How to plan a trip to Myanmar, including a tour of Bagan’s ancient temples

Joshua Berida

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How to plan a trip to Myanmar, including a tour of Bagan’s ancient temples

GOLD. Shwedagon Pagoda at night.

Joshua Berida/Rappler

Check out this itinerary, with a budget of up to P20,000 for six whole days

Myanmar is one of those countries where it feels like time has stopped. It has truly maintained its unique culture. It’s common to see women with thanaka, a yellow paste, on their faces, or locals wearing longyi, a colored cloth, wrapped around their waists.

In Yangon, you’ll see vestiges of its British colonial past through some of the buildings, such as The Strand and The Secretariat. Yangon is also home to one of the most recognizable landmarks in the country, the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Bagan is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Myanmar. It rose in popularity because of the numerous ancient pagodas and temples scattered all over its landscape.

The country will surprise you with what it has to offer once you visit.

Getting a visa

Myanmar is part of the ASEAN, which means that Filipinos can enter this country visa-free for up to 14 days. 


Myanmar uses the kyat or MMK as its currency.

Conversion as of this writing:

$1 = 2,098.76

P1 = 37.30

Get into Myanmar

There are no direct flights from Manila to any city in Myanmar. You’ll have to transit to another city or country such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, or Singapore. Your budget options are either Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur because low-cost airlines operate flights between these two cities and Yangon or other major airports in Myanmar. I often browse sites like Skyscanner to find the most affordable routes to my chosen destinations. 

Architecture, Building, Temple
GIANT. Shwezigon Pagoda. Joshua Berida/Rappler
Get out of Yangon airport

*This itinerary assumes you’ll begin and end your trip in Yangon.

You can take the bus departing from the airport to the city center. It takes around 50 minutes and costs around $1 or MMK2,098.76. Grab is available in Yangon you can use this app to get to your accommodation directly. 

Getting around 

You can use Grab or hire a taxi for the day to take you to places while in Yangon. Buses are available but difficult to navigate. In Bagan, you can hire a horse cart and driver to take you to the temples or you can rent a bike.

Architecture, Building, Spire
EXPLORE. Ride a bike or a horse-drawn cart to explore Bagan. Joshua Berida/Rappler

*This itinerary assumes you start with one full day.

Day 0

Depending on the time of your flight’s arrival, you’ll still have some time to walk around the city. You can also just head straight to your accommodation and rest before sightseeing the next day.

Day 1

Check out of your accommodation and get something to eat before exploring the city. Before sightseeing, buy an overnight bus ticket bound for Bagan. You can arrange this through your accommodation if they provide this service. You can also show up at the bus station and buy the ticket. The station is far from the downtown area. Make sure you give yourself more than enough time to catch the 7 pm overnight bus.  

Once you’re ready, make your way to downtown Yangon. This neighborhood is home to some of the city’s old colonial buildings such as The Strand Hotel and The Secretariat. The British colonized Myanmar for more than a hundred years. This is why you’ll see their influence in the city’s architecture. 

Yangon has quite a few famous and recognizable pagodas. Not too far from The Strand is one such landmark, the Botahtaung Pagoda. The latter is more than two centuries old, and it is believed that Gautama Buddha’s sacred hair is housed inside the pagoda. Another ancient attraction you can visit is the Sule Pagoda. This pagoda is also more than two centuries old (a recurring theme among Yangon’s famous pagodas). Sule Pagoda is also a historic site where some of the country’s important events took place, such as the 8888 Uprising and the Saffron Revolution. 

Your last stop is arguably the most recognizable and famous attraction in Yangon, the Shwedagon Pagoda. The latter is the country’s most sacred Buddhist pagoda. It was built more than 2,500 years ago. It is said to house sacred relics of the previous Buddhas. It is a striking part of the city’s skyline with its golden exterior and dominant position. 

After sightseeing, grab something to eat before heading out to the bus station for your overnight trip to Bagan.

Day 2

You’ll most likely arrive early in the morning and probably be tired from the overnight trip. Make your way to your accommodation and store your bags. Rest for a while, get something to eat, and bring some snacks before sightseeing. 

Architecture, Building, Temple
SPRAWLING. Bagan is dotted with temples as far as your eyes can see. Joshua Berida/Rappler

Bagan is one of my favorite destinations in Southeast Asia. It’s much like Siem Reap with its ancient temples scattered all over it. However, in Bagan’s case, there aren’t a lot of tourists. There are thousands of temples and pagodas dotting the landscape. You won’t get to see all or even just most of them in two days. You’ll get to see some of the most famous ones during this trip. 

