Quick travel guide to Bagan

Mighty Bagan

Bagan is home to one of the most amazing human-made stages on Earth.

Along with other mind-blowing places like Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, it is definitely on every list of “places you must see before you die”.

A gem in Southeast Asia, it offers travel experiencies for all budgets.

Spending a few days exploring the thousands of temples scattered around the region is one of the most fun and beautiful activities to do in Myanmar.

Stupa in Bagan, Myanmar

Basics

Bagan is the main attraction of Myanmar. It is home to more than 2,000 temples and pagodas from around the 13th century.

Typically, travelers spend the day on rented electric bikes roaming around the region, and try to find good spots to see the sunset and the sunrise.

With the river on the north-west, forest and temples on all sides, and the early morning hot air balloons, sunrises in Bagan are breathtaking.

Sunrise in Bagan, Myanmar

Entrance fee

The entrance fee for Bagan is 25,000 kyat. There are ways to avoid paying it, if you choose to. I don’t judge.

The ticket is valid for 3 days.

I personally hitchhiked to Bagan, and the driver of the car just didn’t stop at any booth to pay.

Once inside Bagan, it is highly unlikely that anyone will ask for your entrance fee. The one and only checkpoint I saw was at 21.176699, 94.883322, north of Anawrahta Road.

As of August 2018, 1 EUR = 1,700 MMK (kyat).

In Myanmar,

  • Hello = Min ga la ba (“ming-la-bah”)
  • Thank you = Kyei zu tin ba de (“che-zu-tinh-pah-de”)

Transportation

Get in

By bus

Buses to Bagan (Nyaung U) are available from all major towns in Myanmar, including Yangon, Mandalay and Inle Lake.

Ask your hostel or hotel to get tickets, or simply show up at the bus station. Prices vary according to distance, time of the day, and level of comfort.

Buses from Inle Lake stop at Shwenyaung, Taunggyi and Kalaw.

From Duration Departure Price (MMK) Main stations
Yangon ~9-11h 08:30, several daily, 22:00 13,000-15,000 Aung Mingalar Highway Station, Airport Bus Station
Mandalay ~5-8h 05:30, several daily, 22:00 7,500-8,500 Chan Mya Shwe Pyi Highway Station, Pyi Gyi Myat Shin Bus Terminal
Inle Lake ~9h 08:30, several daily, night bus 15,000-25,000 Nyaung Shwe Bagan Min Thar, Shwenyaung Junction
By train

The same journey by train offers a range of prices depending on seat class.

From Duration Departure Price (MMK)
Yangon ~17h ~16:00 4,500-16,500
Mandalay ~11h, 8h 07:20, 21:00 1,300-1,800
Inle Lake (only possible via Yangon)

Check out Seat61 for more info on timetables and how to buy tickets.

Bagan temples and trees, Myanmar

By boat

Slow boat trips are available between Mandalay and Bagan.

Prices start at ~45,000 MMK and the journey take 10-12 hours.

For Mandalay to Bagan, the boat departs at 07:00 from Gawwein port. From Bagan, the boat departs at 05:00 in the morning.

Check out this article by IndianaJo to see what the experience is like.

By airplane

The quickest way to get to Bagan is taking a flight to New Bagan airport. Prices for flights start at around 140,000 MMK (82 EUR) from either Yangon or Mandalay.

Other ways to travel into Bagan

Families or groups of travelers might prefer to share a private taxi all the way to Bagan from any major hub in the country. Prices will be in the 60-100s of euros.

Last but not least, you can hitchhike like I did.

A common stop on the way to Bagan is Mt. Popa. Check out this travel blog for tips and photos.

Get around Bagan

The best way to move around the whole region of Bagan is by electric scooter.

Bicycles are also an option, but you will be spending too much time moving from A to B. You will see many “gangs” of backpackers on their e-bikes, chasing the ruins and the sunrises.

E-bikes can be rented in a lot of places around New Bagan and Nyaung-U (and most probably in your hotel or hostel). Make sure the battery of your ebike is fully charged so that it lasts from sunrise to sunset.

After surveying the prices, I rented my bike every day from Shwe Sabal (21.193128, 94.904260).

The business is run by a kind middle-age lady. If you need to rent the bike very early (say, 4AM), just make sure to tell her the day before. She will have the ebike ready and fully charged for you.

Alternatively, you can hire a private driver. She or he will probably take you to really cool places. If you choose to rent a taxi, make sure to negotiate a closed price beforehand.

Shwe Sabal ebike rental, Myanmar
Shwe Sabal ebike rental.

Sleep

Whether you stay in New Bagan or Nyaung U does not matter much. You will probably be moving around on a bike all day on your own and mobility won’t be an issue.

All hotels and hostels will help you rent ebikes, get flickt tickets and book long-distance buses, so don’t worry about this.

