Myanmar is no longer off-limits for overland travellers, in fact it’s simple enough to cross from Thailand to India (or vice versa) through one of the most incredible countries I’ve been lucky enough to visit.
Here’s a wrap video of some of our journey, the Water Festival and life on the road:
If you’re considering your own overland adventure here are a few top tips on making the most of your experience at the lowest possible price:
<< It’s all in the planning >> Get involved with an online forum well in advance of your trip. They’re essential for researching the crap out of the countries you intend travelling through in the lead up to, and more importantly during your time on the road for the latest news.
They’re a great way of meeting other travellers who’ve done it before or who’ll hopefully join you on the road and share the cost of your Myanmar guided tour.
<< Suggest a date >> Get a post up on the forum a few weeks before you intend travelling with suggested dates. Interested parties will come back to you pretty quickly but make sure you’re flexible. There are usually a couple of groups travelling each way, each month so you’re likely to find other travellers pretty easily.
<< Form a group >> Employing a guide (mandatory if travelling in your own vehicle through Myanmar) comes with a cost, and rather high one too. Prices start at around $1300US (April 2015) for two people based on a 9-day trip.So the more people you can get to join you the better, as it’ll bring that cost down considerably. The maximum number is around 10 per group.
Try and find other vehicles of a similar type/age or speed to travel with. Imagine a 1960’s Land Rover trying to keep up with a BMW 1200 bike – one or both parties are bound to get pissed off with the different speeds achievable!
<< Don’t just race across >> Yes a guide is an expensive part of any overland trip but don’t miss out on some incredible parts of the country just to save a few $’s. You may never go back there again in your lifetime.
It’s easy to skirt past the capital Yangon doing just that, but don’t. Spend an extra day exploring this modern, vibrant, exciting part of the country.
<< Find a reputable company >> After months of reading other people’s reviews I went with Burma Senses. They’ve got a great reputation, are fairly priced and respond to emails within minutes.
<< Get your visas sorted well in advance >> Organising your Indian visa can be a little problematic. There’s no rocking up to the border expecting to hand over some cash and receiving a stamp in exchange.
Firstly you need to apply online for an appointment at your chosen embassy, attend to hand in your application and return a few days later to collect your passport.
How long that takes depends on where you apply. Bangkok takes between 5 and 7 working days. Phnom Phen (Cambodia) only takes 3!
In comparison the Myanmar one is a piece of piss. Hand your application in before 10am at the embassy in Bangkok and collect it later that day/the next day depending on how much cash you want to part with.
<< Use social media to your advantage >> Saying goodbye to your new travel buddies at the end of your trip needn’t be the end of your friendship. If you’re going different directions the information you pick up on the way i.e. camp sites, visa costs, roads to avoid etc can be useful to each other and shared using chat group apps such as WhatsApp or iMessage. Pool your knowledge people!
Even better form a group before you meet to cross and you can be the one who organises that all-important beer the night before you leave. Massive brownie points.
<< What do I get for my money? >> The cost does include a guide, driver and company representative plus they’ll organise all of your personal and vehicle paperwork in advance (except visas) and throughout the trip which includes a temporary Myanmar registration plate for each vehicle. On the road they also handle all tolls, tariffs and the numerous police checks you have to pass through. Basically they’re essential for a hassle-free crossing.