Bagan Travel Guide: Travel Tips for Your Next Trip to Myanmar

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bagan travel guide


Much of our trip to Myanmar was focused around trying to find a connection to my family who had once lived there as part of the British Colonies. We visited Bagan though purely as tourists. We have traveled to Borobudur in Indonesia and Angkor Wat in Cambodia but there is something uniquely special about Bagan. There are more temples to explore than at Borobudur and it currently is much less touristy than Angkor Wat. Find some great tips in this Bagan travel guide.

family atop a temple in bagan

Tickets

Before we went to Myanmar we read a lot of posts from people online suggesting that tourists should not buy the entrance tickets to Bagan. The writers offered tips on how to avoid paying and they promised that no one would ask to see your ticket when you traveled around the city.

monks at a temple in bagan using cell phone

It’s still true that you probably won’t be asked to show your ticket. In 5 days we were only asked to show it once. There are now ticket booths before the exit from the airport in Bagan though so skipping out on paying the fee is not as easy as before. You would need some careful planning to avoid it and at a reasonable 25,000 Kyat or $22 USD per person (our 3 year old son was free) it just doesn’t seem worth the effort. We lined up, got our ticket and were out the door in less than 5 minutes.

ananda temple bagan in the mist at sunrise
Pagoda Phya That Gyi at sunrise bagan myanmar
small white temple with flowers bagan myanmar

Temples

Throughout the desert landscape of Bagan there are more than 2000 temples and other religious structures still standing from the 11th to 13th century. Some of the smaller ones can even be found in the backyards of homes with kids playing soccer around them. The atmosphere around the temples is pretty relaxed and visitors can climb up or go into, nearly any that they wish. But these are still places of worship and religious significance for many. Therefore, shoes must be taken off before you set foot on or in a temple out of respect and to help preserve the monuments.

sunrise temple bagan myanmar

Ananda Temple in bagan myanmar

On August 25th, 2016 a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Bagan damaging many of the temples. Restoration is underway and looks like it will continue for quite some time to come. With the devastation a bit of a silver lining has emerged for the city. Much of the damage that occurred was actually restoration work from the 1990’s which had been done quickly and not using original materials. As a result, Bagan did not qualify for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Aung San Suu Kyi has insisted that the process of restoration be taken slowly and under the guidance of UNESCO. Hopefully when the work is done Bagan will be better than ever and will hold the much deserved status!

shwezigon pagoda at sunset father carrying son with manduca baby carrier bagan myanmar

Temples in the mist bagan myanmar sunrise

Getting Around

Getting around Bagan is pretty easy and economical. We stayed in the Nyaung U area which is within walking distance of quite a few restaurants, shops, and some smaller temples.  You will need some sort of transportation to visit the big temples though.

cows and cart in bagan myanmar

Many places rent bicycles for less than $2 USD a day and some accommodations proved them for free. The area is very flat and so it is an easy ride if you set out early in the morning or late in the afternoon. When the sun is high in the sky the city is incredibly hot and options like e-bikes (around $6 a day) or a car with a driver (around $15 for half a day or $35 for the whole day) may be better options. There is even the popular option of taking a hot air balloon ride over the temples as the sun rise!

Many tourist sites recommend that you spend around 2 days in Bagan but we were there for 5 and we left wishing for more time to explore!

Htilominlo Temple hot air balloon bagan myanmar

Hot air balloon crew bagan myanmar

Hot air balloon crew returning after a morning flight

Bagan with Kids

We found Bagan to be really kid friendly! The side streets were quiet and our son joined other kids chasing bubbles and playing. People in Bagan love kids and they went the extra mile to make sure we were all ok. A group of men even showed him how to play a board game during their lunch breaks. Some hotels in the area have swimming pools as well so kids (and adults!) to cool down a bit from the afternoon heat.

board games street men

Going into and around the temples with kids is very easy but climbing up them is much more of a challenge. The many of the steps are very narrow and you have to walk down some of them sideways! We used our Manduca baby carrier to get our son up and down some of the more steep temples. Even then it was a bit precarious. Not all of them are this difficult though and it is completely doable especially if you just take it slow and steady.

temple stairs bagan myanmar

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25 Replies to “Bagan Travel Guide: Travel Tips for Your Next Trip to Myanmar”

  1. The Travel Ninjas

    The temples of Bagan are more beautiful than we imagined. Myanmar has been our list for a while, but your post pushed it way up. We've heard there aren't that many direct flights in and out of Bagan from other major hubs. Was it convenient to fly in and out? Also, Good for you for actually paying for tickets. Sounds like they really need the money after the recent earthquake.

