Air Travel within Myanmar
If flying in or out of Yangon, note that domestic flights leave out of a different terminal than international flights. In terms of appearance and ease of transport, there is a big difference between the international and the domestic terminals there. The standard taxi fare to and from the airport to the center city is 8,000 Khat or roughly $8 USD (for the car not per person). Depending on the time of day and the traffic, it can take from 25-minutes to a full hour to go from the center city to the Yangon airport.
Nyaung U (NYU) is the airport serving Bagan but it is only a short drive of about 20 minutes from there to reach either Bagan or New Bagan. The airport is small but certainly adequate for the current level of travelers. Upon arrival in Nyaung U you are required to pay a “Bagan Archaelogical Zone” fee of $15 USD per person before leaving the airport. Travelers should keep their zone pass when touring the area as it is required for entrance into some temples.
The nearest airport to the Inle Lake area is Heho (HEH). Buses and taxis link Nyaungshwe (Inle Lake) and the airport and it is a 45-minute to an hour drive. Virtually any Inle Lake hotel or travel agent can arrange transfer to or from the airport but in our planning, we found big differences in the prices that were quoted. We booked with Century Travel in Nyaungshwe at a rate of 30,000 Khat for the one-way trip for 3 people and were driven in a private mini-van in about 45 minutes. Just before arriving in Nyaungshwe, there is a toll station where all visitors must pay a $5 USD “InnLay Zone” entrance fee.
There are currently 6 domestic Myanmar airlines. Air Bagan, Air KBZ, Asian Wings, Air Mandalay, Yangon Airways, Myanma Airways serve all the major tourist destinations while Golden Myanma Airlines flies only between Yangon and Mandalay.
We flew Air Bagan on both of our domestic flights: from Yangon to Bagan and then from Heho to Yangon. We don’t have any personal experience for comparison to other domestic airlines but were told by several people including our Yangon travel agent that Air Bagan was the “best” and “safest” option.
The equipment on both flights was the ATR-72, a twin engine French built 2 engine turbo – prop that seats about 70 passengers and is the workhorse of domestic air travel all over Southeast Asia.
Despite heavy rain in Yangon our Air Bagan flight departed about 15 min ahead of schedule and we experienced a smooth flight of 1:15; arriving at the Nyaung U airport close to half an hour early. The interior of the plane was in need of maintenance as we noticed several seats with broken seat bottoms and others with backs that didn’t lock completely. Plus before departure, there was a drip on the seat directly in front of us.
The airport in Heho is very small and had a bit of a disorganized feel to it. It’s a small matter but there were several signs posted offering free Wi-Fi service provided by Mandalay Air but no one (even the Mandalay Air check-in agents) seemed to know the password.
Departure of our flight out of Heho was about an hour late. The ATR-72 on this route was in much better condition appearance-wise than our earlier Air Bagan flight. It was a packed flight with open seating but we were among the first to board so we had no problems finding a seat near the rear exit. The flight time was less than an hour and like the Yangon to Bagan flight, very smooth.
Service on both flights was excellent and left us amazed that meal and beverage service could be provided on such short jumps.
Based on our experiences, I would feel comfortable traveling in the future on Air Bagan and in recommending it to friends.