Okay folks, this will be a long one, but hopefully you won’t have to google any more. This write up has three parts: 1) How to book the Yangon to Bagan train, 2) The ride experience itself, and 3) Yangon to Bagan Train tips summarised.

For the record, it wasn’t that bumpy! Definitely bumpier than Thai trains, which are not as good as Malay, Japanese, Vietnamese, or Chinese trains, which kind of makes Myanmar trains the worst in South East Asia lol.

1) How to book the Yangon to Bagan train

You have two options:

A) book online via an agent. Cyber people have done it before, apparently works (more below).
B) buy at the station*

*more interesting

Assuming you’re a real backpacker, let’s discuss the intricacies of option B…

First, which station is which?
For Bagan tickets go to the Yangon Central Railway Station. At 6.30 am (opens at 6) we were told to come back at 8 am, because of the following reason:

“4 PM train not sure.”

What does that even mean, how is the train so indecisive??

In my logic it means that they get the ACTUAL numbers from different tour companies and travel agents on the day of departure.

If there are enough people, they connect the sleeper carriages, and you can buy the tickets for that day’s train. If not… One online comment said a train didn’t even run (Mandalay route). People say very different things, ranging from: you can actually book in advance, to: the train carriage disconnected half way through the trip.

Train station looks old, and probably is even older. My online research about their ancient ticketing came true when I saw they actually handwrite the tickets (local seats). I definitely recommend googling a thing or two about Myanmar train travel.

2) The Yangon to Bagan train experience:

Sometimes there are special sleepers, sometimes regular, and sometimes neither. Apparently we got the special sleeper: a cabin with two upper and two lower beds, and a private toilet. The lower beds transform into a total of 8 seats with one table for four.

You cannot access the rest of the train as it doesn’t have a walk through option. The only way out is the cabin door or windows.

We were advised to, and came 30 min before departure which isn’t necessary, but you never know. It was a long 30 minutes…

The hooker-looking girls offered water for 1,000 kyat instead of the normal 500. Or maybe that’s the only thing they could say (hello water), because they didn’t seem to have any. But then later they jumped in when the train started moving and quickly sold two bottles for 700.

It’s true what people say that there’s nothing outside of Yangon. For a good 3 hours (given speed of the train, it felt like the equivalent to 5 kilometres) we only saw proper old wicker bungalows, farmers, and fields. Simple life.

The sunset was beautiful though. Many of the later stops reminded me of smaller Thai towns, with temples, locals having evening drinks, and lots of motorbikes.

Street vendors would offer beer or water (and surprisingly – samosas!) at certain stops, but we didn’t ask for price as it would be a bit rude not to buy. It’s like the only train for them to sell stuff on, and a good way to make a few kyat.

The lower beds were nearly twice the size of Thai sleeper trains, so it was quite cosy to sleep. To protect from dust and stuff flying inside we took face masks (good idea), but it was too hot with them on (bad idea).

… So after the night (pretty interesting moonlit views) of sleeping on the lower bed, we confirm it’s not comfy. Maybe a bit comfier than the night bus. Reason being the connections of the seats, so your back or your ribs are right on the connection. So for sleeping choose the upper bunk.

There’s rubbish everywhere along the tracks. Further away from Yangon there is less, but the attitude is still wrong, and we’re talking both locals and foreigners.

Security at night:

New country, new culture, new people (by this time it’s dark and bugs are settling on the phone screen) so we didn’t risk leaving stuff randomly available to anyone interested sticking their head through the window.

We locked our cabin, put our two Osprey bags and the camera and important stuff underneath the bed, corked by a 20kg suitcase. What’s with the 20kg suitcase you wonder? – FOOD.

We closed the metal blinds on one side and left our side open – the train goes slowly so there’s no airflow and it’s hot. We were in the carriage all by ourselves.

The night stops weren’t very nice as random people rush to the train when everyone’s sleeping, and peek through the windows. And the train windows are surprisingly low, so you see their heads looking round about 20cm from your face. It would be too easy for them to just reach out and grab anything from your bed if you’re in deep sleep. Even though we had our stuff underneath the bed I didn’t feel safe so didn’t sleep much. I felt kind of like in the scene from Slumdog Millionaire where the two boys try to steal food in the carriage climbing down from the roof of the train. Just don’t get the wrong idea – there were no people on the roof!

Riding past towns, villages, and fields was really fascinating. Some kids would run towards the train and wave and smile genuinely as the train rides past. Others though, would stand with concentration on their faces and wave robotically, and once out of sight, would quickly go down and collect all the stuff that was thrown out the train.

What did they expect? They’re waiting for candy to be thrown at them. Really. One man even showed the international sign for money whilst waiting with the kids, and then we saw some kids with huge handfuls of candy and cash. The Yangon to Bagan train is stuffed with local and international tourists, so they’re naturally trained by now how to get something for free – just run and wave.

We arrived on time.

On a side note, even though it was a smooth ride, almost as good as on a Thai train, a few times during the night I felt as if the train would fall of the tracks. Do note, however, sometimes I get these irrational fears, mostly from reading other stories online.

3) Yangon to Bagan Train travel tips:

-Come to the station at 8am, obviously (did you not read the whole article??)

-Bring your own water and food, especially if you’re vegetarian. The only English spoken will be “hello water”

-Have small notes in case you want to buy a hello water

-Bring own toilet paper

-There is no aircon, so no need for a hoodie.

-Put important stuff underneath the seat or have with you at all times

-Face mask (medical style) would help with dust and sand coming through the window (they were super useful during a sand storm in Bagan)

-Bring games like Uno, or a powerbank if train is late

-In case of the above (likely) don’t have plans shortly after estimated arrival

-Lock your doors at night, duh

-Turn off the useless ceiling fan (switch near the window on one side)