Yangon, the rapidly developing and Myanmar's largest city, is not to be missed if you are going to visit the country. Traveling from Chiang Mai to Yangon can take as little as a couple of hours if you are flying direct or as long as 3 days if you decide to go overland what involves a combination of buses and/or buses and trains.
Note Remember though that before traveling to Myanmar you will need to arrange a visa. The quickest and most simple option is the e-visa. The application process is straightforward and takes 3 days only. You will receive your letter of approval by e-mail. Show your letter and passport at the immigration check point and you will be granted a 28-day tourist visa, the cost is USD50.
Flights from Chiang Mai to Yangon
The most direct option for travelling from Chiang Mai to Yangon is to fly.
Bangkok Airways have a flight departing from Chiang Mai at 11.40am and arriving to Yangon at 12.45pm each day. Advance tickets are available from around THB4,000/USD120.
Myanmar International Airlines also have one flight departing on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday at 19.45pm and arriving at 20.15pm, costing THB3,580/USD106.
Both flights take just under one hour 30 minutes.
The cheapest flight options available involve a transfer at Bangkok Don Mueang airport. If you buy well in advance, you can score tickets starting from 2,380THB. The total travel time varies depending on the connection in Bangkok and can be anywhere from 4 to 11 hours, but there are a lot of options which take less than 6 hours in total.
From Chiang Mai to Yangon overland
To travel from Chiang Mai to Yangon overland, there are three options.
From Chiang Mai to Yangon via Mae Sai/Tachileik
Though the closest land border crossing with Myanmar from Bangkok is Mae Sai–Tachileik, it will involve taking a short flight within Myanmar, as a certain part of the country remains closed for overland travel to foreign nationals. This is the only land border route that requires a flight and while flights in Myanmar are nowhere to be cheap, this is not a budget-friendly way.
To reach Tachileik you will need to travel to the northern border town of Mae Sai. Buses to Mae Sai depart from Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station and are operated by Green Bus. These buses are comfortable and generally reliable. The journey takes roughly 4-5 hours. The cost of a VIP ticket for a luxury bus is THB400/USD12. VIP buses depart at 8am 09.30am 12.30pm 2pm and 3.30pm. There is one ordinary bus leaving at 6am costing THB260/USD8. There are also additional VIP buses departing Monday at 5.15am and 4.15pm plus one Friday and Sunday VIP bus at 4.30pm and one ordinary bus on Friday and Sunday at 5pm.
The Mae Sai border crossing closes at 6pm – so be sure to arrive before that time otherwise you will have to spend the night at Mae Sai – which is no problem either. It is a nice little border town and you can find guesthouses starting at THB200/USD6 a night. Once you enter Myanmar you will find yourself in the city of Tachileik.
From Tachileik you will need to fly to Yangon directly or take a bus to Kengtung and fly to Yangon from Kengtung as the section of the country between these two destinations and Yangon remains closed to foreign nationals. Most flights will involve a connection in Heho or Mandalay.
From Tachileik, Golden Myanmar Airlines depart Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm and arrive at 6.25pm (MMK200,000/USD150). Myanmar National Airlines have flights departing on Tuesday at 3.30pm, arriving at 5.55pm, (MMK200,000/USD150) plus on Thursday at 2.30pm arriving at 5.15pm and Saturday at 2.05pm arriving at 6.45pm (the same price). Mann Yadanarpon Airlines fly out on Saturday at 2.05pm, arriving at 6.45pm and on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4.35pm arriving at 7.55pm; on Sunday at 5.35 arriving at 8.25pm. Tickets cost slightly more at MMK230,000/USD170.
Tip When booking flights in Myanmar Skyscanner will not be your friend. It is best to check with the airlines directly or with local aggregator websites, as many flights are not listed on global travel fare aggregator websites. Flight schedules do change often. All of the airlines mentioned above have their own websites though online booking is not always available.
There are also flights from Tachileik to Yangon with Yangon Airways. However, this airline has no online booking system at all. You can buy tickets for this airline only within Myanmar. The departure times are Monday, Thursday Saturday at 2.30pm arriving at 5.55pm, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 2.35pm arriving at 6.35pm. Tickets cost in the region of MMK205,000/USD150.
From Chiang Mai to Yangon via Mae Sot/Myawaddy
If you want to avoid flying and travel to Yangon by land you will need to allow two or three days for the journey and be prepared to hop from one bus to another but be sure you will be rewarded for that with a very scenic route. This is definitely the most convenient, easiest and fastest overland route to follow.
From Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station you can take a bus to Mae Sot, where you will cross the border into Myanmar. Green Bus have daily services available at 8am and 4.30pm. The journey takes about 6 hours. There are additional VIP buses Friday and Sunday at 1.30pm. Tickets for all buses cost THB390/USD12.
