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Bicycle

Outside the major cities, bicycles are a popular means for locals to get around and can easily be hired around the country by visitors.

Around Town

At popular tourist spots in Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake you'll see 'bike rental' signs; rates start at K2000 per day; top-end hotels and occasionally more far-flung places charge up to K4000. Most guesthouses in such places keep a few bikes on hand; if not, staff can track one down. Note the condition of the bike before hiring; check the brakes and pedals in particular. Many rental bikes have baskets or bells, but don't expect a crash helmet!

Sturdier Indian, Chinese or Thai imports are available (from K100,000) if you'd rather buy one. Some tours provide bikes, so you may be able to rent better quality ones from agents (eg EXO Travel in New Bagan).

Apart from in Yangon and Mandalay, vehicular traffic is quite light.

Long Distance

A few visitors bring their own touring bikes into Myanmar. There shouldn't be any problem with customs as long as you make the proper declarations upon entering the country.

Gradients are moderate in most parts of Myanmar that are open to tourism. Frontier regions, on the other hand, tend to be mountainous, particularly Shan, Kayin, Kayah and Chin states. You'll find plenty of opportunity everywhere for dirt-road and off-road pedalling. A sturdy mountain bike would make a good alternative to a touring rig, especially in the north, where main roads can resemble secondary roads elsewhere.

Some of the key routes around Myanmar:

  • Thazi to Inle Lake via Kalaw
  • Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo) to Lashio via Hsipaw
  • Mandalay to Bagan via Myingyan
  • Mandalay to either Monywa, Pyin Oo Lwin, Sagaing, Inwa (Ava) or Amarapura

November to February is the best time to cycle in terms of the weather.

There are basic bicycle shops in most towns, but they usually have only locally or Chinese-made parts to equip single-speed bikes. You can also buy lower quality motorcycle helmets here; many are disturbingly adorned with swastikas – a fad, not a political alliance. Bring reflective clothing and plenty of insurance. Don't ride at night.

Travellers on a bike may end up needing to sleep in towns few travellers make it to, and a lack of licensed accommodation may be an issue. Technically, you will need permission from local immigration to stay at such places. Be patient. Most cyclists get permission from local authorities to stay one night, but the paperwork (coming with some frowns) may take an hour or so to arrange.

It's possible to store your bicycle in the undercarriage storage on buses, though you may have to pay a little extra. On smaller buses it's possible you'll be asked to buy a 'seat' for your bike.

Some bike tours connect the dots of Myanmar's greatest hits – going, for example, up the Pyay highway to Bagan then Mandalay, and back to Yangon via Meiktila and Taungoo. It's rougher going, but nicer riding, to reach some mountainous areas, like Inle Lake.

Recommended tour companies:

Bike World Explores Myanmar Yangon-based company that also sells and rents bikes and can offer touring advice. It has several itineraries from three days of biking around Yangon (from US$450 minimum two people) to longer adventures heading out of Bagan into Chin State.

EXO Travel Runs high-end cycle tours covering Mandalay to Bagan, the Shan Hills and sights in Mon State.

Spice Roads Bangkok-based operation, offering five different itineraries, including an opportunity to cycle from Bangkok to Yangon over 14 days (from US$3595 per person). Another tour follows part of the old Burma Road from Pyin Oo Lwin to Mandalay.

Think Asia Travel & Tours Yangon-based agency offering bike tours at Inle Lake, Kalaw and Mandalay.

Unchartered Horizons As well as its great half- and full-day cycling tours around Yangon, this Yangon-based company runs adventurous biking and trekking tours in Chin, Rakhine and Shan states.