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Flatouthruthefog

Driving Own Car In Burma

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Hello everyone,

Finally I like to provide some feedback about our successful and great road trip (with own vehicles) through Myanmar hosted by Mutu from myanmarexperttours.com in October 2014.

Upon booking our travel group consisted of six people travelling in three cars (all 4WD).

Crossing the border from Mae Sot (Thailand) to Myawaddy (Myanmar) took three hours in total (basically because of slow working customs and queues at the counters). When crossing the bridge you switch from left-hand driving to right-hand driving. Read here why:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-_and_left-hand_traffic#Burma_.28Myanmar.29

On the Myanmar side we were welcomed by Ye, who is a Burmese travel guide and was hired by Mutu and by the MTT official who also is an experienced and relaxed guy and basically responsible to notify the ministry about our movements. They provided ‘temporary number plates’ which we had to place on the windscreen. After changing some money (change rates for USD in MMK were pretty good) we left Myawaddy and fortunately we were allowed to pass the customs bay behind town without the cars getting checked. We then started the first stage of our tour to Kin Pun, a village at the base of Kyaiktiyo Golden Rock (on the way there we did a short stop at a pagoda near Thaton). The single line road between Myawaddy and Kawkareik which is only open every second day (oncoming traffic the other day) is very windy, often unpaved and trucks are slow and there are only few spots allowing to pass them. You pass several military checkpoints along the way. You definitely have to be at the border very early to actually finish this stage of the tour on time (we arrived in darkness and most Burmese drive without using lights at all!). We skipped visiting the Golden Rock in the following morning and moved on to the capital Nay Pyi Taw with a stop at the market in Waw. The two-lane highway is very good and allows cars to drive 120 km/h. Nay Pyi Daw is a clean city with heaps of empty hotels and roads. Seeing the government buildings was not possible. On the afternoon of our arrival we visited the Uppatasanti pagoda which was inspired by the famous Shwedagon pagoda. As a tourist we found this a very nice place and unlike Shwedagon there are no crowds of people.

The Myat Mingalar hotel was a nice place to stay and we were almost the only guests at that time. In the evening another participant and I drove by ourselves to a close-by mall to get some beer and food since the hotel’s restaurant was a bit too expensive. The next day we learned that we actually were not allowed to drive without a guide in front even though having the license plate, visa, passport and so on with us. Seeing Nay Pyi Daw as foreigner was interesting albeit surreal. As we learned you cannot get here with public transport (only with a licensed tour operator). On the late afternoon around 5pm we did see a group of road workers who just finished today’s work shift and immediately were picked up by soldiers in an army truck…

After two nights in Nay Pyi Daw we moved to Bagan with stops at a palm sugar station and driving to the first stupas and watching sunset from one of them. In the evening we got to know Mutu who is a really nice guy, knows a lot about the country and is the perfect mate to have a beer with. The next day we spent the morning with visiting some more stupas, using the hotel’s swimming pool in the afternoon and did a river cruise on the Ayeyarwady in the early evening.

The next morning we moved on to Monywa with seeing the Phowintaung caves which actually were hundreds of holes in a sandstone outcrop containing carved Buddha statues.

The following day we went to Kalay via Gangaw (which is the main road between Kalay and Monyaw used most of the time of the year). Along the sometimes very windy and very muddy ‘road’ we passed lots of stuck trucks and also our guides 2WD Toyota Hiace used to have difficulties getting up the hill sometimes (unlike us with our 4WD). For us it was sheer driving pleasure!

The stage between Monywa and Kalay was the longest and most exhausting one of all but has to be done at once since there are no places with hotels along the way and sleeping in the cars is still strictly prohibited.

From Kalay we moved on to the border town Tamu where people only have power from 6.30pm til 8.00am in the morning. On the way we crossed the tropic of cancer. Exiting Myanmar took about half an hour while entering India was more time and nerve consuming (read on).

Finally I can say that all six of us enjoyed the trip very much. Mutu even managed to let one of the participants bring its dog in (and of course out of) the country. Ye was a very nice guy and both Ye and Mutu managed to organize the trip to our full satisfaction. Actually we would have stayed longer but four of us are on a road trip from Australia to Europe and we had to keep the trip short for budget and time reasons. But Myanmar is a very beautiful country with amazingly friendly locals and except of the major tourist attractions like Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake and Mandaly the country is still very unexplored by tourism.

We definitely can recommend Mutu and his team to everyone who is also interested visiting and crossing the country with his own vehicle.

