How to get to Myanmar (Burma)

With overland border crossings close to impossible for independent travellers, almost everyone arrives in Myanmar at either Yangon or Mandalay airports. There is also an international airport in the capital Nay Pyi Taw, although few airlines use it at present. The international flag carrier, Myanmar Airways International, only serves destinations within Asia.

The cheapest way to reach Myanmar from outside the region is usually to fly to a regional hub such as Bangkok or Singapore. Current routes within Asia include flights to Yangon from Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok. Connections with Mandalay are limited to Dehong, Kunming and Bangkok.

Overland from Thailand

There are four border crossings with Thailand: Ranong–Kawthaung; Three Pagodas Pass (Sangkhlaburi–Payathonzu); Mae Sot–Myawaddy; and Mae Sai–Tachileik. It is possible to make a day-trip to Myanmar through any of them for a fee of $10 or 500 baht, but if you’re just crossing on a visa run then don’t choose Three Pagodas Pass as you will not get a new Thai visa stamp on re-entry. If you want to take a look around before returning to Thailand then you will need to surrender your passport at the border and return before the crossing closes for the day (usually at 6pm, but do check).

If you hope to spend more than a day in Myanmar then it is theoretically possible when entering through Ranong–Kawthaung and Mae Sai–Tachileik, but not with a standard visa. For the former crossing, you’ll need a special permit, which in practice is impossible to obtain unless you have booked an expensive resort or a live-aboard diving trip. For the latter, you can arrange a fourteen-day permit at the border, but it does not allow travel beyond Kengtung. You are also likely to require a local guide.

Tachileik–Mae Sai is also the only overland crossing where foreigners who entered by air are allowed to exit Myanmar, but it isn’t at all straightforward. Although it’s easy to obtain a free permit to visit the border town of Tachileik (apply at the immigration office in Kengtung), actually crossing into Thailand requires prior arrangement with Myanmar Travels & Tours (the government tourist office) in Yangon. You should not rely on it being possible until you actually have the permit in hand; expect the process to take a couple of weeks and cost at least $50, plus you may be required to take a local guide to the border. If it all works out then you should receive a fifteen-day visa on arrival into Thailand, if you don’t already have one.

Overland from China

There is a border crossing open for foreigners between Ruili (Yunnan province) and Muse. For some years it has only been open to organized tour groups, although there are rumours that it is due to be opened to independent travellers.

Overland from India

The crossing between Moreh in India and Tamu is theoretically open to foreigners, but onerous permit requirements – which take several months to negotiate, if you’re lucky – mean that it is not a feasible route.

Overland from Laos or Bangladesh

It is not currently possible for foreigners to cross from Laos or Bangladesh into Myanmar.

Andy Turner

written by
Andy Turner

updated 26.04.2021

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