Architecture, Building, Spire
SPIKY. Thatbinnyu Temple. Joshua Berida/Rappler

You can rent a bike or an e-bike to get around. Alternatively, you can also rent a horse cart if you want someone else to take you around. Regardless of your chosen mode of transport, getting around is affordable (even if you hire a horse cart). You’ll also have to pay a zone fee that’s valid for a few days.

There are simply so many temples in Myanmar; some of the most famous ones you might want to include in your itinerary are Ananda Temple, Dhammayangyi Temple, Htilominlo Pahto, Thatbinnyu Temple, Shwezigon Pagoda, Bupaya, Shwegugyi Temple, Sulamani Temple, Gawdawpalin Temple, and Shwesandaw Pagoda. Make sure to catch the sunset; the most popular spot to do this is Shwesandaw Pagoda. However, it gets crowded. Try going around an hour before sunset to get a good spot.

Architecture, Building, Spire
ANCIENT. Ananda Temple. Joshua Berida/Rappler

Day 3

See another part of the country with a day trip to Mt. Popa. The drive to this destination is quite scenic, where you’ll see the countryside and Myanmar’s beautiful landscape. The main attraction of this trip is the monastery perched on a hill (Taung Kalat). You’ll see it looming over the town, which makes it a good photo op. You’ll have to climb 777 steps to reach the monastery. At the top, you’ll see bird’s eye views of the surroundings. After the trip, you’ll head back to Bagan. You can book a tour or share a ride with other tourists to reach Mt. Popa.

Slate, Rock, Person

Day 4

If you liked the sunset views, you’ll most likely want to see the sunrise views as well. Get up early and make your way to one of the viewing spots and watch the landscape turn from a navy blue to a spectacular red-orange. This is your last day in Bagan. You can revisit some of your favorite temples and viewing spots. You can also check out the Bagan Archaeological Museum if you’re interested in learning more about the area. 

Catch the overnight bus bound for Yangon.

Day 5

Make your way to your accommodation and leave your things. Rest for a while and grab something to eat before exploring Yangon again. Since you’ve already visited some of the highlights, take your time exploring the city. Visit the Bogyoke Aung San Market, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Maha Bandula Park, Yangon City Hall, Kandawgyi Park, and others. Return to Shwedagon Pagoda at night to see it lighting up the sky.

Day 6

Depending on the time of your flight, you might still have enough time to get some souvenirs or revisit your favorite spots, cafes, and/or restaurants in the city before leaving for the airport.

*You can combine your trip to Myanmar with a longer trip around Southeast Asia. You can do either Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur or both with a trip to Myanmar. It depends on how many days you can go on leave from work. If you work remotely, you can travel for as long as you want.

How much will you spend?

Bagan and Yangon are affordable destinations in Myanmar. A budget of up to P20,000 or MMK741,450 for the itinerary mentioned above covers accommodation in a dorm room or a budget room in a hotel or guesthouse, budget meals (eating out in Myanmar is generally affordable), entrance fees, a day tour, overnight buses, and transportation. You could just use Grab to get to places while in Yangon; it’s still an affordable option. You can spend less than P20,000 if you stick to the essentials and if you always choose the cheapest option for everything. This budget doesn’t include souvenir shopping and the flights from Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok.

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Travel tips:
  1. Most if not all the pagodas and shrines in Myanmar require you to remove footwear, even socks. You’ll have to go barefoot. If you want to keep your feet clean, bring some alcohol/disinfectant or wet wipes with you. 
  2. Some establishments accept Visa and MasterCard, but the preferred mode of payment is cash. Bring more than enough cash for your trip. You can change your USD to Kyat at the airport or from the shops in town.
  3. Bring new USD bills.
  4. Be mindful and respectful of local customs.
  5. There is an ongoing civil war in the country. Listen to the news before deciding to go. Stick to the tourist route (for this itinerary Yangon and Bagan) and you’ll be safe. –

Joshua Berida is a writer that loves to travel. He blogs at

#ShareAsia highlights the best and most sought-after experiences in the Asia-Pacific region. It’s a content and resource hub for tourists and locals alike seeking new, exciting experiences in the region.

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