In a nutshell
Lashio is a town in Shan State that used to be part of the Burma Road due to its proximity to China.
Why go to Lashio
The reason why people travel here is that it offers a fascinating look at a traditional Shan town and is a great opportunity to see some of the food, culture, and history first-hand if you are in the area. There are also some nice attractions in the town if you are passing through, such as a few pagodas which date back some 2,000 years. There is also a buzzing morning market where you can pick up some local handicrafts, and other places of interest include a Buddhist temple with some 2,000 Buddhas that dot the hillside.
When to go to Lashio
It is often best to avoid the wet season in Myanmar which runs from June to October as the weather can be unpredictable and areas can easily flood. In the dry season the heat and dust can be fierce, and so with that in mind it is a good idea to try and visit around November and December when temperatures are a little cooler and there is less chance of rain.
Where to stay in Lashio
Lashio is not a particularly well known tourist area in Myanmar but you will still find a decent range of accommodation here and it unlikely that many places will be fully booked.
As a general rule, you can expect to pay around USD 20-35 for a room in Lashio.
Some of the options include the Sann Shwin Hotel which is very simple but has single rooms for MMK 20,000 per night. They also have good value family rooms which can sleep four people that cost MMK 30,000 per night and there is Wi-Fi throughout the building. Also in the same price range is the Power Hotel which has double rooms for MMK 25,000 that come with hot water and air conditioning.
If you have a slightly larger budget then you can try the Palace Hotel which is around two kilometres outside the town centre and has rooms from USD30-50 per night. These come with cable television, Wi-Fi, and hot water and a basic breakfast is included. Another new hotel in a similar price range is the Hotel CS which has family rooms for USD 40 that come with Wi-Fi, hot water and breakfast.
Where to eat in Lashio
Even though Lashio is not firmly on the tourist trail, you will still find a good range of places to eat here. Options include both Western food and local dishes and Shan state is known for its Shan Kauk Sway noodles and its curries.
Among some of the good options we can list is the Family Cafe where you will get a good selection of Chinese and Burmese dishes and you will also find free Wi-Fi here. If you want to try some Thai food, then head to the Wooden House which is close to the airport and has a comprehensive Thai menu that is a firm favourite with the locals.
If you are looking for some Western options, then you can try Sun Moon which has two bakeries in town and has a cafe area where you can get some delicious pastries as well as coffee, smoothies, and ice cream. Another Western option is the Pizza House which, as the name suggest, serves pizza and has free Wi-Fi.
Last but not least, you will find a large night market in downtown Lashio that sets up when the sun goes down and this is the best place to pick up some authentic Burmese street food.
How to get around Lashio
The downtown area of Lashio is compact and it is relatively easy to explore on foot. If you want to go further afield however, then you can get a three-wheeled trishaw which is one of the cheapest options. For longer journeys, such as out to the airport, you may want to get a taxi.
How to get to and from Lashio
Note that there are no buses to Tachileik at the present time which means that you can’t cross over into the border with Thailand from Lashio.
There is also an option of organizing a private car or taxi to drive you to Lashio which is the most comfortable way of traveling although you will need to negotiate a price directly with the driver.
Another option is to take the train to Lashio which runs from neighbouring Hsipaw at a cost of MMK 600 for a single ticket. It is possible to take a train from Mandalay to Lashio but bear in mind that it is a long way and will take a whole day (well, 15–16 hours), so you may want to break the journey by stopping along the way. Some stops on the train line include Pyin Oo Lwin, Kyaukme, or Hsipaw itself. Train schedules in Myanmar can be erratic and subject to change at short notice but this is also one of the most scenic ways to get to Lashio.
There is also a basic airport in Lashio but it is more of a single airstrip than anything else. Still, you can fly from here to Mandalay, Tachileik, Yangon, and Heho (if you are travelling on to Kalaw and Inle Lake).
Is LAshio a safe place to visit?
Many foreign governments advise against all but essential travel to Shan State with the exception of Lashio town and the area close to the airport. As such, this is deemed a relatively safe place to visit, although if you are traveling over land you should take precautions depending on where you are planning to travel from. There has been a history of continued conflict and in-fighting in Shan State so it is best to check the latest security situation before you travel.
Myanmar has both malaria and dengue fever and the best way to avoid the possibility of getting ill is to wear plenty of repellent and cover up with long sleeved clothing at night.
Lashio has a small hospital but the standard of health care in Myanmar is low. If you become seriously ill you will need to travel to a larger city like Yangon for treatment.