As of early 2016 Mawlamyine’s airport is closed. There are no domestic services and the former international flight to Thailand’s Mae Sot has ended. The closest airport at present is in Dawei or Yangon.
Trains depart Mawlamyine’s rather grand new station for Thanbyuzayat , Ye and Dawei to the south or all points north to Yangon, including Thaton, Kyaikto (for the Golden Rock) and Bago. Foreigners are permitted to purchase tickets, and no longer have to pay in dollars or travel by upper class only. Fares are identical to those paid by Burmese. Over-grand would be a better description, since the impressive station only actually has one train south and three departures north per day. South the train is scheduled to depart at 04:30 costing 2,000 to Ye or 5,900 to Dawei, and taking a painful six and 14.5 hours respectively.
Travel isn’t quite so arduous in the opposite direction with departures at 08:00, 19:30 and 20:55. It takes approximately nine hours to Yangon. There are no sleeper trains though and these are seats only with a choice of ordinary or upper class. The first and last departures are 4,250 kyat upper and 2,150 ordinary class while the 19:30 purports to be an express and costs a little more at 2,350 or 5,500 kyat. Yes, prices do double, but it’s still only a few dollars and with journeys of that length it’s worth the upgrade.
Mawlamyine’s main train station is located off the ring road where it meets Theik Pan Street, roughly opposite Uzina Pagoda. A moto-taxi to town should cost 1,000-1,500 kyat.
If you’ve been making your way up the coast, then Mawlamyine suddenly offers some exciting transport options with no longer only up or down but now a sideways option available, with buses travelling east to Hpa-An.
Correspondingly the town has three bus stations. The main one lies off the highway east of U Khanti Pagoda and serves Yangon and points north. Then there’s the Dawei bus station south of town, where the highway leaves Mawlamyine for Thanbyuzayat. Finally there's a small Hpa-An one off Bogyoke Lane close to city hall on the north side of town.
Buses head off at regular intervals for Yangon at the main station, and this is where through buses heading south or north stop for breaks too. If you’re coming from Ye or Dawei this is where you’ll arrive, but if you’re departing for either of those destinations you’ll need to head to the small Dawei station. This is because buses between Yangon and Dawei or Myeik will not pick up passengers in Mawlamyine.
Southbound buses seem to depart in the evenings and while some tuk tuk drivers reckoned there should be a morning departure for Dawei we couldn’t find one. Ask your guesthouse or hotel reception to check; things change pretty rapidly around here.
For Hpa-An, buses leave regularly throughout the morning for the two-hour, 1,000 kyat journey. Be careful since after midday they’re very thin on the ground. If you’re in a hurry, minibus services should shave 30 minutes off that trip but will set you back 5,000-6,000 kyat.
Ye is approximately four hours including a stop in Thanbyuzayat. Tickets are 3,000 kyat for a place on an air-con bus. In theory there should be a couple of morning departures for Ye plus at least one afternoon bus but again, please check! They leave from the Dawei bus station. Buses all the way to Dawei – if you can find one – cost 12,000 kyat or so and take seven to eight hours. When we enquired we could only find a night service but, yet again, check beforehand.
Yangon-bound buses, with plenty of competition, go for a bargain 6,000 kyat. Masochists can even travel all the way to Mandalay for 10,500 kyat -- it takes 24 hours. Yangon departures are hourly and these buses can drop you at Thaton, Kyaikto or Bago.
With the fast new highway to Hpa-An, complete daily boat services between Mawlamyine and Hpa-An have become a far less tempting option for locals. There may be occasional departures but information is very hard to come by and with the new boat services targeting tourists now up and running there’s not much motivation to provide such information either.
Boat services up the scenic Than Lwin River are still running but it’s now more of a tourist service and priced accordingly. Prices vary somewhat depending upon whether you buy your ticket from an agent directly or how much commission your guesthouse sees fit to add on, but count on $10-$12. Departure time is in theory 08:30 for the four-hour trip.
For private hire at the Hpa-An Jetty, we were quoted 60,000 kyat for a basic longtail boat or 80,000 kyat for a small speedboat with roof one way to Hpa-An. That’s a long and not very comfortable trip in a longtail – at least three hours we reckon. We wouldn’t want to attempt it if the wind was blowing but the speedboat didn’t look too bad. Elegant Myanmar Travel can also arrange private hire. Larger boats seating up to 20 people go for between $100 and $150; if you hire it yourself then request stops can be made on route too.
For Bilu Island, boat times are as follows:
Government ferries from the main market jetty:
Mawlamyine to Bilu: 10:45, 15:45
Bilu (Nat Maw Jetty) to Mawlamyine: 06:00, 14:30
Private ferries from Chuang Sone Jetty:
Mawlamyine to Bilu: 08:30, 10:00, 12:30, 13:30, 15:00, 17:30
Bilu to Mawlamyine: 05:30, 09:00, 10:45, 11:30*, 14:30*, 15:30, 16:30*
* No Sunday service.
All tickets are in theory 2,000 kyat per person.
Mawlamyine has tuk tuks and small pick-up van taxis as well as the ubiquitous moto-taxis. As of 2016, the former shouldn’t be more than 1,000 kyat or so for a short hop around town or up to 1,500 if you’re going as far as say the train or bus station. Tuk tuks are correspondingly slightly more. A tuk tuk around town for a couple of hours to see the sights goes for around 10,000 kyat.
Motorbike hire isn’t as easy to come by as in say Hpa-An or even Dawei. When we visited Breeze, they were offering newish Hondas for 10,000 kyat per day. We didn’t see many other hotels and guesthouses with signs up but we’re sure if you ask nicely most places will be able to dig up a bike for you.
Elegant Myanmar Travel at the Dawei Jetty offered good-looking mountain bikes for 6,000 kyat per day and motorbikes for 10,000.