Guide to first visit to Bagan

I made a short “summary” guide to help travellers, who would be interested in visiting Bagan for the first time.

Introduction to Bagan

Bagan is located on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River (Irrawaddy), a few kilometres south of Mandalay and north of Yangon. During its golden age as the centre of the pagan kingdom, now known as modern Myanmar, more than 10,000 Buddhist monuments were built on its vast plains. However, there are only about 2,000 of these monuments left and they can be seen today. These monuments tend to be the main reason why travellers (like me) flock to Myanmar.

When to Visit Bagan?

Bagan has a tropical climate so there are only 2 seasons – wet and dry. The months to avoid are March to May, when Bagan is very hot, and June to October, when you will probably be soaked. November to February is the ideal time to go there because the temperatures are becoming much more pleasant. However, as it is the high season, you will need to book everything in advance – transportation, accommodation and excursions. More information on when to go in Bagan.

Make your visa to go to Bagan

Foreign nationals wishing to enter Myanmar for tourism or commercial purposes are required to obtain a visa unless they are citizens of these Southeast Asian countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Singapore (as of December 1, 2016), Thailand (by air only) and Vietnam. Citizens of these countries can only stay 14 days without a visa. Others will need to apply for an eVisa or obtain a visa on arrival.

How to reach Bagan?

To be quite honest, Bagan is not the easiest place to get to because there are no direct international flights to its nearest airport, Nyaung U Airport. But once you touch down in Myanmar, probably in Mandalay or Yangon, you will have a variety of options to reach Bagan. This will depend on how much time and money you are willing to spend.

By plane

If you are in a hurry, flying is the fastest way to get to Bagan. Many national airlines from Mandalay, Heho and Yangon have non-stop flights at Nyaung U airport. The journey takes about 30 minutes from Mandalay, 40 minutes from Heho and one hour and 20 minutes from Yangon. But it’s going to cost you a lot of money. The price of a one-way ticket is about MMK 80k.

By bus

Taking a bus – a day or night – is the most popular way to get to Bagan because bus services in Myanmar are inexpensive and reliable. The common bus routes in Bagan leave from Yangon, Mandalay, Nyaung Shwe, Taunggyi, Kalaw and Pyin Oo Lwin. They have rest stops every few hours and provide free bottled water and wet wipes to make the trip more comfortable.

By train

A train trip to Bagan can offer you panoramic views of the countryside. However, trains in Myanmar are less reliable and efficient than buses, so you’d better be patient. Train classes range from the ordinary class (with simple wooden seats) to the first and upper class (with padded seats) and the berth (with sleeping compartments). Nevertheless, the road will be long and bumpy, whatever your choice.

By boat

If you are adventurous enough and have all the time in the world, then travelling by boat can be an interesting alternative to the usual modes of transport. The popular waterways pass through the Ayeyarwady River. And a trip lasts an average of 12 hours.

Book a boat from Mandalay

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