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Local transport

Local Transport

Larger towns in Myanmar offer a variety of city buses (ka), bicycle rickshaws or trishaws (saiq-ka, for sidecar), horse carts (myint hlei), ox carts, vintage taxis (taxi), more modern little three-wheelers somewhat akin to Thai tuk-tuks (thoun bein, meaning 'three wheels'), tiny four-wheeled 'blue taxi' Mazdas (lei bein, meaning 'four wheels') and modern Japanese pick-up trucks (lain ka, meaning 'line car').

Small towns rely heavily on horse carts and trishaws as the main mode of local transport. However, in big cities (Yangon, Mandalay, Pathein, Mawlamyine and Taunggyi) public buses take regular routes along the main avenues for a fixed per-person rate, usually K25 to K100.

Standard rates for taxis, trishaws and horse carts are sometimes 'boosted' for foreigners. Generally a ride from the bus station to a central hotel – often a distance of 1.25 miles or more – is between K1000 and K1500. Short rides around the centre can be arranged for between K500 and K1000. You may need to bargain a bit. Sometimes first-time offers are several times higher than the going rate.

Pick-up Trucks

Japanese-made pick-up trucks feature three rows of bench seats in the covered back. Most pick-ups connect short-distance destinations, making many stops along the way to pick up people or cargo. They are often packed (yet somehow never 'full' according to the driver). Pick-ups trace some useful or necessary routes, such as from Mandalay to Amarapura, from Myingyan to Meiktila, from Bagan to Mt Popa, and up to the Golden Rock at Kyaiktiyo. Unlike buses, they go regularly during the day.

Fares are not necessarily cheaper than those charged for local bus trips of the same length, and prices often go up more after dark. You can, however, pay 25% to 50% extra for a seat up the front. It's often worth the extra expense, if you don't want to do scrunch duty. Sometimes you may share your spot with a monk riding for free; usually you get exactly what you pay for ('the whole front'), unlike in some other parts of Southeast Asia.

Pick-ups often start from the bus station (in some towns they linger under a big banyan tree in the centre) and then, unlike many buses, make rounds through the central streets to snare more passengers.

Restricted Areas

In January 2013 government bans on travel to restricted areas of the country, including places in Chin, Kayah, Kayin, Shan and Kachin states, were partially lifted. However, confusion over the new rules has led to some travellers still being turned back from some areas so make thorough inquiries before you set out. You're likely to have much greater success in visiting newly accessible areas if you're in the company of a Burmese speaker.

Some restrictions still apply to the following destinations. With permission and a guide from Myanmar Travels & Tours (MTT), which may take up to two months to secure, you may gain access to some of them:

Chin State: Tiddim, Ton Zang, Falam, Tlangtlang and Hakka

Kachin State: Hpakant, Putao, Machanbaw, Mansi, Momauk and Waingmaw

Kayah State: Demoso and Hpruso

Kayin State: Kawkareik and Hlaingbwe

Mandalay Region: Mogok