Budget places:

  • Lux Pillow Hostel (City Centre) in Nyaung U. Very affordable (4 EUR). Here I met a bunch of travellers, including a couple I had travelled with in Hsipaw. It is close to a few shops and restaurants, and the owner is a nice young guy.
  • The Dormitory rooms of Hotel Royal Bagan, in Nyaung U. For the price of a dorm room, you have access to a pool and a free buffet breakfast! The rooms are very clean and modern. Maybe the best option in town for solo travelers or groups of friends. You can also book the more expensive private rooms from the hotel. (~10 EUR dorms)
  • Ostello Bello and Ostello Bello Pool (with a swimming pool) in New Bagan, the first option for travellers who want to meet other travellers, be more social and enjoy parties. Very modern and hip. (prices start at ~10 EUR for both)
  • BaoBed: another backpacker favorite, located north of Anawratha Road. I only stayed here one night. The rooms are clean and fresh, and it has a pool to relax during the hottest hours of the day. (~9 EUR dorms)

Fancier places:

  • New Park Hotel: very popular choice with amazing staff. Well located, awesome value for money, great for couples. (~20 EUR)
  • The Hotel at Tharabar Gate: I would stay here if I was on my honeymoon. The whole place looks fantastic. I passed by this hotel a few times and wished I was staying here; the travellers coming out of it always looked very happy. (70-400 EUR)

 


Food and Drinks

Make sure to drop by Perfect Restaurant (also known as Perfect Food & Tea). It is located in Nyaung-U (at 21.196250, 94.900226).

The food is amazing, the prices very affordable (e.g. fried rice with chicken for 1,200 kyat), and the place is full of locals with only a couple of tourists every evening.

Perfect Restaurant, Nyaung U, Myanmar
Perfect Restaurant.

Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyaung U all have a lot of food options, with a number of vegan and vegetarian restaurants.

I specially recommend The Moon (2) Be Kind To Animals in New Bagan. They offer a wide range of dishes, including curries. The best thing here are the lassis!

Its brother business Be Kind To Animals, in Old Bagan, is also a good vegetarian restaurant.

You can find many delicious restaurants on the eastern end of Anawratha Road. These offer reasonable prices and exquisite dishes. The quiet atmosphere is perfect for a relaxed meal on your way back from the sunset.

Basically, the only place you want to avoid is the tourist-crowded overpriced “restaurant street” (Thiripyitsaya 4 Street).


Activities

Sunrise and sunset

The best thing to do in Bagan is watch breathtaking sunrises and sunsets.

Many travellers explore the region during the day and keep track of beautiful spots they come across, so that they can come back for sunrise.

Check this other article I wrote for an updated list of great spots to see the sunset and sunrise in Bagan.

If anything, try to see as many sunrises and sunsets from different places during your stay in Bagan. Each and every one will be spectacular and unique.

Sunrise in Bagan, Myanmar
A sunrise in Bagan.

Explore the temples

The free phone app maps.me is an absolute must in Bagan. It is the best “map of Bagan” you will find, because previous travellers have shared info about their findings on it.

During the day, you can roam around the thousand temples and feel like a lost-world adventurer, and explore what lies inside them. It is extremely fun.

Most of the big stupas and huge temples lie along Anawratha Road. South from this road lie the other thousands of big, medium and small temples and pagodas.

Most of them have a similar architecture style, and you will definitely find your favorites as you navigate the land.

I loved how every traveler or couple had their own favorite temple that they loved, and it was always a hidden and isolated one, of difficult access or far away from the trails.

Some temples with peculiar, or different architecture styles are:

  • Ananda Temple, one of the most famous temples, with a gold “dome” on top.
  • Lemyethna Temple, the white temple.
  • Dhammayangyi Temple, a massive and majestic pyramid-like temple, the largest in Bagan.
  • Hsin Phyu Shin Monastic Complex. I am not sure why there was nobody around this place, it is a very beautiful compound with small walls and temples. Definitely one of my favorite places.
  • Manuha Temple, home to a reclining Buddha statue.

Temples in Bagan, Myanmar

For most of the temples, there will be nobody to stop you from climbing it. If you decide to do so, make sure to handle everything with extreme care; both for the preservation of the temples and for your own safety.

I once saw a young traveller fall on his back while climbing a temple, and a big rock of the temple wall fell on his chest. It was not fun to watch. Please be careful!

I personally enjoyed riding around not only for the temples, but also for the beautiful river, plants and trees.

Tourists on top of a temple in Bagan, Myanmar

Other activities

  • Hot air balloon rides: the eternal question travelers discuss in Bagan: is it worth it? Check out the pictures from this EarthTrekkers article and decide for yourself! (~330 EUR per person)
  • Visit the local villages around, such as the Yandabo and the Minnanthu villages. South from the temples lie a few more small villages with modest facilities. Be respectful.
  • Make a day trip to Mt. Popa, an old vocano 50 km south from Bagan. You can climb to the top if you pay a small entrance fee.
  • Buy some postcards! This is Bagan!
  • And finally, spend another day around the temples. Stay for another sunrise. A lot of travellers come for a couple of days and stay for a week.

More info

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Do you have any extra tips for visiting Bagan?
Let me know in the comments below!

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