The perfect Yangon itinerary | 3 days in Yangon

Welcome to Yangon, Myanmar; a city that fascinates as much as it frustrates, and somehow (just somehow), finds its way into your travelling heart. The former capital of Myanmar (or Burma as it’s probably better known), is usually the first stop for most tourists to the country.  But, unlike the rest of Southeast Asia, Yangon (like the rest of Myanmar), is still relatively new to tourism and lacks some of the infrastructure that you might be used to. Want to explore it? Well, here is our perfect 3 days in Yangon itinerary. A Yangon travel guide to make sure you make the most out of your time in this vibrant city!

3 days in Yangon

Why go to Yangon?

Now we’re sure that you’re already set on heading to Yangon and probably even exploring further afield in this fascinating country, but just in case you need a bit more inspiration as to why Yangon should be on your bucket list, read on.

  • Thousands of taxis honk their way down traffic-choked streets. The sun beats down fiercely on covered shoulders. And longyi-clad people stream past us, hopping across gaping holes in the pavements as they go about their daily business. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but going to Yangon or Rangoon as the city was formerly known, provides this kind of adventure.
  • It seems that in this day and age, travelling has got to easy and accessible, leading to over tourism issues, which in all honesty can be hard to see (and also know that we are all part of that problem). But Yangon and Myanmar are different. They are so raw and unexplored, and also not the easiest to get to or around, otherwise everyone would be doing it, and that for us was super rewarding.
  • The Burmese people are some of the friendliest we’ve met in all our travels. Want to go to a random person’s place for breakfast? That may well happen. Be taken around temples by a local with no expectations of a ‘tip’, because they are interested as to why you’re visiting their country or to better learn English? That’s pretty likely too.
  • The food is incredible, and cheap (actually most things in this country are cheap, and that’s even by Southeast Asia standards).
3 days in Yangon itinerary - colonial buildings

Our 3 days in Yangon itinerary

So, what does the perfect 3 days in Yangon look like? If you’re looking for the ideal 3 day Yangon itinerary then we would recommend the following:

  • Day 1 – Walk the city streets, heritage buildings and eat tasty noodles
  • Day 2 – See the Shwedagon Pagoda, relax in Kandawgyi park and sundowners with a view
  • Day 3 – Yangon circular train, Rangoon Tea House, Yangon street art and dinner on 19th Street

How long do you need in Yangon?

It’s a city of polar opposites but one that we found utterly intriguing. In fact, out of all the cities we visited, it ranks up there with Hanoi as one of our favourites. And our five days there just didn’t feel like enough.

However, we’ve boiled this down to curate the perfect itinerary for 3 days in Yangon, and we do believe that with our suggested itinerary you’ll definitely have enough time to explore the very best that this amazing city has to offer.

Although if you are able to spend a bit more time in Yangon, then don’t fear as we have added some bonus activities so you can extend your itinerary if you want.

Yangon itinerary - 3 days in Yangon - Rickshaw

Getting to Yangon city from the Airport

We imagine that, like us, you’ll arrive into Yangon at their International Airport. It is the best-connected airport in the country (although we departed Myanmar flying from Mandalay to Chiang Mai which was a great route). But, if you’re still looking for flights to Yangon, check out the latest deals on Skyscanner.

By taxi: By far the easiest way to get into downtown Yangon is by ordering a taxi on arrival. We often rave about Grab, Southeast Asia’s answer to Uber, in our articles, and the great news is that it also works in Yangon. So, if you’re similar to us and don’t really want too much hassle when you first arrive into a new country, get the app and book a taxi when you clear customs. The 20km drive from the airport to downtown takes about 30 minutes and costs 10,000 Kyat or MMK (7.00 USD/5.50 GBP).

