoy Myanmar, it’s amazing!

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