Budgeting for Two Weeks of Travel in Myanmar/Burma

Budget travel in Myanmar is currently in a state of flux. Prices are constantly changing and like everyone else, I was hearing differing reports on what to budget for each day in the country. Having just recently returned from a two week stint in Myanmar, I can shed some light on the status of budget travel in Myanmar / Burma.

I spent a total of $313 in 14 days (Saturday to Saturday), which comes to $23.60 daily spending. I feel like it turned out much cheaper than expected, but here are a few things that affected my spending which you should be kept in mind before assuming the same will be true for yourself:

  • I was able to see three locations in total, Yangon where I flew in, Kalaw-Inle Lake, and Bagan. Spending more time in each location, I missed out on Mandalay, but traveling at a faster pace would have left plenty of time to squeeze it in as well.
  • The group I traveled with varied from 3-5 people, so I never had to deal with the expense of traveling solo. Doing so would surely have been much more expensive as the dorm options were scarce and single rooms where commonly near the price of a double. I was also able to split other expenses such as boat trips and taxis.
  • I went in the hottest month of the year and therefore, the low season. Besides Yangon, most guesthouses had space available, which helped some with bargaining down prices.
  • I managed to get a great rate of 850 when exchanging Dollars for Kyat in Yangon, but risked getting scammed. I very common occurrence.
  • The lone souvenir I bought was a 300 Kyat rice picker hat. If you’re a shopper, unlike myself, plan accordingly.

Botataung Pagoda in Yangon

Activities
Normally, activities can constitute a major portion of you costs, but Myanmar turned out to not be so bad. I’d say that I was able to hit all the main activities in each respective region, while still keeping my budget in check. During the 3-day trek to Inle Lake, for example, I only spent 13k Kyat a day, much less than normal. Also, after the initial entrance fee to Bagan, you can explore all the temples as much as you’d like for a full week (I spent 2 days) before having to shell out anymore money.

Modes of Transportation/Transit
Moving from city to city, I avoided traveling by air and train. I did this for two reasons. One being that they were both significantly more expensive; the train was pricier even though it was slower (tourists pay 10 times the rate of locals). Also, both options are regulated by the government and put some money in it’s pocket, something I was keeping to a reasonable minimum. Long bus rides it was then, but prepare for some dizzying rides along zig-zagging mountain roads. Book early or you’ll be relegated to the back where I, unfortunately, had to put the puke bag to use. Bus stations are also commonly outside of town and a 5-12k Kyat taxi to and fro is necessary.

Accommodation
Like I mentioned earlier, I was always able to share a room, which cut down on costs significantly. Yangon was the most pricey at $33 for a triple with a private bath and A/C, while other locations ranged from there to a minimum of $6 per person. A solo traveler we encountered was able to get a bed for $3 after showing up in the middle of the night (long buses commonly leave in the afternoon) and asking for half price. It’s always worth a shot to ask.

Food/Drink
Meals were relatively cheap, but not as much as say, Thailand and Cambodia. The cheapest plates were vegetable fried rice for 1,000 Kaht and went up from there. A traditional Myanmar dish in a simple restaurant, usually a curry, was a minimum of 3,000 Kyat. Luckily, many of the restaurants cleaned their dishes in “boiled water. Success Guaranteed.” A beer ran you anywhere from 600 Kyat in the city, to double that in smaller towns, but another real expense, liquid wise, was water. We went in the hottest month of May and bought 2-4 bottles a day just to stay hydrated. Bagan was the real killer, hitting 44 degrees Celsius during our stay.