By bus: Alternatively, if you’re more on the adventurous side, or just trying to save a bit more money, the shuttle bus from Yangon airport to downtown is a really great option. There are two airport bus options (red and green routes) operating daily between 5.00am and 10.00pm. It’s really easy to use, with pick up outside both terminals 1 and 3, with the routes ending at the Central Railway station. If you’re not sure which route to take, ask one of the helpful staff in the airport.  They take a bit longer to do the 20km route, around an hour, but at 500 MMK (0.35 USD/0.30 GBP) it’s cheap as chips.

Bus in Yangon

If you’re instead coming in from the Thailand/Myanmar border (Mai Sai/Tachiliek), then you’ll arrive into Yangon Aung Mingalar bus station, which is 23km from the city, so from there you’ll also need to jump into a taxi to get you to your accommodation.

Note: if you’re wanting to take the bus route, it is a long journey, and unless you’re a huge long bus travel fan, you’ll definitely want to consider the flight option instead.

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Getting around Yangon

Walking

We believe that the best way to explore a city is on foot! And in a city like Yangon, it is definitely our recommended way to get around, especially wandering around the downtown area. It’s worth noting though that it can get pretty hot and humid in the city (especially from March to May).

Yangon itinerary - 3 days in Yangon - wander the streets

Taxis

If you’re looking to go further afield than downtown, to the likes of the Shwegadon Pagoda then make sure that you’ve got Grab to hail yourself a taxi. They are very inexpensive in comparison to western standards, although you’ll sometimes get pretty old cars, and lack of aircon in a traffic jam can be excruciating. With that in mind, you may want to give rush hour travel a miss, the roads get clogged.

Trains & buses

The train network isn’t the best, but you’ll get to experience it with one of our suggested activities: riding the Yangon Circular train line. But we wouldn’t necessarily use it or the buses to get around the city, from afar it seemed both these options were slow.

Note: Pretty unusual for Southeast Asia, as you’ll normally see them zipping around everywhere, but in Yangon, motorbikes and scooters are oddly absent… they are banned in most of the city so you won’t be able to rent them like you do in many other parts of the region as a cheap alternative for getting around.

Day 1 in Yangon

Explore the Yangon city streets

Once you’ve arrived into the city and dropped your bags at your accommodation, head straight back out to explore downtown Yangon. It’s time to understand what makes this city tick.

The downtown area is wildly vibrant, with pop-up markets on unnamed streets, you’ll find yourself weaving from the lower streets and into China town, trying to avoid men lumbering goods on their backs, dodging past the fresh fruit and veg lining the middle of the road, and probably leave wide-eyed at the variety of goods on sale…

Yangon itinerary - 3 days in Yangon - street vendors

Top tip: Day 1 of your 3 days in Yangon itinerary will take in quite a bit of walking, so it’s worth upgrading those flip flops for something a little sturdier.

If you’re looking for more of a full day city tour with a tour guide to share more on the history of the city, we’d recommend that you check out this one. It’s definitely a good option especially if you only have 1 day in Yangon.

Admire the colonial buildings

While wandering the downtown area, we’d also recommend that you look at doing a walking tour of the old colonial buildings in the area. Great Britain was in control of Burma from the 1850s and definitely left its mark with numerous colonial style buildings now dotting the Yangon skyline.

Some of the most impressive buildings to make sure you visit are the City Hall, the Central Train Station, the High Court and the famous Strand Hotel. Which you may want to make into a longer stop, for some afternoon drinks.

Yangon itinerary - 3 days in Yangon - train station

We were pretty surprised to find out that Yangon has the highest number of colonial era buildings in all of South East Asia. You’ll find hundreds of British-inspired buildings on a small patch of space in downtown.

Yangon Colonial Buildings Map

Dinner at a local Noodle Shop

If you’re in Yangon, then you can’t miss out on trying some of the best dishes in the region. Just like in most of the region, slurping a bowl of noodles at dinner time, while people-watching from the front of a noodle shop is a way of life.

Although for some reason  this felt like a much more authentic experience. It wasn’t on the main strip of a holiday destination, or a westernised night market. Every time we went to a noodle store, we were the only tourists there, surrounded by many happy laughing families. Something that we’ll always remember.

