The best of the bunch
Mandalay doesn't offer the best pickings at the budget end of the spectrum, but they do have a good flashpacker selection and it can be a tempting spot to splash a few extra dollars for some creature comforts. Here's our pick of the bunch.
As is often the case in Burma (Myanmar)—and this is particularly the case in Mandalay—accommodation in the budget $10 to $20 price bracket is, to say the least, uninspired. You’ll find the selection of mediocre hotels in this range mostly gathered on or around 82nd and 83rd Streets in what is the closest Mandalay gets to a backpacker area. There’s not a lot to choose between them, but the large Nylon Hotel, and adjacent New Nylon (we mention them both in a single listing), are useful addresses since though popular they do have plenty of rooms available. Garden Hotel is of a comparable price and quality and is in the same area. A bit to one side but also worth a mention is funky Rich Queen Guesthouse, with its added local colour, over on a partially sealed stretch of 87th Street.
Up your nightly budget to $25 to $35, and you'll be able to install yourself into an excellent room. Choosing between the myriad identikit flashpacker joints in this range, with their four to six storeys and rooftop restaurants, isn’t easy. They all look very similar: think tall and thin with modern designs, so selection can often be down to a minor detail or simply availability. Don't sweat the location. As decent eateries and interesting sights are scattered throughout town we don’t feel where you stay is of vital importance in Mandalay, and the downtown area is fairly compact anyway. Taxis, motorbike taxis and rental bicycles are readily available and inexpensive, so it's no problem if you want to head down to the riverside for sunset or check out one of the night markets.
Our picks though for the best value for money options in this range are Kaung Myint, with its spotless rooms—and even bathrobes—as well as Hotel 8 with its fab staff and Silver Swan. All have great rooms for $30 or less.Up your budget by $10 or so and Hotel Emperor is a great choice. It's a smallish hotel but well designed, with delightful rooms priced at a level making it a solid deal any time of year.
Sliding up into the midrange, $50-$75 class, delightfully garden-set Mandalay City and Ayarwaddy River View make very good choices with pools. Both are well situated but the latter also has wonderful views. Yadanarbon and Bagan King are equally good in terms of actual rooms but the problem with such newer establishments is that they lack a garden and pool. So go for the first two, but if they are full—which will likely be the case if you're late to book during the busy season—then the latter two form a very good plan B.
When it comes to the higher-end hotels in Mandalay—say $100 and up—decent options are again limited. If we had the money, we'd be comfortable though spending it at classy but unpretentious Hotel by the Red Canal. We’ve skipped coverage of the super-high end addresses, since we’re not sure you'd want to spend $300 or so a night at resorts like Sedona or Mandalay Hill Resort when, with a long list of sights to see around Mandalay, you’d presumably be out and about for most of your stay anyway.
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
Our top 10 places to stay in and around Mandalay