Actual Prices I Paid in Yangon
Entrance to Shwedagon Pagoda – $5
Entrance to Botataung Pagoda – $3
Circle Line Train in Yangon – $1
Bus from Yangon to Kalaw – 11k Kyat

Actual Prices I Paid in Inle Lake
Entrance to Inle Lake Region – $5
3-day Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake (including bag transfer) – 37k Kyat
Full day boat tour of Inle Lake – 13k Kyat (2.6k/person split 5 ways)
24 hr bike rental in Inle Lake – 1k Kyat
Ferry transport for 5 people and bikes across Inle Lake – 7.5k Kyat (split 5 ways)
Camera fees for other Pagodas around Inle Lake – 500 Kyat
Bus from Inle Lake to Bagan – 13k Kyat

Actual Prices I Paid in Bagan
Entrance to Bagan – $10
Horse carriage back and forth to Bagan temple for sunset – 4k Kyat
24 hr bike rental in Bagan – 1.5k Kyat
Bus from Bagan to Yangon – 15k Kyat

I normally don’t travel with a hard copy of any guidebooks, but in Myanmar my travel companions had the following guidebooks. Research can rarely be done on the internet so the books did come in handy. :)
Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma)
Lonely Planet Southeast Asia: On a Shoestring

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57 thoughts on “Budgeting for Two Weeks of Travel in Myanmar/Burma

      • Hi Philip,

        High and Big five for you to make such a organised and full of information blogs.
        Its terrific.
        I am going in October to Myanmar.
        I was interested to know about quality of bus service and how much time it took you for
        Bus from Yangon to Kalaw ?
        Bus from Inle Lake to Bagan ?
        Bus from Bagan to Yangon?

        Many Thanks :)

        Garry

        • Luckily, I had to times written down.
          Yangon to Kalaw: 11 hrs
          Inle Lake to Bagan: 8 hrs
          Bagan to Yangon: 10 hrs

          As far as the quality, the long distance services were pretty comparable to similar buses in other parts of Southeast Asia. Although, I did get a free toothbrush as an added bonus on one.

  1. Hello,
    Thanks for this blog. Cool design, well organized and nice inputs for thought and planning. I’ll go to Myanmar from 5th to 22nd August 2012 and all this info was very useful! The only thing I’m a bit scared is the weather. It seems it rains a lot during August (raining season). At least many people says so in Lonely Planet Forums. Do you happen to know somebody that was in Myanmar in August? What did they say about the rain? I’ve been in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand in the past, always in August, and it rained sometimes, really heavy rains but very punctual and not every day so it was not that annoying. If you have some insights on that, any opinion would be appreciated!
    Safe travels!!!
    Regards

    • I’ve found a good and simple way to research a countries weather is to go to a cities Wikipedia page and jump to the climate section. For example, Yangon. There you can see how much rain falls each month. In your case, It looks like Mandalay receives a similar amount of rainfall as Bangkok, but Yangon receives over twice as much. Being in the tropics, I’d also assume the rain comes in heavy downpours in the afternoons.

      Hope this helps. I actually studied meteorology in university :)

  2. Hi Phil
    Your blog is really useful but please could you tell me if your $313 spend included hotels/accomodation? It seems a lot cheaper than I thought! I’m travelling to Burma in August and trying to figure out how much to budget per day.
    Thanks
    Pauline

    • Yes, that total does include accommodation. Keep in mind that I was always able to share a room (split prices) with other travelers and we usually searched for the cheapest accommodation available. Sometimes that meant no air-con.

  3. Hi Phil!

    I was wondering about that trekking you did to Inle lake, how did you get it? Is there a contact you could give me?

    Did you hire any guides for the cities? Do you have to do it through government agencies or is it possible to hire your own choice?

    • My trek starting in Kalaw and ended in Inle Lake. I’d recommend this direction since its a drop in elevation this direction. We booked ours in the town of Kalaw through an agency called Ever Smile, which I would highly recommend. It’s run out of a home that’s located just south of Aung Thabye Rd. Any hotel should be able to point you in their direction.

      The only other “guide” that we hired was for a day on Inle Lake. For this, we just booked a boat from the pier the day before.

  4. This is really informative, thank you for sharing :) Will head there end of this month; trying to squeeze Yangon-Bagan-Mandalay-Inle. Might drop Mandalay if it’s too rushed.