3 days in Yangon itinerary - shan noodles

Most guidebooks will send you to 999 Shan Noodle Shop (and there is nothing wrong with that!), but our favourite was Aung Mingalar Noodle Shop, followed closely by Shan Kitchen, which is also handily just over the road. A bowl of the steaming best will set you back about 3,000 MMK (2.10 USD/1.70 GBP).

Location for Aung Mingalar: No.34, Corner or Nawaday Street and Tsp, Bo Yar Nyunt Rd, Yangon

Open: 7.00am to 9.00pm

Day 2 in Yangon

Sunrise at Shwedagon Pagoda

The best way to start day 2 of your Yangon itinerary is to wake up early and head to one of the most iconic landmarks in Myanmar: the Shwedagon Pagoda.

A must-do when visiting Yangon, the Shwedagon is the most impressive and influential pagoda within Yangon and perhaps all of Myanmar (of course in Bagan temples abound, and no comparisons should be made).

Although many guides will tell you to get there for sunrise, it’s also good to point out that this is the busiest time of the day at the pagoda. Even though we went in low season it was very busy with local Buddhists, arriving for morning prayers. So, if you are looking for that perfect shot, without people of the pagoda, then it might be better to head off after the working day would normally start. Disclaimer: this is a slightly untested theory!

Street Art Yangon - Shwedagon Pagoda

There is an entrance fee for foreigners, and at time of writing it was 10,000 MMK (7.00 USD/5.50 GBP).

Tip: If you are keen to walk there, it’s definitely a lovely walk in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. We passed many monks and locals who were starting their day at the same time.

Location: Ar Zar Ni, Road Pha Yar Gyi Ward, Yangon

Open: 4.00am to 10.00pm daily

Stroll around Kandawgyi Park

Yangon is busy at best, frenetic at worst so you need places to unwind from the hectic pace. We loved this park for being totally serene. And have added it as the next stop for your Yangon itinerary given its location right near to the Shwedagon Pagoda.

The park and its lake are not really frequented by tourists and while doing a lap of it, we met virtually no-one. As with most outdoor activities in Yangon, you’ll get pretty sweaty when making your way around so either pack lots of water or cool down at one of the lakeside restaurants with a sugary iced tea.

Yangon itinerary - 3 days in Yangon - Lake Kandawgyi in Yangon Myanmar

The lake is also a fascinating look into why we think Yangon is so unspoilt: there are so many untapped opportunities to rope in tourists – they could offer rowboats, or ferry people out to the impressive structures in the middle – but instead, you’re left to your own devices. Instagrammers will also love the lake since it offers loads of photo opportunities, including a temple-like restaurant complex (Karaweik Hall), the lake itself and vistas of water lilies.

If you want to walk on the boardwalk near Karaweik Hall there is a 2,000 MMK fee (1.40 USD/1.10 GBP). Otherwise it’s free to enter the park.

Location: Kan Yeik Tha Road, Yangon, Myanmar

Open: 8.00am to 10.00pm

Bonus: If you like this lake, and even the walks around it, we highly recommend that you look at traveling to the nearby Inya Lake – it’s a really famous Yangon lake, chronicled in many local novels, movies and songs. Check out more info on that in our bonus activities section.

Drinks while watching the sunset

There are now many rooftop bars in Yangon, all with varying levels of sophistication and, of course, price. But it’s the rundown, slightly over-the-hill Alfa hotel that is a little known gem of a spot for a sundown cocktail.

The hotel itself is still in circa-1980, with pine panelling, a slightly dodgy elevator and yellowing carpets down every corridor, and the Sapphire Lounge bar doesn’t offer too much more: some twinkling fairy lights and a slightly shocked-looking bartender.

You’ll probably have the place virtually to yourself (there were two other guests there, in a place that seats over 150), and you’ll have the best view of Yangon, all for the price of a cheap cocktail or a Chang beer.

Yangon itinerary - 3 days in Yangon - Schwedagon Pagoda at night, in Yangon, Myanmar

Important: Based on what we saw of the lobby, lift and corridors, we definitely would not recommend staying here. If you’re looking for some recommendations, check out some of our suggestions below.

