You might be wondering: “Why Yangon?” Well, let me explain. I arrived in Yangon (Rangoon) on the 1st of March, 2020. Traveling in Myanmar wasn’t exactly on my full-year Southeast Asia trip.
I only had four days left before my Thai tourist visa expired, which led me to an ultimatum of either extending my visa in Thailand or going to a country, not on my list.
And, in short, that is how I, as a Burmese tourist, applied for a tourist visa and flew from Bangkok, Thailand, to Yangon, Myanmar.
Flights to Yangon (Rangoon city) or Mandalay from Bangkok are relatively cheap! So, if you want to travel to Myanmar for a whole month, you can choose to start from Mandalay and make your way to either south or start from Yangon and go north.
I booked my stay for two nights at Yangon and came across many people during my detour in Myanmar. Some of them liked Yangon, but personally, it’s not my style, I would say.
I found Yangon quite hot, and I did have trouble breathing from all the combustion in the air, especially in the hustling and bustling city.
However, I must say that I liked how the mayor banned motorbikes from entering the city. Otherwise, it would be even more polluted and noisy.
How to Get from Yangon Airport to Downtown
The Shuttle Bus
The fare of the shuttle bus from Yangon airport to the city center is 500 kyat. You must have a 500 kyat note with you.
Alternatively, have a 1000 kyat note and wait for another passenger to take their 500 kyats before inserting your 1000 kyat note into the note box provided.
If you didn’t know already, Myanmar is also known as Burma, and interestingly, they only have notes from 50 kyat notes up to 10,000 kyat notes (as they don’t have coins, apparently).
The shuttle bus is also known as the YBS Yangon airport shuttle bus that provides a 24/7 service, so you won’t have to worry about finding this mode of transport when you arrive.
There are two routes the shuttle bus will take; green and red. Ensure you do your due diligence beforehand or simply ask your accommodation provider. You can also ask the airport’s tourist information center.
A one-way trip to Yangon airport downtown, Yangon, is about $6-7 (or 8 to 10,000 kyat). You can also split the travel fare if you find a fellow traveler heading in the same direction.
Though there are other ways to get from Yangon Airport to the city center, these two modes of transport are the simplest and most convenient ways to get to the city center directly.
Getting Around the City
The most convenient way to get around the city is to take a local taxi, as it is super cheap (about $1-3 per trip) to go wherever you’d like.
To get the most out of this mode of transport is by installing a taxi app called Grab (Uber in Asia, basically). Best of all, you don’t even need to add your bank account information; just simply pay by cash. You will need cellular data or Wi-Fi to access and use the Grab app.
Though public transport such as buses is very cheap as well, costing only 200 kyats (or $0.15)! But I struggled to get my way around the bus routes as there was simply no information on it.
It was pretty challenging to communicate with Burmese locals to ask for information, as their English fluency is either very basic or none at all. The language barrier is a concerning factor for a traveler.
Also, if you choose to spend more days in the city, I highly recommend exploring the city on foot. Strolling and exploring the city is a go as the city is one of the safest cities in Asia, even at night.
Best Things to Do in Yangon
Every travel guide or article will always start with Shwedagon Pagoda (this included!) for a very good reason! Not only is this the most fantastic pagoda I have ever seen, but it is known as the city’s symbol and the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar.
It is believed that the pagoda was built around 2,600 years ago. The main dome stands at an astonishing 99 meters, covered with gold plates and over 4,50 diamonds (yup, you heard that right).
The largest diamond is a 72-carat diamond. What makes this monument even more popular is that legend has it that the pagoda is home to 8 of Budhha’s heirs.
I decided to get up at 5 am to catch the sunrise at 6:20 and beat the crowd, or so I thought.
I expected only to see a person or two and thought of getting a few nice pictures, but how wrong I was. There were hundreds if not thousands of locals coming to pray and give their offerings.
There are countless things to see in this wonderful city, and I would recommend visiting during the sunrise or sunset to watch the gold and diamonds sparkle under the gleaming sun.
Before visiting Shwedagon Pagoda:
- Take important note of the dress code
- Wear long trousers or at least knee-length shorts or a skirt
- Wear t-shirts with elbow-length sleeves
- Take off your shoes and socks before entering the pagoda.
Yangon Circular Train
A Yangon Circular Train is a must when visiting the city! It’s a 3-hour train ride that loops around Yangon city, costing only 200 kyats ($0.15). An experience of a lifetime, I would say!
