Myanmar has one of the largest train networks in South East Asia with over 5,400 km of track serving over 850 train stations. This is larger than Thailand’s railway network, which has slightly over 4,000 km of train tracks and much larger than Vietnam’s Railway Network, which has less than 2,700 of train track. Despite the sheer size of Myanmar’s Railway Network it is also one of the most poorly developed in South East Asia, only Laos (which has no railway network) and Cambodia (which has only a single train line) have less well developed train services.
Yangon Central Railway Station in Myanmar
Trains in Myanmar run at average speeds of 40 to 50 km per hour, on a good day, but bear in mind that travel by road is also fairly slow and a lot less comfortable than travel by train. The better train services in Myanmar feature on board toilets, sleeper berths and restaurant cars. The other plus point in favour of railway travel in Myanmar, as opposed to other forms of travel in Myanmar, is that the railway network reaches otherwise difficult to access parts of the country relatively safely. Train travel is also a massively important part of life in Myanmar affordable to even the poorest people in the country and travel by train in Myanmar is recommended as a way to experience life in Myanmar (for better and for worse) the way the inhabitants of the country experience it.
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The first railway line in Myanmar was opened in 1877 and since that time a further 9 functional train lines have been built allowing the intrepid visitor to Myanmar to travel by train as far North as into the mountain town of Myitkyina and as far South as the tropical coastal town of Thayetchuang. The most popular journeys for foreign visitors are:
Yangon to Mandalay
Yangon to Bagan
Yangon to Bago
Mandalay to Bagan
Mandalay to Inle Lake
For the adventurous traveller Myanmar offers the opportunity to travel on lesser trodden paths to parts of the country few foreign visitors have ever been, and for all the hardship involved in travelling in Myanmar by train the reward is go places before they become established destinations on the South East Asian tourist trail. In some ways this is trip back 40 years in time before mass tourism in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and to understand what those places were like before millions of tourists started coming every year. Train travel in Myanmar will appeal to a modern group of travellers who came too late to experience of excitement of going places to other places in South East Asia before the surprises got taken away by long entries in guide books and details critiques on TripAdvisor. Myanmar is there to be discover in your own way. Enjoy.