Location: No. 41, Yawmingyi Qr., Nawaday Road, Yangon

Open: 3.00pm to 3.00am daily (or so it claims on their website, but with us the only customers by 9pm they looked like they were getting ready to shut shop!).

Day 3 in Yangon

Take a cruise on the Yangon Circle Line

For your final day of your Yangon itinerary, we’d suggest that you take a trip on the circular line to get a real feel for the city, beyond the downtown alleys.

Departing from the central train station (so maybe one you can cross off your Colonial Buildings trail on day 1) and doing a loop of the outskirts of Yangon. You’ll share your journey with normal commuters.

Expect people sitting on the train floor, eating their breakfast, and food sellers joining at different stops, with live animals and fruits of different origin. At time of writing, some of the line was under construction and it only went a third of the way; more than sufficient for at least half a day out.

If you’re keen to have a local show you the ropes with on the Circular Line, why not look at this guided tour as an option.

Note: When fully operational, this trip can take up to 5 hours so plan a day for it and bring your patience.

Refuel at the Rangoon Tea House

In our five days in Yangon, we headed to this restaurant on 3 separate occasions. It really is that good.

An outpost for tourists and expats alike, the tea house is more than just an airconditioned sanctuary in the city centre. It’s the ideal place to try mohinga, a fish-based soup that is the national dish of Myanmar. It specialises in delicious, milky Burmese tea with a full menu on different ways to drink it, varying in sweetness and richness (our recommendation: cho saint).

3 days in Yangon - eat mohinga at Rangoon tea house

Rangoon Tea House offers a dizzying array of ‘street snacks’, from banana croquettes to potato samosas that will satisfy any appetite. And honestly everything on their menu filled us with delight. Go here as soon as you can – you won’t regret it, as it’s a must do in Yangon!

Location: Ground Floor, 77-79, Pansodan Street, Lower Middle Block, Yangon

Open: 7.00am to 10.00pm daily

Check out the Yangon Street Art Alleys

We had no idea before we went to Yangon that it had a bit of a burgeoning street art scene. And only found out about it from speaking to the lovely manager from the O’Thentic Brasserie (a great spot for breakfast if you need a recommendation).

We loved the street art in Yangon so much that we’ve also created a full article about it, just to share with you all the details behind the alleys and a handy map of where to find them. Check out that Yangon Street Art guide here.

3 days in Yangon itinerary - street art

But, if you want the skinny, essentially Yangon boasts a number of street alley gardens, stretching from 29th to 42nd street. Previously rubbish dumps, a local NGO converted them into ‘garden alleys’; safe spaces for kids filled with street art and increasingly attracting attention and investment from overseas. Play sepak trawaw (a volleying foot game) or football with the kids, or head to the swings while admiring the murals.

Yangon Street Art Map

Dinner on 19th Street

And for dinner, it’s back into the heart of downtown. The late and great Anthony Bourdain loved Yangon. His favourite place to eat? 19th Street.

So, go there at dinner time and you’ll find barbeque stands pop up on both sides of the street, peddling grilled meats and vegetables. As with all street food, you’ll need a stronger stomach unless you stick with the tried and tested, in this case Kaung Myat, which was Bourdain’s favourite pick.

3 days in Yangon itinerary - kebabs on 19th street

Location: 19th Street, Yangon

What do you think of our 3 days in Yangon itinerary? If there’s anything that’s not on this travel blog then let us know in the comments below or get in touch with us.

Interactive 3 days in Yangon itinerary Map

Where to stay in Yangon

Looking for some of our best recommendations for accommodation in Yangon? Below we’ve chosen our top pick from each price range, all located not too far from downtown Yangon, in the heart of the action.

Budget: Any backpacker who has stayed in Yangon downtown will likely tell you that one of the best hostels in town is Scott 31st Street. So, if you’re on a smaller budget this is the place for you, it comes with a friendly atmosphere, is in the heart of downtown, has good wifi and clean rooms. Everything a traveller needs.

