Bagan To Mandalay By Boat: An Irrawaddy River Cruise

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Tired of long bus and train rides in Myanmar? Yeah, we were too. Forgo the rickety rails and bumpy roads and book something on the slower, smoother side –– an Irrawaddy river cruise! Travel from Bagan to Mandalay by boat in a picturesque way.

Traveling by boat in Myanmar is a good transportation mix up. Taking waterways lets you see new sites and rural life on the river.

Why Traveling From Bagan to Mandalay by Boat Is a Must

Taking the bus or train route would be another boring, common experience. Though it might be the fastest route, you would not get to see all the beautiful scenery on the Irrawaddy river.

Taking the boat trip, on the other hand, is a perfect experience you do not want to miss. You get to experience Myanmar’s unique history from another level. From the bright fishing boats to the golden pagodas dotting the river banks, you will only enjoy your experience cruising the river on a slow boat and getting cooled by the breeze.

How To Travel From Bagan To Mandalay By Boat

How Long is the Boat Ride from Bagan To Mandalay?

You can take this route two ways. The first route is Bagan to Mandalay by boat and the second is the reverse — Mandalay to Bagan by boat. Both routes take close to a day trip on the Irrawaddy river.

How Long Does a Boat Ride Between Bagan and Mandalay Take?

The Bagan to Mandalay route takes about 12 hours (you’re going up river) where the boat ride from Mandalay to Bagan takes about 10 hours (you’re going down the river).

What Is the Boat Price from Bagan to Mandalay?

Understand, there are cheaper options to get to and from Bagan and Mandalay – i.e a bus or a train.

If you are interested in looking into taking a bus or train from Bagan to Mandalay, check the latest times and prices by 12Go system.

Powered by 12Go system

However, if you are wanting to shake things up, this boat ride is definitely for you! It is a little bit more expensive than your typical overland bus or train travel, but if you can spare a few bucks, consider taking a cruise on the water!

Bagan to Mandalay boat price is about $32 USD. We booked with MGRG Express and it was lovely and very comfortable. Another booking option is to book with Alliance River Cruise for around $30 USD.

The price not only includes your ride up the river but also your breakfast, lunch, and snacks. The meal looked good and was tasty too!

Food on the cruise from Bagan to Mandalay

Booking Your Bagan to Mandalay By Boat Ticket

Your accommodation can help you book your tickets or point you in the direction of an agency that can. Or, you can book directly online with MGRG Express or Alliance River Cruise.

Bagan to Mandalay by Boat

We advise booking at least 1-2 days ahead of time to ensure you get a the departure day you want. Why you ask? Well, the Bagan to Mandalay boat schedule is a pretty tight one. MGRG Express only offers one time slot per day.

About The Boat Ride From Bagan to Mandalay

This was a welcome change of pace from our fast-driving, motion sickness induced Myanmar night bus experiences. The boat ride was slow, chill AF and really a great way to spend a day.

You are able to reset, catch up on journaling or writing your postcards home, etc. Hell, take a nap the entire and sip on some tea. Really and truly, enjoy the fresh air and time to yourself.

The boat is spacious with an open air deck and shaded cabin below.

You can get up and stretch your legs and head to the bow of the boat to take in the sights. Or, you can head to the back where there are lounging chairs in the sun.

MGRG Express Bagan to Mandalay by Boat

The Boat Ride Itinerary

You leave Bagan’s port at 5:30 am, and it is highly suggest you arrive 10-15 minutes before 5:30am. The boat really does ship off at 5:30 am on the dot. You can expect a full day cruise on the Irrawaddy and anticipate to arrive in Mandalay at 5:30 pm that evening.

We’re big on reviews, so a lot of our decisions we make are based on other travelers reviews and blogs. A few wrote how boring this trip was offering “nothing to look at.”

