Myanmar’s infrastructure cannot be compared with her more
developed neighbors like Thailand or Malaysia. Although remarkable
improvements in this respect have been achieved during the last 10
years, traveling in Myanmar can still be rather adventurous and smooth
sailing cannot be taken for granted. However, our clients can rely on
our commitment to solve any problem that might occur.
a.) Road transport:
During the last 10 years extensive construction efforts led to dramatically
improved roads and bridges. An example might illustrate that: Until the mid
90s' there was only one bridge across the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River,
Myanmar’s principal stream - it had been built under the British in the
1930s(!). During the last few years, quite a few new bridges across the
Ayeyarwaddy have been opened for traffic. Simultaneously, existing roads
have been broadened and long stretches have been asphalted. The total length
of asphalt roads in the country at the end of the 20th century exceeded
number of cars and buses increased dramatically; in general, the quality of
the vehicles also improved. Nowadays it doesn’t constitute a problem to
travel the country by bus or car on fairly good roads - except in some
remote areas, as, for example, Rakhine state. The 'rattletraps' of former
monopolist Myanmar Tours and Travels have been replaced by modern buses with
air-condition, sometimes even including toilets.
Another rather welcome development is the availability of
taxis that were quite a rarity not too loontoo long ago - especially in
Yangon foreigners nowadays can be quite sure to find a taxi at any time
of the day. The density of traffic has increased considerably - however,
compared to neighboring countries Myanmar is still a 'driver’s
paradise', as a Burmese friend of mine pointed out not too long ago. By
the way, right-hand traffic has been introduced in 1970 but more than 40
years later most of the vehicles still have the steering wheel on the
'wrong' side, so to say...
b.) Air traffic:
Until the early 1990s all domestic air transport was handled by the
government-owned Myanmar Airways of ill repute. Until 2014 no less than
eight private airlines have entered the market and introduced a hitherto
unknown degree of punctuality, reliability and service to the local air
traffic. Even Myanmar Airways seems to have improved a bit...
Contrary to the formerly inevitable delays, which were more the rule than
the exception, these private companies have achieved amazing punctuality
statistics. Most airlines are operating with modern ATR airplanes from
France which have to regularly undergo safety checks. But there are other
planes, too, like Airbus and Embraer. Besides the major destinations
Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Heho these airlines also regularly call at more
remote airports like Sittwe (Rakhine State), Kyaingtong (Eastern Shan
State), Putao (Kachin State) - to cut a long story short: nearly all major
airports of Myanmar can be reached with private airlines these days.
International air traffic has improved as well. In former times, basically
the only way to enter Myanmar was via Yangon from Bangkok. Nowadays, the
one-gate-policy of old has been replaced: besides Yangon the old capital
Mandalay as well as the new capital Naypyidaw can be reached directly from
abroad. The major tourist attraction Bagan sometimes had direct connections
to Thailand, too, sometimes not. Myanmar is now connected to many countries
in the region, all the way to Japan. Apart from the national carrier of
Myanmar (Myanmar Airlines International) several well-known carriers from
neighboring countries such as Thai Airways or Singapore Airways are serving
the nation’s airports directly. Some Myanmar domestic airlines also serve
airports in Thailand. However, a real intercontinental air link is still on
the 'wish list' – Qatar Airways’ flight is the one that comes closest ..
Rail journeys in Myanmar are tiresome and time-consuming.
Therefore most of the visitors leave rail transport out of their
considerations. However, even on this sector improvements can be
recorded: Sleeper cars are now available and cleanliness has
taken great strides. And - yes! - there is even a private
railway company offering an improved service. Unfor-tunately,
delays are still the rule. The main line from Yangon to Mandalay
is the backbone of Myanmar Railways' extensive network. Two
switch-lines to the Shan Plateau (Thazi - Shwenyaung and
Mandalay - Lashio) bear some importance for tourists. The latter
line crosses the famous Gokteik Viaduct, reputed to be the
second highest in the world.
Most of the traffic is covered by diesel
engines, but steam engines still are a regular sight on
some branch lines. Myanmar Railways operates a network
of more than 2,600 miles that is steadily being
Recently, with the inauguration of the last leg between
Pyay and Satthwa, the Yoma Beltway was completed,
enabling travelers to circle this central mountain
However, it will most probably still take some
time until the railway can get its share of tourist traffic.
d.) River traffic:
What has been said about the railways is true as well for river
travel. The state-owned Inland Water Corp. (IWC) maintains an
extensive network of routes; however, river travel is rather
slow. Except for the route Mandalay - Bagan the IWC's ships are
not very popular with tourists.
A few years ago various private companies launched a number of
ships of different sizes and standards that are now mainly used
by tourists. Among those ships the 'Road to Mandalay' (RTM),
which had plied the Rhine River for several decades under the
name of 'Nederland', is the most luxurious.
This air-conditioned luxury cruiser offers an international
cuisine of high standard and - hardly to believe in a country
like Myanmar - a swimming pool on the upper deck. In short, the
RTM’s passengers can feel at home aboard the ship. As most of
the other private ships the RTM mainly plies the sector Mandalay
- Bagan. Unfortunately, the RTM’s sightseeing program is rather
Those who want to have a closer look at the life
near the Ayeyarwaddy River are well advised to book a land-based
Another shipping company is the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company (IFC)
of old-time glory: Their 'Pandaw I' and 'Pandaw II' offer good
standards, as well as the 'Irrawaddy Princess'. Thanks to their
low draught IFC’s ships are also able to travel beyond Mandalay
and up the Chindwin River - at least in the Rainy Season.
Unfortunately, the Delta Princess’ trips from
Yangon to Pathein have been canceled. But it is possible to
travel in the Ayeyarwaddy-delta, too. Pls. don’t hesitate to ask
us for details. The river is not so wide in the delta and there
is more to see during the trip.
e.) Further means of transport - the bicycle:
Yes, Myanmar can be explored by bicycle as well! However, to
avoid difficulties the route should be discussed with the local
authorities well ahead of the trip as quite a few roads are off
limits for foreigners and road conditions are sometimes not
encouraging as well.