Mid-range: If we were back in Yangon tomorrow, we’d look to stay at Hotel G Yangon – it’s where we stayed during our first visit and is an excellent choice. Set not far from Sule Pagoda, and easy to walk to downtown or the Shwedagon, you even have some of the best restaurants in town on your doorstep.

Luxury: And if your budget is a bit more expansive, then check out the Sule Shangri-La. It’s located around the corner from the Bogyoke Aung Market, just down the road from the Sule Pagoda and offers 5* luxury.

Bonus: Additional activities to add to your Yangon itinerary

If the above list didn’t tickle your fancy, or you’re just wanting to add more to your Yangon travel itinerary, here are a few other what to do in Yangon ideas for you:

Bogyoke Aung market

Also known as the Scott Market (as the British used to call it), the Bogyoke market is a sprawling covered market which boasts over 2000 stalls and vendors looking to ply their trade. It’s absolutely jammed full of local crafts and souvenirs that you can scoop up for a good price, plus heaps of silk garments including the traditional sarong-style ‘longyi’ you’ll see on the streets of Yangon. The main attraction at this market, however, is the jewellery and gems, as you can find high quality gold, diamond and jade jewellery up for grabs.

That all said, the market is obviously quite a big tourist attraction (so expect crowds) and we wouldn’t advise buying jewellery there unless you really know what you’re doing.

Image credit: yisris/Flickr

Location: Bo Gyoke Rd, Pabedan

Open: 9.00am – 5.30pm Tuesdays to Sundays (closed Mondays)

Sule Pagoda

It’s one of the largest landmarks in Yangon and visible from most of the city centre, as the Sule Pagoda is perched literally at the epicentre, the junction of Sule Pagoda Road and Mahabandoola Road.

Reaching nearly 50 metres, this imposing golden temple (with its signature golden dome) dates back over 2,000 years and was initially not just a pagoda but also a meeting place for the King Thayawaddy and his advisors.

There was talk that the pagoda would be demolished once the Shwedagon Pagoda was built but due to its great location, it was decided instead that the British would construct a road network around it, hence it now taking its prime place in the city.

3 days in Yangon itinerary - Sule Pagoda

We weren’t too enamoured with the Sule Pagoda – it was quite rundown and a little grimy when we visited – but at only 3,000 MMK (2.10 USD /1.70 GBP) it’s worth a quick turn, particularly if you’re in the area visiting some of the colonial buildings or the street art.

Location: Junction of Sule Pagoda Road

Open: 4.00am – 10.00pm daily

Inya Lake

If Kandawgyi Lake wasn’t enough for you, you can head to the largest lake in Yangon: Inya. The surrounding area covers over 37 acres so you really can spend time just wandering around and admiring the beautifully manicured gardens and, of course, the lake itself.

Originally constructed as a reservoir dam back in 1882 by the colonial British, nowadays the area is where the rich of Yangon keep their homes. Actually the legendary Aung San Su Kyi even spent 15 years there during her house arrest!

Other than just strolling around the gardens you can knock golf balls into the lake, ride the old ferris wheel or try one of the many restaurants flanking the park.

Image credit: Thrillseekr/Flickr

Location: West Bank of Inya Lake, Pyay Rd

Botataung Pagoda

Another pagoda but, if you have the time, we’d recommend it just for the experience. Botataung pagoda (also known as Botahtaung Pagoda) was built more than 2,500 years ago and is important as it has a sacred hair of the Buddha enshrined within it. This large golden complex on the riverbank was actually destroyed by bombs during World War II but luckily was rebuilt exactly accordingly to the original plans in 1948.

There is a large main stupa surrounded by smaller ones, as well as a huge bronze Buddha seated within a large glass enclosure. It was this pavilion that started our own strange journey at this pagoda as a local man offered us a free guided tour around the complex, telling us tales not only of the property but of Buddhism itself.

