While traveling through South East Asia, I’d always heard that Myanmar was amazing but expensive. Now I haven’t always been the best budget traveler, but overall Myanmar ended up being one of the most budget friendly countries I have ever visited. This is how I traveled Myanmar on a budget of roughly $25 a day, and still treated myself to western food, cigarettes, beer, and gifts along the way!
Most people’s budget guides do not include the cost of getting in and out of Myanmar. I traveled into and out of Myanmar overland, so my $25 a day includes all travel costs. If you fly in and out of Mandalay or Yangon your daily budget will easily not exceed $20.
If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, scroll to the bottom where I have included some quick tips for budget travel in Myanmar.
Itinerary over 29 days:
Kawthaung → Myeik →Dawei → Mawlaymine → Hpa-an → Yangon → Bagan → Mandalay → Hsipaw → Kawlaw → Inle Lake → Myawaddy
To me it seems that every budget traveler has absolutely no vices in their lives. While I have currently quit smoking, during my travels in Myanmar I was still smoking about a pack a day. Cigarettes only cost about a dollar in Myanmar, so if you don’t smoke, you’re already down to $24 a day!
Beer is ridiculously cheap in Myanmar. A local draft beer will only cost you about 50 cents. Beer is plentiful, but the parties are few and far between. If you enjoy having a beer, most likely you will only be having a couple during your dinner. I wouldn’t worry about drinking really cutting into your budget too much. There just simply isn’t a big enough party culture to worry about alcohol in your budget.
Accommodation is what will eat up most of your budget. Hostels are not abundant, so you will most likely be staying in hotels. Before traveling to Myanmar, I’d heard that the only way to save on accommodation is to stay in monasteries for free. This is not true. You can stay in a decent hotel and not spend more than $10 per night.
A few weeks before making the border crossing into Kawthaung, I met 2 amazing travelers who also wanted to attempt Myanmar on a tight budget. It turned out that having three people was a blessing while traveling Myanmar on a budget. We were always able to book one room for the three of us. The hotels were very accommodating either letting us share beds, or putting a mattress of the floor for the third person. This drastically reduced the cost of accommodation. So try your hardest to find at least one other traveler to attempt this venture with you.
I would also recommend booking your accommodation using the website Agoda. It was the one that I found to work the best overall throughout most of Myanmar. In the southern part of Myanmar you will not be able to book prior to arriving. We used the Maps.me app in order to find places to stay in Myeik and Dawei. You just have to hope that they have availability when you arrive.
List of suggested places to stay:
- Aung Su Pyae in Bagan – they had a large three bed suite that included two TV’s, relatively fast WiFi, and a pretty kick ass breakfast buffet.
- Travelers House in Yangon – it is a well run hostel, with an awesome made to order breakfast and friendly staff.
- Ace Star Bnb Hostel in Mandalay – nice clean dorms with decent WiFi and a banging roof-top breakfast. Make sure to try the restaurant around the corner called Seezar Bistro. They do amazing modern versions of Burmese classics.
- Ever Green Hotel in Hsipaw – kind of dump, but the family that runs it is awesome! It was the best budget accommodation we could find in Hsipaw.
If you can’t book online, just walk around and negotiate for a room. You will get a better price, and this way you will know exactly what the room and facilities are like.
Transport in the southern part of Myanmar is the most expensive (usually $30 for an 8 hour journey), and its the hardest to navigate. The minivans are always over crowded, filled with dried fish, and people tend to vomit on them regularly. Traveling overland through the southern tip of Myanmar is not for the faint of heart and should only be attempted by those really looking for an adventure. The schedules are incredibly inconsistent with 8 hour journeys often taking 12-14 hours to complete. Buses will usually depart around 5 pm and not arrive until the early hours of the morning. In the south when the buses arrive it will be dark, and you will have to walk a couple of kilometers to get into town. Again, traveling the south of Myanmar is not for the faint of heart.
Once you reach Mawlamyine, transportation will get easier and more scheduled. You have now entered the tourist loop, and life will be much easier. I would recommend taking the train from Yangon to Bagan. Upgrade yourself to first class (roughly $15 a ticket), and your accommodation for the night is sorted and the views along the way are incredible.
Take the slow boat from Bagan to Mandalay. An amazing 2 day journey down the Irrawaddy River. It only costs $14 for the journey, and you sleep on the deck of the boat with the locals. Ask your hotel to book it for you, as there is no way to book the local boat online.
The train to Hsipaw is also an amazing journey. At only $4, it fills a whole day on a budget! You travel over Gokteik Viaduct, the highest bridge in Myanmar. It’s over a century old, but don’t worry it’s still holding up!
Read more about train travel in Myanmar here at Seat61.
The cheapest way to go is by eating local. There are tons of food stalls, and a really great meal will only cost around $2 for you to be full. Explore the less touristy areas, and a meal will cost closer to $1. Eating at the touristy restaurants will set you back a bit, normally $7 to $10 for a meal.
Make sure you have your dinner sorted before 9 pm. Most restaurants will close at 9, and it will be very hard to find food later in the evening.
Quick Tips for traveling Myanmar on a budget!
- Try your best to travel with two other people. This will save you tons on your accommodation. And remember to negotiate for a good nightly rate!
- I accidentally avoided the fee to enter Bagan by not having enough cash on me at the time. They said they would come find me, but never did. That saved me $20. Do with this information what you will...
- Eat local! The food is pretty oily, but the flavors are all there. Plus its way cheaper than a touristy restaurant.
- Take it slow. It takes a long time to travel short distances in Myanmar, but the over night options will save you on expensive accommodation for the night.
- When arriving in a city early, try to check-in to your hotel. They often times will let you into the room at 5 or 6 am and only charge you for the upcoming night.
- Only travel the south of Myanmar if you are an experienced traveler. The rides are long, expensive, and there is a lack of accommodation along the way. If that doesn’t sound like your thing, just fly into Yangon! There is one reward for traveling in the south. Miles and Miles of untouched beaches!
- Negotiating in Myanmar is important! I wrote an article awhile back on negotiating rickshaws in India, but the same principles can be applied in Myanmar as well. Read that article here!
If you have any questions regarding overland boarder crossings, where to stay, transportation recommendations, or anything else ask me in the comments below! I’m a pretty open book, and would love to help you on your adventure through one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited, Myanmar!
*Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. They will help you find accommodation, and I get a little bit of a commission. It’s a win win for both of us really 🙂