Arriving to and departing from Myanmar? A travel guide for all your transportation needs is right here
Green – Open border
Red – Closed border
Yellow – Domestic Airport
Blue – International Airport
Arriving to and Departing from Myanmar
Traveling to and from Myanmar is incredibly easy by air and much more difficult via land. The three international airports in Myanmar are the Yangon International Airport, the Mandalay International Airport and Nya Pyi Taw International Airport. These airports provide direct flights throughout the region however most trips still require a stop in Bangkok, Thailand.
Due to current conflicts in the Southeast Asian region and certain geopolitical factors, the only land crossings available to tourists are from Myanmar’s border with Thailand and you’ll need to obtain your Myanmar visa beforehand at the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok or Consulate in Chiang Mai. Pro-Tip: eVisas are not accepted at land crossings.
Thailand’s incredible devotion to its tourist industry is readily apparent when looking at the border with Myanmar. Four crossings make for a smooth transition to the less-developed neighbor of the Thai spread north to south throughout the border. Visa-free travel is a luxury when crossing into Thailand, however you’ll have to sort out your visas before heading the other way into Myanmar. The four main crossings are the Myawaddy-Myawaddy ‘Friendship Bridge’ river crossing, Mae Sai/Tachileik crossing between Chang Rai and Shan State, Phunaron/Htee Kee crossing and the Ranong/Kawthaung crossing. The Sangkhla Buri/Payathonzu and Singkhorn Pass are interesting sites that bridge the two countries but should be avoided by tourists as they forbid anyone not holding Myanmar or Thai nationalities to cross.
The Myawaddy-Mae Sot Friendship Bridge
For travelers heading from Bangkok to Yangon, the Myawaddy-Mae Sot “Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge” Crossing is the most efficient and aesthetically-pleasing route to take. More than just a capital-to-former capital drive, travelers can stop by iconic places such as the sleepy and pagoda-filled village of Hpa An, the colonial-inspired city of Mawlamyine and the famed Golden Rock Pagoda of Mount Kyaiktiyo. Another bonus to taking the Friendship Bridge is the close proximity to Myanmar’s currently-underdeveloped transportation network. Pro-Tip: Beat the queue! Myanmar border control has separate windows for locals and foreigners making the necessary visa checks a breeze.
Reaching Mae Sot in Thailand’s Tak Province is a rather simple affair. You can take direct busses from Bangkok and Chiang Mai and soon you’ll be in Myanmar’s eastern Kayin State and city of Myawaddy. If you’d prefer to keep hitting the pavement, head roughly one kilometer to the Myawaddy Bus Station and take the new road over the Dawna Mountains towards the rest of the Golden Land.
In the North? Take the Tachileik-Mae Sai Crossing
Northern Thailand is known for its exceptional beauty however it has received a well-deserved reputation for being too tourist-heavy. For travelers who yearn for a more laid back and natural adventure, it gets no better than Myanmar’s Shan State. The northernmost crossing between Thailand and Myanmar is a trickier one and begins in Mae Sai, Chang Rai Province, and continues on to Tachileik, Myanmar. Pro-Tip: Tachileik’s main currency is the Thai Baht, not the Myanmar Kyat, so keep your Baht handy. The journey through the crossing ends at the Shan city of Kyaing Tong (pronounced “Chaing Tong”) and a special permit is required to continue traveling this path. The reason for this is its location at the heart of the “Golden Triangle,” a rather dangerous area known for its opium production. Don’t worry, the city is safe! Pro-Tip: Make sure to see the impressive Naung Tong Lake while in town and the massive Standing Buddha Image. Tribal villages also offer something exotic to the wandering traveler as do the mysterious and foreboding Shan Mountains if you’re in the mood for a trek.
The Kyaing Tong Airport keeps the trip through the Golden Land going as flights to Yangon, Mandalay and Heho Airport are available.
Fancy the Middle of Nowhere? Try the Htee Kee and Phunaron Crossing
To get a real idea of what Myanmar and Thailand were like when they were still commonly referred to as Burma and Siam, then the Htee Kee-Phunaron Crossing is the perfect route. The remote region between Thailand’s Kanchanaburi and Myanmar’s Daawei in the Tanintharyi region takes about 5 hours just to reach the border and include two checkpoints located about 1 kilometer apart. The area in between is considered “no-man’s land,” an area forbidden by either Myanmar or Thailand from claiming. The people here have no nationality or country to call home. For the adventurous it’s something to see, however a very dangerous proposition to travel in.
The trek begins in Kanchanaburi (where only four buses leave daily) and continues onto the tiny border village of Phunaron where, after passing the aforementioned checkpoints, you can take either a minibus or car provided it’s not too late in the day. Pro-Tip: To attempt the crossing, leave early in the morning. By the time you reach Myanmar there may not be any transportation left. The road in Myanmar to the closest city of Dawei takes roughly 5 hours and can be impassible during the monsoon season.
Island-Hopping in the South Made Easy from Kawthaung to Ranong
The southernmost border crossing between Myanmar and Thailand takes place between Kawthaung in Tanintharyi Region and Ranong in the Ranong Province. Kawthaung is a popular destination for island-hopping tourists in Myanmar as it is the starting point for cruises to the pristine Myeik Archipelago and hitching boats to the towns of Myeik and Dawei. Traveling from Kawthaung is recommended by boat or plane as the Kawthaung Airport serves flights to Yangon and more. Pro-Tip: The road north from Kawthaung is rough and bumpy. Save yourself the inconvenience and splurge on a smoother trip.
China, India, Bangladesh and Laos
Special permits are required to cross the Golden Land’s border with China at the Ruili, Yunan Province crossing and the Indian Moreh, Manipur State crossing. Foreigners are restricted from crossing Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh but in the way of good news, Laos is expected to have an official land crossing sometime in 2016. We will update this space as news progresses.