In a nutshell
Ngapali Beach sits in scenic Rakhine State in the west of Myanmar and is known for its white sands and turquoise waters.
Why go to Ngapali Beach
If you are looking for a laid back beach holiday then Ngapali Beach should certainly tick all the boxes for you. As well as spending time relaxing on the beach and enjoying the spectacular sunsets for which this area is so well known, Ngapali Beach offers you the chance to take in some of the local culture, and pretty fishing villages dot the area and you can watch the fisherman at work as they haul in the day’s catch. As well as giving you a snapshot of rural life in Myanmar, Ngapali Beach has a clutch of cultural attractions such as pagodas, monasteries, and local handicraft villages.
When to go to Ngapali Beach
If you are planning to make the most of the sun and sand in Ngapali Beach then you need to try and avoid the rainy season which runs from June to October. During this time it can rain every day and flooding and storms are common.
The dry season lasts from November to May, although note that April and May can be extremely hot and if you aren’t used to this kind of heat it can make for a rather uncomfortable stay.
If possible, the best time to visit is from November to March, although this is also high season so accommodation and transportation will be at their most crowded.
Where to stay in Ngapali Beach
As with much of Myanmar, budget accommodation can be hard to find in Ngapali Beach. A few hostels do exist, but they will seem pricey compared to many other parts of Southeast Asia and a dorm room can cost around USD20 per night (yes – that’s for a bed in a shared room!).
If you have a larger budget then there are a variety of basic hotels that charge around USD40 per night for a double room, and if you are traveling as part of a couple then this is the more cost effective and comfortable option.
Unlike other parts of Myanmar, there are also a range of resorts here and big chain hotels like the Hilton and the Bayview where you will get a typical five star resort experience, although obviously this will also come with a five star price tag.
One thing to note about accommodation in Ngapali Beach is that many of the smaller hostels and hotels don’t have a website. This means you may be better off booking something for the first night to make sure that you have somewhere to stay (particularly in high season) and then walking around and checking out the local places once you are in town.
Where to eat in Ngapali Beach
As you would expect from a beachside town, Ngapali Beach serves up a lot of seafood and freshly caught fish. Coconuts also abound in this part of the world and the signature dish of the region is prawn curry with coconut. Almost every restaurant or cafe serves their own version of this and the sweet prawns mixed with creamy coconut milk make this a must try when you visit Ngapali Beach.
On the whole you can eat here quite cheaply, especially if you stick to local cafes and some of the smaller restaurants closest to the beach. You will find typical Burmese flavours as well as some Thai and Chinese dishes.
If you are looking for Western food then this is readily available at the various resorts in Ngapali Beach and although it is expensive compared to local plates you can still enjoy a buffet spread at a resort far more cheaply than in other countries in Asia.
Getting around in Ngapali Beach
Getting around Ngapali Beach is slightly complicated by the fact that foreigners are not allowed to drive motorbikes here even if you have a valid international driving license. As a result, if you want your own set of wheels then you will need to hire a bicycle which is easy enough from one of the guesthouses, hotels, or restaurants.
If you don’t mind not driving yourself, then you can easily hire a tuk-tuk to take you around or hitch a ride one of the local buses which is actually less of a bus and more of an open topped pickup truck. Tuk-tuk hire should cost no more than USD1 to go out to the neighbouring villages around Ngapali Beach.
One of the joys of Ngapali Beach is exploring the little islands off its coast, and if you want to do this then you can take a traditional long tail boat and island hop at your leisure.
Getting in and out
There is no direct way to get to Ngapali Beach so if you want to make the journey here you will first need to get to the neighbouring town of Thandwe.
By far the easiest and most painless way of doing this is to fly from Yangon to Thandwe, especially as Thandwe Airport is actually closer to Ngapali Beach than it is to Thandwe.
The fight between Yangon and Thandwe take around 45 minutes and from Thandwe Airport you can get a taxi to Ngapali Beach for around USD4. In the high season (November to April) there are flights that leave from Yangon to Thandwe every day with Myanmar Airways International and FMI Airlines, and you should be able to get a ticket for around USD100. In the low season, there may be a more limited schedule but flights don’t stop completely so if you can be flexible with your dates then you should still b able to find something suitable.
If you want to save money then you can also get to Thandwe, and then onto Ngapali Beach, by road but it is a long journey. The bus from Yangon to Thandwe takes around 13 hours and the route is uncomfortable due to the poor condition of the roads. You will also be travelling through Rakhine State which currently is the subject of some travel warnings by foreign governments that advise against all travel to the state expect the area directly around Ngapali Beach.
Bus tickets however range from USD10-15 so this is a considerably cheaper option as opposed to flying.
Safety in Ngapali Beach
The big issue with safety in Rakhine State is the fact that some foreign governments such as the British and Canadian governments advise against all travel to the state expect the area around Ngapali Beach. This is due to ongoing conflict in the region and disputes between various ethnic communities, and although Ngapali Beach itself is considered safe, the route to get there overland by bus is not. As such, this is yet another good reason to consider flying direct from Yangon rather than making the journey by bus.
Myanmar has malaria and dengue fever so you should consult with a healthcare professional before you begin your trip to decide if you wish to take anti-malarial prophylaxis. The best way to ward off both malaria and dengue is to cover up with long sleeved clothing and use plenty of insect repellent to avoid being bitten.
Healthcare standards in Myanmar often rank as some of the worst in Southeast Asia so if you get seriously ill in Ngapali Beach you will need to travel to at least Yangon if not Bangkok in Thailand for treatment.