If you are looking at the 14- or 36-hour land journey to Myeik and Yangon respectively, you can see why the flight option is a tempting one. KBZ and APEX, the two airlines servicing Kawthaung, will not be upset about the suspension of boat services.
Services by the two carriers are similar and both, as far as we know, use ATR prop planes. APEX do manage to undercut KBZ on every single flight in south Burma though. They offer daily flights to Myeik for $55 (foreigner price), departing at 15:30 and 16:30. KBZ fly on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for $72. As with anywhere in Burma though flight schedules and prices change frequently so please check.
APEX also has flights for Dawei for $65.These depart daily at 07:00 and 08:00. These four APEX flights continue to Yangon, for which we were quoted $105 (via Dawei) or $115 (via Myeik).
KBZ list their Yangon flight as $188 though their website also has Myeik for $84 and we were quoted $72 -- so flexible prices as well as schedules. Their three Myeik flights also continue to Yangon. Mawlamyine Airport is closed as of early 2016, so no flights there.
Most hotel staff can book seats for you plus several agents are dotted around the centre of town. Both airlines have offices on Bogyoke Road close to the Kawthaung Hotel.
Kawthaung’s airport code is KAW and the tiny airport is situated 11 kilometres north of town. Tuk tuks will cost you around 5,000 kyat.
There’s only one road out of town and that’s a 440-kilometre one leading to Myeik. Regular buses depart from Kawthaung bus station, just a couple of kilometres north on Bogyoke Road, while minibus services leave from town and will pick up at hotels. You can purchase tickets for Myeik, Dawei, Ye, Mawlamyine and even Yangon, a 36-hour ride away.
Foreigner rates for buses are 25,000 kyat air-con or 15,000 kyat fan for Myeik. Dawei is 35,000 air-con, 22,000 fan and takes around 20 hours. If you are crazy enough to take the Yangon bus, it’s 49,000 air-con, 32,000 fan.
The minibuses are slightly faster, though not by much, and a journey to Myeik still weighs in at an average 14 hours.
Hotels can book tickets for bus or minibus services though for the latter you’ll find numerous offices around town, in particular around the clock tower. Each minibus office generally sells places only on their own bus and hotels usually have a deal with one particular minibus office. While prices are a standard 25,000 kyat, times varied considerably, so it is worth looking around. We came across 07:00, 08:00, 17:00 and 18:00 departures though there are certainly more. Vehicles are mostly 12- or 14-seater and the good news is that they do seem to sell only a corresponding number of tickets.
Note that the price should come to 300,000 kyat for a whole minibus. We were offered one for 8,000 baht, so if you can find a few companions to split costs that’s an option with the bonus of departing at whatever time you wish and making stops along the way.
Different companies regular-sized buses also had differing departure times though apart from one 14:00 bus all the ones we found were night buses.
Boats to Myeik and Dawei
As of early 2016 scheduled public boat services from Kawthaung to Myeik and on to Dawei are not running. We came across several versions of the reason for the suspension of the service. The most common was that they were losing money. This was also the reason given to us by the Tanintharyi minister of tourism who we ran into in a bar in Myeik. Bear in mind that for local travellers cost is the main concern -- they’re not interested in scenery. With improving flight connections and road conditions, any Burmese with any money will fly to Myeik and any without money will take the bus. The boat fell between the two and the trickle of disappointed foreign tourists is nowhere near enough to compensate.
The boats are beaten-up old ‘torpedo’-type craft – similar to those used on the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap route. They are hardly ocean-going vessels. The last published prices for foreigners was 25,000 kyat per person; a Burmese traveller can fly to Myeik for $40. There were rumours of occasional departures to coincide with projected busy days but for now don’t hold your breath. If foreign visitor numbers pick up perhaps a service will be re-introduced.
Suspension of services is recent so you’ll still see plenty of posters up in hotel and guesthouse lobbies. We even had tuk tuk drivers taking us in vain to ticket offices which were still open, though with no tickets to sell.
Other boat services
Longtail boats to Thailand wait at the main jetty and take around 30 minutes, costing 100 baht per person. They will generally wait for four or five people or you can simply pay 400-500 baht for a private one. They arrive at Saphan Pla immigration point in Ranong.
If you fancy a flutter there are also regular boats leaving for the nearby Andaman Club. Tickets are $5.
Apart from motorcycle taxis, what passes for a tuk tuk and public transport in Kawthaung are motorbikes with side platforms and a roofed seat. Otherwise there are small white vans with two rows of seats in the rear – similar to what in Lao would be called a ‘jumbo’. These seat up to six people. Around town tuk tuks go for 20 baht or so while the airport will set you back 5,000 kyat. Count on a bit less for a motor-taxi and a bit more for a van. Trips further afield will depend upon your bargaining skills but you ought to be able to get a return trip to Palaotonetone for around 15,000 and Maliwan for 25-30,000 give or take.
English speaking tuk tuk driver, Soe Lin: T: (092) 5482 2081, Thai: (085) 798 0225, (090) 705 3613.