In general, a cycling trip to and in Myanmar requires some preparation. Whether your bring your own bike, or you’ll rent one, you have to organise a few things beforehand.
Transporting your bike to Myanmar
If you are not entering the country overland, and you want to ride your own bike, chances are big you’ll have to transport your bike by airplane. Most airlines allow passengers to bring their bikes as excess and/or odd-sized luggage. Be prepared to pay substantially for it. How much this is, depends on the regulations of airlines and their contractors (the last time we flew with China Southern airlines and we payed 350 euro’s – from Amsterdam to Yangon). Some airlines require the bike be packed in a box, some airlines are less explicit about that, although they might appreciate it when you do so (and you would probably too).
Although most airlines have stated their regulations on their websites, it is advisable to contact them directly in order to confirm or elaborate on this information.
Boxing/packing your bike
Boxing or packing your bike otherwise is not difficult but you need tools, time and a box or some sort of a cover.
How you obtain a box for your bike? You can buy special transport boxes or protective covers, but they are heavy and/or costly, and might not fit your bike. A cheaper and lighter solution is asking your local bike dealer for an empty transport box. Next, detach and/or adjust the parts on your bike that are sharp, pungent, vulnerable or otherwise hindering undamaged transport before putting it in the box. In general, this concerns pedals, handlebars, the frontwheel, the stand, and drinking flasks.
YouTube provides loads of videos on how to do it for several types of bikes and different setups – on our channel you’ll find a small selection of videos. Dutch readers can consult this illustrated manual provided by De Vakantiefietser (an Amsterdam-based shop providing bikes, gear and advice on world cycling).
Reusing the box for your return
If you are returning to the place where you’ve started your trip, most hotels and guesthouses are happy to store the box (in which you also can put related stuff and tools for boxing that you don’t need during your trip) for you, awaiting for your return and reuse. If not, you’ll have to trash the box somewhere and prove your luck finding a new one in the town from where you are flying out.
Transport to and from the airport
If you box or pack your bike at home (at the airport is possible but seems very complicated to do, since you need to bring all the right stuff), you need transport to get the boxed bikes to the airport. A minivan, pickup truck or station car will be required for that.
In case of returning to your starting point and re-using the box, you need transport from the airport to your hotel. As Burmese are creative and flexible in transporting nearly everything in or on no matter what vehicle, you’ll easily find transport for the boxed bikes. A minivan (even when it contains ten seats) will do, but chances are big your box fits the most commonly used car by taxi-drivers, the Toyota Probox. The backseat has to be folded down, and drivers will probably charge you some extra for this.
An indication of the costs: taking a minivan from Yangon airport to our hotel close to the Inya Lake, we payed 20.000 kyats (about 12 euro’s/15 US dollars) for two boxed bikes in a minivan; on our way out we arranged two Proboxes (one carrying two boxed bikes and one passenger and the other one passenger and all luggage) we payed 14.000 kyats in total.
Most likely you’ll bring several bike bags. When entering the country overland, probably they will be just hanging on your bike, so no special advice for that case. If you arrive by airplane, you might want to bundle all the bags – then the risk of losing one or more pieces is the smallest, and many airlines allow you only one piece of check-in luggage without any extra costs.
We have very good experiences with the light weight, striped or checkered polypropylene laundry/shopping bags. They are sturdy enough to last three or four trips, and if less, it is no problem since they are so cheap (around 4 euro’s each). They are also easy to take with you during your travels (in case you can’t leave them together with the bike-box, see previous section on transporting your bike), since you van fold them easily. You’ll find them in many online stores, as well in local shops. Also, the IKEA FRAKTA zippered bag might work out, but we’re not sure about the dimensions are allowed for check-in luggage.
Gear/what to bring?
General packing lists for cycle trips are also valid for a trip in Myanmar. But, there are several explicit suggestions that can prepare you even better:
- be sure to have a strong headlight on your bike: street lighting in Myanmar can be quite limited. Therefore, having a headlight that provides ample light can keep you sure and safe.
- for female travellers in their fertile years: tampons are not easy either impossible to find in Myanmar was our experience in 2018. Sanitary towels are available and are of acceptable quality. If you require the ultra-thin, high absorbent quality, then it is wise to bring those yourself.
- although always great to have, carrying the point-it booklet or app in Myanmar will support communication in an efficient and entertaining fashion.
- if you have any high tech stuff attached on your bike, you’ll probably won’t find any replacement in Myanmar (although Bikeworld Myanmar in Yangon has a selection of high quality accessories and bikes)- so bring them with you if can’t do without it in case of breakdown.
- since temples are plentiful, and if you enjoy visiting them, wearing sandals that are easy in taking off and back on again, are a significant contribution to the enjoyment of these visits.
- Although wearing bikini’s and tight swimsuits is not frowned upon in modern or more-star hotels, swimming in highly covered bathing suits, or even fully clothed is not a rare custom for women. Therefore, if you are sensitive for social pressure, if you want to avoid possible frowns, or just want to blend in on that part, be prepared to wear something covering when swimming in area’s where this is the custom. Shorts and short sleeved shirts of fast-drying materials will do (chances are big you will be carrying them anyway).
- using sunscreen -other than thanaka- doesn’t appear to be widespread (yet) in Myanmar, although advertisement generally displays people with fairer skin tones than seen on the streets. Because we brought our own, we did not look for sunscreen very consciously, but as far as we are aware it is difficult to not available in shops or supermarkets.
- If you’re not a tight sleeper: bring earbuds. Street noise or music coming from donation ceremonies or other festivities can be abundant, at all conceivable times.
Everyone visiting Myanmar needs a visa in order to enter the country. The Lonely Planet website contains current and general information on this subject.
It would be a mild understatement to say that healthcare quality and availability in Myanmar did not keep pace with those of its neighbours. Although most basic needs are available in small drug stores of health centers in smaller cities, carrying them with you can be clever. Think about paracetamol, oral rehydration salts, disinfectant swabs, band aids etcetera. Also, visit a tropical doctor to get advice on the necessary vaccinations and necessity of taking malaria profylaxis (depending on the region you plan to visit).