Every traveler in Myanmar will usually start or end the trip in Mandalay. This is also true for people who want to cover central Myanmar including Bagan and Inle Lake. Fortunately, traveling from Mandalay to Inle Lake is easier now, with options like bus, flight, train and cab being available. Mandalay to Inle Lake distance is about 260km. Depending on what you choose, it takes between an hour to 28 hours of travel time. Let’s look at all these options to reach Inle Lake from Mandalay or from Inle Lake to Mandalay in this post.
Mandalay to Inle Lake by Bus
Nyaung Shwe is the nearest town, which is used as a base to explore Inle Lake and around. It takes around 7 to 8 hours to reach from Mandalay to Nyaung Shwe by bus.
There are minivans and different types of buses from Mandalay to Inle Lake – minivans, regular buses and VIP buses. VIP buses and regular buses usually run at night, while minivans during the day. The buses cost around 10 to 20 USD. Both regular and VIP buses are air-conditioned and have reclining seats. You’ll get blankets, drinking water and light snacks.
The VIP buses are better as they have 2+1 layout, and have extra leg space. The cost difference between is not much, so I would highly recommend you to book VIP buses while traveling in Myanmar if buses are your choice.
Buses to Inle Lake depart from Chan Mya Shwe Pyi Bus Station in Mandalay, and you will arrive at Nyaung Shwe town. The buses drop you to your hostel/hotel in Inle Lake, but usually, pick up at Mandalay is not included.
I used 12goAsia to book all the buses online because it is super easy and useful. The website has reviews of the bus operators, detailed bus schedule and you can book tickets online easily. The best part is no need to print the ticket.
The cheapest way to get to the bus station are public buses, but they are unreliable. Motorbikes or tuk-tuks cost about 30,000 Kyat and lesser if you opt for shared ones. Cabs can be expensive, so better to share the ride with someone if you are traveling alone.
At the entry of the town, foreigners need to pay 15,000 Kyat as an entry fee for Inle Lake, which is to be paid in cash. Keep this ticket with you at all times while exploring the lake.
Some tips for Mandalay to Inle Lake Bus
- The JJ express VIP buses sell out very soon because of their popularity, especially during the peak season. It is recommended to book a few days in advance.
- Taking a night bus is a great way to save your money on a hotel for the night. Also, you’ll reach early in the morning around 4:30 AM or 5 AM. This means you can keep your bags at the hotel upon arrival and go on a boat tour to witness an amazing sunrise at Inle Lake.
- The entry ticket to Inle Lake of 15,000 Kyat needs to be paid in cash. So make sure to carry enough money with you. Otherwise, you will end up searching for ATMs (which are only a few) in the early morning hours.
Mandalay to Inle Lake By Flight
Taking Mandalay to Inle Lake flight is the fastest way to reach if you don’t want to spend hours sitting on a bus or train. The nearest airport to Inle Lake or Nyaung Shwe is Heho airport, which is about 50km away, and the flight time is under 1 hour excluding the time taken for commuting between airports to city centres.
It comes at an expensive price of around 130 USD per person. You can get better deals if you are booking in advance or flying during the offseason, but it is still the most expensive way to get to Inle Lake.
Some of these airlines have flights from Mandalay to Heho airport – Myanmar National Airlines, Yangon Airways, Air KBZ and Asian Wings Airways.
From the airport, it takes about an hour to reach Nyaung Shwe. Taxis are available outside, but they can be slightly expensive. Haggle a bit for prices, which is not uncommon in Myanmar.
Editor’s note: How To Get From Yangon To Bagan in Myanmar?
Experience a train journey in Myanmar is on the bucket list of many travelers, but this one is too long for that. Because the slowest, longest and hence the least preferred way to reach Inle Lake from Mandalay is by train. It takes around 25+ hours and can take more if there are delays. If you don’t mind spending more than a day or the exhaustion, you will probably love this though.
There is no direct train from Mandalay to Shwe Nyaun, the nearest railway station to Inle Lake
You will have to first take a train from Mandalay to Thazi, which only runs during the day. It means you’ll have to stay overnight in Thazi as the next train from Thazi, also runs only during the day.
Editor’s note: 17 Amazing Things to do in Mandalay, Myanmar
The train from Thazi to Shwe Nyaung arrives at Thazi station at around 7 AM and reaches Shwe Nyaung at 5 PM the same day. Buy the tickets at Thazi station by paying 3000 Kyats for an upper-class seat. During this 10-hour day journey, you’ll pass through some winding hills, rice fields and green landscapes, which is probably the only upside of traveling by train to Inle Lake.
The best way to have a comfortable journey throughout is to book a seat in the upper-class cabin, which costs about 10,000 Kyat. The seats partially recline and are way better than ordinary seats. It is still exhausting for a long journey though.
Once you arrive at the station, you will have to pay Inle Lake entry fee for foreigners, which is 15,000 Kyat.
Beware of many scammers on the train or who approach you claiming that they collect money for the entry tickets. Only buy these tickets at the toll collection counter at the station.
Inle Lake is about 5km from Shwe Nyaung train station. You can take a tuk-tuk or a cab to get to Nyaung Shwe or Inle from the railway station.
The most expensive of all the options to get to Mandalay from Inle Lake is renting a taxi. It takes about 8 to 9 hours to reach and the price starts from 250 USD. If you are traveling in a group and also want to include places to visit on the way or want comfort, you could go for this.
The best way to get better deals is to book your cab through your hotel, as you can strike a bargain as compared to booking via tour agents who usually keep the quotes higher.
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