Bagan Visitor Guide

Myanmar remains an “off-the-beaten-path” destination for many travelers. Because of this, getting to Myanmar and getting around the country once you’re here can require a bit more effort than other tourist destinations.

Lying on a bend of the Ayeyarwady River in the central plain of Myanmar, Bagan is a sacred landscape, featuring an exceptional range of Buddhist art and architecture. The seven components of the serial property include numerous temples, stupas, monasteries and places of pilgrimage, as well as archaeological remains, frescoes and sculptures. The property bears spectacular testimony to the peak of Bagan civilization (11th -13th centuries CE), when the site was the capital of a regional empire. This ensemble of monumental architecture reflects the strength of religious devotion of an early Buddhist empire.

UNESCO World Heritage Inscription

Myanmar continues to attract more “travelers” than “tourists”. Visitors to the country seek a more authentic experience of life in southeast Asia. Relatively isolated from the global community for decades, Myanmar is rapidly opening up and welcomes foreign visitors. Locals are still willing to be photographed and embrace their customs and traditions. World-class sites such as Bagan can still be experienced in peace a solitude. Our private tours offer a taste of the best Bagan has to offer.

We’ve been hosting foreign visitors on our tours in Bagan since 2016. Below are a few of the basic Bagan visitor guide “need to know” items to keep in mind for your visit to Myanmar.

  1. When to Visit Myanmar
  2. Get Your Myanmar Tourist Visa
  3. Plan Your Myanmar Itinerary
  4. Transportation Within Myanmar
  5. When to Visit Bagan
  6. What to Bring
  7. Bagan Tourist Map
  8. Bagan Archaeological Zone Fee
  9. Where to Stay in Bagan
  10. Where to Eat in Bagan
  11. Bagan Balloon Flight Information
    1. When do the balloons fly in Bagan?
    2. How much do Bagan balloon rides cost?

When to Visit Myanmar

The best time to visit Bagan is in the dry season from late October through March. Note that during Thingyan, the Myanmar water festival observed in mid-April each year, nearly all businesses and transportation will close and accommodation in top locations will be well-booked. Travelers should plan well and confirm their accommodation and transportation itinerary and bookings to avoid unplanned delays or expenses.

Before You Go

Get Your Myanmar Tourist Visa

Most foreign visitors will require a tourist visa to enter Myanmar. Myanmar visa on arrival is not yet available for most countries and should be in-hand before departing for Myanmar.

Exceptions: ASEAN nationals may enter Myanmar visa-free for limited periods. Visa regulations are currently changing for China, Korea, and Japan. Check your local Myanmar embassy for current visa requirements for your country.

The most efficient and cost-effective way to get your Myanmar tourist visa is to apply at your local Myanmar embassy/consulate or apply for an E-visa (evisa) online. Many websites and firms offer this service for a profit. The best and cheapest way to get your Myanmar visa online is to use the Myanmar government’s own website at As of 2018 the fee for your Myanmar evisa is $50USD for regular or $56USD for “express” service. In our experience the regular evisa has always been issued within 72 hours.

Plan Your Myanmar Itinerary and Route

Myanmar is a large country with a developing infrastructure. Travel times between cities can be very long and frequently incur delays. Be realistic about your travel style. What comfort level do you need? Train rides in Myanmar can be long and bumpy. Do you get car sick easily? Be careful when planning long overnight bus trips.

The trick to planning your Myanmar itinerary is to balance time, cost, and comfort. We recommend a minimum stay of two nights for Yangon and Mandalay, three nights for Bagan, Mrauk U, and Lashio. Smaller sites are best added to your itinerary as day-trips or transit stops. For transport by bus, taxi, train, or boat, allow the entire day for journeys scheduled for 6+ hours.

Planning Transportation Within Myanmar

Please note that it is normal custom in Myanmar for foreigners to pay higher rates for transportation than local travelers.

Myanmar Domestic Flights

We recommend using Skyscanner to check schedules and connections for Myanmar international and domestic flights and routes as these change frequently.

Bus Travel in Myanmar

For bus travel in Myanmar, we recommend JJ Express bus company. JJ Express operates premium VIP bus service throughout Myanmar and their coverage includes all major cities. Service includes free connecting hotel/airport shuttle for all destinations except Bagan. Tickets can be bought online with international credit cards.

Note that overnight buses to Bagan may arrive after sunrise. If sunrise over the temples in Bagan is part of your itinerary for your arrival day, book a bus ride that is scheduled to arrive in Bagan by 5am.

For more Myanmar domestic travel information visit Go-Myanmar. The site has detailed information on Myanmar transport routes and schedules.

Bagan Travel Tips

When to Visit Bagan

The best time to visit Bagan is in the dry season from November to March. The hot air balloons fly from early October through the first week of April. Peak crowds are in Bagan from late December to early January and the first half of February.

Bagan becomes uncomfortably hot from late March to the first rains of June. For health reasons, we recommend taking refuge from the intense sun and heat from 11am-3pm during this time. Mountain bike tours are not recommended during this period.

What to Bring

Although Bagan is a major tourist destination in Myanmar, it’s really just a cluster of small farming villages on the riverside. There are no supermarkets or large stores to buy equipment, cameras, or high-tech/performance gear and supplies. Markets for basics like memory cards, phone charging cables, flip-flops, bottled drinks, and souvenirs are available mainly in Nyaung U.

If you need specific cables, electronics, travel supplies, camera equipment, or crafting materials, you should buy them in a larger city or village before arriving in Bagan. If you require medications, vitamins, or dietary supplements please bring these with you to Myanmar from your departure country.

Bagan Tourist Map

The Bagan Archaeological Zone is home to over 3,000 religious monuments spread over an area of more than 100 square kilometers. First-time visitors would do well to take a tour with us to orient themselves to the area before spending a few days exploring the Bagan temples independently.

