With Mawlamyine’s airport provisionally closed, the nearest airport is now at Thailand’s Mae Sot, with Yangon or Dawei being the closest domestic ones. You'll see Hpa-an airport marked on some maps but it's a disused airfield.
The railway line you may see indicated on certain older maps running between Thaton and Hpa-an is not in use. The nearest stations these days are Thaton or Mawlamyine.
You can head in three possible directions from Hpa-an: due east to Myawaddy and the Thai border; across the Than Lwin Bridge and up the highway past Thaton and all points to Yangon, or southwest along the left bank of the Than Lwin River to Mawlamyine. There is an official bus station down Main Road on the edge of town but it seemed almost abandoned when we visited. Most transport leaves from outside the corresponding ticket agents around the clock-tower in the town centre.
Buses in any of the three directions are more or less hourly, though mornings and evenings see the most departures for Yangon. Any hotel or guesthouse will get a ticket for you, usually with only a minimal commission added, so it’s hardly worth going and getting your own. For Myawaddy and Mawlamyine, shared taxis are a popular option and they’ll pick you up at your accommodation as well.
Yangon buses depart hourly from 06:00 until 13:00, with night buses then leaving hourly between around 17:00 and 21:00. Prices are 5,300 kyat air-con or 8,000 VIP. Allow anything between six and eight hours to get to Yangon from Hpa-an. You can alight anywhere enroute including the Golden Rock and Bago, though there are no reductions for doing so.
Local buses rattle down the highway to Mawlamyine hourly from 06:00 until around 16:00. They cost a mere 1,000 kyat and take two to three hours, depending upon how many times they stop. Air-con minibuses on the same route will do it in two hours maximum and cost 8,500-9,000 kyat.
Myawaddy is served by minibuses and shared taxis, with the former leaving hourly between 06:00 and 14:00 and the latter leaving whenever they have sufficient passengers. Many shared taxis also transport goods. When we booked we had a whole vehicle to ourselves apart from 50 mattresses and pillows in the rear. Rates for either are 9,000 to 10,000 per person and times are 2.5 hours without stops or 3.5 with the usual meal break. For more info on Myawaddy to Hpa-an see our Myawaddy transport info.
Finally, for the masochists there’s a 18:00-departing air-con bus for, of all places, Pyin U Lwin (Shan State), stopping at Yangon, Mandalay and all points between. Noting the number of hours is probably a futile exercise but it costs 15,500 kyat for Mandalay.
A great way to leave or arrive in town is by boat down the picturesque Than Lwin (Salween) River to or from Mawlamyine. It used to be that there was a scheduled daily departure, but with the upgrading of the highway few local people use the boat anymore; it’s used by either downstream villagers or foreign tourists.
Furthermore it seems that these days anybody with a boat offers the trip. When we enquired, you could depart at more or less any time during the morning. You can pay a simple longtail boat to take you down – we were quoted 80,000 kyat, though we didn’t bargain. Most guesthouses we saw were selling tickets for 10,000 kyat per person for the four or so hour boat trip (life-jackets provided) on standard boats medium-sized, roofed wooden craft. This is a beautiful river journey, especially early morning or later in the afternoon, with the most scenic stretches being the departure from Hpa-an and arrival in Mawlamyine.
Most of Hpa-an is manageable on foot, though public transport option include moto-taxis and various shaped and sized vehicles that pass for tuk tuks. Prices vary and are negotiable but most destinations around the town centre shouldn’t cost more than 500 to 1,000 kyat.
With relatively light traffic, plenty of scenic country roads and numerous surrounding sights to see, Hpa-an lends itself very well to motorbike travel. The good news is that motorbikes are both easy to find and cheap to rent. Most hotels or guesthouses will find one for you plus there are a couple of actual hire shops on Thit Sar Street, up towards the clock-tower from Soe Brothers. The first is a mobile phone shop while the second is ominously named Good Luck Motorcycle Rental. Have a thorough check but both had okay bikes at similar rates when we looked. The going rate, which we were quoted in guesthouses too, is 3,000 to 4,000 kyat for a half-day, or 6,000 to 8,000 kyat for a full day, depending upon the bike.
Bicycles also seem very easy to find, with many guesthouses offering them for 2,000 kyat per day. In between the various limestone outcrops the land is completely flat so it's very good for cycling.
Min Kyan Sit Motorbike Rental: Thit Sar St, Hpa-an; T: (058) 21622, (095) 660 170, (097) 9015 2407; open daily 07:30-21:00.
Good Luck Motorcycle Rental: Thit Sar St, Hpa-an; open daily 07:00-21:00.