Getting from Nyaungshwe (Inle Lake) to Bagan via Bus on a Budget
No matter how accustomed you get to easy going life in Nyaungshwe village, with its criss-cross of quiet golden sunlit roads, and the eternal lapping of the azure waters of Inle Lake, there comes a time when all who visit must leave. But where to go next, and how to get there on a budget?
For many, it’s Mandalay, but we decided to skip the former royal capital and head over to the gorgeous Bagan, and its myriad sunbathed temples.
Nyaungshwe to Bagan by Bus or Train?
With our mostly happy memories of the Yangon to Kalaw train behind us, and the fact that we would have to connect from Nyaungshwe to Shwenyaung, back to Thazi, then up to Mandalay and eventually Bagan, it’s considerably cheaper and more convenient to just catch a coach.
Information at a Glance
- VIP Sleeper Bus from Nyaungshwe to Bagan
- Cost – 16,000MMK per person – Dec 2017 (Likely to be more expensive now due to 2018 update)
- Pickup from Guest House included
- VIP bus, 3 reclining seat rows, toilet, air-conditioned – Bagan Minthar Express
- Depart 7.30pm, Arrive 5.30am
Inle to Bagan Cheap Bus Tickets – Book Via Hotel or DIY?
In many situations in Myanmar, booking onward transport via your hotel is often your best and only option (usually the smaller guesthouses give the best deal as they aren’t trying to make money off you), but it certainly is worth researching all your options…
We checked in with our hotel for prices for a bus from Inle to Bagan and they quoted us 60,000MMK each (£31, $40USD) – a little expensive considering we got from Yangon to Kalaw for a fraction of the price.
We wanted to go on a VIP sleeper bus, as we heard that they were the best chance we had of having a comfortable journey and night’s sleep, and save a little money on the accommodation.
A quick check on 12goAsia revealed the price of the ideal bus at 30,000MMK each, a little more reasonable, but once again we knew that we could avoid the website’s booking and agent fees by just finding the tickets ourselves. Fortunately the 12goAsia website tells you which company the coach is run by, so with a little more research we found the company, Bagan Minn Thar, had a ticket office in town.
Where to Get Inle to Bagan Bus Tickets
We booked our tickets direct at the ‘Bagan Minn Thar Bus Station’ on Yone Gyi St near the corner of Kyaung Daw Anauk St (look for the big red sign saying Bagan Minn Thar Bus Station on the front). It shows up as ‘Bagan Minthar Express’ on Google Maps. An attendant helped us who spoke great English.
You need to inform the attendant where you are staying and they will arrange pickup for you – they will write the pickup time on your ticket.
Our arranged pickup time from the lovely Princess Garden Hotel in Nyaungshwe was at 7.30pm. Evidently we were the last to be picked up as our very full tuk tuk arrived around 15 minutes late. We managed to squeeze in and were outside the bus very shortly afterwards.
The Bus, and the Journey from Nyaungshwe to Bagan
Get on board and get yourself comfortable, as it’s going to be a long and winding ride through the mountains.
There were plenty of reviews online about this route that slated that their driver was a little too enthusiastic and drove too fast, and that the constant curves in the road will make you sick, but we found that not to be the case.
The bus itself was a fairly modern, comfortable Japanese Kōnan Coach. The lights are dim enough for you to doze off if you sleep well whilst on the move (we struggled).
The coach takes you up to the main highway via Shwenyaung (Nyaungshwe’s nearest rail station), He Hoe, Aungpan and through Kalaw – where after a lengthy climb up through the mountains we stopped at a cafe/services Shwe Yee Oo, The Golden Highway Tavern. Here I got off the bus whilst Ruth slept and I sampled some somewhat stale curry and rice from the canteen.
The coach carries on up through the Shan Hills and down across the hot plains of Northern Myanmar for around 7 hours – with a few stops along the way for a few locals to jump on and off – before eventually arriving at the Bagan Shwe Pyi Highway Bus Terminal, in Nyaung-U, just outside of Bagan. Though our coach must have made good time as we arrived a whole hour early at around 4.30.
Now the potentially awkward timing of this sleeper coach comes into play. You could simply catch a taxi into New Bagan and find an early morning cafe, or like us, arrive early at our hotel (our hotel very kindly allowed us to check into our room very early indeed).
Getting into Bagan from the Bus Station
Bagan’s bus station is located well away from the centre – about 10 minutes drive or so. But don’t fear that you will be stuck for transport even in the wee hours, as we were quickly surrounded by many taxi drivers a soon as we disembarked.
Bagan’s bus station has a bit of a reputation for its taxi drivers trying to overcharge. If saving money means a lot to you then stay smart, don’t feel rushed. A good bargained down rate for any taxi ride from here is meant to be around 10,000MMK.
Personally, we chose the wonderful Emerald Bagan Hotel, due to its closeness to the bus station. It is just a 5 minute walk away, but as it was so late/early we decided to grab a quick taxi hoping it would be cheap – but they did charge us a (relatively speaking) large amount for a 30 second drive up the road.
Update – As of November 2018, it is now mandatory for coach companies dropping off at Nyaung-U Bus Station to provide a drop off service to their guesthouse. Even with this new rule, taxi drivers have still tried to scam travellers by stating that this service is not for foreigners. Ignore this – look for your minibus with the Bagan Minn Thar branding.
It makes sense that they have introduced this rule as clearly the overcharging taxi drivers were becoming a problem!
Let Us Know
Please let us know if this guide for getting from Inle to Bagan by bus was useful for planning your journey in Myanmar in the comments below.