You can take this train from various train stations, but I recommend taking it from Yangon Central Railway Station. At the time, I couldn’t find the train schedule or any other information on the train, so don’t be afraid to ask around!
The train goes both ways, and you can take it anytime you’d like! The waiting time between trains should only be around 30-45 minutes, so it’s not too bad.
Sule Pagoda is an octagon-shaped golden pagoda that stands 44 meters tall at the heart of Rangoon city.
Legend has it that this pagoda was built 2,500 years ago during Gautama Buddha’s lifetime. In addition, the Sule Pagoda is a highly treasured monument to the Burmese culture, as the pagoda also enshrines an heir relic of Buddha.
Bogyoke Aung San Market
Bogyoke Aung San Market is the largest market in Yangon, packed with over 2,000 shops! It is the perfect place to find local treats, handicraft goods, jewelry, tailor-made clothing, and souvenirs.
The market opens six days a week except for Mondays and public holidays from 9 am to 5 pm.
Kaba Aye Pagoda
Kaba Aye Pagoda is one the most beautiful pagodas in Yangon. Here, you can find a blissful courtyard away from all the hectic jazz of the city. The Buddha centerpiece is the main attraction when visiting this pagoda, as it is made of pure silver.
Ensure that you take your shoes off in the pagoda and have a bag to carry them with you. This is a must for all other pagodas or sacred spots in Myanmar.
A great way to immerse yourself into Yangon’s history and culture is by none other than visiting the National Museum. The museum is filled with a wide range of Burmese artifacts and galleries containing antiques and regalia from the Konbaung Dynasty.
Unsurprisingly, the museum has one of the best antique collections in Southeast Asia! Making National Museum the perfect place for arts and history enthusiasts.
Other Things to See in Yangon
- Allied War Memorial
- Botatung Pagoda
- Kandawgi Lake
- Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda
- National Museum of Myanmar
- Kaba Aye Pagoda
- Bode Tahtaung Pagoda
- Inya Lake
- Maha Bandula Park
- Saint Mary’s Cathedral
- Ngahtatgyi Pagoda
- Kandawgyi Park
- China Town Yangon
- Bogyoke Aung San Museum.
Where to Stay
If you’re wondering where to stay in Yangon, then I have just the place! I booked myself at the Backpacker Bed & Breakfast for about $12 a night, and I must say it’s not bad at all!
They have a nice rooftop terrace and a very good breakfast included. Overall, I thought it was fantastic accommodation with lovely views and a very social atmosphere.
On the way back from Mandalay I’ve stayed two extra nights to catch, what was probably, the last flight to Europe.
I totally recommend Prestige Residences at Golden Valley by Grand United Hospitality, which at that time was quite cheap for the service and facilities offered.
I think it was somewhere about $35-40/night and you can enjoy the nice swimming pool and a cold beer during the day.
Where to Go after Yangon?
You have various options to head north from Yangon. You can either go to Ngapali Beach by bus or visit the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda and then stop by Law Pi Ta Waterfalls.
Personally, I decided to go straight to Inle Lake, one of the most breathtaking places in Myanmar, and it is definitely a must-see!
I took an 11-hour night bus trip from Yangon with Elite Express VIP class for 24,300 kyats ($17) to get a comfy seat for the long hours. But if you are on a budget, you can also find a cheaper price starting at 16,000 kyats ($11).
Just so you know, the main bus station in Yangon is about 25 km away from downtown. So, you would either have to take a cab or bus number 36 for about 8 to 9,000 kyats from Sule Station.
Depending on the traffic, it should take somewhere between 70-90 minutes. Once you arrive at Inle Lake, I personally recommend Kalaw trekking.
Visiting Yangon FAQ
Is Yangon the capital of Myanmar?
Yangon (Rangoon) was the capital city of Myanmar until 2006 before the military government decided to relocate the capital city to Naypyidaw, located in the north-central of Myanmar.
Is Yangon a good place to live?
Traffic is a downside that you might have to get used to, so doing some work or sending a quick email during those traffics is something you would want to do.
Yangon locals are some of the most kindhearted and generous people you will ever come across.
You may have to get used to some things in terms of culture that you may have to get used to, such as certain hygiene practices. But the government is taking steps to slowly get rid of these habits, so be patient.
Though preferences may vary from one person to another, Yangon is a decent place to live and work as it has a good quality of life.
Do Yangon locals speak English?
Although Burmese is the primary language here, English is taught as a secondary language here. They can understand and speak English, though they may not be as fluent compared to other countries.
So, it would be best to use the simplest forms of English to communicate with them to ensure understanding goes both ways, respectfully.
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