Nevertheless Myanmar is still very expensive to travel. Accommodations are more expensive than in its eastern neighbouring countries (also due to USD regularly used as second currency) and the government charges high fees to travellers (sightseeing, permissions to see certain areas, obligation of using a licensed tour operator, …). There are news found online about a Trans-Asian highway to be built through Myanmar to connect India with SE Asia but I hardly believe this project will ever be realized / finished. Furthermore since the government makes a lot of money with tourism possible due to the whole tricky system of ‘special permissions’ and so on it is hard to believe that it ever will be more easy to get in and explore the country. And still there are riots and conflicts going on in the country, like in eastern and northern Mon state and also in the far north of the country which still will make it almost impossible for tourists to travel to these regions for a long time. But if there is a chance to actually visit a certain area as foreigner, Mutu can bring you there.

Once again about the prices: travelling to Myanmar is and will be expensive. Basically a bigger group with more participants should make such a trip more affordable, but also more exhausting because the more cars / people need to travel along the roads / need to be checked the more time consuming it will be.

At the end we all were happy with the size of our group (three cars).

For a group of six people including all permits, fees and so on (excluding food and fuel) one will hardly find an offer charging less than 750 USD per person. But it is definitely worth the trip.

The following Google Maps link shows our basic route through the country:

https://www.google.de/maps/dir/Mae+Sot,+Mae+Sot+District,+Tak,+Thailand/Kin+Pun+Sakhan,+Myanmar/The+Myat+Mingalar/Bagan+Umbra/Monywa/22.0429721,94.9862361/Monywa+Hotel,+Monywa,+Myanmar/23.1936636,94.0389935/24.2160391,94.3030753/@20.4783789,95.672865,7z/data=!4m56!4m55!1m5!1m1!1s0x30ddbda33d818e6d:0x30346c5fa8a7750!2m2!1d98.5746649!2d16.7124054!1m5!1m1!1s0x30c3a79df651f5dd:0x166f3f368b6d363!2m2!1d97.0780814!2d17.3998992!1m15!1m1!1s0x0:0x6025ecfb857509ea!2m2!1d96.12023!2d19.721136!3m4!1m2!1d96.054332!2d19.6722733!3s0x30c897e94783a7d7:0xafc4deea9f64c28f!3m4!1m2!1d95.7482257!2d20.8087577!3s0x30c9781dd992cc79:0x4897690f0ea5eb6a!1m5!1m1!1s0x0:0xddbac4ae7822bd2c!2m2!1d94.885354!2d21.184937!1m5!1m1!1s0x0:0xb1175049af2e5c95!2m2!1d95.129121!2d22.120469!1m0!1m10!1m1!1s0x30ca9f24b1b52ed3:0xb1175049af2e5c95!2m2!1d95.129121!2d22.120469!3m4!1m2!1d94.2057064!2d21.94367!3s0x30b4f0f7d5362663:0x3154c684e4fdd585!1m0!1m0!3e0?hl=de

After we left Myanmar using the bridge over the little river and switching back to left-hand driving we arrived at a military checkpoint where we had to provide Passports and open the cars for a simple inspection. It was around 10am (after time change) and the military pointed us to the police station in Moreh were it took us some time to actually find a present police officer to stamp our passports. To get the Carnet documents stamped he pointed back to the border. The customs office (a white building complex) is situated between the border bridge and the military checkpoint. We then had to wait once more for the customs officers to show up (Indian officials are known for starting working very late at the day). Stamping and checking the cars was done very quickly and at the end we left Moreh. They whole border crossing took us three hours. Mainly caused by non-presence of customs and asking around where to actually find police and customs.

The road from Moreh makes its way through the mountains (windy but properly paved) and you pass three military checkpoints where one always has to stop and provide personal details.

Once one makes it into the valley behind the mountains traffic gets more and cows and goats sit, walk and lie everywhere along and on the roads.

When travelling in Manipur and Nagaland it is not unusual to get stopped by the police and following them to their police station for general interrogation and providing personal details and travel plans. We even were asked to follow a police man to the police station when walking along a main road when looking for a restaurant in Bongaigaon, Assam.

Finally I hope this information is helpful to anyone interested in visiting amazing Myanmar by own vehicle. I will publish travel reports on my blog www.nue-travelling.com within the next days.

Best regards to everyone from Delhi, India.

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great report;

have read numerous reports of people driving their own cars/motorbikes into and out of Myanmar . seems as long as you align yourself with a travel agent and pay the high fees its not a big deal

BUT independent travel in China/Myanmar is not going to be as easy as entering Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia for now

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Congratulations, NueTravelling, on finding a source and completing this trip. You have supplied some good information. I assume you are continuing you travels onward from India. What about those that would want to return to Thailand from India?

Also, you mention the need for a Carnet. Thailand does not participate in the Carnet program for vehicles (not required to enter Thailand or Myanmar) and it is my understanding one cannot easily obtain a Carnet for a Thai vehicle. Was this necessary for only for India?

