Bago is an easy day-trip from Yangon. All methods of transportation to the sprawling town take less than 2 hours. Taking the bus and the train are easy on the wallet and are both fairly convenient options. But, if you have the extra cash you could hire your own taxi so you can determine how long to stay and what to see.
From Yangon to Bago by bus
Catching the bus from Yangon to Bago is a quick and easy experience. It’s really cheap so if you don’t have the money to fork out for a private taxi or an upper-class train then this is your best option.
Buses run quite regularly and the trip is short, coming in at only two hours! The roads are well maintained and the buses are pretty standard as compared to travel between other popular destinations in the rest of the country. There are both A/C and non A/C buses serving the route, so check in advance not to find yourself sweating all through in the mid of April or May in an old cramped fan-only bus.
Tip: It’s a good idea to bring your own snacks because most buses are unlikely to make stops on such a short trip.
There are a couple of different options for bus companies. Buses depart from Saw Bwar Gyi Gone bus station (located near the airport) and cost MMK2000. Buses also leave from Aung Mingalar Bus Station which is 20km away from the city centre and are a similar price. You can book your ticket in advance from both bus stations or from one of the many travel agencies located in downtown Yangon. Give yourself extra time to get to both bus stations because Yangon is notorious for its choking traffic.
From Yangon to Bago by train
The train ride to Bago isn’t especially scenic or notable but taking the train in Myanmar is always a rewarding way to experience local travel. It’s also a short ride which if it’s your first time taking a train in Myanmar it could make for a great introduction to train travel in the country.
The train journey is less than two hours in total. It leaves from Yangon’s Central train station which is located in the city centre.
Note Even though the train is more expensive than the bus you don’t have to factor in paying extra for a long taxi ride to the bus station.
There are departure times throughout the day beginning at 6am in the morning until 5pm. Trains # 3, 5, 31, 89, and 11 service this route. Train #89 proceeds further to Kyaikhto, so it pays to take this one if you are heading to Golden Rock.
The upper-class carriages are the most comfortable because they’re less crowded and have much cushier seats – soft reclining seats similar to those in VIP buses – than the rock hard benches in the ordinary-class. The cost of an upper-class ticket varies depending on where you get your tickets but in any case expect to pay USD14 the maximum. If you don’t mind sacrificing a little comfort then you can save yourself quite a bit by taking the ordinary-class train. It costs less than USD1.
From Yangon to Bago by taxi
If you have the extra money then hiring a private taxi to get to Bago could be a good option for you. Private taxis aren’t cheap but they allow you to get there faster than by bus or by train. If you are just heading out for a day trip then this might be the best way to see all the sights at your own pace.
Hiring a private taxi in Myanmar can sometimes be a confusing experience. One of the easiest ways to arrange a private taxi would be through your hotel. Most hotels will be able to recommend a company or a driver that can get you to Bago. Taxis should be somewhere around USD40-50 one-way.
Another option is to arrive at the corner of Strand Sule Pagoda road and hire a taxi driver from there. Opting for this strategy might be able to get you a cheaper price than your hotel but will probably require some bargaining. If a taxi driver quotes you an outrageous price then just politely decline and go ask another. A private taxi to Bago should take just over an hour.
Why travel to Bago
Bago itself is a busy city and fairly non-descript. Most people don’t choose to spend the night as there is not much to see. However, it makes a nice stopover on the way to Golden Rock. The main attractions in Bago are a couple of pagodas the most notable of which is Shwemawdaw Pagoda. It is the tallest pagoda in Myanmar.
From Bago to Kyaikhto
If you are like most people traveling through Bago you are making your way to the main attraction of Mount Kyaikhto. This is where you can see the famous giant golden boulder and pagoda that are perched perilously on the top of the mountain. Quite a sight to behold! From November to March many pilgrims make their way up to this sacred sight to worship.
If you are interested in staying as close as possible to the Golden Rock there are some higher-end hotels located at the top of Mount Kyaikhto. Most people, however, choose to stay in the nearby village of Kinpun where there are a good range of budget hotels and restaurants. Kinpun is a usual dusty Myanmar place, so do not expect much apart from a bed to sleep and rice and curry to eat.
You can get to Kyaikhto easily by bus from Bago. The trip is about 2 hours and costs between MMK2000-3000. Buses leave Bago in the afternoon. You could also surpass Bago altogether and catch a bus from Yangon for MMK9000, too.
The train from Bago to Kyaikhto is also a recommended way to travel . It only takes three hours from Bago and passes through some pleasant countryside scenery. You need to get off at the town of Kyaikhto and from there you can take a public pickup taxi to the nearest village to the mountain – Kinpun. It takes twenty minutes to get there and should cost around MMK3000.
From Kyaikto to Golden Rock
Note Making the journey to the Golden Rock is not recommended for those who are scared of heights. The road twists and turns precariously up the mountain side. Just don’t look down!
The starting point for all trips to Golden Rock is the village of Kinpun, some 15 km northeast of Kyaikhto. From there, there is a public puckup truck which leaves when full, but note that it won’t bring you to the top of the mountain. The trip takes 45 minutes and these are unforgettable 45 minutes, believe us! It costs MMK2500 one-way.
This is the part of the ride to hold on tight to your seat and try not to look over the edge of the cliff. With devil crazy drivers passing sharp turns at full speed with an abyss on one side and the rock face on the other you do not feel too comfortable stuck in the back of the truck!
After the truck gets to the stop closer to the top of the mountain you have to get off the truck as ‘it is too dangerous to ride further up’. The locals, though, do proceed their way up in the same truck. The real reason is to make you pay around USD10 for a private ‘transfer’ in the form of a primitive palanquin – you will be literally brought to the top. We do not feel it is a worth-doing experience and are strongly against this method of transportation. The alternative to it is to make rather a strenuous 40-minute hike up the road. The choice is always yours.
Once you arrive at the Golden Rock there is a MMK6000 entrance fee.
Note that women are not allowed to approach the rock itself. Yes, as in many other sacred places in Myanmar, the access is only for men.
If you are in really good shape and want to challenge yourself there is the option to hike to the top of the mountain from the village of Kinpun. It can take up to 5 hours in total. Ask at your hotel for guides and pricing.
Onward travel from Bago
After checking the Golden Rock off your must-see list there are still plenty of other extraordinary sights to visit in Myanmar.
Make sure you don’t miss out on magical Inle Lake or the many worthwhile things to see around Mandalay. From Bago, you can get to both of these destinations daily by train and by bus. Be prepared for quite a long journey to both places.
If you are interested in taking the road less travelled you could make your way to the southern peninsula via the city of Mawlamyine by train or by bus from Bago. This is the city that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘Mandalay’. It’s a great jumping-off point to explore the surrounding area’s pagodas, caves, and beaches. Trains leave a couple of times each day and take about seven hours. Buses will get you there faster.
A closer option from Bago is the quiet, backpacker-friendly city of Hpa-An. It’s a cute little town to relax in amongst gorgeous mountain scenery. Buses go there regularly from Bago and from the Golden Rock. It’s 5 hours from Bago and only 3 from Kyaikhto.