There are not many options to get to Sittwe from Yangon. Currently, there are travel bans in parts of Rakhine State which limit overland travel. This has the potential to change so make sure to always keep up to date on this information.
Even without travel restrictions, it is not an easy journey overland. The bus takes over two days and the roads are not as developed as the rest of the country. At this time, flights are the only recommended way to reach Sittwe. Yes, you will have to spend the extra money to make it there. However, those who put in the extra effort to get there are rewarded with delicious food, stunning temples, and an adventurous river journey without the tourist crowds found elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
Flights from Yangon to Sittwe
Flights around Myanmar are not cheap and flying from Yangon to Sittwe is no different. Unfortunately, this is the only recommended way to get there. On the upside, this means that there are not a lot of tourists which makes the travel experiences found there more authentic.
A flight from Yangon to Sittwe will set you back around USD120-170 one-way. There are a lot of airlines that service this route giving you options to choose what time of the day to leave. Myanmar National Airlines has flights leaving daily at 1pm. The flight is just under two hours.
Note: Flights are less frequent during low season (May–September). If you are booking during this time make sure to do it well in advance to ensure that you get your preferred date.
A taxi to the airport in Yangon costs MMK8000 from the city centre. Give yourself extra time to get there as traffic in Yangon can be quite terrible. There is also a public bus that can get you there for much cheaper but it requires some extra walking.
The Sittwe airport is pretty rudimentary. It’s located close to the city and there are taxis available outside. A ride into the city should cost no more than MMK3000. You could also roll into town in style by opting for a trishaw (a man-powered tuk-tuk) for cheaper than a taxi. Trishaws are located just outside the airport gates.
From Yangon to Sittwe by bus
Traveling to Sittwe by bus is not recommended and at the current moment may not even be possible due to travel restrictions on foreigners in that area of the Rakhine State.
Tip Travel restrictions in Myanmar do tend to change so make sure you check online or with a travel agent for up to date information.
Even if the travel restriction does lift, the bus ride to Yangon is a treacherous two-day journey. Though roads are now not as poor as they used to be after a recent facelift, you still have to cover about 900 km between Yangon and Sittwe what can be and is rather a tiresome experience in Myanmar. Local buses serving this route are often stuffed to the brim with people, bags, and maybe even a couple of chickens.
From Yangon to Sittwe by taxi
As mentioned above, road conditions between Yangon and Pyay have improved, and while flying remains your best option, travelling by taxi can be an alternative. It won’t cost you less than taking a flight, but it will definitely take less than travelling by bus and will also let you see the country closer. Remember to check about the travel restriction before you go.
From Yangon to Sittwe by train via Pyay
There is no railway near Sittwe. The closest point you can reach by train is probably Pyay. Train #71 departs from Yangon Central Station at 1pm and reaches Pyay by 9.30pm taking thus 8½ hours. It has ordinary class seats only. Two other options – train #63 and train #75 at 7am and 11am respectively – both leave from Yangon Kyemyindine station on the circular train line. Both are slower and need 11 hours to cover the distance but they have upper class seats, too (around USD10).
From Pyay you will have to take a bus to Sittwe. There is no dorect service to Sittwe from Pyay with buses and minivans travelling either via Magway or Taunggok. In either case travel time will be around 24 hours (!) with a good deal of winding roads.
Why travel to Sittwe
Located by the sea, Sittwe is a pleasant enough city where you can taste some spicy local cuisine and catch a sunset or two. It’s not a common destination for travellers in Myanmar as it’s not as accessible as other places in the country.
There are a few hotels where you could spend a night. You could visit the colourful local market and try some flavourful seafood. Most people don’t linger around Sittwe for too long and instead head there because it’s the closest airport to get to the much more exciting destination of Mrauk-U.
Note: You can only reach Sittwe by air due to the ongoing conflict in Rakhine State. It’s a good idea to research this conflict and keep up to date as Sittwe is where many of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya have fled and are living as Internally Displaced People in camps just outside of the city.
From Sittwe to Mrauk-U by bus
The public bus from Sittwe to Mrauk-U isn’t the longest but it has the potential to be the least comfortable one you have taken in Myanmar. Often times these buses are crowded and the road is rough and bumpy. The trip takes just under five hours and costs around MMK2500. The bus leaves daily at 6am.
If you have some extra money you could also hire a private car to get to Mrauk-U. This will set you back USD220. Inquire at your hotel in Sittwe about a private taxi as they will probably know someone that can take you.
From Sittwe to Mrauk U by boat
The most popular and the most recommended way to get to Mrauk-U is by boat. This is a unique travel experience that allows you to slowly journey along the Kaladan River. The boat passes by river villages, green rice fields and fisherman going about their daily business. A travel highlight for many who make it to this less-explored area of the country.
There are a couple options for river travel that suit all budgets. On the higher-end, you have the option to rent your own private boat for MMK100,000. There will usually be food and drinks provided on board as well as a Western-style washroom.
If you want to experience the river as the locals do you can take the slow public ferry. It leaves daily from Tuesday–Sunday at 7am. The trip takes around 6–7 hours in total and costs MMK15,000. On Wednesdays, there is a fast ferry that takes only 4 hours and costs MMK20,000.
Why travel to Mrauk U
Mrauk U has an impressive array of temples and because it’s so difficult to reach it doesn’t have a large tourist influx yet. The low-key atmosphere here makes it a truly special place to marvel in the ruins amongst the small tree covered hills and wood smoke that rise up from the distance. Tours up the river to some of the surrounding villages of Myanmar’s Chin people also offer interesting insights into daily life in the area.
Keep in mind that the temples here are smaller and simpler and there are fewer of them than in Bagan. But if it’s your goal to adventure a little further from the usual path than Mrauk U could be exactly what you are looking for.
Onward travel from Sittwe
There are a lot of unexplored areas in this part of Myanmar and since you already made it down to Sittwe why not venture to some of the rest? Be aware that you need to always keep up to date on the political situation in Rakhine State as it has closed to foreigners in the past.
If you are departing from Mrauk U you could make your way via a terribly long bus ride to Ngapali beach. It’s fifteen hours by land from Mrauk U and only a couple hours shorter from Sittwe. But hey, you could always remind yourself that you will be rewarded at the end of the journey with white sand beaches and palm trees.
If you are not up for reaching the paradise of Ngapali Beach by such a long and torturous bus ride you could always opt to fly from Sittwe. Flights are less than 45 minutes which cost a lot more than the bus but saves you so much more time.
If you are ready to make your way back to Yangon it is recommended that you do so by flying from Sittwe as the bus takes upwards of 20 hours.