As mentioned in post #15, Here are my current reports on motorcycle travel into Myanmar and an old report on traveling by car from Tachilek.

http://daveearly.com/category/burma-myanmar/

Edit: Carnet question added.

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@silverhawk_usa:

For the other way it would be the same. You can contact the same Burmese tour operators. They offer both directions, of course! One last time the three licensed tour operators offering guided car convois we found are:

- Tin Maung Shwe from brightviewtravel.com

- Tar Aye from burmasenses.com

- Mutu Suresh from myanmarexperttours.com

There certainly will be more who can offer such tours but the three mentioned above already have experience with this kind of trips and especially Mutu knows a lot about the country. As long as it basically is alowed to visited a certain area in Myanmar, he can bring you there!

phuketrichard is right: as long as you pay the money and start planning far in advance it actually is not difficult (anymore).

About the Carnet: Thailand does stamp Carnets! All of the countries we have been to so far did stamp it! With an Australien registered car with already travelled to Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and now India. They all stamp Carnets! And it is even written on the back site of the Carnet that all of these countries participate in this program. I can only strongly recommened you to always get your Carnet stamped at the customs at every border! This also safes you from stupid questions in case you 'skip' getting an "enter stamp" for certain a country and then once exiting the same customs want to stamp your Carnet and you don't have the "enter stamp". I remember when getting to Indonesia (border between Timor-Leste and West Timor (Indonesia) we had to explain the customs officer who to stamp the Carnet. And finally it is no matter of money anyway stamping a country more than necessary. There are plenty of stamp pages available anyway! And first of all: the Carnet is to safe you from paying custom fees / tax when bringing a foreign registered car to a certain country and is the evidence form for a TEMPORARY import. Not stamping the Carnet would basically entitle customs to charge your import tax (custom tax) which - depending on the value of the car - may be expensive. The Carnet document can be seen as "passport for your car". If you do not have a stamp in your passport, you are in trouble. If a stamp in your Carnet is missing, your "car is in trouble"!

I don't know about cars registered in Thailand. But if they do not issue Carnets at all, you may only travel to several neighbouring countries which allow cars without Carnet.

We will continue our travel to Europe once we got our Pakistan visa. Iran visa already in the passport.

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Thank you, Nue.

I know Thailand will stamp your Carnet, but they do not require one, nor do they issue them. i also understand most countries will stamp them. My question is, did India require a Carnet or just issue your stamp? Thanks, and enjoy the rest of your trip.

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have a great trip!!!!!

Iran visa already in the passport.

guess ur not American rolleyes.gif

I made 3 trips from Europe overland to Kathmandu and back and than back to KTM in the mid 70's

fantastic!!

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Congratulations to FlatulantFrog for driving in and out of Malaysia and Laos, I have driven in and out of both countries and they are very different, suprisingly they are very different on both the Thai and other sides of the borders as there is much more paperwork needed to leave Thailand via Laos than leaving Thailand via Malaysia.

The comment made by edwinchester is normally only an issue if you turn up at the Burma (aka Myanmar) border without a pre-arranged visa, and under those circumstances you perhaps cannot leave the town of Irrawady, however I'm quite sure that restriction does not nesseseraly apply if you arrive with a suitable visa issued in Bangkok at the Myanmar Consulate.

This is different when you go to Tachiliek as Shan State issue a temporary (14 day) pass and hold on to your passport IF you don't have a visa already, it's easy enough to drive on up to the Chinese border but you cannot cross into China unless you have your passport (which means you needed a Visa for Myanmar in advance) and of course a Chinese Visa, though you probably still won't be allowed into China with a car, I say probably because it really dependes on who is on duty that day at the border and which way the wind is blowing, ie it's hit and miss at best. Your best bet is to keep smiling, tell the border guard how hansome he is, and be driving a Mercedes Benz !

In any event check the following, this is my quick guide to passing international borders in a car.

1/ The car should be in your name, and you should have the blue book (in your name). Whilst letters of authority MAY be acceptable, it's a easy reason to be refused.

2/ Though technically not required for countries other than Laos (where it's madatory) you should have a International Travel Document (car passport) issued at the Land Transport Office, you CANNOT get this if the car is on finance. It acts as a translation from the Thai and looks all very official and proper

3/ Arrive at the border early, my experience is that tricky borders are easier very early in the morning and I have passed through a border in Vietnam early that is reputed to be difficult/impossible and I'm sure it's because the border staff are half asleep!

4/ Expect a long wait and a lot of paperwork, if you are lucky they can't be bothered they will just wave you past, that's more likely if you arrive early.

5/ Keep smiling, and act like it's something you do all the time.

6/ Carry some packs of cigarettes to smooth the path when dealing with officials, and a small bottle of whiskey can work miracles if you really need it.

