I have fond memories of Yangon. Catching the yellow buses that zip through town, and peering out the window to see the pagodas that sit on top of hills. A painfully slow train ride that has the friendliest locals and vendors selling food and drinks. Going to the airport to catch the flight out to Malaysia. Yangon is usually the beginning of a trip for most people, but for me, it was the end, and that’s why it has stayed so vivid in my mind. This city of seven million people has so much to see and explore, so hopefully this guide will help you see many of the exciting places Yangon has to offer.
Yangon is located at the south of the country at the end of the Irrawaddy river. It was previously the capital up until 2006 and serves as the commercial hub for the country. The main geographical markers are Sule Pagoda, which lies right in the center of the old town, Shwedagon Pagoda, near the middle of the city, the bus station, an hour north of the city, and the two rivers – the Hlaing and the Bago river that wrap around the city and converge to meet on the south part of the city. These landmarks can help guide you around the city.
To get to Sule Pagoda from the airport – or vice versa, you’ll have to catch the red Omni Focus airport shuttle that costs $500 Kyat (Approx. $0.33 USD). It runs every 15 to 20 minutes.
If you arrive at the Aung Mingalar Bus Station, you could catch a taxi for approx. $10 USD (depends on your negotiation), or catch a shared minivan shuttle to downtown, which costs $1,000 Kyat and $1,500 if you have a large bag.
Where to Stay:
You’ll want to stay around the Chinatown area – close to Sule Pagoda as your base. It has everything around you, such as good food, cool temples to visit, markets, shops, you name it. From there, you can bus to any of the other locations and even walk if you have more time.
Budget Options, Value Options, Luxury Picks
BoabaBed Hostel – at only $10 for a dorm room and $20 for a private, the BaobaBed Hostel has one of the best values in Yangon. It’s right in Chinatown proper so food is outside the door. There’s great hang out spots to relax after a day of exploring. Clean and quiet, it’s a good place to stay in Yangon.
The Loft Hotel Downtown – on the more value side of accomodation sits the Loft Hotel Downtown. It’s also one of the few places to be rated above a 9.0/10 in Yangon. There’s many hotels to compete against. The rooms are modern and the staff are very engaged in their jobs. You’ll enjoy your stay.
Shangri-La Yangon – If you ever want to experience world-class hospitality, this is your chance to do so. The Shangri-La Hotel in Yangon has amazing, friendly staff. Hospitality is their main selling point – not to mention the outdoor pool, sauna, and a breakfast buffet. It’s located only two blocks from Sule Pagoda and close to every other attraction. Couples and families have rated this a 9.4/10 stars.
What to Do:
Bogyoke Aun San Market – if you’ve already been to a South East Asia market, you can probably skip this spot, but if you are nearing the end of your trip and are looking for souvenirs then this is a great place to stop. Throughout my Myanmar trip I wish I had bought a few more things, like purchasing a hand-woven fabric from the Longneck Women of Myanmar or stopping by the local fruit markets to get fresh produce. With more than 2,000 shops, you’ll be able to find everything you need.
China Town – the allure of open street food and fresh fruits outside the door of your hostel or hotel, make China Town a worthwhile spot to visit. We ate here every night as it was super convenient. Be sure to try some of the soups and look at all the different types of fruits being sold.
Circular Train Ride – for 33 US cents you can ride the circular train, which takes locals all around the city and to the outskirts. On the ride, you’ll have tons of different vendors selling fruits and dishes (we tried the spicy mango and it was painful hot, but surprisingly tasty and addictive). It’s amusement at its best with so many characters on board. The train ride makes for a good half-day trip around the city and you can get off along the way and catch the train back, if you don’t feel like going all the way around. We met so many friendly people on this ride. Nothing gets you as close to the local people as the public transport.
Shwedagon Pagoda – because the Shwedagon Pagoda was being repaired at the time, we never went inside, but it is impressive from all vantage points around the city. From far away, you can see it on the top of one of the city’s hills. Up close you’ll see all the detail and many of the buddhist worshippers who come as a pilgrimage. The artwork is beautiful and it’s main golden stupa remarkable. It’s worth the 10,000 kyat entrance by all means.
Anyone who has a SIM card and Android phone can use the Yangon Bus app to get around the city. It’ll provide you with information about what bus to catch to reach your destination.
The other recommendation is to make it to Bago to see the balanced rock – one of the most famous buddhist landmarks in the world.
Using the Grab app to get around is a secure and convenient way to explore the city too.
More Myanmar Guides Here:
These are my other guides for Myanmar:
Explore the whole country: Your Travel Guide to Myanmar
Explore Bagan: Your Travel Guide to Bagan
Explore Inle Lake: Your Travel Guide to Inle Lake
Explore Loikaw: Your Travel Guide to Loikaw
Explore Hpa-an: Your Travel Guide to Hpa-an
Get Inspired for Myanmar: Top Five Reasons to Visit Myanmar