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 K50 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 city centre can be arranged for between K500 and K1000. You may need to bargain a bit.
A train ride on Myanmar’s narrow-gauge tracks is like going by horse, with the mostly antique carriages rocking back and forth and bouncing everyone lucky enough to have a seat on the hard chairs – sleep is practically impossible. Compared to bus trips on the same routes, taking the train means extra travel time, on top of which likely delays (of several hours, if you’re unlucky) have to be factored in.
However, train travel is cheap now that foreigners pay the same as locals. Routes sometimes get to areas not reached by road and the services provide a chance to interact with locals. ‘It’s not as bad as some people say, not as good as you hope,’ one wise local told us. The good news is that, in coming years, it will improve as the network receives much-needed upgrades.