If you believe that time is money than the trip from Thandwe from Yangon is the perfect situation to fork out some extra money for a flight. The roads between Ngapali Beach and Yangon are still not developed and the trip will take you hours as compared to 45-minutes by air.
There are options to take the bus, ferry, and train with stop-overs in Pyay. However, at this time (March 2017) travel by land in Rakhine state is not recommended due to on-going conflicts. So make sure you always keep up to date on the political situation in the area if you want to attempt this journey by land.
Flights from Thandwe to Yangon
When you’ve finished relaxing at the beach and you want to leave in the most comfortable and convenient way possible then make sure to take a flight. Flying to Yangon takes less than an hour, which is considerably less than the 13-hour bus ride of the same distance of 380 km. Well, after learning the distance between the two and the time the buses need to cover it, you already can make quite a clear picture of the state of the roads, can you not?
Unfortunately, you will have to pay extra for this convenience and flights are not cheap. Flights to Yangon are USD95-120 one-way.
If you are visiting Ngapali Beach during high season, October–April, Myanmar National Airlines and FMI airlines both offer direct flights to Yangon daily. Check for airline tickets in advance during low season, as direct flights do not run every day.
Thandwe airport is only a 15-20 minute drive from Ngapali Beach which makes getting to the airport fast and inexpensive. Taxis to the airport should cost you around MMK5000. Make sure to ask your hotel if they provide complimentary airport transfers as many do.
When you arrive in Yangon, taxis to the city centre cost MMK8000 and can be found right outside of the airport. If you are on a budget you can take the public bus for a lot less but it requires a bit of a walk to reach it.
Thandwe to Yangon by bus
If you have the money, it is strongly recommended that you fly to Yangon. Even though the buses have improved in recent years the conditions of the roads are not good.
Note: Some travellers have reported what was supposed to be a 10-hour ride to Yangon turning into a 24-hour (!!!) ride because of terrible roads.
Buses to Yangon leave from the town of Thandwe (13km from Ngapali Beach) and should cost somewhere between MMK15,000-20,000. It’s a good idea to ask at your hotel for more information about bus schedules to Yangon as things in Myanmar are changing quickly and there are new bus companies popping up all the time.
From Thandwe to Yangon via Pyay by bus
If you are daunted by the thought of a 13+ hour bus ride back to Yangon, you could break up the trip by spending the night in Pyay (8–10 hours from Thandwe). There’s not much to see in Pyay but for some, that’s the charm. You can take a break from the tourist trail and spend a day beside the Irrawaddy River. From Pyay it’s another 7 hours onto Yangon.
From Thandwe to Yangon via Pyay by bus+train
Most travellers fly between Thandwe (Ngapali Beach) and Yangon but flights are not cheap. If you are interested in taking a cheaper but much long detour back to Yangon you could go by bus to Pyay and then catch a train to Yangon. It would be a travel adventure through some of Myanmar’s less explored areas.
Note: As stated above, if you do decide to take the long way back to Yangon be aware of what's going on in Rakhine state as conflicts have occurred in the past which do have the potential to flare up again.
You will need to ask around at your hotel and in Thandwe about the bus schedule to Pyay. Recent reports from travellers in the area indicate that the bus runs daily and should take around 8-10 hours. After a long bus ride, you will probably feel like taking a rest in Pyay which has a couple of decent budget hotels to spend a night or two.
The train to Yangon from Pyay leaves at 11.30pm and is another 8 hours. Expect to pay USD5 for upper class seats if you buy tickets at the spot, and up to USD13 if getting them online from abroad. Ordinary class seats sell for USD3-USD5. There are no sleepers on this trans (#72).
From Thandwe to Yangon via Pyay by bus+ferry
Getting back to Yangon by ferry from Pyay would be a unique travel story to tell as not many travellers attempt this long journey! The ferry takes over 24 hours to cover 280 km between Pyay and Yangon, omg. On top of that, you would first need to get to Pyay via a 9-10 hour bus from Thandwe. Ask around Pyay for current information about this route as the ferry to Yangon does not run daily.
Onward travel from Yangon
Onwards from Yangon, you could check out the most popular and famous destinations in Myanmar: Inle Lake, Bagan and Mandalay or make a stop in the lesser-known city of Hpa An.
There are plenty of reliable connections between Yangon, Bagan, and Mandalay as these are the most common routes taken by travellers in Myanmar. Transportation between Yangon and these cities runs every day and has options for every budget, the cheapest of which are the bus and the train followed by air.
Getting to Inle Lake takes a bit more effort from Yangon but is worth the reward! Once you get to the lake you can relax and enjoy some stunning scenery. Bus rides are long, 12 hours and trains even longer at 30 hours. Flying there is the fastest but most expensive way to get to the lake.
Hpa-An is a chilled out town surrounded by picturesque mountains with caves to explore. It is not one of the main tourist destinations in Myanmar but is definitely worth the visit. Buses leave Yangon daily and are 6 hours or you can connect via Thaton.