    • Yea, I would’ve loved to have had time for Mandalay, but then again, I’m glad we didn’t rush. Enjoy your trip. Myanmar is an amazing place!

        • The internet is usually available in most places, but its also very slow. Morning and midday is a little faster, but sometimes in the evenings you can’t even get gmail in the html version to load. Very unpredictable.

  5. hey phil,

    love the blog,

    really helpful…im planning a trip to burma at xmas for a month, had some questions about traveling around and trains/buses and stuff….can i ping you an email please ?

    enjoy you travels

    k

  6. I can’t thank you enough for this blog post! It saves me so much time and frustration looking for every little detail in the hundreds of forums. I’m seriously impressed at spending just $313…we are going for 26 days and anticipate spending maybe $1000 each…too much? I have heard the accommodation prices have gone up. But again, thank you!!

    • Thanks sounds like a fair amount. Since there still aren’t ATMs you should bring at least that much just to be safe. I definitely brought more than I planned on spending.

    • Hi Laura (and Phil),
      How did the $1,000/month budget work out for you?
      I’ll be there 3 months for a job, but will be spending the vast majority of time only in Mawlamyine (rather than traveling around).
      Just curious is 3,000 would be a good budget or if I should plan less or more.
      Thanks to you both.

      • I think that’s a good and safe budget. Since you’ll be working and not doing tourist things the entire time you probably won’t need as much, but you can always convert the money back that you don’t spend.

  7. Thank you for the information
    I’m going in December and would like to know how much I should change (say on 1,000 USD) considering that many things, like hotels and tourist entrances, have to be bought in USD.
    Thank you again
    Chiara

        • Based on my experience, I’d estimate that half of your spending will be in Dollars and half in Kyat. Having said that, there isn’t really a reason to change it all at once. You can change it throughout the country. Might lose a few dollars on exchange rate but I’m not sure how easy it is to change them back to dollars if you don’t end up spending all of them

  8. Hi! just a short question; I am reading everywhere that rabies is a problem. How did you find this? Are there a lot of dogs (dangerously) running around?
    regards,
    Karin

  9. Hi Phil, I have done what you did more than 20 years ago, however, all in one go, travelling around the world in two years – before kids. It does sound familiar always looking for the best deals and cheapest hostels, food and transport. Me and my family of five have been travelling ourselves to a few interesting countries since. What is the situation in Myanmar in terms of finding your way around – there won’t probably be many people speaking English? Is it advisable to get guides or is it fine taking a guide book around? I am thinking along similar lines to you – taking my time and spend some more time in one location rather than rushing around, trying to tick everything off and getting all stressed out about it. Were there some other areas / experiences you would have included on a longer trip? Thanks in advance

    • I was actually surprised at the number of people that spoke some degree of English. While you aren’t going to have a full on conversation, you can usually get your needs across no problem. Originally, the plan was to go to Mandalay and the surrounding areas so that would’ve been the first place I would’ve included. I also considered heading south to the Golden Rock. Good luck on your trip!

  10. Phil,

    Awesome blog! Very useful info conveyed in a succinct and organised way! I am off to Burma in a few days, will be going to Yangon, Mrauk-U, Kalaw, Inle, Mandalay and Bagan. Since I am travelling alone, accommodation will be quite costly and also I don’t have a guide book on me, and as you already know most internet search for accommodation is pretty useless. So I am just wondering if there are any accommodation that you would recommend for a budget travel for the places you’ve been i.e. Yangon, Kalaw, Inle and Bagan? And how much would they cost?

    Also do you know the bus departure time from Yangon to Kalaw, and Bagan to Yangon? Is there only one bus station in Yangon?

    Thanks a lot for your help in advance!!!

