Looking for information on the Air Asia shuttle bus to Mandalay? See our update below. We have all the information you need on getting from Mandalay Airport to city center Mandalay.
Few countries are changing as rapidly as Myanmar. This gorgeous nation, with its warm citizens and spectacular temples, is popping up on every list of must-see destinations. After so many decades of seclusion, travelers are flocking to Myanmar's beautiful countryside, vibrant cities, and moving spiritual sites. But first you have to get from the airport to your main destination! As we flew in to Mandalay, we thought it would be helpful to share all our best tips for getting from Mandalay Airport to city center Mandalay.
It's important to note that this information is always evolving. By the time you read this, you may find that prices have changed significantly, transportation routes have altered, new hotels and restaurants have emerged seemingly overnight. I'm happy to share my experiences from our recent trip in hopes that I can help with practical information, as well as inspire others to visit this incredibly special country.
PS - If you're interested in learning more about the Air Asia shuttle bus, read on to see our latest update towards the bottom of the post.
Should you fly into Mandalay or Yangon? Here's what we think:
Mandalay Airport: A Calm and Quiet Experience
Most people entering Myanmar do so through Yangon. Yangon is still the primary airport of choice, but Mandalay is experiencing higher traffic as travelers are increasingly entering through one airport, making their way across the country, and departing from a second location. That's exactly what we did, flying into Mandalay and eventually leaving from Yangon. Flying into one airport and departing from the other helped us make the most of our time, with no backtracking to worry about. And if you want to take the boat between Mandalay and Bagan like we did, it's a little bit faster to start in Mandalay, as you'll be traveling downstream. And, frankly, we really loved Mandalay! And we aren't the only ones! (Among other things, its easy to navigate streets, laid out in a grid system, made for easy exploring after we just arriving). While there are fewer amenities in Mandalay Airport than the one in Yangon, it all worked out for us.
When we arrived at Mandalay airport, we found it quiet and well organized. A shuttle bus transported us from the airplane to the main airport terminal. The customs line went very quickly, with four agents staffing each line - one to take our arrivals card before we reached the counter, one to check it before we reached the counter, and two agents to check our passport and arrivals card once we finally did reach the counter! The staff were polite and professional.
The bathrooms were clean and a friendly attendant showed me how to scoop out soap the texture of play dough from a little cup. (And this was awesome, as we normally travel with these nifty soap 'leaves' but didn't have them with us on this trip). There was no fee to use the facilities but there was a small plate to leave a tip at your discretion. We passed a foreign exchange counter but no other amenities or services. On the departures side, there is a small duty free shop and cafe. (Update from readers: There are now ATMs in the arrivals hall - no word on departure hall).
Time to Hit the Road
Unfortunately the trip from Mandalay Airport to the city center is 35km, which represents a commute of 45-75 minutes. To make your trip go as smoothly as possible, here are your best budget friendly options to get to and from the airport.
Option #1 - Arrange for private transportation with your hotel.
Many hotels and guesthouses offer a complimentary airport shuttle, making this a convenient and economical choice. Be sure to confirm your arrangements in advance. Many hotels in Mandalay have partnered with Agoda, a popular third party booking agent, to arrange reservations. Agoda's online booking includes an airport pick up request option but all the travellers I've heard from have reported that their online requests were not successful. Best to email or call your hotel directly to inquire about pick up possibilities.
2.) Hire a taxi.
Taxis can be organized through any hotel or guesthouse and, if you are arriving at Mandalay airport, there is a taxi desk after customs to make arrangements. Shared taxis start at 4,000 Kyat per person (MAYBE as low as 3,000 spending on your bargaining skills but don't count on it), while private taxis go up to 15,000 Kyat.
Here's the info straight from the source - the airport now has a website! They say:
Airport Taxi Counters are located outside of the baggage claim area. One way taxi fares from the airport are fixed.
4,000 Kyat – Shared Taxi
12,000 Kyat – Private Taxi
15,000 Kyat – Private Taxi with air conditioning.
Purchase a coupon at the taxi counter and proceed to the taxi stand outside the terminal.
Taxis are a good choice for several people sharing costs and your only option if you're travelling to a non-city center destination. Don't be shy - make friends on the plane and band together to share and save!
UPDATE! Air Asia shuttle is cancelled!
Note from Vanessa (April 2016): THANK YOU to all of our amazing readers who have written in with updates. What seemed like a temporary suspension of services (shame on you, Air Asia, for the poor communication) now appears to be permanent.
Check out the comments from other readers below to see their input into this discussion and, should you have any suggestions yourself, please don't hesitate to weigh in! (And let Air Asia know that you want this service back - it was invaluable).
3.) Ride the complimentary Air Asia shuttle bus. (Archived information)
Air Asia has daily flights between Bangkok and Mandalay and is the leading budget choice for those travelling to Myanmar. They offer complimentary transportation to and from the Mandalay airport -but those coming in on other airlines need not apply!
All you need to do is present your Air Asia ticket/boarding pass to the staff. You can't miss the bus - it's large, red, and branded with the Air Asia logo. The bus schedule corresponds with the airline schedule, with two buses leaving the airport 45 minutes and 60 minutes after arrival (and two buses leaving Road 79 by Mandalay Palace between Roads 26 & 27 at 9:00 and 9:15 am to correspond with the departing flights).
Once again, four seemed the magic number when it came to staff members. In addition to the driver there was a staff member to load the bags under the bus, a staff member to check boarding passes, and a staff member to inquire about our drop off location. All staff members spoke a moderate amount of English. As a general rule, the bus drops off all passengers at the morning pick up location (Road 79 near 26). However, if you are heading to a location the bus normally passes on its regular route they will happily drop you off at your corner.
The ride was a slow, bumpy experience that took over an hour. As our accommodations were located in North Mandalay we were still nowhere near home once the shuttle dropped us off. While we could have asked the staff to direct us to a city bus, we decided to walk.
And walk we did! For 45 minutes, in 45 degrees Celsius weather, we trotted through the city, attracting a few curious glances. Happily, Mandalay's grid system of numbering the streets made it near impossible to get lost. If you follow in our footsteps be sure to keep your eyes open for potholes and sewer drains!
Mandalay is a wonderful city and I'm so glad we included it on our trip. I would greatly encourage anyone travelling to Myanmar to visit it and I'm happy to report that airport transportation options are easier than ever!
Looking to travel to Myanmar? These articles are sure to inspire!
Kipling, Orwell, and Harry Potter: A Day in Mandalay
Sailing Down the Irrawaddy: Traveling by Boat from Mandalay to Bagan
The BEST Travel Experience of my Life: Balloons Over Bagan
The WORST Travel Experience of my Life: The Overnight Train from Bagan to Yangon
Besotted with Bagan: Day 10 &11 of Our Round The World Trip
At Long Last: Yangon. Day 12 &13 of Our Round The World Trip
Guest House Review: Yangon's Motherland Inn 2
*"Min-Ga-La-Ba" is the phonetic pronunciation of the Burmese word for "hello". I consulted several language guides and, while the phonetic spelling often varies a bit, this was the closest I came to a standard writing of the word.*
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