Bagan is one of the most popular tourists destination of Myanmar. As it located in the central of the country you have several option to get there.
The Bagan cultural authority has introduced a tax against all foreigners for (Jan 2017) 20USD, 20EUR or 25,000 Kyat upon arrival.
Staff at the ticket booths sell pirated copies of George Orwell’s Burmese Days for around US$5, though if you negotiate you can get them down to $2. Maps are also sold at 1000 kyats. You can also print the online version shown here beside. It is not necessary to buy as these are available free from big hotels, if you happen to pass by and ask even if you are not their guest.
There is only one travel agent selling tickets online in Bagan. Sara Travels & Tours (Bagan Travel Bureau). You can pay through Western Union or else.
The Airport is called Nyaung U (IATA NYU). You can fly to Bagan from Yangon on Asian Wings, Air KBZ , Golden Myanmar Airlines, Mann Yadanarpon Airlines and Myanmar National Airlines with tickets starting at US$118. Air KBZ and Myanmar National Airlines both offer instant online booking.
Asian Wings, Golden Myanmar, Mann Yadanarpon and Myanmar National Airlines also fly from Mandalay. From the airport to NYU costs 5,000kyat (fixed) unless you negotiate. To New Bagan, it takes about 15-20 minutes by car, and usually this will cost around 7000-10000 kyat. Some midrange and luxury hotels will provide free pickup from the airport.
There are no currency exchanges at the airport (the booths are there, but unmanned) so make sure you bring enough kyats. Security will not let you leave the building without buying the Bagan Archaeological Zone pass – 25000 MMK or 22 USD, As of Oct 2016.
Overnight trains run daily from Yangon, departing at about 4:00 pm and arriving in Bagan at about 10:00 am the following day, at prices ranging from a few thousand Kyat (a few dollars) in second class, to US$50 for a “luxury” sleeper. The trains are somewhat old and the ride can be rocky, but that is part of the experience of travelling in a developing country. The train includes a restaurant cart that serves food and beer. In winter you may want to bring an extra blanket.
There is a direct train service running from Mandalay to Bagan with two departures daily. Tickets are available directly at the railway station and cost about US$6 one way. The journey takes about seven hours. (April 2013 – Trains have been reported to take up to 10 hours for this route)
Most train routes in Myanmar are fairly nice, however when going on the Mandalay-Bagan route expect the train to be incredibly crowded. You will also have limited room to store your stuff, as well as cramped uncomfortable sitting conditions. The night train to Bagan has lots of room and feet space in the 1st class carriage US$10. Since April 2014, foreigners pay the fare in kyat at local price.
From Bagan to Mandalay the train leave at 7am, only first class around 2000Ky, 8-9h. Very few passangers. The train will arrive in Mandalay center, not like the buses. Oct.2015.
Buses now arrive at the new bus station located 7km from Nyaung-U center. Transfer cost should be 1,500 – 2,000 kyats by local shared taxi, though once you get off the bus, drivers will mob you and quote ridiculous prices. (May 2015: I heard anything between 10,000 to 4,000 kyat before exiting the bus terminal and walking a few minutes along the highway, where a taxi stopped and offered 1,000) 2017: Even though the bus station has a fares board, the taxi driver say it is per pax rate, e.g., 5,000 Kyat to Nyayung-U translates to 10,000 Kyat for two. We negotiated down to 7,000, but still expensive. Better if you can arrange pickup from your accommodation, which should be 5,000 Kyat to Nyaung-U irrespective of number of people.
Comfortable bus links from Mandalay are available from 8,500 kyat (coach) and minibus. Coach takes as little as 5 hours as a new highway is available for part of the route. There are many bus options to choose from. As of Mar 2015, there are 4 daily minibuses (8am, 10am, two in the afternoon), and 2 daily coaches.
The highway from Yangon is modern, but the bus ride is made significantly less enjoyable by the very loud Burmese music and TV shows that play until midnight. The buses departing from Yangon at 6pm or 7pm also arrive in Bagan at a rather bizarre time in the morning (between 3am and 5am). The trip is 15,000 kyat with regular bus. VIP buses (JJ Express or Bagan Minn Thar Express) leaves Yangon at 8pm (9 hours, 18,500 kyat including snack and drinks). Be sure to book more than 24 hours in advance because tickets typically sell out quickly. Bus tickets can be booked online from JJ Express by contacting them via Facebook. As of Jan 2017, 19 USD per person per way. The bus stops at 115 mile rest stop on the way to Bagan, and twice on the way back, reaching Yangon at 6AM. For the return trip, transfer from Bagan hotel to bus station, and Yangon bus station to airport/city center are complimentary.
There is one bus a day from Inle Lake to Bagan leaving the junction at 7am -at this time of the morning you have to get a private pickup to the junction (6000 kyat) because the public ones aren’t running yet. From Yangon to Inle Lake there is an overnight bus costing 15,000 kyats (including pickup at hotel)
It’s worth emphasising that buses are *heavily* air-conditioned – they aim to maintain +18 celsius inside, and it might be quite uncomfortable to sleep. Overnight buses are most likely to provide blankets, but it’d still be reasonable to have some warm closes with you in the cabin.
A daily “express” ferry service leaving at 7 a.m. runs down the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) from Mandalay to Bagan taking 8-9 hours (or something like 20 miles per hour). One-way ticket is US$40 + US$5 commission (as of October 2014). It is more of a slow pleasure cruise than a rush express trip for the priceless river views and fresh air, a glimpse into the Myanmar country life with locals waving at you and acknowledging your presence non intrusively, and the overall soothing and relaxing atmosphere detached from misery and distant from poverty. Price includes a boxed breakfast, coffee, and lunchtime stir fry. Arrival times vary from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. Water (500 kyat) and beer (3,000 kyat) is available onboard. The ferry can be booked by most hotel front desks. (Disagree: the views are far from spectacular from the middle of the very wide river. Frankly an overnight bus ride might cater to many more people at a fraction of the cost.)
A (very) slow ferry covers the same route frequently and costs US$10. Takes anything from 14 to 17 hours, but is a great opportunity to mix with the locals. Plastic chairs are available to rent on board. Otherwise, bring something to sit on and a cover for the early hours (leaves around 5am) and evening. Locals will be very happy to share theirs if you ask or if they see you shivering. Be aware, especially during dry season, that it’s relatively common to get stuck on sandbars. If this happens, the trip may take two days. However, it’s a great experience; the quintessential Burmese travel style.
The ferry services from Mandalay to Bagan will be shut down, except for the slow ferry ( available only on certain days in the week), during the months of April, May and June when the water level in the river is low. Please check with local travel agents while planning the trip. (http://wikitravel.org/)