In a nutshell
Bago used to be called Pegu and is the capital of the Bago area of the Irrawaddy Region. It lies on the central road that splits North and South Myanmar and is sometimes used as a stopover point for those travelling from Yangon to Bagan or other places in Myanmar.
Why go to Bago
To tell you the truth, there is not much reason to travel to Bago in its own right, although if you are moving on to other parts of the country then it can make a pleasant place to spend an evening and there are a few attractions that you can see along the way such as some pretty pagodas and reclining Buddha statues.
When to go to Bago
The best time to visit Myanmar in general is from November to February as this is the period that comes after the monsoon and this means that the weather is usually clement and dry. Across Myanmar temperatures start to rise after February and this means that it can get very hot and dusty. From June onwards the rainy season hits much of the country and it can rain every single day. This means that many areas flood and travel can be difficult in remote areas.
Where to stay in Bago
You won’t find a huge amount of accommodation in Bago, especially not the kind that is licensed to accept foreigners. That said there are a few guesthouses scattered around that are decent enough if you are just passing through for the night.
As with most of Myanmar it can be hard to find budget accommodation although it is still possible to grab rooms for as low as USD 10 but these are extremely basic and only come with a shared toilet and bathroom. If you are prepared to pay USD 20 then you can get something a little better with your own room and hot water, although breakfast is not usually included.
One thing to note is that Bago is located on a main road, and this means that wherever you stay you are likely to be disturbed by the sound of trucks and cars roaring by at all hours of the day and night. Unfortunately as the choices are limited in Bago it is unlikely that you will be able to find a secluded room away from the noise.
Where to eat in Bago
Bago is not particularly well known for its food scene although you certainly won’t go hungry, especially if you are only staying overnight. There are, of course, a range of local restaurants serving curries and typical Burmese dishes such as soups, and plenty of street food stalls dotted around. One of the best places to eat if you are in town in the morning is at the local market which sells a variety of delicious tropical fruit and also has some snack stalls.
When it comes to other cuisines, you will also find a few Chinese restaurants dotted around as well as some Western choices where you can get basic sandwiches, French fries, and pastries.
How to get around Bago
The centre of Bago is pretty small so if you are not staying long then you can probably do without any transportation and just explore on foot.
If you want to be more mobile and explore a little further afield then you can rent a bicycle easily here for a few dollars or you can also rent a motorbike and driver to go out into the adjacent villages. If you have a motorbike license then you may also be able to rent a motorbike without a driver.
The actual attractions in Bago are often on the outskirts of town and are also quite far apart from each other so if you are planning on sightseeing then you will definitely need some form of transportation.
How to get to and from Bago
If you are travelling from Yangon then there are various ways you can get to Bago.
One of these is to take a taxi which will costs around USD 40-50. This can be a good idea if you are travelling as part of a group although if you want a cheaper option then you can get a bus from Sule Pagoda Road in Yangon which will take you to Bago at a cost of MMK 2,000-3,000. The journey by road should take around an hour.
Alternatively you can travel to Bago from other areas of Myanmar and Hpa-An has buses that stop at Bago on the way to Yangon and cost MMK 5,300. There is also a bus from Inle Lake that goes through Bago and costs MMK 12,000 and another that runs from Nyaung Shwe at a cost MMK 15,000.
When it comes to moving on there are a range of overnight options that may suit travellers who want to spend the day in Bago but are not keen on staying overnight. Some of these include the night bus to Kalaw to visit Inle Lake which departs nightly at 6.30 pm and costs MMK 15,000. There is also a night train to Naypyitaw which leaves at 10 pm and costs MMK 4,500.
Is Bago a safe place to visit?
Bago is generally considered a safe area to visit and violent crime, particularly against foreigners, is rare. If you are traveling to the outskirts of town to some of the pagodas then it’s wise to leave some of your valuables in a safe at your hotel and not carry all your belongings with you at one time in case of snatch thefts.
Myanmar has both malaria and dengue fever although it is most prevalent in areas below 1,000 meters. The best advice is to check with a healthcare professional before you travel to Myanmar so that you can decide if you want to take anti-malarial prophylaxis during your trip.
Healthcare in Bago is basic with a few clinics dotted around. As a result if you get seriously ill you will need to travel to a big city like Yangon.