I booked my train ride before I even got to Myanmar using Peague Travels. I booked online before hand because I heard that train tickets can sell out quickly. I paid more to get a sleeper seat because the journey is a gruesome 16 hours. I figured I would love my life a lot more if I wasn’t sitting up for the whole thing.
I paid about $30 USD. I had to submit a photocopy of my passport and pay online using credit card. Once I arrived in Myanmar I could pick up my ticket at most two days before my train departure.
The ticket office was a little bit tricky to find because it wasn’t the train station where I had to pick it up. Instead It was at the Peague Travel ticket office. About a 2 minute walk away.
Once I picked up my ticket I saw that the price listed on it was half of what I had paid-so the travel agency gets quite the commission for it Never the less, and extra $15 for peace of mind and to guarantee that my travel plans went according to schedule (I was meeting a friend in Mandalay) was worth it to me.
I was told to check in about hour to thirty minutes before hand. I was taking my time chilling at the hostel until it was time to leave and then I hailed a taxi and headed to the train station that was nearby where I was staying. Even though the train station wasn’t far there was sooo much traffic. I was relaxed in the back seat of the train with plenty of time to spare until I looked at the clock I couldn’t believe how much time had passed! It was already thirty minutes before my train left.
It was then that I freaked out and told my taxi driver to hurry. He was very kind and as soon as traffic cleared he zoomed towards the train station. Luckily, it was right around the corner.
As I got out of the train I was in a bit of a panick and a man asked me for my ticket I showed him and he told me to follow him. I had a broken toe at the time and so he asked to hold my bag. Burmese are very friendly and I found them very helpful towards me and my broken toe so I didn’t think much of it.
Then I passed the ticket checkers, who were in uniform, and I realized that the guy helping me didn’t have uniform. It was then that I realized he must not work for the train station. I told him that I could carry my own bag but he insisted. My car was pretty far down and I did have broken toe so I figured if he made me pay him it wouldn’t be the end of the world because it really was helpful .
He took me straight to my car-which may have been confusing otherwise and put my stuff down for me. I thanked him and then sure enough he told me to pay him one thousand. Whatever-a dollar was worth a lot more to him than to me.
My train carriage had 4 sleepier seats. The best way to describe them would be as couch bunk beds. Luckily I was on the bottom-I don’t know how I would have gotten up with a broken toe.
Each bed comes with a pillow and a sheet. The look a bit stained so whether of not you want to use them is up to you. I just put the sheet over my seat because I figured it was washed more often. I had my own light travel sleeping bag but it was so hot it wasn’t necessary.
There was no air-conditioning on the trains. Instead the windows are left open. There are no screens on the window which is nice for being able to take photographs. You can pull the shutter down or a glass window but you won’t want to do this during the day because the breeze is nice. But at night it gets chilly so you will want to close the windows.
I was in a cabin with three other Japanese people, which I was very happy about. Couldn’t have found a more quite or respectful culture to bunk with.
As soon as I got in there were children selling me water and fruit. One girl offered me water for one thousand which I knew was way to high so I said no thank you and that I already had some water. She then lowered the price to 400-which is normal. I agreed because I knew I would be needing lots of water on this journey. As I gave her my money she quickly jumped the price up to 500 with a cheeky smile. I laughed at her and told her she was sneaky but agreed anyway because her wit won me over.
About ten minutes later a train worker came through passing out free water bottles.
The water bottles were small though so the fifty cents I spent on water was still worth it.
There is dinner available on the train but I am not sure at what price. As well, there didn’t look like there were many vegetarian options. To be safe and make sure that you have something that you will enjoy and at a fair price I would recommend buying something before hand and bringing it on the train with you.
The train ride to Mandalay is about sixteen hours- when In reality it is not really that far. The trains are just slow as molasses-and quite bumpy too. I usually choose trains over buses because of my terrible motion sickness but these trains did no make for a smooth ride. But at least there is no winding and turning.
Because of the bumpiness it makes for some mad skills trying to se the squat toilets. There are Western style toilets, but those also require skill to use since you won’t want to sit down on them-chances are they will be covered in pee. As well, there is no tissue paper on the trains or a place to throw your tissue if you use your own. Instead, there is a hose to rinse yourself off.
Outside the toilets is a sink but no soap, so just bring hand sanitizer with you.
When it came time for bed it cooled down a lot. You will want to make sure that you at least have pants and a long shirt. I had a thin sleeping bag liner but it didn’t keep my warm enough so I ended up pulling out my traditional Burmese skirt that I bought (which is really just a big piece of fabric) and used that as another layer.
The sleep was bumpy but since you end up going to bed so early you do get enough sleep. By the time I woke up in the morning I had time to go to the bathroom and stare out the window for bit until we suddenly arrived in Mandalay. I thought that I would arrive later but we arrived around 8 a.m.
Overall the train ride went by super fast and I enjoyed my experience. You just may want a shower once you arrive.