Bagan, located almost in the middle of Myanmar (Burma), is one of the favorite and must visit places when you go to Myanmar. The incredible amount of old temples, pagodas, and ruins is overwhelming. It gets even better when many hot air balloons fly over in the early morning during sunrise.
We visited magical Bagan last December and we totally fell in love with the place! After seeing many amazing photos of the hundreds of pagodas we were really looking forward to it. We were a bit afraid that it would be a tourist trap though since you see it everywhere on Instagram nowadays, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Although you find more tourists here as in other parts of the country, it is definitely not overcrowded. Being a more popular destination results in more accommodation and food options but without people hassling you to go to their place. In fact, people here are super friendly!
In this Ultimate Bagan Travel Guide, we will tell you all you need to know about visiting this area, what the must-sees are, how to get around, where to stay and eat, and much more!
needed to see it all
Things to know
Almost everyone needs to have a visa to enter Myanmar (with the exception of a few Asian nationalities). The most common visa is the Tourist eVisa. With this visa you can travel for 28 days through Myanmar, except for the restricted areas. You can check here if your pasport allows you to apply for an eVisa and the requirements. The Costs for an eVisa is $50 USD and needs to be used within 90 days after approval. When the application is successful you will receive the approval letter that needs to be stamped at one of the approved borders or airports.
Bagan has a wet season (May to October) and a dry season (November to April). The dry season has a lot of sunshine, is less humid, and the temperatures are mild (22-25ºC). During the wet season it is humid and the temperatures are higher (around 30ºC). Usually it doesn’t rain the whole day but there are big downfalls.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Bagan is during the dry season (half October to half April). The temperatures are pleasant to explore the temples. This is also the period that the balloons will fly over the temples with sunrise and it’s therefore also called balloon season.
The currency of Myanmar is the Myanmar Kyat (MMK).
At the time of writing (April 2019) 1000K is about $0,65USD or €0,56.
Prices are also often indicated in USD and you can pay with USD as well. ATM’s charge a big fee ($5) for withdrawals. Not all ATM’s work with all cards, so you need to try a few sometimes. Maximum cash withdrawal is 300.000 Kyat (€170 or $195) at most ATM’s.
Like the rest of Asia, Bagan is pretty cheap, although expect to pay a bit more for accommodation and food than in other countries like Thailand or Vietnam. A night in a simple hotel will cost you around 30.000 Kyat per night ($20 USD). A meal can be as cheap as 12.000 Kyat for two but if you are going to a nice restaurant it will more likely cost you about 20.000 Kyat for two ($13 USD). Renting an e-bike is around 8000-10,000 Kyat per day but for the rest visiting all the Bagan temples is completely free!
Count on a budget of around 70.000 Kyat per day ($45 USD) for 2 people when staying in Bagan (based on budget accommodation).
The official language in Myanmar is Burmese. Not many people speak English, but people that work within the tourism industry in Bagan usually do.
Most hotels in Bagan offer free wifi, but the speed is slow. It is recommended to get a sim card with data. The 3 main providers are MPT, Ooredoo, and Telenor. A prepaid sim card usually costs about $4-$5 dollar and 1000 Kyat per GB of data.
The main religion in Bagan and Myanmar is Buddhism (about 80%). The people are friendly and it is common that the women work and take care of the family. We actually found that the Burmese people were the friendliest we met in the whole of Asia! Do note however that the country is very poor and undeveloped. It can be hard to get around and if you aren’t really an experienced traveler, this can be a bit overwhelming. If you stick to the main tourist areas, you will be fine though. There is not much notice to the environment, with rubbish everywhere you go. You will see people chewing and spitting a red liquid. This is Kwun-ya, or betel nut. It is a stimulant that in low dosis has a similar effect as nicotine or caffeine.
Ticket price Bagan archaeological zone
To enter the archaeological zone of Bagan you need to pay an entrance ticket of 25000 Kyat for 3 days ($16/€14). At some temples they will ask you to show the ticket.
There are two options to get to Bagan: by land or by plane. To travel by land, the best option is by bus. From Yangon we would recommend to go by a VIP night bus (30.000Kyat/$19/€17). The best bus agency is JJ Express or New Generation. The bus has rows of 3 comfy seats and it takes about 10 hours to get to Bagan. Calculate at least 1,5 hours to get from Yangon’s center to the busstation because of the terrible traffic. From Mandalay it takes about 5 to 7 hours by bus and costs $7 to $11. Another option is to go by train, but it is not recommended since it is quite an experience.
The quickest way to get to Bagan is by plane. A ticket from Yangon to Bagan costs over $100USD and takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes. From Mandalay it is $70+ and takes about 25 minutes.
