Mandalay is the second largest city and one of 4 tourist highlights in Myanmar (besides Yangon, Bagan, and Inle Lake). The city not only is the sacred land for major Buddhists’ pilgrimages but also contains many mysterious things that await being discovered. Here we provide you with Mandalay tourism useful information so that you could have best travel experiences in the city of Mandalay and its outskirts.
The best time to tour Mandalay
Summer in Mandalay lasts from March to May, and then temperature cools down in the rainy season. Because Mandalay is in the central dry zone, it receives far less rain than the more tropical south. Winter lasts from November to February. The peak time of Mandalay tourism season is in between October and December when it’s cool and dry. However, traveling in the high season may be much more expensive, so you can visit Mandalay in late winter (January and February) and early rainy season (June and July) when the weather is relatively good.
How to get there
By plane: Mandalay International Airport organizes flights to most cities in Myanmar and some cities abroad, such as Thailand or China. However, the airport is 45km far from the city, and you will have to take a taxi for about 10USD.
By train: You can reach Mandalay from Yangon via the rail network service. Nevertheless, the journey lasts 15 hours and may be a little unpleasant. The price for a first-class ticket is of 5USD. In your Myanmar travel, you can also come to Mandalay from Lashio, Hsipaw, Pwin U Lwin and Myitkyina. However, trains are often slow and crowded.
By bus: There are three main bus stations in Mandalay. You can reach them from Pyin U Lwin, Kyaukme, Hsipaw and other cities of the country (of course including Bagan and Inle Lake).
The journey from Yangon consists of a night bus which takes 9 hours to go to Mandalay. The VIP bus (18USD) offers the best value for the journey between the two biggest cities of the country.
By boat: You can reach Bagan via one of the many companies that offer this route. It takes about 10 hours to go there with the price of 40USD. Note that this service is stopped between April and June when the water level is low.
Taxis: If you are travel in groups of 3 to 4, taking a taxi is a good choice. Taxi drivers, who can speak English quite good, will take you to some famous attractions in Mandalay within a day and charge you about $10 – $12/person/day.
Motortaxis: Motorcycle taxis are a cheap alternative, and will usually give you a cheap helmet to wear as well. A day of sightseeing in the city (north and south sights) should cost around 10,000 kyats, and a three-city tour (Sagaing, Amarapura, Inwa) costs about 15,000-20,000 kyat for the day.
Motorbike rental: If you are an experienced rider. Renting a motorcycle it is a great way to see the city or nearby villages. Note that motorcycles are usually not really new, so it’s better for you to check them carefully before you hire. It costs you about 12,000 – 15,000 kyat for renting a motorcycle per day.
Bike rental: Cycle hire is much cheaper at USD1-2 a day. It is a very feasible option if you make a small tour to main sights in the city center. Buy a Mandalay tourist map so that you would not get lost in this “grid” city.
Trishaws (cycle rickshaws) are a convenient way of getting around in Mandalay, and if you find a driver who speaks good English you can have a tour guide and transport together for a reasonable price with a little bargaining.
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What to see and what to do
The city of Mandalay: Golden Palace Monastery, Mahamuni Pagoda, Kuthodaw Pagoda, Mandalay Hill, Gem Market (Mahar Aung Myay), etc.
The outskirts: There townships of Amarapura, Sagaing, and Innwa. Particularly, U Bein Bridge, the longest teak in the world, is the symbol of Mandalay tourism and where you can admire one of the most stunning sunset scenery in the world.
Dee Doke Waterfall: About 60km from Mandalay you will find the waterfall of Dee Doke, formed by a lava flow thousands of years ago. It’s suggested that you should visit it between November and February when the water is clear and pure.
Food and drink
The cuisine is one of the most standout and attractive features of Mandalay tourism. Indeed, Mandalay has a notable array of specialties both from various regions within Myanmar as well as from other countries thanks to its history as a former capital of Myanmar, and its position as a major trading center between Myanmar and its neighbors in China, India, and Bangladesh. Cuisine from the Shan State (usually including fermented pastes, meats, and vegetables) is popular in Mandalay which has a notable Shan minority. Muslim Chinese noodles, pronounced pan-THEI-kao-sweh (flat thin noodles mixed with chicken and an array of spices), are also famous in Mandalay as well as the surrounding hills. Regardless of where you eat, try and leave space for Htou moun (to-moh), a traditional Burmese dessert which is only sold in Mandalay. Note that it is extremely sweet and contain a lot of oil.
Hotels and guesthouses in the city are very available for the development of Mandalay tourism. Many hotels are located in the Palais Royal area. However, finding accommodations with reasonable prices may be problematic during the high season of Mandalay tourism, so you should book your room at least one month in advance of your Burma tours.
As the royal capital of Burmese Kingdom, Mandalay delights visitors with its wealth and diversity of monuments that can be found throughout the city. Keep the useful information in your mind when you tour Myanmar to have a favorable and exciting stay in the city.