What to do in Yangon: Travel Guide & Essential Info

Almost all visits to Myanmar start in Yangon because the country’s major international airport is located here. With its 5 million inhabitants, Yangon – also known by its colonial name Rangoon – is also the largest city in the country and its economic and cultural capital.

It lost its status as the official capital of Myanmar to the newly built city of Naypyidaw in 2005.

A first stroll through the streets of Yangon may come as a minor culture shock for some people: It’s bustling and loud, sticky and warm, but it’s also incredibly exciting.

It’s definitely worth spending a few days in Yangon.

In this post we show you what sights await you in Yangon and of course we have a lot of practical Yangon travel tips for you: where to stay, how to get there, where to go next, and how to get around.

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Yangon sights and attractions: The highlights

Many travelers only plan to spend a single day in Yangon. And generally speaking, that’s more or less enough time to see all the major Yangon sights and get a first impression of the city. You can certainly cover the four following Yangon highlights in a single day.

But of course there’s a lot more to discover. So if you have a little more time, it’s definitely worth spending two or three days in Yangon.

Shwedagon Pagoda

You should be able to see the huge golden pagoda from a distance, looming over the city on a small hill. The Shwedagon Pagoda is the highlight of Yangon and one of the most famous sights in all of Myanmar.

But above all, the Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the most important shrines in the country, and thousands of local people flock to it every day. The pagoda really has a very special aura, and it’s definitely one of the best experiences to be had on any trip to Myanmar.

We recommend visiting to the Shwedagon Pagoda early in the evening. At around sunset, the light is best for photography and the daily hustle and bustle around the golden stupa reaches its crescendo. We spent almost three hours in the pagoda because there was so much to discover.

Admission costs 8,000 Kyat (about 5.50 euro). A taxi to the Shwedagon Pagoda from downtown Yangon costs somewhere between 2,000 to 3,000 kyat.

You have to take off your shoes and socks before you enter as you do at all Buddhist shrines. Shorts and shoulder-free tops are also verboten.

Shwedagon Pagoda
There’s a lively hustle and bustle around the the Shwedagon Pagoda all throughout the day.
Shwedagon Pagoda
It’s especially beautiful here right after sunset.
Shwedagon Pagoda
And the atmosphere after dark is really special.
Shwedagon Pagoda
But the Shwedagon Pagoda also exudes an incredible calm and serenity.

Sule Pagoda

The Sule Pagoda is the central point in Downtown Yangon. It’s located in the middle of a roundabout and is a sort of everyday pagoda for the locals. You can drop by here for a quick prayer or pick up a few karma points for the day.

The Sule Pagoda isn’t quite as ostentatious as many of the other pagodas in Myanmar. But it’s still well worth visiting.

All around the Sule Pagoda, fortune-tellers offer their palm-reading services to predict your future. We never got round to trying it. If you went to one of the fortune-tellers, we’d be excited to hear what it was like and would love to hear from you in the comments.

Sule Pagoda
The Sule Pagoda is located in the middle of a roundabout in the center of Yangon.
Sule Pagoda
The locals flock to the Sule Pagoda on the regular just to sit there for a while or to play with their phones.
Fortune tellers, Sule Pagoda
Fortune-tellers offer their services all around the Sule Pagoda.

Bogyoke Aung San Market

The Bogyoke Aung San Market is the largest market in Yangon. The very narrow market lanes are a shopping paradise for the locals. Clothes, textiles, and jewelry are the main things on offer here.

The seamstresses at some of the stalls use antique sewing machines to tailor dresses for customers right on the spot. And of course you can also pick up the odd souvenir or go hunting for antiques in quaint little stores.

Bogyoke Aung San Market
The Bogyoke Aung San Market features fabrics in all colors and styles.
Bogyoke Aung San Market
The textiles are tailored right on the spot.

The streets of Yangon

Besides checking out the popular sights, just exploring the streets of Downtown Yangon on foot can be quite the experience in its own right. You can’t really get lost because all the streets run alongside each other in straight parallel lines.

On many corners, you’ll find small street markets where you can buy vegetables, fish, meat, but also antiques, textiles, and gadgets.

The area around the Sule Pagoda is littered with magnificent colonial buildings, some of them freshly renovated, others in a decade-long process of decay. Sadly, it’s often cheaper to demolish the old buildings and just build new ones, so these venerable buildings are slowly vanishing one by one.

While you’re strolling through the streets, you have to try some freshly squeezed cane juice that’s sold at many of the stalls here. It’s very, very sweet, but really delicious, and a good source of energy in the stifling heat.

Yangon, restored colonial buildings
Some colonial buildings in Yangon have been restored to their former splendor.
Yangon, colonial building
Others are in a steady state of decay.
Seafood market, Yangon
You’ll keep coming across tiny markets on the streets of Yangon.
Yangon, market
Antiques and trinkets are everywhere.
Yangon, food stall
And of course, Yangon has more than its fair share of delicious food stalls.

Yangon sights and attractions: For more than a day

If you plan to stay in Yangon for a bit longer, you’ll have time to delve deeper into city life and visit some of the less-frequented sights.

There are many more pagodas and Buddha statues to discover, or you could check out the Bogyoke Aung San Museum. But we want to take a closer look at some of our favorite things to do in Yangon.

Kandawgyi Lake

Kandawgyi Lake is very close to the Shwedagon Pagoda and is an oasis of calm in the otherwise-hectic Yangon. Young couples meet in the vast park to enjoy some alone time together. They’re really cute to watch.

So if you want to take a breather and just relax for a bit, the Kandawgyi Lake is just the right place for you.

Kandawgyi Lake
Young couples like spending time together by Kandwagyi Lake.