The best way to get around in Bagan is to hire an E-bike. Foreigners are not allowed to drive motorbikes, but the most common option is an electric motorbike (E-bike). You can rent them from 8000-10.000 Kyat per day and are available at almost every hotel. The area of temples is about 40 square kilometer with many small dirt roads to get to the temples, so travelling by car is not recommended. You can cross to one side of the area to the other in 30 minutes.
Some people think Bagan is super busy with people, because it gets more and more touristic. Yes, during sunrise and sunset it is busy at some temples, but during the day it is still super quiet everywhere! We actually didn’t think it was touristic at all. You can drive for miles on your e-bike over the sandy paths without seeing someone else. And yes, it is still possible to find temples without any other people.
Climb on top of a pagoda during sunrise and sunset
The best way to watch the sun come up and the balloons fly over is to climb one of the many temples. Unfortunately a lot of temples are closed for climbing nowadays, which makes it quite hard to find a temple that you can climb. The ones that you can climb are often filled with people during these times of the day, but it is still possible to find quiet ones. It truly is the best way to experience Bagan! Check out our blog ‘Discover the 15 Best Bagan Temples to Visit‘ to find out which temples are still climbable (January 2019).
Visit the other beautiful temples of Bagan
The temples and pagodas in Bagan are truly beautiful to see, so besides climbing them during sunrise and sunset, we would absolutely recommend visiting the other temples as well. We included some of the best temples in the same blog.
Sunrise from a hot air balloon
It doesn’t get more magical than seeing the temples from above in one of the many hot air balloons during sunrise. It is an experience of a lifetime and if you have the budget we would totally recommend to do this! Click here to book your experience!
Drive around on your e-bike
The temples of Bagan are spread out over a big area and are connected by a lot of small dirt roads. To see as many as possible it is the best way to rent an e-bike! Also, driving around the gorgeous surroundings and just seeing where you’ll end, is an experience in itself.
Relax at your hotel in the afternoon
Getting up in the early mornings every day to watch the sunrise can be quite tiresome. Relaxing at your hotel during the afternoon is a good way to recharge for temple hunting later in the afternoon again. It is also the hottest time of the day, so having a dip in the pool at your hotel is a great way to make your visit to Bagan even more enjoyable.
Everywhere around Bagan you’ll find cute puppies!
Where to stay
The area with all the temples consists out of three main villages: Nyaung-U, Old Bagan and New Bagan. Old Bagan is the area with the most temples, and also a bit more expensive to stay. New Bagan is about 15 minutes from Old Bagan and Nyaung-U is the town where the airport is, at the north-eastern part of the area. All these towns are great options to stay since getting around is easy and there are temples everywhere.
Budget hotels in Bagan:
You can find this hostel in New Bagan, a great location. It is a very popular choice by backpackers and a great place to meet fellow travelers.
From 38,500 Kyat (USD 25) per night for a dorm room
Mid-range hotels in Bagan:
The second part of our visit to Bagan we stayed at this hotel in Nyaung-U, to explore the temples in this other area. The hotel has a pool where you can have a rest after temple hunting in the morning.
From 60,000 Kyat (USD 39) per night
Luxury stays in Bagan:
The three areas of Bagan offer a lot of options for food, from Asian cuisine to western foods. Depending on your favorite taste we would recommend to check out Tripadvisor for the best spots to eat.
Some of our favorites are:
- La Pizza in New Bagan and Nyaung-U: Seriously, the best pizzas we had in Myanmar (or even South East Asia)!
- 7-Sisters in New Bagan: A great choice for dinner in New Bagan. They serve Chinese, European and Asian food for a reasonable price.
- Weather Spoon’s in Nyaung-U: A very popular choice for dinner in Nyaung-U. They serve western American food, but also Chinese, Thai, Burmese and Asian dishes.
The weather in Bagan is often really nice, so it’s best to wear airy clothes. The mornings can be chilly so a sweater is recommended. To visit the temples, your knees and shoulders have to be covered. A few things that you should bring are:
- Sarong or long pants to cover your knees
- Scarf or cardigan to cover your shoulders
- Sweater for the cold nights and mornings
- Sunscreen for during the day
- Phone with the maps.me app to find your way around the temples
- Swimwear (for a dip in the afternoon!)
- First aid kit
Read all our other blogs about Myanmar here!
With this information, we hope that your stay in Bagan will be as pleasant as possible! It is one of the most magical places we have visited. The experience of seeing the balloons fly over the ancient temples is one we will never forget. Let us know in the comments how you enjoyed your stay and if you have any additional tips. Enjoy your trip!
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