In a nutshell
Mrauk U would have been one of the most important parts of Myanmar in the days of old and was once the capital of the Arakanese Kingdom in 1431. The kingdom would have stretched into Bangladesh, and Bengal and Mughal royalty made it their home, building pagodas and temples all over the city.
Why go to Mrauk U
Some of these monuments still stand today, which is why people make the journey here, and certainly if you like archaeological relics then you won’t be disappointed. Some of the highlights include the Royal Palace and Museum as well as the Andaw Temple, and you can also go out into the surrounding areas and see some of the local traditional villages like the Chin Villages.
When to go to Mrauk U
Despite once being a powerful kingdom, Mrauk U can seem more like a village nowadays and many of the roads in the surrounding areas are dirt tracks that are covered in dust. During the rainy season (June to October) these immediately turn to mud which can be unpleasant and make moving around difficult, and in the summer (March to April) the dust can be very unappealing. If possible one of the best times to go is right after the rainy season in around November and December as the weather is stable and there is less chance of rain.
Where to stay in Mrauk U
As this is something of a tourist hotspot by Myanmar’s standards, you will find quite a wide range of accommodation options in Mrauk U from budget guesthouses to high-end resorts.
One thing to note in Mrauk U is that although there are several attractions in the surrounding areas, you are required by law to stay in the town itself. You will also have to pay a fee of USD 5 in order to stay overnight in Mrauk U.
On the lower end of the spectrum price wise you can choose from options like guesthouses where you may be able to get a room for the night for as low as USD 10. Note however that you can only expect to get a simple single room for this price often only with a fan and a shared bathroom. Some of the budget guesthouses have rooms up to USD 30 and for this you can expect a double room with a private bathroom.
For a mid-range hotel in Mrauk U you can expect to pay USD 30-60 although you are likely to get quite a lot more for your money and if you are traveling here as part of a couple or group then this is often the better choice. Rooms usually come with private bathroom, air conditioning, televisions, and fridges, and may also have restaurants and gardens or balconies.
If you want to pay a little more, then there are several resorts in Mrauk U, although this really means that you can stay in a bungalow on part of a wider complex. These usually cost around USD 50 per night but breakfast is often included.
Where to eat in Mrauk U
There are quite a number of food options in Mrauk U as you would expect considering its spot on the tourist trail in Myanmar. There are food stalls and traditional tea shops all over town if you just want to grab a quite bite, but if you want a full meal then there are plenty of places to choose from.
Some of these include the Pyae Wa Restaurant which is located on the main road opposite the market and has Burmese and Chinese food. Note that Rakhine cuisine is spicier than other parts of Myanmar so prepare yourself for a little heat.
If you are brave enough to try the local curries then try Kaung Thant which is a ‘rice shop’ close to the bridge on the main road and serves up Rakhine staples for hungry locals. They also have vegetarian options and serve local delicacies like tamarind flowers.
As well as dedicated restaurants, you will also find a range of hotels with an attached eatery, and if you want international dishes then these are a good choice. Some of the hotels in Mrauk U that have restaurants include the Nawarat Hotel, the Mrauk U Hotel, and the Vesali Guesthouse.
How to get around Mrauk U
There are a number of different ways to get around Mrauk U depending on how far you are going and how energetic you feel. If you are just visiting the centre then you can easily walk, although if you want to go a little further afield then it is better to rent a bicycle from one of the hotels. You can also hire a trishaw or there are some traditional horse and carts.
One thing to note however is that you will not be able to exit Mrauk U on a motorcycle for security reasons (although you can take a motorized trishaw). If you attempt to do so you will be stopped at a checkpoint and turned back, so make sure to plan accordingly.
How to get to and from Mrauk U
One of the nicest ways to get to Mrauk U is to take a boat from neighbouring Sittwe. There are a mix of local ferries which take 7 hours at a cost of USD 10 and Express Ferries that make the journey in 3 hours at a cost of USD 20. Ferries leave most days in both directions at around 7 am although schedules can change without notice and some days ferries simply don’t run at all. As such it is best to book when you are in Sittwe or Mrauk U (for the return journey).
The other way to get to Mrauk U is by road from neighbouring Nyaung U (the gateway to Bagan) although there is no direct route. You will have to take a bus from Nyaung U to Magwe which takes between 3-4 hours and then catch the Mandalay-Sittwe bus to Mrauk U which takes around 14 hours.
Is Mrauk U a safe place to visit?
A number of foreign governments advise against all but essential travel to Rakhine State although some sections are meant to be safe, particularly those along the coast. Mrauk U is not usually included on the list of safe areas to travel to, although tourists still do make the journey. There is a risk of terrorism and in-fighting in Rakhine State and as a result you should remain vigilant if you choose to visit.
Myanmar is a malarial zone and dengue fever is also prevalent. Cover up in long sleeved clothes and use repellent. Also consult with a healthcare professional if you want to take anti-malaria medication.