Inle Lake is one of the most popular tourist destinations in up and coming Myanmar. It’s considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, with much to do in the surrounding area. Take a boat tour, walk through hundreds of gorgeous stupas in Indein or Kakku, visit local tribes, and of course, enjoy an unbelievable sunset.
Inle Lake is located roughly 350km (or about 217 miles) from Bagan and there are several ways to travel between the two places. You can get to Inle Lake by bus, minivan, private car or flight.
Unfortunately, due to the geographical location of Inle Lake, there is no train route that runs between the two places. Due to the conditions of roads in most of Myanmar, it takes between 7 to 8 hours to get to Inle Lake by driving, but only about 40 minutes by air.
How to get to Inle Lake by Road
There are direct routes that take travelers from Bagan to Inle Lake. Taking a bus or minivan is an economical option, but it’s a long journey on rough roads.
A third option to travel to Inle Lake by road is by hiring a private car. Depending on how many people you’re traveling with, this is a decent option as you can always split the far between the passengers. A car offers more comfort and possibly safety than a bus, but it’s more expensive.
It’s challenging to book a car online for this transfer, but if you ask at your hotel or other local travel companies like Flymya as they should be able to set something up for you quite easily. Flymya has car rental options (some of which include drivers) which is great for those who want to travel independently.
It’s a good idea to book a car a few days in advance as it’s a long journey and drivers may need to make adequate preparations.
Depart: Bagan Shwe Pyi Highway Bus Terminal
Arrive: Nyaung Shwe Bagan Min Tha
Duration: 8-9 hours
When booking busses in Asia, I almost always use 12go or Bookaway to secure a ticket. I tend to book VIP busses through the site, meaning I’m in what’s supposed to be a more comfortable bus with high-end treatment (i.e. getting a water bottle, snack and blanket when sitting down, reclining seats, bathroom onboard, etc).
All VIP buses are different, so be sure to read reviews and look at photos before booking. However, due to the type of buses in Myanmar, it is almost always worth it to book the VIP ones as they tend to get you to your destination faster.
Tips on Taking the Bus from Bagan to Inle Lake
Here are some tips I have for taking a bus to Inle Lake. Dress warmly or bring layers with you! These buses tend to be way over air conditioned, making for a freezing ride if you’re not prepared. It’s also a good idea to bring snacks and water with you.
Your bus will probably stop at a rest stop along the way but if not, you don’t want to have an empty stomach the whole journey. Finally, because it’s such a long drive, I’d recommend taking an overnight bus. Most buses leave between 6 pm and 9 pm meaning you get to sleep the entire ride and hopefully wake up at your destination.
The only downside is your bus is bound to get in between 4 and 5 in the morning making checking into a hotel an inconvenience.
Duration: 9 hours
If you aren’t too keen on taking a large bus to Inle Lake, you can also book a minivan to take you from Bagan. You can check timetables or book a minivan through Bookaway (in fact, this is probably the most promising way to ensure you have a seat).
The ride takes about the same amount of time as a bus but may be more cramped and uncomfortable. Another downside of taking a minivan is that if there’s not enough room for your luggage inside the car, they strap it to the top of the vehicle, subjecting it to sand and other wear and tear from 8 hours on the roof of a minivan.
However, if you’re willing to submit to the downsides of a minivan, this is the cheapest way to get to Lake Inle from Bagan.
Editor’s Note: Want more tips on how to travel around this country? Check out our Myanmar Travel Guide
How to get to Inle Lake by Air
Cost: $70-$120 plus taxi fare
The last method of traveling to Inle Lake from Bagan is by flying. This is by far the most convenient as the transport of getting from one place to the next can be arduous.
Flights depart from Nyaung U Airport and land at Heho Airport. Air travel takes about 40 minutes, making it the quickest method of transportation, but it’s also the most expensive, especially if you’re traveling with lots of luggage that needs to be checked in. Flights leave in the morning and early evening with several times to choose from.
Map of Inle Lake and Things to Do
When you get to Inle Lake, there are a variety of things to do. Regardless if you want to spend a couple of days chilling out by the lake or if you want to do some trekking to Kalaw, the experience of traveling to this part of Myanmar is always a treat!
That’s just about it when it comes to getting from Bagan to Inle Lake. Hopefully, this article helps you decide on a mode of transportation based on your schedule and budget. Safe travels!