In a nutshell
Pathein is the capital of the Ayeryarwady Division and lies on the scenic Ayeryarwady River Delta along the mighty Pathein River. As you would expect, this is a delightful waterfront town in Myanmar and is scattered with charming Buddhist temples and pretty colonial buildings.
Why go to Pathein
The town is also known for its handicrafts, particularly its umbrellas which are still made by hand much as they would have been centuries ago, and these colourful accessories have made Pathein famous all over Myanmar. As a result, this makes this town a great place to stop off on your way to the beaches of Chaung Tha and Ngwe Saung and allows you a glimpse of life outside major hubs like Yangon and Mandalay.
When to go to Pathein
Many people prefer to visit Pathein from November to February as this is the period that follows the extended monsoon period and you will find the weather is usually stable and dry. In the period after February it can be very hot in Myanmar and from June to October the rainy season hits and you may find that it rains every single day. This also brings with it widespread flooding which can be an issue in Pathein as it is located along the banks of a river.
Where to stay in Pathein
Most of the hotels in Pathein market themselves as two or three star accommodation options although this is overstating things somewhat. You won’t find a huge amount of choice here and it is mostly basic and not particularly cheap.
Many hotels like the Htike Myat San Motel are around USD 20-30 for a simple room with breakfast or you can get a room in a place like the Day to Day Hotel which does not include breakfast and which has a small room with a private bathroom for USD 15. Pathein is also not firmly on the tourist trail so many hotels may not accept foreigners (a permit is needed for this in Myanmar) or you may struggle to find English speaking staff.
Where to eat in Pathein
The food scene is not particularly exciting in Pathein but you can certainly find some decent food here especially if you are only passing through town. Close to many of the guesthouses in the centre of Pathein you will find a selection of different restaurants some of which serve limited international fare as well as standard Burmese dishes like curries and noodles. One of the best spots in Pathein if you are looking for some authentic bites however is the riverfront which comes alive at night with a series of vendors selling delicious local snacks like barbecued meats. There are also plenty of spots dotted around town that will sell you a cold beer which you can enjoy looking over the waterfront at sunset.
How to get around Pathein
If you are just passing through Pathein and are staying in the city centre then there is no need to use public transport and you can easily walk to most places in town. If you need to go further afield then you will find taxis or motorbike taxis in town that can take you out into the surrounding areas. There are also plenty of buses that run to and from Pathein throughout the day if you want to move on.
How to get to and from Pathein
Pathein is usually used a stop off on the way to Ngwe Saung Beach and Chaung Tha Beach and most people travel to Pathein from Yangon.
From Yangon the best way to get to Pathein is to take a bus from the Dagonayer Bus Terminal which leaves in the morning and will get you to Pathein in the evening. There are four buses that depart throughout the day from around 4 am to 3 pm but schedules often change at short notice so it is best to check beforehand exactly when the next bus is leaving. Tickets cost around MMK 7,000. Previously it was possible to take a boat from Yangon to Pathein although this is no longer allowed and there is no sign that this route will open up in the future.
If you want to travel to Ngwe Saung Beach from Pathein then you can get a private taxi which will cost about MMK 250,000 which sounds expensive but may be a more cost effective option if you are travelling in a group. By private taxi you can expect it to take around one and a half hours to reach Ngwe Saung Beach from Pathein.
You can also take a bus between the two which leaves at 10 am and takes around three hours. Tickets costs MMK 3,000 making this a much cheaper option if you are on a budget.
Finally you can also get a motorbike taxi to Ngwe Saung Beach or Chaung Tha Beach and the price depends upon your ability to haggle. Still, if you don’t mind riding for around an hour on a motorbike then this can be a good compromise as well as being one of the cheapest ways to get out to the beaches.
Is Pathein a safe place to visit?
Violent crime in Pathein is low and most visits are likely to be trouble free. Still, it is best to exercise caution and make sure that you don’t travel with all your valuables on you at one time, especially if you are planning to explore Pathein at night. Many hotels and guesthouse have a safe and it is best to use one if possible.
Myanmar is located in both a malaria and dengue fever zone and as such you should try to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. The best way to do this is to cover up at night with long sleeved clothing and to use insect repellent. If you want to take anti-malarial prophylaxis then it is a good idea to consult with a medical professional before you travel to Myanmar.
Healthcare in Pathein is basic and you can only expect to find local clinics around town. Should you become seriously ill you will need to travel to Yangon or possible even further afield to neighbouring Thailand.