Unlike the train journey from Yangon to Bagan, the journey between Yangon and Mandalay by train is chosen by a lot of tourists as it’s faster in speed and more pleasant. The 647-kilometer trip will take you 14-16 hours, through the countryside areas of Myanmar, which is the good opportunity to admire beautiful rural landscapes and watch the daily life of locals. Here are some tips for you when you travel from Yangon to Mandalay by train.
How to buy tickets
You can only buy train tickets three days in advance of your journey, directly from the main Yangon railway station and travel agents in Yangon such as Exotic Myanmar Travels & Tours, Myanmar Tour East and Go-Myanmar. Besides, you can ask your hotel book and buy train tickets for you (surcharge may be added to your hotel bill). Tickets could not be bought online as Myanmar Railways don’t have any computer systems.
It’s not quite cheap to travel from Yangon to Mandalay by train during your Myanmar travel. Tickets cost US$50 / 50,000 kyat per person for Sleepers, US$25 / 25,000 kyat for reserved soft seats in the Upper Class carriages, and US$10 / 10,000 kyat for hard bench seats in the Ordinary carriages, which can’t be reserved. There are actually no Sleeper carriages on some trains although a Sleeper service is offered.
What to expect when you travel from Yangon to Mandalay by train
In general, most of the trains serving Yangon-Mandalay route are quite old. You will easy catch the image of grungy old carriages with grubby floors and grimy walls. Moreover, do not be so surprised if the broken seats are permanently in the reclining position; the ceiling fans do not work and the only air is from the open windows. The rustic toilets are clean at the start of the trip but then they will be quickly deteriorated. The trains are not just as nice nor clean as those in the photos posted on the The Man in Seat 61‘s site. However, the trip will be really a wonderful “sightseeing tour”.
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Yangon and Mandalay are two regions suffering from the hottest weather in Myanmar. You will have to face sunlight and high temperature, even in the winter when you travel from Yangon to Mandalay by train. Take toilet paper/damp wipes/tissues, a longyi (a type of Myanmar sarong) and sunblock to put on the window to block out the blistering sun. Prepare water, a thermos of coffee/tea and plenty of snacks if you don’t like what’s being sold on board or you’re fearful of getting sick. Insect repellant is also necessary for few hours after the sun set. Hawkers also sell food, water, hot and cold drinks on the trains, but there are long periods when nothing is sold, so stock up when you can.
Use a porter if you have heavy bags
If you have weighty luggage as it’s a long hike up the stairs and then back down the stairs, we recommend using porters. You will see them greet you at the train on the station in Mandalay. A tip of 1000 kyat/ US$1 per piece of luggage is highly appreciated.
Organize a taxi in advance
Although there will be some taxis at the station, they will most certainly try to over-charge you. It’s better for you to ask your hotel to organize a taxi for picking up you at the train station in Mandalay and know the fare up front.
Use Myanmar over Burma
The country is called the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, yet many prefer to use ‘Burma’.’Burma’ is the English translation of ‘Myanmar’, popularly used during British colonial rule. In 1989, the military government rejected the use of all English translations in 1989, reinstating the original names. Many foreign countries, however, refused to use these simply as they were reintroduced by the government.
Nowadays, during your Burma tours, you will see the vast majority of people, everywhere from Yangon to the Shan states, called their country ‘Myanmar’. Only those with connections to the colonial past (for example Anglo-Burmese or British educated) use ‘Burma’. The reason for the popular usage of the name ‘Myanmar’ is that it’s more inclusive. While ‘Burma’ refers to the country of the Bamar/Burmans or Burmese-speaking people, who account for around 68% of the population, ‘Myanmar’ includes everyone.
Keeping the above tips in your mind will help you favorably travel from Yangon to Mandalay by train. Although a train journey is commonly bumpy and less comfortable than flights, it’s will be a valuable travel experience about the real life in Myanmar.