We can understand how they could say it’s boring. You really are doing nothing, but to say there is nothing to look at is a little dramatic. Sure, you’re not looking at beautiful, jaw-dropping scenery but to say “there is nothing to look at” is a lie

You cruise down the Irrawaddy River seeing locals living the river life and washing their clothes in the river while children run and play. There are boats going by, local men and boys fishing, and more. There really are tons of things to occupy your time and eyes!

bagan to mandalay by boat

As we stated above, it’s not the cheapest way to get from Bagan to Mandalay, but it really was worth the extra dollars if you have the time and are sick of buses and trains.

Where To Stay In Mandalay

Rupar Mandalar Resort

Get away from the city and relax at the outdoor pool and a spa with clean, comfortable rooms and delicious food. Your stay at Rupar Mandalar is sure to please.

If you are looking to save a few bucks but do not want to compromise location and cleanliness, then this is the place for you.

Richqueen Guesthouse 

Run by a Burmese family, it is a walking distance from some of Mandalay’s top attractions.

Hotel The Haven

This hotel offers free bikes, an on-site bar, buffet breakfast, and a swimming pool. Plus, with its central location, it’s no wonder why so many book their stay at The Haven.

Mandalay Boutique Hotel

It’s got a great atmosphere, the food is good, and they have a very friendly staff. Plus, the beds are really comfy too.

Where to Stay in Bagan

Your stay in Bagan will be in three areas, namely Old Bagan, Nyaung U, and New Bagan, with New Bagan being the best place if you are on a budget. Nyaung U has mid-range offerings, and Old Bagan has more luxurious and expensive offerings.

If you are staying at New Bagan, there are a couple of nice hotels and guesthouses to stay at.

Ostello Bello Bagan 

This location offers nice dorm beds, private rooms, and they are reasonably priced. It’s a popular hotel around Bagan too.

Northern Breeze Hotel

This hotel has the cheapest beds in Bagan and is a major bang for your buck at $10 USD a night. The staff is very nice and helpful. They also have clean rooms and serve a very good breakfast.

Arthawka Hotel

This hotel provides a pool and reasonably-priced rooms. The rooms are clean and the breakfast is nice too. 

If Nyaung U is your place of choice, there are some nice places to rest your head after a busy day.

Myanmar Han Hotel

This is one of the nicest places you can stay at while in Nyaung U. With a large swimming pool and a tropical garden setting, it is a great place to relax after a busy day touring.

The rooms are very comfortable and well equipped. Plus, everywhere is spotless, and they serve really nice local and western cuisine. The best part about this spot is that it’s an awesome value for your money.

Royal Bagan Hotel

They have comfy beds and spacious rooms, plus the whole place is really clean.

If you decide to stay at the more expensive Old Bagan, then there are relatively affordable hotels you can stay at, like the following:

Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort

This place is a great resort with a luxury feel. It features a 2-minute walk to the Irrawaddy Riverside, and it’s a quick drive to the Bagan Nyaung Oo Airport as well!

It’s rated particularly well for couples.  

Bagan Hotel River View

Your stay in Old Bagan will be better with a view! The Bagan Hotel River View has a gorgeous view of the Irrawaddy River, and is located just a few minutes away from Gawdawpalin Pagoda.

With great amenities and a perfect location, this hotel is a top pick.

Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Bagan

This is a very luxurious hotel at a good location too, but a room here might cost you a little more than you’d like to spend if you’re on a tight budget.

It’s set on a 27 acre tropical garden surrounded by ancient temples. You’ll also be able to soak in plenty of local culture, from classical Myanmar dances and art to tropical drinks and traditional Myanmar dinner. The Aureum Palace Hotel is a special experience!

For more accommodation choices and places to stay in Mandalay, you can check the latest place and prices here to secure an unforgettable Myanmar accommodation.


3 Things Not To Miss in Bagan

6 Things To Experience and Do in Mandalay

5 Wonderful Things To Do In Hpa An, Myanmar


bagan to mandalay by boat pin

For more travel tips, guides and awesome travel shots, be sure to poke around our site, follow us on Instagram @wanderingstusPinterest and on Facebook. Oh and if you have any questions, let us know in the comment section. We’re happy to answer. Or, just leave us a positive note!

Happy Travels,

– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)

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