As Mawlamyine is still a little off the beaten track, it can be difficult to find information on how to get there. There are several options available to you.
We haven’t included the train as it’s not recommended – it is longer and much less comfortable than the bus.
From Yangon there are many coach options available. You will see them advertising in the streets. The company that we used is a small local operation called PTT bus. They run a day and a night bus between Yangon and Mawlamyine only. The night bus has less seats and so they are wider. At a cost of 8,000 kyats per person it’s a pretty good deal.
Some seats have leg room obstructions such as fire extinguishers. Avoid seats 4 & 5 if possible. No English is spoken so you will need a local to call and book for you. Your Yangon hotel should be able to do this. Book at least a day ahead and request your seats then. 10 & 11 worked out well for us.
There are 3 bus companies that run between Mawlamyine and Mandalay. All charge 15,000 for roughly a 12 hour journey. Shwe Mandalar Express are really comfortable. Their seats not only recline, but adjust further into the aisle for extra width.
To leave Mawlamyine, just go to the coach station to book. It’s best to do this ahead of time. If people approach you offering to help, accept their offer. Most signage is in Myanmar only and you will be done much sooner with a translator. Those offering help are either just being helpful or are taxi drivers that hope you will book them back to your hotel afterwards. There is no pressure though if you say no.
The top tip from the locals – avoid the Chinese buses!! They look really great from the outside and have fancy interiors, but regularly break down.
Transport onward from the coach station is at a premium. From the coach station to old Mawlamyine (where most guest houses are) will cost 1,500 kyat for a tuk tuk or 1,000 kyat for a motorbike taxi. Confusingly, they call both motorbike taxis, but may know what you mean if you say ‘tuk tuk’. You shouldn’t have any trouble flagging one down as they will likely be almost blocking the exit of the bus trying to get your business. It’s a good idea to print out (or make available offline on your phone) your hotel’s address in Myanmar to show them. If you want to save some cash or feel like stretching your legs after a long ride, the coach station is not so far out that you couldn’t walk – just make sure you have an offline map and be careful of drop offs beside the footpaths if it’s dark.
Mawlamyine airport has irregular arrivals and departures from various inter Myanmar airlines. It seems more are springing up every day.
You can hire a car and driver from Yangon. Your hotel can arrange this for you but you shouldn’t expect it to be cheap or comfortable. Expect to pay about $100 to sit in an opened backed ute tray. Remember also that in Myanmar driver is king. Just because you are paying for the car doesn’t mean you will have any control over temperature or music.
Drivers falling asleep in Myanmar is a serious problem. Unless you speak the language and can chat to the driver to keep him awake, this option is a little risky.