Sitting in the southernmost part of Myanmar, Kawthaung is the gateway to the Thai province of Ranong. The route from Yangon to Kawthaung is not very developed. Travel infrastructure for tourists is lacking and information on this route is sparse. Always look for up to date information before traveling overland on this route as services available can change quickly.
Flights are the most practical way to get there but are expensive. Going overland is an adventure all on its own. It takes a couple of days to get to Kawthaung from Yangon. If you are interested in exploring the South then going overland is a great way to see one of Myanmar’s less visited areas.
Flights from Yangon to Kawthaung
Flying to Kawthaung is quite expensive but it is by far the fastest and easiest option available. Flights cost around USD220 – you can consider yourself lucky if managing to grab a ticket for USD150! – and are two hours in length. There are no direct trains to get to Kawthaung so travelling overland is very time-consuming. If you have time restrictions than flying is definitely the recommended way to reach Kawthaung.
Myanmar Airways International has direct flights to Kawthaung leaving Yangon a couple of times a week. Give yourself lots of time to reach the airport in Yangon as traffic can often be congested. A taxi to the airport should cost around MMK8000. You also have the option of taking the public bus but you will end up doing some walking to reach the departure terminal.
Note: Keep in mind that outside of high season, which lasts roughly from October to April, flights will not run as regularly. Make sure to book far in advance for flights if you are travelling in low season.
From Yangon to Kawthaung by connecting flights via Myeik
If you can’t find direct flights on your preferred date another option is to fly via Myeik. Both Air KBZ and Myanmar National airlines have flights going to Myeik a couple days a week. Flights cost anywhere from USD100-170 one-way. If you have the time it’s worth making a stopover in Myeik as it is the gateway to the stunning islands of the Myeik archipelago.
From Myeik there are daily flights to Kawthaung on Apex Airlines. Flights are 40 minutes in length and cost USD40-70 one-way.
Note Keep in mind that flights between Yangon and the south only run regularly during high season October-April.
From Yangon to Kawthaung overland
If you want to travel from Yangon to Kawthaung overland, the most sensible way to do so is to split your journey into two or three parts with stopovers in the coastal towns od Dawei and/or Myeik en route. While there are buses between Yangon, Dawei, Myeik and Kawthaung, you can add a bit of an adventure to your journey taking a train to Dawei first and then switching onto a bus to Myeik or directly to Kawthaung.
From Yangon to Kawthaung by train and bus via Dawei
The trip by train to Dawei is a worthwhile adventure for those willing to give up comfort. The scenery is beautiful and makes for an interesting ride if you have a lot of extra time on your hands. Emphasis on a lot. Some guidebooks refer to this train as one of the slowest trains in the world!
From Yangon you need to hop on train #175 at 6.25pm. The train makes its way south overnight to the city of Ye covering the distance of 460 km in 17 hours. Once in Ye you need to transfer trains to get on the train to Dawei. This is a relatively easy and straightforward process. The train from Ye to Dawei takes additional 8 hours. This is arguably the most undeveloped railway route in Myanmar, so be prepared for a really slow and uncomfortable trip – no sleepers! However, if you are looking for an authentic and off the beaten path travel experience it doesn’t get much better than this.
When you get to Dawei you can catch a bus to Kawthaung. Bear in mind that this is a twenty-hour ride. You might be better off stopping in Myeik first and exploring some of the surrounding islands before making your way to Kawthaung. The bus from Dawei to Kawthaung costs MMK35,000 for A/C and MMK15,000 for the bus without A/C.
From Yangon to Kawthaung by bus via Dawei
There is a direct bus from Yangon to Kawthaung, but it takes 36 hours to reach its destination and if you can, do avoid it. If you aren’t yet afraid of extremely long and rough road travel you can make your way by bus to Kawthaung. It is recommended that you break up your trip by stopping for a couple days in Dawei or Myeik.
First, you will have to make your way to Dawei. The trip there from Yangon is 12-15 hours with all the buses leaving between 2pm and 6pm. There is a choice of ordinary and VIP buses, and as the ticket price does not differ much (MMK20,000-MMK25,000), try to grab the VIP one. The roads can be rough and underdeveloped in this part of Myanmar so be prepared for a bumpy ride.
Onwards from Dawei, the trip to Kawthaung is an additional 20 hours. The bus costs MMK35,000 for A/C and MM15,000 without. If you are not up to that long of a ride consider stop in Myeik for a couple days before continuing on to Kawthaung.
From Dawei and Myeik to Kawthaung by boat
In the past, there were speedboats running between Dawei, Myeik, and Kawthaung. In 2016 they closed down because of a lack of demand. It’s a shame because speedboats were a fast and comfortable alternative to the bus. There is always a possibility that these will start up again as more travellers make their way South so make sure to enquire about this option when in Dawei or Myeik.
Why go to Kawthaung
Most people end up in Kawthaung while doing visa runs from Thailand or on an organized tour of the Myeik archipelago. It is quite remote and inaccessible to the rest of Myanmar. It is almost impossible to end up in Kawthaung on an overland trip from Yangon without first stopping in Myeik or Dawei.
Kawthaung does have a couple of decent hotels and restaurants. Just outside of town there is a waterfall and hot springs where you can take a dip. There is a lively market to check out and an island nearby to explore. Overall, Kawthaung is a pleasant enough place to spend a couple of days on the waterfront.
Myanmar’s southern coastline is remote and unexplored compared to the rest of Southeast Asia. There are pristine beaches and lush jungles to discover. This area is home to some fascinating cultural groups like the Moken people, also known as “Sea gypsies”, who live a nomadic lifestyle fishing on the many islands of the Myeik archipelago. Taking the time to travel around this area is highly recommended.
Note Some parts of the South are closed to foreigners but things in Myanmar change very quickly. So always ask for up to date information once you get to Myanmar.
Onward travel from Kawthaung
Dawei is an excellent place to stop and explore for a couple of days. It is a quaint town with some really beautiful old colonial buildings. The surrounding beaches are gorgeous and easily accessible from the city. You can reach Dawei from Kawthaung by bus and by air. The bus is cheaper but is much longer and more uncomfortable than flying.
Closer to Kawthaung is the friendly city of Myeik. It has a bustling waterfront and decent accommodation options. There are islands nearby to check out and a couple of boat tours are available. You can reach Myeik from Kawthaung via a short flight or a really long bus ride.
From Kawthaung to Thailand
To cross into Thailand from Kawthaung you will need to take a longboat to the Thai city of Ranong. Boats cost around THB100 (THB50 if you bargain, actually) and take about 30 minutes. The majority of nationalities get free 15- or 30-day stay in Thailand, but if you are planning on spending more than that you will need to secure your Thai visa in advance – a tourist visa will allow you to travel around the country for 60 days with a possibility to extend your stay for another 30-day period at the immigration office within the country.
It is also important to have Thai currency or USD at the border crossing as Myanmar Kyat is not accepted in Thailand. Recently, if you enter Thailand overland with a tourist visa, you can be asked to show THB20,000 in cash to prove your paying capacity.
Always do research in advance to find out the visa requirements for your country before heading to the border crossing.