You can also take the less comfortable ordinary bus, again with Green bus. Tickets cost under THB200/USD6 and buses departs at 12 noon and at 5.45pm, with additional services on Friday and Sunday leaving at 1.30pm and 2.45pm. There is also one express service leaving daily at 6.30am, tickets cost THB260/USD8.
Once arrived in Mae Sot, the border is easily reachable on foot or by tuk-tuk. The border closes at 6pm.
Tip If you arrive around that time and have to choose where to spend the night – on the Thai side or on the Myanmar side – stay in Mae Sot as it offers a wider range of accommodation at better prices.
On the other side of the border sits the town of Maywaddy. From Maywaddy you can travel to Yangon by direct bus. Unfortunately, there is only one bus each day departing at 9.30am and arriving at 10pm. Tickets cost MMK13,000/USD10 and you do not need to book in advance.
If you have missed the only direct bus to Yangon, hop onto a local bus or van to Hpa-An, Thaton or Mawlamyine. All of the three destinations have better connections with Yangon and you will have no problem catching an onward bus from there. Thaton and Mawlamyine sit on the railway line, and you can opt for a rail journey to Yangon for a change.
From Chiang Mai to Yangon via Phu Nam Ron/Htee Kee
There is one more overland route to Yangon, this is by far the most scenic and adventurous route – and involves significant detours from the most direct road as you will need to travel a little out of the way. Why go? You will have a chance to make a beach break and enjoy some beautiful scenery.
First, you will need to travel to Bangkok. There are over two dozens of daily flights from Chiang Mai to Bangkok with prices starting from as low as THB800/USD24. The flight time is 1 hour. There are also over 20 buses, with VIP overnight buses available. Travel time in this case is 10 hours and tickets cost from 450THB. Buses from Chiang Mai arrive at Morchit Bus station in Bangkok. You can also take a train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok departing Chiang Mai at 5.45am, 8.50am, 4pm, 5pm, 5.30pm and 9pm. The journey time is about 12 hours and sleeper tickets cost from THB600/USD18 and up.
From Bangkok, you will need to take a minivan to Kanchanaburi. They depart from Morchit Bus Station and cost THB150/USD4.5. There is no fixed timetable, but there are regular minivans leaving throughout the day starting from 6am till 6pm roughly every hour. There is also one big bus leaving at 10.30am. The journey to Kanchanaburi takes about 2 hours 30 minutes depending on Bangkok traffic.
At Kanchanaburi bus station you will need to go to desk B1 and get another minivan to the Phu Nam Ron border crossing to the Myanmar town of Htee Kee. Minivans leave at 9am, noon, 12.30pm, 2 pm, 4.20pm, 5 pm and 6 pm. There is also a rickety old bus leaving at 10.30am. The journey takes about 90 minutes and costs THB110/USD3.5.
Once you reach the border you will need to negotiate transport over the border and then through to the Myanmar town of Dawei. You will find a number of minivans and taxis at the Thai side of the border – and you do need transport as between the Thailand and Myanmar borders there is a barren stretch of land 4 km long. The cost depends on the time of day and the mood of the driver. Expect to pay anything from THB200/USD6 to THB800/USD24.
This border is safe and – well – a real adventure.
There are local buses from Htee Kee to Dawei, too. They take about 5 hours and cost MMK25,000/USD18.
Note There is one very important thing to know about this border. E-visas are not accepted ar this crossing. You will need a visa issued by a Myanmar embassy or you will be refused entry into the country. A visa is surprisingly easy to get from The Myanmar embassy in Chiang Mai or Bangkok.
Once you reach Dawei you will be greeted by a very pleasant town, with a 4 km long stretch of beach. Dawei has a very laid back feel, with interesting architecture, nice restaurants, and good accommodation. This is a very relaxing place to take a break before you continue to Yangon.
From Dawei, you can either take a bus or a train, or fly to Yangon. The bus takes 18 hours and there is one daily service leaving Dawei at 3 pm and arriving to Yangon at 6 am. Tickets cost MMK15,000/USD11. There is also the railway from Dawei up north. Dawei–Yangon is a long journey passing through a section of Myanmar only recently opened to tourists. This is a beautiful journey, but it does take 24 hours. Basic seats cost MMK16,000/USD12 and upper 1st class sleepers cost MMK42,000/USD30. Trains depart daily at 2pm though schedules are subject to frequent changes.
You can also fly from Dawei Airport to Yangon. Myanmar National Airlines offer daily flights leaving at 3.25pm and arriving at 4.10pm, tickets cost MMK143,000110. Air KBZ has flights every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday departing at 5.25pm and arriving at 6.35pm, tickets cost MMK113,000/USD85.
When you arrive in Yangon you will find a lively and friendly city. Yangon has gone through a transformation in recent years and offers accommodation to fit all budgets. Yangon has a very good transport infrastructure leading to other parts of Myanmar and beyond.