Location: Corner of Strand Road and Botahtaung Pagoda Road

Open: 6.00am – 8.00pm daily

Kheng Hock Keong Temple

If you’re a fan of Chinese-style Buddhist temples, then make a turn at Kheng Hock Keong. This beautiful temple, located in Chinatown, was built in 1861 by the Hokkien community in honour of the sea goddess, Mazu. Meaning ‘temple in celebration of prosperity’ the temple includes the large central building as well as two separate altars flanking it, Bao Sheng Da Di (medicine) on the left and Guan Gong (loyalty and bravery) on the right.

Location: 426-432 Strand Rd

Open: 5.00am – 9.00pm daily

Best ways to get around Myanmar

Just in case you are looking for what else to do in this amazing country, we have put together a full 3 week Myanmar itinerary, which showcases all the best spots, must see attractions and everything you need to know about exploring Myanmar.

So, what are the best ways to depart from Yangon and get around the country?

Flights: The fastest way to reach many parts of Myanmar is to jump on one of their domestic airlines. Overall, the experiences we had with flights were very good – safe, cheap and fast. And if you’ve got a bit less time in Myanmar then it’s definitely the best way to explore the country. Check out the latest prices on Skyscanner here.

Buses: The buses in Myanmar were great, we were actually really surprised by the great service on offer. So, although the roads are a bit slow, the buses are clean, very affordable, generally run to schedule and are, in our opinion, the best way to explore Myanmar. We were particularly impressed by the service provided by JJ Express. Check out the latest prices on Bookaway. We love that they have 24-hour online support and many routes have great cancellation policies.

3 days in Yangon itinerary - JJ Express bus ticket

Trains: If you stick to our Yangon itinerary, then it’s very likely that after a few hours on the Circle Line you might not want to be stuck on the local trains over long distances. Our original plan was to take the train from Yangon to Bagan, but having heard others taking over 20 hours to make this journey, and having seen a video of a very bumpy, dusty and uncomfortable ride, we skipped on that.

What is the best time of year to visit Yangon?

The best weather in Yangon is from November to February. However, you may find that there are more travellers in these peak months, and accommodation can be more expensive with fewer options.

We actually travelled around Myanmar in May, had absolutely perfect weather and often found that we had attractions to ourselves! So, as an alternative to the peak months of November to February it’s also worth considering the hotter months before the rainy season arrives, from March to May.

But we’d definitely suggest that you don’t visit Yangon in the rainy season, which runs from June to October. As with most monsoons in Southeast Asia, the rain can be torrential.

Monsoon in Yangon

What camera equipment and other gear do we use?

We’re living proof that you don’t need the most expensive gear to travel the world and take good photos. Here are some of our must have items that make it into the packing list for all our travels.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a visa to visit Yangon?

Yes. In all likelihood you will need to get a visa to visit Myanmar and Yangon (unless you have visa exemption). However, many countries can get an e-visa, which allows you to stay up to 28 days (or longer) for tourism.

Why not check out the iVisa service, which can help you with your application?

Where can I get good wifi in Yangon?

We loved the wifi speed at the Hotel G! Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, they have a great restaurant on the ground floor which offers great internet speeds.

Alternatively, try working at the Rangoon Tea House – we set up there for a few hours while doing some work, and wifi was great.

Is Yangon safe to travel?

Yangon is one of the safest cities in Myanmar but you should always exercise caution.

Who is the most famous person from Myanmar?

Aung San Suu Kyi, is a Burmese politician, Nobel Peace Prize winner and reknowned author. She became one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners because of her 15 year house arrest during the country’s uprisings.

She is currently State Counsellor, a position within government that is similar to Prime Minister of Myanmar.


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2 Comments

  1. J &J
    11th November 2019 / 10:13 am

    We’ll be in Myanmar in 2 months. Without a guidebook and definitely using this list!

    • James & Lee
      11th November 2019 / 12:11 pm

      Great! It’s such an amazing country. If you need any tips about where to go in Yangon or Myanmar let us know!