The table to the left shows our daily budget for two persons and includes solely in-country expenses excluding flights and visas (Spring 2014).
Just for info, we flew from Bangkok to Mandalay with AirAsia (a company we recommend) and bought our tickets on-line with one checked bag for 38.5 £ per person.
We applied for our visas in Phnom Penh (Cambodia), price was 20$ per person at the time of travel.
We spent 25 days in Burma, visiting the big four (Mandalay, Bagan, Inle and Yangon) before moving south to cross overland into Thailand via the Mae Sot crossing (we flew in to Mandalay from Bangkok) and spent much less as we had anticipated.
We were in the country at the tail end of the season (March 10th to April 4th), so this probably made an impact, but we believe that even in the high season, we would have fared pretty well.
Also, we made the three long journeys from Mandalay - Bagan - Inle and Kalaw to Yangon with night train/buses, which saved us the cost of three hotel nights.
During the season in which we travelled , we had no problems at all finding a room. We simply showed up without a reservation and had always more than one hotel with vacancies to chose from. We had not often luck at bargaining, it was mostly a case of accept the price or leave it.
- Mandalay: we stayed at the Nylon Hotel and had a room with attached bathroom / AC / hot water and good breakfast for 20$. Recommended.
- Nyaung U for Bagan: Pyinsa Rupa Guest House, room with attached bathroom / AC / hot water / breakfast and quite unfriendly staff in the kitchen/breakfast room for 23$.
- Nyangshwe for Inle Lake: This was the only place where we got the feeling that finding a room might be a bit difficult. We arrived very early and many hotels were full, so we stopped at the first one with availabilities: the Gold Star Hotel where we had a room with attached bathroom / AC / hot water and excellent and big breakfast for 25US$. However, this was a bit over our budget, so after settling in, we went looking for something cheaper for the rest of our stay. We found several hotels when we searched later in the day, so we think that the problem was more due to our early arrival, unconcerned night staff and people not having vacated their rooms yet. Finally,we moved to the River Wood Inn (in the Big Drum restaurant compound along the channel): nice room with attached bathroom / AC / hot water and breakfast for 20$. Recommended.
- Kalaw: Pineland Hotel, room with attached bathroom / hot water and poor breakfast with aloof and not to be bothered staff for 12$. No AC, but this was not needed as the climate in Kalaw was much cooler than in the plains. Also, quite noisy as along the main road with lots of buses stopping near the hotel to load and unload passengers during the night.
- Yangon: Garden Guest House near Sule Pagoda, room with attached bathroom / AC / hot water and basic breakfast for 18$. Recommended.
- Bago: San Francisco Motel for 15,000 Kyatt - room with attached bathroom but no AC, no hot water and no breakfast.
- Kinpun for Golden Rock: we found a room in the old building of the Sea Sar Guest House (not in the main bungalow compound) for 13$ with attached bathroom, breakfast but no AC. If you go there, try to get a room facing the big restaurant over the road as they are cooler than the ones on the other side which get full sun.
- Hpa-An: Thanlwin Oo Guest House (with the purple facade), a great place where we paid 15,000 Kyatt for a nice attached room with AC but no breakfast. We could have got a detached room for 10,000 Kyatt. Recommended.
- Moulmein: Aurora Guest House, room with clean bathroom outside, no breakfast, no AC for 12$ (277 Lower Main Road).
We were amazed at how cheap and tasty the food is in Burma. We ended up spending an average of 3,500 Kyatt (roughly 2.2£/3.6$/2.7€) per day for the two of us. However, our eating patterns while on the road are not to everyone's taste, so we are probably not the best benchmark on this one:
- In Burma, it was a bonus for us that breakfast was often included in the room price. But if not, we are used to taking our breakfast in the room. We have an electric heating spiral to make our own tea and we eat some local biscuits, this is quite cheap. During the day, we have some snacks and fruits, all local stuff bought on markets and we watch our pennies, ie no imported foreign goodies such as Mars bars, McVities cookies or Pringles, which are always expensive. We like to indulge with Coke, but then again, we always go for the local brand. And the fact that we do not drink any beer or alcohol makes a big difference. In the evening, we stick to local stalls: first because the food there is tasteful and cheap, and second because portions in restaurants never quite match our appetite for the price we have to pay ;-)
- Setting the food budget for a new country is always tricky as indications in guide books always assume breakfast, restaurant at least once a day, regular beers, etc… We take this into account while planning and decrease the recommendations accordingly, but we always end up spending less as planned… As it came out, we got it mightly wrong for Burma and did not expect it to be so cheap.
We travelled by train, bus and pick-ups. We love walking, walk a lot (also with back-pack when searching for hotels) and very very rarely take taxis or tuk-tuks. When we landed in Mandalay after an Air Asia flight from Bangkok, we found it very convenient indeed that the Air Asia shuttle into the town centre was free of charge for their customers. That was a good start!
Train: we took the train four times and were positively surprised. First, we must say that we are used to sleeping almost anywhere, local night buses or ordinary class trains, so maybe you should take our experience with a pinch of salt, but for us, the Burmese Railways were perfect, cheap and a good way to mix with locals. On the other side, it is definitely not something for people with back problems.
