13 tips for travelling by bus in Myanmar: our guide to surviving long bus trips!

by | Sep 17, 2016 | Asia Pacific, Latest Posts, Myanmar

We love pretty much everything about travelling in Myanmar but there are two key exceptions: buses and squat toilets. We’ll spare you the details of our squat toilet exploits and, instead, give you the lowdown on something much more useful: how to make the most of Myanmar’s day and night buses and, even better, how to survive the long hours spent on a bus. Here’s our guide and tips for Myanmar bus travels. Happy travels!

   Myanmar Night Bus Tips Surviving-8

Bus travel in Myanmar

Buses are a very popular option in Myanmar. It’s not surprising in a country where domestic flights can be extremely expensive and train journeys are the stuff of legends with derailments and long delays a common occurrence. The days of having to sit on a stool in the aisle of an overcrowded bus are long gone as VIP buses are increasingly available for travellers on the popular tourist routes.

VIP Myanmar buses

VIP buses are a traveller staple in Myanmar and are an amazing option for long distance overland travel through the country. We used JJ Express and our experiences were excellent. VIP bus travel comes with a number of perks:

  • large, reclining seats similar to the premium economy cabin on an airplane
  • air conditioning
  • a blanket to keep warm
  • a bottle of water and a small snack
  • personal seatback tv and headphones
  • frequent toilet stops (sometimes with Western toilet facilities!)
  • reasonable price: we paid 20 USD each for a 12 hour overnight bus from Yangon to Inle and 15 USD for a 8 hour day time bus from Inle to Bagan.
  • Staff tend to have good english

VIP or not, 12 hours is an incredibly long time to spend on a bus and at times it seems the journey will never end!

Myanmar Night Bus Tips Surviving-4

Awesome seats on the VIP bus!

The Myanmar Roads

Let’s get this our of the way early: the Myanmar roads vary wildly in standard. While the main roads are relatively OK, any route which ventures off the main road tends to be at least a little bumpy. We encountered this on the latter half of the Yangon to Inle journey and all of the Inle Lake to Mount Popa trip!

Myanmar Inle Princess Resort Review-29

Inle Lake: worth every bump!

This wasn’t a problem for most of the bus, but if you’re a light sleeper (like Dave) it’s safe to assume you’re not going to sleep on the bus. If you do fall into this category of bus traveller be prepared to entertain yourself for the long journey.

What to Bring on Myanmar night buses

1 | Snacks

A small snack, usually a piece of fruit and a croissant, is typically provided on the VIP buses. If you expect to be hungry then bring your own food. Even on an overnight bus some snacks are advisable to keep you going especially if you don’t sleep much.

There’s nothing worse than being trapped on a bus with no source of food. HANGRY anyone?!

Myanmar Night Bus Tips Surviving-11

Swapping Dave for snacks!

2 | Hoody and socks

There’s something about Burmese buses and the maximum power air conditioning setting. It’s a total love affair at times which means you will freeze your bottom off and this is not ideal when trying to sleep. Bring a hoody and some socks to keep you warm. These, combined with the blanket provided, ensure you’ll be cosy throughout the journey.

3 | Books, music and movies

Phones are amazing these days with their reading apps, music storage and capacity for feature length movies. Fill them up pre Myanmar and use them to amuse yourself during the long hours between destination and arrival. It requires no extra packing space. Excellent! Bring a battery pack for some extra charge when the going gets tough! Some VIP buses have in seat tvs with movies and music.

Myanmar Night Bus Tips Surviving-7

In seat entertainment: Dave listening to a spot of Westlife!!

4 | Eye mask and ear plugs

Guaranteed to be your best friend when you need to sleep.

5 | Headphones

Our bus was decked out with back of seat entertainment but we had to bring our own headphones. Movies and music are so much better when you can hear them!

How to handle the rest stops

6 | Get out at every rest stop, even if you don’t need to

The rest stops are usually spaced 2 to 3 hours apart (you can always ask the driver for times) and are the source of great anticipation on an overland trip. The countdown to freedom should never be underestimated! Go to the toilet at every opportunity because, seriously, there is nothing worse than needing a bathroom break between stops.

Secondly, it’s important to stretch those legs!

Myanmar Night Bus Tips Surviving-12

Late night rest stops

7 | Be prepared to squat

OK I promised I wouldn’t fill you in on our squat exploits but, like the boy scouts, you need to be prepared. To squat. No one promised Western style toilets at the rest stops! Squat toilets typically have markings for feet at either side of the basin. Use them!

8 | Toilet paper is essential

Bring your own toilet paper as most of the toilets don’t provide any.

9 | Anti bacterial gel

Rest stops at random places, squat toilets and long journeys can mean only one thing: use lashings of anti bacterial gel. It’s a travellers dream and probably saved us from copious dodgy stomachs.

10 | Torch

Did you know your phone can double as a torch? No neither did I but I was glad I’d downloaded the app for our Myanmar jaunt. Middle of the night toilet stops can be a dark affair so use it to find your way and check the cubicle. As I shone my torch on the dark toilet seat at a rest stop and saw a cockroach waiting for me with open arms, I was certainly glad I did. One can only imagine the consequences of accidentally sitting on a cockroach!!

Food and drinks

11 | Don’t be too adventurous with food at the bus stops, but don’t avoid the local food either

Local food is served at rest stops but, remember, there are no toilets on the bus. I repeat, there are no toilets on the bus! We found it best to play it safe and eat where all the locals ate at the stops!

Myanmar Night Bus Tips Surviving-2

Rest stop food: it was delicious!

12 | Don’t drink too much liquids, especially beer, in the lead up to your bus journey

See number 11. Yep. And yes, no beer on the bus..it’s just a bad idea, trust us.

Myanmar Night Bus Tips Surviving-15

We learned our lesson in Camboida: beer and toiletless buses do not go together!

Planning for onward travel

13 | Leave plenty of time for onward connecting travel

Delays are inevitable. Especially so, if you are catching another bus or plane. Our 8 hour trip between Inle and Mount Popa was closer to 10 hours. The bus stations are often not located in the most convenient of locations. Take Yangon for instance where it was easily a 60 minute car journey from city centre to the main bus station.

Myanmar Night Bus Tips Surviving-3

Yangon bus station

So there you have it, our 13 top tips for surviving Myanmar bus travel. And our best advice of all for when when you’ve made it through a marathon bus journey? Sit back and enjoy your destination. Myanmar is absolutely amazing!

5 Comments

  1. Great blog. I am in Myanmar at the moment and can definitely relate to some of your bus stories 😊

    Reply
  2. Great info, tips as well as photos! I am making a trip there in a few months and enjoy reading about your experience.

    Reply
    • Thanks Michael, it’s an incredible place to visit!

      Reply
  3. what about tickets? Where did you buy them? Do we have to buy them days before? Is there really NO TOILETS in any of the busses? How many seats are there in a row? Which busses are the best? I am not young and want to sit as good
    possible as possible

    Reply
    • Hi Lone

      We used JJ Express as they have the VIP tourist buses. We booked our tickets and seats through their Facebook page (we private messaged them) about three weeks in advance of our travel. There were 3 seats in a row – 2 seats together on the left and 1 seat on the right. The seats were comfortable, well as comfortable as can be for such a long time! There were no toilets on the buses but we stopped regularly for toilet breaks and food so it was fine as long as we didn’t drink too much liquid in between!

      Hope that helps
      Elaine

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. This means that if you click through our link and book/purchase anything via these links we receive a small commission. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Like Travel and Photography?

Join our 70,000 monthly readers for inspiration!

You have Successfully Subscribed!