    Cheers,
    Phoebe

    • Hey Phoebe,

      In Yangon I stayed at the Ocean Pearl. A 3 person room for $33. In Inle Lake I stayed at the Aquarius Inn (recommended). It was a 2 person room for $12. In Kalaw, I stayed at Winner Hotel (Best name ever?). We got a huge 5 person room. It was around $7 a person. I can’t remember the name of the hotel in Bagan, but the main street has a bunch of budget spots to choose from.

      Our bus from Yangon to Kalaw left at around 3 in the afternoon and we got dropped off at like 2am. I can’t remember what time the bus from Bagan left but we arrived at around 4am. Don’t ask me why they schedule the buses like this. Both used the same bus station way outside of town, but I can’t say if its the only one or not.

      Good luck!

  11. Thanks for the awesome advice! Can you help me US denominations-wise?
    I’ve set aside $900 US dollars for my 28-day trip. Taking into consideration what different vendors/hotels/restaurants accept, do you think this is a good breakdown for my money?

    – $100 bills x 5 (for exchange into kyat)
    – $10 x 30
    – $1 x 100
    I was thinking smaller denominations since I’m a budget traveller?

    Also, does anyone know if you can depart Myanmar into either Thailand or Laos at the moment? I’ve checked online but can’t find much info …

    TIA!

    • I’m not sure I see you using 100 $1 bills since most small stuff will be paid for in kyat. Wouldn’t hurt to have a few more larger bills to save keeping track of the stacks of cash. Other than that, it looks good. Have fun!

      • Cheers Phil. I did end up going the 100 x $1 bill and don’t I feel like a fool. :P
        Thanks for your blog, btw, excellent reading.

  12. Phil,
    I had read your trip report before. Very informative. Top marks. Hopefully those intending to travel on a budget read it prior to their visit. Over the last 2 years I’ve read just about everything there is on the net putting together my itinerary even though I won’t be visiting until I know I can undertake a border crossing at Tachiliek. So I’ll be reviewing most stuff down the track.

    I believe they don’t have sleeper buses yet ie the buses are still a seat that reclines. How did you find travelling this way overnight? I’ve read comments from people that say travelling on buses and trains overnight sucks. As I’m an old fart (flashpacker) these days I’m thinking an internal flight (Yangon-Bagan) may be the way to go. But to save a few bucks if the bus is bearable I’d be prepared to handle it.

    At Inle Lake (travelling solo) I was thinking of handing out a customised itinerary (as I’ll only be there 2 days) for a day tour on the lake in the hope of attracting 3-4 others to share the cost. Do you think this would be feasible or suggest another strategy. My intention is to go directly to the boatmen at the port & negotiate a day rate for my itinerary.

    Once agan, well done with your report.

    • The buses ran at odd times. They left in the afternoon and you arrived in the middle of the night (2-3am). Sleeping was a challenge as they weren’t sleeper buses and they also made at least one odd stop and kicked everyone off the bus giving everyone a toothbrush on the way out. Depending on how much you’re up for an adventure should determine whether you take the bus or fly.

      As far as a Inle Lake tour, you can easily hire a boat at the dock and give him you desired itinerary. He can give suggestions too if that doesn’t fill in all the available time. Finding others to join you could be more tricky. These sort of things sometimes work out perfectly and sometimes not so much. If you’ve done your research, I’m sure someone would be willing to tag along and save them the trouble of planning

  13. Hi Phil,

    Thanks for all your helpful advice. I’m off to Thailand in late March and plan to be in Myanmar for about 4 days or so at the end of my trip. Do you think that’s too short a time to travel around Inle Lake for a bit and to go to Bagan (assuming I fly into Mandalay)?

    I see that you traveled in a group–I’ll be on my own. I checked a few sites and, as others have commented, the price of hotels is high. It looks to me like I’ll be paying around $100/night for accommodation alone. Do you think that’s about right?

    Also, if you have any thoughts on my very rough itinerary, I’d love to hear it.

    Thanks!
    Hugh

    • You should be able to find cheaper accommodation than $100 a night. It may take a little more time to find a cheaper place, but that’s pretty steep even for one person.

