In a nutshell
The majority of people who travel to Sittwe use it to break their journey to Mrauk U which is a top archaeological site in Rakhine State in Myanmar.
Why go to Sittwe
That said, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing to see here and you can easily spend a day and evening here enjoying the sights. These include taking the views over the Bay of Bengal at sunset, as well as the chance to check out the vibrant markets and stop off for some delicious local food. There are also a few interesting museums of note such as the State Cultural Museum and the Maka Kuthala Kyaungdawgyi which has a mix of Buddhist and colonial pieces.
When to go to Sittwe
The dry season in Myanmar runs from November to May and this is widely believed to be the best time to go. November and December in particular are a good pick as the weather is dry but not too hot. The rainy season lasts from June to October and it can rain every day although you can expect sudden downpours as opposed to hours of drizzle. That said, it can make for a rather unpleasant experience, although the air is clean and fresh as the rains wash away much of the dust that tends to plague Myanmar.
Where to stay in Sittwe
As Sittwe is more of a stop-off point rather than a destination in its own right you won’t find a wide variety of accommodation here. Also be aware that in order to take foreigners in Myanmar guesthouses need to be licensed which will also limit your choices. This can also be subject to change so the best idea is to see what is available when you get to Sittwe.
Some of the real budget choices include Motel Shwe Myint Mho which is a new hotel conveniently located on the main road. Rooms cost around USD 25-40 per night which is pretty standard for budget accommodation in Myanmar and there is also free Wi-Fi from 7 am to 10 pm.
Another choice in this category is the Kiss Guesthouse which is also on the main road and has rooms with air conditioning and a private bathroom. They also have Wi-Fi and you can expect to pay around USD 20 for a double room although in low season you may be able to bargain.
There are also a few mid-range options like the Shwe-Thazin Hotel which has air conditioned rooms with private bathrooms. Rooms are around USD 40-50 depending on whether you want a double or a single and they also have an onsite restaurant. Another choice is the Noble Hotel which has singles from USD 40 with private bathrooms and air conditioning.
If you have a slightly larger budget then you can opt for the Hotel Memory which has doubles from USD 80 with air conditioning and private bathrooms. They also have a restaurant and a nice roof top bar where you can unwind at the end of the day.
Where to eat in Sittwe
Rakhine State is known for its spicy food so if you like a little heat then you are in luck. The signature dish here is called mondi which is a version of mohinga, a traditional Burmese curry usually eaten for breakfast. Catfish curry is also a specialty here but be warned as it can be quite fiery.
Some of the main places to eat in Sittwe include the restaurants in the Hotel Memory and the Shwe-Thazin Hotel and you can expect a range of local Burmese fare and some Chinese dishes on the menu at both. Another choice is a restaurant called City Point Restaurant (often referred to as just The Point) which sits on the water and is a nice spot to have a cold beer and take in the sunset views.
You will also find a wide range of food stalls all over town where you can buy some fried snacks or simple noodle dishes. Alternatively you can also visit the Central Market and the Fish Market which both have food stalls attached.
How to get around Sittwe
The centre of Sittwe is fairly small so if you are not planning to explore further afield then you can easily walk around town on foot. If you want to get public transport then there are trishaws all over town that will take you on a short journey, or if you fancy your own set of wheels then you can rent a bicycle. Most of the tourist hotels will rent one to you for a few dollars if you just want to cycle around town taking in the sights.
How to get to and from Sittwe
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Sittwe does actually have its own airport although don’t expect anything very fancy as it is more just a simple airstrip.
You can fly to Sittwe from Yangon with Myanmar National Airlines, and both Air Bagan and Air Mandalay have flights to and from Sittwe, too. Tickets to any destination should cost around USD 135-140. Note however that some of these flights are not direct and you will need to go through Thandwe. Flight schedules in Myanmar are also subject to change at short notice so it is best to check what is available when you want to fly.
The airport in Sittwe is a few miles from the city centre and you can get a taxi into the centre of town where the guesthouses are located or get a motorized trishaw which is a cheaper option.
The other way to get to Sittwe is to travel overland by road. If you are coming from Yangon however the journey takes around two days and it can be a rather gruelling ride. The only real option if you don’t have a car is to get a bus and although the road has been renovated and is in better condition than it used to be, this is a still a long and time consuming option.
Is Sittwe a safe place to visit?
Many foreign governments advise against all but essential travel to Rakhine State although some parts are deemed safe including Thandwe, Ngapali, Gwa and Ramree. Note that this does not specifically include Sittwe although people do still make the journey here. There is a continued risk of terrorism and armed conflict in the area and you should exercise caution if you wish to visit.
Sittwe has also, since 2012, moved its Muslim population to camps on the outskirts of the city. You are not allowed to visit the camps and you will be barred from entry by armed police if you try.
Myanmar is technically a malarial zone and dengue fever is also prevalent. The best advice is to avoid getting bitten by wearing repellent and covering up in long sleeved clothes.