- 1st trip was the night train from Mandalay to Bagan (4$ per person). We decided to take the ordinary class i.e. wooden seats (back and bottom). Yes, it was very bumpy, slow and shaky but we found it quite a good trip and managed to have some sleep. In fact, we were hesitating whether we should have taken a first or upper class seat, but we don't think we would have been less shaken in those ones and from what we heard from other tourists after arriving in Bagan, we seem to have had as good a night as they had…. Good in Burma is that there is no “seat struggle”: there is one seat allocated to one person and no one tries to “invade” your space as would happen in sleeper class in India for example. Train left on time and arrived on time
- 2nd trip was the day train from Shwenyaung to Kalaw (1$ per person). Here again, bumpy and shaky, but not crowded, one seat for each, ordinary class, left on time, arrived on time, very nice landscape.
- 3rd trip was the circular train ride in Yangon (1$ per person): we were a bit disappointed by this ride, a bit of a non-event in our opinion.
- 4th trip was from Yangon to Bago (2$ per person): same as above, left and arrived 10 minutes late (not really worth mentioning).
Local Buses: we travelled the long distances with buses.
- Nyaung U to Nyangshwe (Bagan to Inle): 12,000 Kyatt per person. We were picked in front of our Guest House at 19.00. The journey was quite bumpy with many stops (light on / light off), two longer breaks but somehow we managed to sleep as we were really surprised when they woke us up at 03:30 am and told us we had arrived in Nyangshwe. We were dropped without any further information in deserted and dark streets with the taxi/pick up mafia dancing around us, claiming the hotels were still quite a way to go (they're not). Since we did not want to pay a hotel room for a few hours sleep, we decided to wait for dawn where we were and eventually ended up following a tout who claimed he knew a hotel which would accept us immediately and not charge these first hours… We walked there (not far) and of course this was not the case; the hotel was full, but they allowed us to stay in their lobby, so it was not a too bad location to spend the rest of the night.
- Kalaw to Yangon: 13,000 Kyatt per person. A very good trip, confortable seats and functioning AC. We arrived early at Yangon Mingalar bus station and ignoring the taxis found the city bus no 43 (200 Kyatt per person) which brought us straight to the city centre right in front of the Sule Pagoda. This was cool. We looked around and saw the Garden Guest House just across the road, yes they had a room, it was so easy, we couldn't believe our luck!
- Bago to Kinpun: ticket bought at our guest house, 5,000 Kyatt per person. This was a bit strange but worked well in the end. A moto driver brought us for free to the main road at the exit of town and it seemed like they were trying to flag down any bus driving in the right direction to check whether they had seats for us. We got lucky as two tourists who paid much more than we did for their ticket (full fare from Yangon, bought in Bago but this ensured that they had a reserved seat) arrived to wait for their passing bus, and so, when they boarded, we managed to get back seats in the same bus. Was not very confortable, but did fine for us.
- Hpa-An to Moulmein: 1,100 Kyatt per person. We were dropped at the bus station, near the train station and had a good surprise when we discovered that there is a free pick-up service from the bus companies to bring passengers into the town centre.
- Kinpun to Hpa-An: we bought our ticket in Kinpun for 5,000 Kyatt per person. It went quite smoothly and we had to change pick up in Thanton (at no extra cost).
- Around Mandalay: 500 Kyatt per person one way to Sagaing or Amapura (same price). We did those trips separately one day for each, but they are really doable with a pickup in the same day. Leaving Mandalay is quite time and nerve consuming (be very patient, but it is excellent for people watching!), but once you're out of town, the drivers seem to confuse the road with a formula one race track.
- Around Hpa-An: 800 Kyatt per person one way to Kyaikmayaw. We also visited the Nwa La Bo Paya on the other side of the Thanlwin, 15km north of Mottama; we paid 2,200 Kyatt per person for the return pick up trip PLUS one pick up trip to the top but since we had so much time decided to walk down back to the road: not as far as it seems and recommended!
- Golden Rock: 2,500 Kyatt per person one way pick up to the top, we walked down, which was a really good idea.
Trip from Moulmein to the Thai Border:
- We took a moto (1,000 Kyatt per person) to the bus station and from there organised a shared taxi with two Burmese people for 5,000 Kyatt per person. It was a long drive, the road up the mountain being quite demanding. Note that due to the amount of traffic and the small road, cars are only allowed to go one way at a certain day. This means traffic Thailand - Burma is going on day X, traffic Burma - Thailand is going on day X + 1.
We won't go into the discussion whether it is ethical or not to dodge entry fees in Burma. Let's say that we managed quite easily to see most of Mandalay's pagodas and the Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon without paying.
As far as Bagan is concerned, since we walked from the train station to the city and it was before dawn, there was no one to stop us at the entrance of Nyaung U for the entry fee. However, because we wanted to roam through Bagan without having always to watch for a separate entry or potential wardens, we decided to pay the entry fee the first time they would ask for it at one of the temples (15$ per person).
Well, we regretted it at the end: first because we only got asked for it twice or thrice and every time it would have been a child's play to simply take a side entrance. But what made us really unhappy was the fact that we got the feeling that wherever the money goes to, it is not to sustain the site: toilets are to be paid extra, signs on the road are quite erratic and the conservation programmes, well…
$updated from: Blog.htxt Fri 15 May 2020 14:57:27 trvl2 (By Vero and Thomas Lauer)$