Traveling to Myanmar (Burma)? Here is why you should visit Mandalay!
The former royal capital often gets overlooked when visiting Myanmar but I found Mandalay more interesting and less hectic than Yangon, so I highly recommend it!
Here is all the practical info you need to visit Mandalay Myanmar (Burma)
- Mandalay Airport
- To Get To Mandalay From The Airport
- How To Get Around Mandalay Myanmar
- Mandalay Hotels
- Is Mandalay Safe For Tourists?
- Is It Ethical To Visit Myanmar?
- Mandalay Myanmar Weather
- Mandalay Myanmar Restaurants
- Is Mandalay Worth Visiting?
- What Is There To Do In Mandalay Myanmar?
- Alternative Itinerary: Countryside and Local Culture
How to get to Mandalay from the airport
How to get around Mandalay Myanmar
In general I love walking but in Mandalay, this is not really an option as distances are too far.
Don’t be deceived by the map! Distances are impractically long.
However, taxis are very affordable and reliably turn up on time.
If you stop one in the street always agree on the fare before taking the journey. Haggling and bargaining are expected.
There are also motorised rickshaws which are even cheaper than taxis and very good for shorter journeys.
It’s also cheap and easy to rent a scooter/motorbike. However, traffic is quite mad in Mandalay and riding here is not much fun. I soon realised that I much preferred going by taxi. (I do highly recommend hiring an e-bike scooter in Bagan though!)
I had a very comfortable stay at Hotel Apex in Mandalay which is very reasonably priced.
Rooms are a good size and beautifully decorated.
There’s a lovely pool and also a roof top bar with stunning views.
The hotel is centrally located and a well known landmark. Both your transport from the airport and all the local taxi drivers will know it. (This is important as English is generally not so well spoken and communication can be difficult.)
Is Mandalay safe for tourists?
Yes, I found it very safe.
I went there as a solo female traveller and never had any problems at all.
The UK’s official travel advice website says, “Most visits to Myanmar are trouble-free. The most common types of consular assistance cases are related to lost passports, petty theft and road accidents.”
The Australian government also advises a “high degree of caution” which is level 2 out of 4. However, again this refers mainly for other parts of the country and tourist areas are generally considered very safe.
- It is advisable to avoid large public gatherings and demonstrations, as there is always the outside possibility of clashes and violent incidents.
- Tap water is not safe to drink; you should always buy bottled water.
- Outside established tourist and top-end restaurants, food preparation is not always up to western standards.
- It is important to guard against insect bites.Read more sensible travel advice for Myanmar here.
Is it ethical to visit Myanmar?
It’s the ordinary ”little” people who suffer from political decisions that they have absolutely nothing to do with who need our support the most.
Mandalay Myanmar weather
March to May will be very hot, probably too hot to enjoy a visit.
June to August is rainy season and it will quite possibly rain non stop for long periods of time – not fun.
September to October will be a mix of rain and sunshine.
The best time to go is November to February when there’s no rain and the temperatures are warm but not too hot.
Mandalay Myanmar restaurants
Is Mandalay worth visiting?
It is not the exotic oasis that the image of its name might conjure up. But it has some outstanding heritage and beautiful sites that are well worth visiting (see below).
Only in Myanmar
TIP: When you find someone with a Thanaka pattern you like complement them on it and they will be glad to paint the same pattern on your face too!
You will need a “zone ticket” to visit the sites which costs Ks10,000 (about US $7). This is valid for a week at all the tourist attractions, so you only need to buy it once. It is available at all the sites that require you to have it (i.e. at all the pagodas etc).
What is there to do in Mandalay Myanmar?
The World’s Largest Book: the Kuthodaw Pagoda
It its not really a book that you can read but rather the entire teachings of the Buddha chiseled into marble slabs which are housed in these small temples called stupas.
There are hundreds and hundreds of them and it fills you with a feeling of awe and wonder when you stroll around this sea of small white temples.
Wooden Gilded Monastery: Shwenandaw
Myanmar is sometimes the Golden Land. Everything seems to be made of gold or wood – or both:
This stunning Buddhist monastery called the Shwenandaw Monastery in Mandalay is made completely of wood and used to be entirely gilded.
This hill is very famous for watching the sunset.
However, I must say I found the views from the roof top bar at the Apex Hotel more stunning (plus easier to get down after dark – and fewer mosquitoes).
alternative itinerary: see the countryside and authentic local culture by bike
If you’re looking for an alternative itinerary where you get to see more of the countryside, daily life and authentic local culture then I’d recommend a half day bike tour with Grasshopper Adventures.
Mandalay to Bagan by boat
The ride takes about 10 hours which sounds long but it didn’t feel that way! It was a very comfortable and leisurely cruise and I’d highly recommend it.
I went with a company called Alliance and they were excellent.
Their cruises are available October to March. You can book them directly, or on Viator for extra reassurance.
The trip starts very early in the morning but that does mean you get to see the sun rise from the boat, beautifully reflected in the water.
How many days Do I need in Mandalay Myanmar?
I stayed 3 days and found it the right length of time. (If you’re a completist and feel you need to see absolutely all the sites I would add on another day.)
Touts in Bagan Myanmar
This seems harsh but if you show any interest whatsoever even just by having a look they will not let you enjoy a site or a sunset in peace.
What is the difference between a pagoda, a temple, and a stupa?
A pagoda is a collective term for both temple and stupa.
A stupa is like a temple but it doesn’t have an entrance. You just go around it. It represents the mind of enlightenment and is filled with holy artefacts like mantras, relics etc.
If the building has a door then it’s a temple and inside there will be a Buddha statue. (Or actually 4, one for each direction.)
Where to eat in Bagan?
Ban on Climbing the Bagan Pagodas
Please note: Climbing the Shwesandaw pagoda for sunset (or any time) was banned in 2018 and is now no longer allowed.
Now over to you!
Have you visited Bagan and found any gems I should add to my article?
Or are you planning to travel to Mandalay Myanmar and have any questions?
Let me know in the comments!