7. Be in a Mercedes Benz wherever possible

Maps can be difficult in Burma, you can buy photocopied road maps at the border sometimes but it's probably best to print some pages from Google Earth before you go. You will need to have a guide with you and hopefully he will know the way. If you travel on the Bus or by Taxi you don't need a guide, travelling by car you need an approved (licenced) guide and that will cost you about 1000 baht per day.

I'd be in interested to hear the "personal" expericences of others in Burma with a car, not so intereted in the opinions of armchair travellers who tho think they know it all !!

Not sure what you mean in #2 of your list about Laos. Never needed such documents when taking vehicle into Laos.Only regerstation card or papers were needed.All other entry doc's where always supplied on Laos side. Have done so 4 times and it was extremly easy.

All your other points are spot on.

I have taken my motorcycle into Burma two times,Shan State.Mind you I did this illegally north of Pai with some Thai Special Forces friends of mine. Toured a couple of rebel regions in the mountains the Thai have been training for years.Very beautiful country and the people there really impressed me. Hoping the country will open in the next year or two for foriegners to bring their vehicles in to travel more of the country than just the out skirts of the boarder towns.

I would disagree as I travel to laos every other month they always ask for the car passport which is a small purple book availible at the dmv for about .50 THB and only takes about 15-20 minutes. Well worth the effort as without it you won’t be taking a Thai registered vehicle over the bridge.

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I have driven my own vehicle into Myanmar twice legally, via Tachileik. That appears to be the only legal land crossing for private vehicles.

I think it might be possible to bring a car to Kawthoung, opposite Ranong province, as well, if you can find a way to ferry the vehicle.

nope. kawthoung is impossible atm. immigration is very strict in upcountry travels (no matter how you wish to move on, by car, by bike, by bus, by foot, whatever). 20 miles out of town you will be returned [unless you obtained a permit]. some backpackers claim they managed to do it on a bike but i'm not sure that is actually true. oddly though, the other way, let's say from myeik to kawthoung by bus is doable but if you get off and stay for the night in any of the southern towns (which have a "hotel"), you will get questions (and instructions such as don't leave town borders) from immigration and intelligence.

technically thai can enter at tachileik (up to mongla), 3 pagodas (around town only but i'm pretty sure this will change soon as the situation is pretty stable with the NMSP), htee kee (up to dawei area), myawaddy (up to moulmein area, has recently been impossible due to DKBA toll-gate issues) and singkhon (up to myeik). it's pretty easy for thai to get the paperwork done, most thai do these trips for budhist purposes AKA wat-hopping.

op can PM me for more infos. however there's a lot of pain in the *ss involved driving a car in burma.

it goes without saying farang need visas too in advance except for mong la where a permit can be obtained in tachileik, unless they changed this [again] recently.

i'm very often in the south of the country [for many many years] and the road between myeik and dawei (and then up to ye, moulmein, aso) is getting substantially improved BUT it's still nothing compared to Thai "highways" ... road between myeik and kawthough is still a disaster smile.png

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Maps can be difficult in Burma, you can buy photocopied road maps at the border sometimes but it's probably best to print some pages from Google Earth before you go.

not anymore. there is a Thai map-maker that has a good map for Burma, at least for all (obvious) roads accessable. i don't have access to it now as i'm not at home but most Thai book shops sell it. the map even has detailed maps of border town/crossing such as Myawaddy... the language is Thai and English.

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....the other way, let's say from myeik to kawthoung by bus is doable..........road between myeik and kawthough is still a disaster

I thought this part of the journey HAD to be done by BOAT, am Planning on doing this from Yangon with a combination of trains, Bus's and Boat

and exiting back to Thailand at Kwathoung

I have the Globetrotter map of Myanmar

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....the other way, let's say from myeik to kawthoung by bus is doable..........road between myeik and kawthough is still a disaster

I thought this part of the journey HAD to be done by BOAT, am Planning on doing this from Yangon with a combination of trains, Bus's and Boat

and exiting back to Thailand at Kwathoung

I have the Globetrotter map of Myanmar

nope. i've done it twice this year (once by motorbike) but again, it's burma: immigration guys are the boss not you...

keep in mind that a bus a from myeik to kawthoung takes up to 20 hours... a boat much less.

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any special permission needed?

can u do it in sections?

seems like a good alternative ( at least up until the monsoons end)

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depends on what u wanna do. just sitting on a bus between myeik and kawthoung doesn't require a permit. just big balls and sense for adventure.

i had permission + official escort for 1 stretch of my trip...

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ahhh, so same like many areas "off limits" in Myanmar if u have money u can go.

Next time would be nice if you say that at the start.

so its not as easy as traveling between Mandalay and Bagan

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