One of the most popular journeys to undertake as a traveller in Myanmar is the Mandalay to Bagan route . A historic journey which takes you from the old royal capital of Myanmar to the ancient city of Bagan.
Along the way, visit a landscape dominated by pagodas and lush green rolling hills and mountains; a part of the world finally enjoying its rightfully deserved UNESCO Heritage status.
Wondering what the best way to travel from Mandalay to Bagan is?
Often the first or last stop on a Myanmar trip, Bagan offers so much for the visitor and is rich in culture and heritage.
Bagan was one of my absolute favourite places in Myanmar so whichever way you choose to get from Mandalay to Bagan, you’re going to have the most wonderful time. Here are the five best ways to get from Mandalay to Bagan: the scenic route, the quick route, the cheap route, the fun route, and the epic route!
Of course, these options will also take you from Bagan to Mandalay if you’re going the way.
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The Scenic Route – Mandalay to Bagan by Boat
Taking the boat is one of the most pleasurable and scenic ways to travel, the Irrawady River flows through all of Myanmar and is often described as the ‘lifeblood of the country’. You could actually travel the entire country by boat taking stops at interesting places along the way.
The trip from Mandalay to Bagan takes ten hours so not a great choice if you’re short on days but I would argue that the experience and what you see on the way is well worth it. Particularly as the train, at seven hours, isn’t significantly shorter and the boat is far comfier.
There are plenty of price options (the minimum price for a ride is around $30) depending on the level of comfort you want and there are options for stopping off at local villages on the way.
The 30-minute Fast Way – Mandalay to Bagan by Plane
Undoubtedly the fastest way to travel between the two cities is by plane. It takes just thirty minutes (often as little as twenty) and the view as you’re landing into all of that green dotted with red sandstone is unbelievable. Internal flights in Myanmar are easy, methodical and I had no issues whatsoever with my luggage or delays.
The downside is that this is the most expensive way to travel since Myanmar doesn’t have budget airlines as of yet. Generally speaking, you’re looking at a minimum of $50, if you are taking this route then I’d recommend booking early.
There are several flights a day so you’ll have the most options in terms of departure times compared to other modes of public transport.
Note: you can actually fly directly to and from Bagan with Bangkok Airlines now which is a perfect way to extend your trip.
The 5-hour Cheap Route – Mandalay to Bagan by Bus
It takes around five hours to get to Bagan from Mandalay by bus so it definitely isn’t the quickest method on this list (although not the slowest either) but it is the cheapest!
And if you’ve got time on your side then you can enjoy the views on the way, however, the minibusses are known for being cramped, driving fast and carelessly and generally being a bit manic so bear that in mind if you’re not looking for a panic attack. You can book bus tickets online here.
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The Fun 7-hour Method – Mandalay to Bagan by Train
The train route from Bagan to Mandalay is the longest journey at seven hours but it’s certainly an experience. There are two trains per day, one in the morning and one at night.
Obviously, the night seems like a great option but the only catch is that there are no sleeper cars so if you’re the kind of person who can get some shut-eye in a seat then you’ll be fine.
The trains are quite comfortable, spacious and affordable but notoriously bumpy so don’t go in with high expectations. Catching a train in Myanmar is an experience you should have at least once so why not on the way to Bagan!
You can book train tickets online here or you can go to the station a few days ahead and pick one up in person. You need a paper ticket to board no e-tickets which could be an issue.
The 4-hour Epic Road Trip (or private drive) – Mandalay to Bagan by Car
Whether you’re sharing a car with friends or looking to hire a taxi, travelling by car it is about 180 kilometers (112 miles) and will take around four hours.
They drive on the right in Myanmar but you’ll notice a lot of the cars are left-hand drive as many are imported from Japan. They’re phasing these out slowly but that does make the roads somewhat challenging and people often have an assistant driver to help them watch the roads properly. It’s a fact worth bearing in mind before taking to the roads yourself!
You can actually hire a taxi/private driver to take you for around $70 which considering the price of flights is actually not a bad option and you have total freedom in terms of time and stop-offs.
Where to Stay in Bagan
We’ve covered all of your hotel needs in our Where to Stay in Myanmar post, from hotels to homestays you’ll find your perfect Bagan accommodation right here. Hotels are relatively cheap in Bagan and many are located in the middle of the archeological zone so it’s the perfect place to splash out.