A good map of Bagan is essential to finding your way around on your own. There is a free map available from most hotels and restaurants in Bagan. Note that this free map is very basic and only includes the main tourist temples and sites. Click here to download the Bagan temple map in PDF format.

Visitors should note that a major earthquake hit the Bagan area in August 2016. This event damaged many sites, requiring some temples to be closed to tourists. Click here to download the Bagan temple accessibility map in PDF format.

A better map for e-biking and mountain biking is available for purchase at many local booksellers and souvenir shops for around $1USD. It’s a good investment if you plan to explore Bagan on your own.

Bagan Archaeological Zone Fee

A fee of 25,000mmk is required for foreigners to visit the main areas of the Bagan Archaeological Zone (Bagan Temples). The fee is collected by government officials, normally as you enter Bagan at the airport or along the road from the bus and train stations. Visitors will receive a ticket as proof of payment and should retain the ticket for the duration of their visit to Bagan. The Bagan Archaeological Zone ticket is valid for 3 days. Visitors may be required to present their entry ticket to officials at any of the more heavily-visited temples in Bagan.

Recommended Hotels in Bagan

Hotels in Myanmar and Bagan, in particular, can be lower quality and more expensive than similar accommodation in Thailand or other countries in Southeast Asia. Please note that we receive no commissions any hotels in Bagan. We recommend making your hotel reservations through

  • Bagan Lodge – This luxury resort designed around a canvas safari-tent them is well-positioned away from crowds and buses. Great service and facilities are a rare find in Bagan. The free-standing double villas are great for families and couples.
  • Aureum Palace Bagan Resort – Luxury resort positioned within the temples of the Bagan Archaeological Zone near Nyaung U. The hot air balloons usually launch from the golf course on the resort grounds.
  • Arthawka Hotel Bagan – Well-positioned midrange option in New Bagan, away from crowds with easy access to temples and villages.
  • Manisanda Hotel New Bagan – Large, clean, freshly-renovated rooms and rooftop breakfast with pagoda views are a welcome surprise at this budget-to-midrange New Bagan hotel.
  • Zfreeti Hotel – Midrange, family-friendly accommodation in Nyaung U.
  • Oasis Hotel – Midrange, family-friendly accommodation in Nyaung U.
  • The Hotel at Tharabar Gate – Premium accommodation in Old Bagan. Location is within walking distance to Bagan’s most iconic temples (and crowds).
  • Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort – Upscale riverside resort away from crowds in Old Bagan. The restaurant has room for improvement.
  • Ostello Bello Bagan Hostel – Evergreen favorite for Bagan backpackers, although we don’t quite understand why. For the price of dorm beds here you can have your own room in an independent local hotel.

Where to Eat in Bagan

Bagan isn’t a city, but a cluster of small villages in the central dry zone of Myanmar. We usually have foreign visitors only seasonally. As a result, there isn’t yet much of a “food culture” in Bagan catering to foreign tastes.

The Bagan area is known for sanitation, hygiene, and water-quality problems, which can lead to food poisoning in many cases. For this reason, we do not recommend eating street food in Bagan and only take our tour guests to a limited number of restaurants we trust to be safe, tasty, and hygienic. Please note that we accept no commissions from any restaurants in Bagan.

Recommended Restaurants in Bagan

  • The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant – Vegetarian versions of Myanmar favorites. Try the chapati wrap or the Myanmar set menu.
  • Sharky’s – Family-friendly menu of mixed Asian and Western favorites. Fresh bread, coffee, cheese, and ice cream. Good wine list and properly stored.
  • Starbeam – European and Myanmar favorites. We recommend the chicken sandwich and chocolate fondant. Fresh baguettes! (We recommend Old Bagan location only.)
  • Sanon – Non-profit training restaurant in Nyaung U. It’s heart is in the right place and the fusion menu is inspired, but the service can be a painful experience. Try the fish and chips with a fresh fruit cocktail.
  • Ostello Bello – The main hostel in New Bagan has half-price drinks after sunset from 7-9pm. Try the french fries, chicken club sandwich, and fish fingers. The fried rice and noodle dishes are less oily than usual in Bagan.
  • La Terrazza – Italian classics available at the Nyaung U location. The New Bagan location serves only pizza and salads, but the wood-fired brick oven pizza is easily the best in Bagan.
  • Good Morning Tea Shop – This local favorite in New Bagan serves classic Myanmar tea of all varieties as well as Indian favorites at breakfast.
  • Bagan Lodge – Ok, it’s not a restaurant but the breakfast buffet is easily the best in Bagan (and maybe Myanmar, too). The breakfast is worth the stay or paying up as an outside visitor as a brunch splurge.

Bagan Balloon Flight Information

When do the balloons fly in Bagan?

Bagan balloons fly from early October through early April each year.

What options are available?

Classic Service includes hotel pickup and drop off and light breakfast with coffee/tea. The balloons hold 14 passengers each per flight. This service is aimed at family and group travelers.

Premium Service is aimed towards couples and small groups of independent travelers who would appreciate a more exclusive, intimate and interactive experience, and operationally will be separate from the larger passenger balloons. This service includes a separate continental breakfast at the launching area and landing area (full breakfast). The balloons hold 8 passengers each, with no more than 2 passengers per compartment.

How much do Bagan balloon rides cost?

The list price for Bagan balloon rides with Balloons Over Bagan is $350USD per person for Classic service and $450USD per person for Premium service. The balloon operators charge an additional $20USD per person during the peak Christmas and New Year Period to reflect the very heavy demand at this time.

How can I book a Bagan balloon flight?

We offer our guests a $20USD discount for Bagan balloon flights booked through us. Simply mention “I’m interested to book a balloon ride” in your inquiry.

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