A trip on the Circular Railway

Berlin isn’t the only place with a circle line – Yangon also has a train that runs around the city. But that’s about the only thing they have in common because the Circular Railway in Yangon is a really unique experience.

The whole trip takes about 3 hours and only costs 300 kyat. When you ride the Circular Railway, you’ll get to experience sides of Yangon that tourists rarely get to see. You’ll get a real sense of the very simple and poor lives that people lead in the outskirts of the city.

The trains regularly depart from Yangon Central Station at the northern end of the city center.

Trains in Yangon
A train ride around Yangon is a real experience.

Experience a football match in Yangon

Attending a football match is a very special experience where you’re sure to stand out in a crowd of locals. Yangon regularly hosts Myanmar National League matches during the season.

There are two stadiums in Yangon: the Bogyoke Aung San Stadium just opposite the train station and the Thuwanna YTC Stadium a bit further out, which hosts Asian Champions League and international matches.

Check the Myanmar National League website for the current match schedule.

Day trips from Yangon

There are some great day trips going from Yangon to Bago and the Golden Rock. You leave Yangon in the early morning and get back by evening.

A day trip from Yangon is a good option if you don’t want to change hotels too often or if you don’t have much time. We stayed one night each by the Golden Rock and in Bago.

Day trip from Yangon to Bago

Bago is located about 90 kilometers northwest of Yangon and is totally worth a visit!

There are some really great pagodas and Buddha figures in town. Each attraction is more beautiful than the next.

We took the train from Yangon to Bago, which is definitely a unique experience. The train ride only costs 1,000 kyat per person in the Upper Class (definitely recommended!) and takes just over two hours.

Several trains leave for Bago every morning, so we bought our tickets just about an hour before departure. You should plan a bit of extra time to buy the tickets because they’re written out by hand and that takes a while. During high season it might make sense to purchase your tickets the day before.

When you get there, the best way to get around is hiring a tuk-tuk or a moped driver to take you to the various sights. We paid 15,000 kyat for a half-day tour. You pay a total admission of 10,000 kyat for the four main attractions, and all the others are free.

Hiring a private driver to Bago is faster and more comfortable, but certainly not as exciting. Just ask at your hotel, they can most likely organize it for you. If not, there are travel agencies everywhere in Yangon that offer this kind of tour.

Day trips from Yangon to the Golden Rock

The Golden Rock is one of the most important shrines in Myanmar and is now regarded as one of the most top places to visit in the country. If you go on a day trip, you’ll be taken directly to the base camp in Kinpun by car.

From there, a truck will take you up the mountain to the Golden Rock on its cargo bed. Then you’ll head downhill again and back to Yangon.

You can also book these tours at every travel agency and in most hotels.

Practical Yangon tips

Now you know what to do in Yangon. But now we have some more practical tips for Yangon we hope will help you on your trip.

Where to stay in Yangon

Accommodations in Yangon are generally slightly dearer and smaller than in the rest of the country. But nevertheless, there are several hotels in all price ranges in Yangon. We stayed at Wai Wai’s Place.

The small hotel is run by super-friendly Yin Yin and is located in a very nice area near the Shwedagon Pagoda. The rooms are basic, but very clean, and there are plenty of places to eat and shop close by.

Our hotel: Wai Wai’s Place

Alternatives

The Pickled Tea Hostel is a great option if you’re on a small budget. If you’re looking for a really good hotel in Yangon, then we recommend the Savoy Hotel.

In case you’re looking for a place to stay near Yangon Airport for your next flight, the Holly Hotel is your best bet. It’s close to the bus station and not far from the airport.

The hotel is very modern, has really good Internet, and it even serves Nutella for breakfast. After our tour of the south, we stayed in Yangon for one more night before heading out to Mrauk U in the north.

Wai Wai's Place
Our hotel in Yangon: Wai Wai’s Place

How to get to the city from the Yangon Airport

Yangon International Airport is located to the north of the city. You can just take a taxi there from the airport. There’s a taxi counter in the arrivals terminal that’ll assign you to a taxi driver and arrange a fixed price. You’ll be paying about 7,000 kyat for a taxi ride to downtown Yangon.

Depending on the traffic, which is getting worse and worse in Yangon, the trip should take about 60 minutes.

Getting around

The best way to get around in Yangon is on foot. If that’s too far, then you can take a taxi from A to B. We’d say that about every second car in Yangon is a taxi, so you shouldn’t have any problems finding one.

Taxis don’t have meters, so you have to agree on a price beforehand. Overall, taxis are very cheap though. A simple trip through the city, e.g. from the Sule Pagoda to the Shwedagon Pagoda, will cost you 2,000 to 3,000 kyat. Expect to pay around 7,000 kyat for trips to the airport and the Aung Mingalar Bus Station.

Traffic in Yangon can get a bit congested, so you should make sure to plan enough time.

Besides the taxis, you can also catch a public bus. But it’s hard for travelers to tell where the buses are headed. The next stop is always announced, but understanding the announcement is the difficult part.

There are no scooters on the road in Yangon. Apparently, a general who felt threatened by some moped drivers a few years back, and so he ordered them off the streets from then on.

Taxis in Yangon
Taxis are the most important mode of transport in Yangon.
Bus in Yangon
The next stops are shouted out on city buses. You’re sure to stand out on these kinds of bus as a tourist.
Trishaw in Yangon
Trishaws are also used by locals for getting around in Yangon.

What are your Yangon travel tips?

We liked Yangon a lot. The city certainly isn’t exactly an oasis of calm, but it’s really exciting. Have you ever been to Yangon? How did you like it? Do you have a good tip for us? We’re looking forward to your comment.