    Reply
    • Far Away Places Post author

      It’s a great place to visit! We found it was much cheaper for us to fly to Bangkok, Thailand and then fly over to Myanmar rather than to just fly direct. Like A LOT cheaper. We saved about $1000 by staying the night in Bangkok! Than we flew into Yangon and spent a few days there. Then Yangon to Bagan and then Bagan to Mandalay. From Mandalay we flew back to Bangkok. The Mandalay-Bangkok route is a newer route. People used to have to loop back to Yangon but now you can fly right out. The local airports are small but we had absolutely no problems with the airlines or flights in country. 

      Reply
  2. Gareth

    What an incredibly unique part of the world and it must have been really humbling to be there. Certainly, those sunset/sunrise photos in particularly are nothing short of stunning and while it is unfortunate that the earthquake has robbed Bagan of its UNESCO status, a trip on one of those hot air-balloons would be something truly special. A really thorough post, highlighting everything a perspective travel might want to know. Great stuff and look forward to reading more

    Reply
    • Far Away Places Post author

      Actually, the earthquake may help them get the UNESCO status! The repairs that were done quikely before were not authentic and so they couldn’t get the status but now they are fixing it correctly. We’ll see in the next couple of years! 🙂 It’s a fantastic country and a beautiful city.

      Reply
  3. Ana

    Myanmar is one of the countries I would like to visit too. I think it is visa free for Filipinos like me. I also felt disappointed when I learned about what happened to the temples after the earthquake. I hope that when we go there, the temples are once again constructed as majestic or even more majestic than before. I also love it that they are kid friendly.  🙂

    Reply
  4. Caroline @ The Travelling Sloth

    Bagan is one of my favourite places in South East Asia… I actually thought I would get templed out there but i didn't!

    I didn't actually know that it didn't qualify for UNESCO status because of that (here was me thinking that it WAS a UNESCO hertitage site… my bad). My friends and I did the e-bike option and two of our bikes ran out of battery towards the end so it was a tough paddle back to town. My tip for that is to make sure there's definitely enough juice and don't abuse the turbo 😛 

    Great tips btw! Also, did you visit Bagan post or pre quake – just curious?

    Reply
    • Far Away Places Post author

      Trying to peddle those e-bikes is hell! Luckily the wire on mine had just come loose a bit and someone fixed it for me but I tried to ride it for a bit…those things are heavy! We were there before the quakes. Hopefully we’ll be back again soon. 

      Reply
  5. Anthony Jury

    There is something about Southeast Asia that gives me goosebumps. Myanmar is no exception. The stunning temples and general landscape just give it a real wow factor. I have never been to Myanmar but I know it is not too far away. nice work. 

    Reply
    • Far Away Places Post author

      We were told that our son would get food poisioning and get sick if we took him there when he was a baby. So, we waited until he was 3 but I think if we had gone when he was younger we would have been fine! As long as you stay in mid range hotels there should be no problems. Things have developed there pretty quickly and people in Myanmar really like kids. The only thing that might worry me would be the heat with a really really little baby. It can get HOT there but we would go out early in the morning or late in the afternoon and just hung out at the hotel by the pool in the hottest hours.

      Reply
  6. Sheena

    I found Bagan very overwhelming with all the temples to visit, along with the heat, so I give you a lot of respect for visiting with your young boy! I'm sure he was a hit with the locals too, he's too cute! Look forward to following more of your family adventures 🙂 

    Reply
  7. Brown Gal Trekker

    Gorgeous! I have yet to visit Bagan. It's on my list. Glad to have run into this as your information is quite useful!

    Reply
  8. Sarah

    This looks like an absulutely amazing place to explore.  I can't help but be a little annoyed with your mention of so many blogs touting free enterance and forgoing purchasing a ticket.  These sites somewhat depend on tourism dollars to be maintained and run.  Just because you can get away with entering without fee, doesn't mean you should!  Sorry, end rant.  Kudos to you guys for exploring these temples with a baby in tow!  I'm not sure I would have the stamina or patience to do so!

    Reply
    • Far Away Places Post author

      I agree but I also see what they were getting at. Currently the government in Myanmar is going through som big changes. In the past a lot of those tourist dollars to visit sites went straight into the pockets of the militaryand a lot of people tried to avoid doing that. 

      Reply
  9. Pat

    Hi, going there very soon. Just wondering if some temples would still let you in after the earthquake like Htilomindo? Thanks.

    Reply
  10. android

    Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Anyway I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon

    Reply

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