If you are travelling to Myanmar by land from Bangkok then the most convenient border crossing to take it at Mae Sot / Myawaddy.
Getting to Mae Sot from Bangkok is relatively simple however our trip was made a little more complicated as we only just arrived at Mo Chit, the northern bus station, in time to catch the VIP bus and due to our last minute arrival there were not enough seats left for us both to get a ticket. One of those ‘oh f*ck’ why didn’t we get up earlier situations!
Catching the VIP bus to Mae Sot – how not to make our mistake…
The VIP bus to Mae Sot departs Bangkok’s northern bus station (Mo Chit) at 9.00am but double check times as this may change. You need to allow plenty of time to get from Bangkok to the bus station (especially if you are staying in Sukhumvit) as rush hour traffic will be in full swing. This was our big mistake, a journey that would only usually take 20 minutes took over 45.
Our Plan B – just incase you end up in the same situation!
Incase you made our mistake and are now sat in the bus station trying to work out how the hell you’ll get to Mae Sot, here’s how:
The next VIP buses don’t run until the evening, which wasn’t an option for us. We had to be at Mae Sot that day so we could travel to Myanmar the following day as we had meetings in Yangon to get to. However there is another bus going to nearby Tak which departs Mo Chit at 10.30 – go buy your ticket from the counter now!
We arrived at Tak at around 6.30pm – as soon as we got off the bus we were asked if we were travelling onwards to Mae Sot. We said yes and were taken to buy another ticket for a mini but to Mae Sot. Around 20 minutes later we set off in a mini bus to Mae Sot – the journey took around an hour and a half.
Tak bus station
Mini bus from Tak to Mae Sot
Mae Sot to the Myanmar border
We recommend staying overnight in Mae Sot to recharge your batteries and then make the border crossing and trip to Hpa An the next morning. We stayed at the Hop Inn which offers very clean, good value rooms (550 thb for a double room with breakfast included).
After a good nights sleep, we got a taxi to take us to the Myanmar border in the morning. It only takes 10 – 15 minutes to get from Mae Sot town to the border.
The border crossing
When you get out of the taxi, stay to your left and you will see the Thai immigration department who will take your departure card and put an exit stamp in your password (just like at an airport if you were flying out of Thailand). Double check that immigration have stamped the right date before you leave (we’ve heard a few reports of them still using the stamp from the day before, which causes problems when you reach the Myanmar officials).
Then you can begin the walk over the Thai/Myanmar friendship bridge which takes around 10 – 15 minutes to cross. Once you reach the end of the bridge you will be greeted by Myanmar immigration officials who will take you into their office to check your visa and take your picture.
Thai / Myanmar Friendship Bridge
The Burmese side of the bridge
From the Myawaddy border to Hpa An
When you reach the Myanmar border you will not only be met by immigration but another guy who claims to arrange all of the taxi’s/transport will also be hanging around. If he’s not here, he will approach you as you exit immigration and head to the parked up cars (immediately in front of you). We were a little dubious about organising a taxi with him but all the drivers hung around him and he definitely seems to be the key coordinator of some kind of taxi syndicate. If we went directly to a driver they pointed straight back to him.
There were some mini buses parked on the opposite site of the road but as we were the only ones who had crossed the border at that time we didn’t fancy waiting however many hours until it filled up enough seats to depart… if they we’re even going to Hpa An!
The price per person for a shared taxi was 400 thb. The front seat of our car was already taken and rather than wait for another passenger, which would of also meant a lot less space in the back for us, we asked if we could pay for a third person but leave the space empty. The man in charge of the taxi’s agreed on 1100 thb for the two of us to have the back seat to ourselves.
The journey to Hpa-An took around 4 – 4.5 hours and there’s some great scenery to enjoy on the way. We left Myawaddy at 10am and arrived at our guest house, the Galaxy Motel (we recommend, clean rooms and friendly owners), at just after 2pm.
View from the road
Beautiful scenery on route
All in all this is a pretty hassle free journey (even if you make our mistake) and there are no random ‘tourist fee’s’ at the Myanmar border either.