Myanmar has been much slower to open up to tourism than other countries in Southeast Asia, and many of us still question whether it is a safe and easy country to travel through. The answer to that question is yes. While some areas still remain off limits most of the country is safe and easy for backpackers to travel, including crossing over the Myanmar/Thailand border. One of the easiest and well-managed crossings of that region is Myawaddy to Mae Sot.
Myawaddy is a town in the southeastern part of Myanmar, in the Kayin State. It is situated about 3 hours east of Hpa-An, a town becoming increasingly popular for tourists due to its picturesque, unspoiled landscapes. Most backpackers that choose to travel overland will either use Hpa-An as their first destination in Myanmar, or their last one.
If you are using Hpa-An as your last destination then there is a way to get from Hpa-An, over the border and up to the northern city of Chiang Mai in the same day. From Hpa-An, book transport to Myawaddy. This will usually be a private vehicle because of road conditions, and you can book this through any guesthouse in Hpa-An (we used Soe Brothers Guesthouse). The cost is 10,000 kyat per person and the journey takes about 3 – 4 hours, leaving Hpa-An early morning (7am or 9am).
Once you arrive at Myawaddy you walk 5 minutes along the main road to immigration. Immigration into Thailand is very easy for most nationalities. There are no long lines and no one to charge you excessive fees; just a stamp in your passport and you’re on your way.
The friendship bridge connects Myawaddy to Mae Sot and takes 5 minutes to walk across. On the other side you will find ATM’s and banks to get Thai baht. Note that you cannot change kyat in Thailand so you must change it before you cross the border.
In Mae Sot there will be share Taxi’s that take people to the other side of Mae Sot where the minivan leaves to Tak Bus Station. Take the share taxi for 100 baht per person and then take the minivan for 78 baht per person. The minivan will take approximately 1 hour.
Once you arrive at the main bus station in Tak there are many buses going to Chiang Mai. You can choose a VIP bus that will cost around 230 baht, or a standard bus that will cost 180 baht. Both have air conditioning, one is just a little more fancier than the other. You can also get food and drink at the Tak Bus Station for your journey.
The journey from Tak to Chiang Mai takes approximately 4.5 hours, stopping once on the way. It will drop you at the Chiang Mai Bus Station, which is located about 3 kilometres outside of the Chiang Mai centre. A taxi should cost no more than 50 baht per person to get you to the centre of town.
Leaving Hpa-An Myanmar at 7 am should get you to Chiang Mai Thailand at around 5pm depending on layover times and traffic. If you’re on a budget or prefer adventure travel then this is a great option to get you from Myanmar to Thailand without spending too much money.