      Also, fitting Inle Lake and Bagan into 4 days, including a start in Mandalay doesn’t sound very feasible. You should plan for a full days travel in between those spots

      • Appreciate the followup. So, arriving in Mandalay and being in Myanmar for five days will probably do that for me, allowing for one day of travel back and forth…

        Hugh

  14. Hi Phil

    Thank you for your blog – it’s been really helpful for planning our trip! We’ll be arriving in Yangon soon, staying for 3 weeks from 26th Feb – 19th March.

    I just have a few questions…

    1. I’ve read about the need to arrange all accommodation before we arrive, as there is a shortage of space in guest houses… What’s your view on this for the dates we’ll be there? How much of your accommodation did you pre-book and did you have any dramas?

    2. You advise to book early for bus journeys. Did you book yours before you arrived in Burma, or just a couple of days before in the town you were travelling from? Also, with the strange arrival times for some of the bus journeys, did you have any trouble getting to a guest house from the bus station?

    3. For your trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, did you just turn up at Ever Smile and book your trek without any previous communication with them? I’m just wondering if it’s likely we’ll be able to go on the day we need/want, or if we might have to wait for something to be available.

    I think that’s all :)

    Thanks again
    Katy

    • 1. I only prebooked my spot in Yangon. After that, I just showed up and found accommodation.
      2. You don’t need to book before you arrive in Burma. Just book it for the next city as soon as you arrive in your current city.
      3. Yes, I just turned up at Ever Smile and booked a trek without any previous communication. We can almost a full group which allowed us to get book without waiting for more people.

      Sorry for the delayed response. Hope this helps

  15. Hi Phil!
    I’m planning to go to Myanmar this summer (possibly mid June) and have read other blogs but didn’t find them as useful as yours in terms of budgeting, so thank you! I do have a question though regarding your budget, I know you mentioned briefly that you were able to split with a couple of travelers throughout your stay which came up to around 300.00. How much do you think it would cost in total for a solo traveler? Say…for about 1.5 weeks? I saw that accommodation can range any where from $5-$35. I’m hoping I won’t have to pay more than $10/night for a room while traveling there, but from what everyone’s been saying, the chances of that happenings is unlikely.

    • I’m not sure I can give you a definitive answer, but I can do my best to speculate. Since there aren’t any dorm style room, you probably just have to get a room for yourself. I’d assume that you’d be paying the same price as you would for two people. However, there is always room for the exception. At one point, I shared a double room the first night and stayed by myself the second. I was able to continue paying only my share ($6), instead of what we had combined paid the night before ($12). Each guesthouse will have different policies so its impossible to know until you get there and ask a price.

      In regards to activities, most won’t change if you’re by yourself, a pagoda entrance fee for example. But bigger items, like a boat tour or trek will obviously be more if you choose to do them solo. I’d recommend joining forces with some fellow travelers.

  16. hi great to see this info. just to mention i got abit confused with the transposing of differnt currencies. and i didnt know the exchange rate. really appreciate your interactive blog here.

    • Hey Iani, glad I could help. Yea, its not super straightforward jumping back and forth with the currencies, but I decided to list the prices in the currency that I paid with in order to keep it as accurate as possible.

  17. Hi Phil,

    $313 is amazing! I love that you listed down in details the expenses. I’ll be travelling alone, so I’m expecting to spend a few more. Was it easy for you to find travelling companions during the trip? Do you think it will be safe to bring a laptop along?

    Thanks again!

    • I had a laptop with me the whole time and never had an issue. Granted the internet was so bad that the laptop was as good as a paperweight. Companions was also easy. I met up with a girl I’d met in Cambodia and before I knew it, our group had grown to 5

  18. Thanks for your laidback info.
    And I’ll have a solo travel to Myanmar next month,hope have other travelers who’d love to share rooms with me!!!
    Awesome blog! Nice Job!!
    have a nice weekend!

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