Bagan, Myanmar is easily one of the most picturesque cities we have ever visited. While it’s nearly impossible to visit the 3,100+ pagodas and temples in one trip, you can visit a number of them by renting e-bikes, bicycles or hiring a guide/driver. Walking is possible, but you won’t make it very far as the sights are spread out quite a bit.
We spent four nights in Bagan and decided we wanted to try out a couple different transportation options to see the city. Each option seems to have its pros and cons, so we’ll give you our thoughts on what worked well for us.
Bicycles and Electric Bikes
Bicycle and electric bike (e-bike) rental shops are everywhere in Bagan. If this is an option you are considering, do some price comparisons and choose a shop you feel comfortable with. You should be able to negotiate the price, especially if you are renting for multiple days.
We chose to rent an e-bike for a day as they appeared to be well maintained and we could both fit on one. It’s possible you can run out of battery on the road, so be sure to get your rental shops phone number so they can come pick you up or swap out bikes. And no worries if you don’t have a phone, the locals are very willing to help stranded tourists by calling the shop on your behalf and giving an exact location. Luckily this didn’t happen to us, but we saw and talked to plenty of people on the side of the road.
Bicycles seem like a more charming way of getting around, but many looked to be in rough shape and we wanted to get around a bit faster. The cost is certainly cheaper than an e-bike, but we felt the extra money was worth the time we saved pedaling.
Daily Rates (approximate)
E-bike: (Daily: 9am to 7pm) for around 6,000-8,000 Kyat (Sunrise: Night prior until 7am) for around 4,000 Kyat
We paid 10,000 Kyat for sunrise and the entire following day for a two-person e-bike.
Bicycle: (Daily: 9am to 7pm) for around 1,000 Kyat (Sunrise: Night prior until 7am) for around 2,000 Kyat
Hire a Guide or Driver
Guides and drivers can be found at most travel/tour agency shops in Bagan. Be aware that there are tour agencies as well as private guides and drivers available. If you aren’t comfortable with going to an office yourself, most hotels and guesthouses can help set you up.
We decided to hire a driver (not guide) for our first day of sightseeing. This is not something we generally like to do, as it can be expensive and we prefer to explore on our own. However, we knew there were several different areas of the city (Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyaung) and thought it would be a good way to learn the lay of the land before touring on our own with the days we had left. We talked with our hotel and they directed us to one of their usual drivers.
We got paired up with a great driver named Win. We called last minute for the following morning and were lucky that Win had a cancellation as he is usually booked solid. We got so much more out of hiring Win than we ever could have imagined.
Win has worked in the tourism industry for many years and knows Bagan like the back of his hand. He is a private driver, although he is happy to be a guide and walk at the sights with you if you ask him. He used to work for a local tour company as a guide, but he left as he preferred to have the freedom to go where he wanted opposed to a set route. His English is wonderful and we really enjoyed touring the city with him.
Daily Rates (approximate)
Daily: (8am-Sunset: with break mid-day for lunch) $50-$60 USD
We were really happy with our decision to hire a private driver the first day and then rent e-bikes for the following days. It worked out just as we hoped it would with us having a better understanding of the area for the days on our own.
Win showed us secret spots and vantage points in Bagan we otherwise would never have found. He also provided us with a ton of interesting history on the city of Bagan and Myanmar as a whole. Visiting pagoda after pagoda can burn you out if you aren’t learning anything about them; they are beautiful in their own right, but when you add a backstory it is that much better! In addition to getting us to a wonderful spot for sunset, he also recommended lesser known sunrise spots for us the following morning and made sure we knew how to get there.
Hiring a private driver like Win versus a tour company is a benefit because you can customize your day. Win helped us to avoid the tourist hot spots during peak times and also took us to some lesser known spots including an ancient monastery which provided a stunning view of the Bagan plains.
Bagan Guide and Transportation Service
Alternatively, you can stop in at the Oasis Hotel and they can set you up with Win.