Friday, November 7, 2014

Crossing the Border from Tachileik to Mae Sai via Mandalay, Myanmar

Tachileik to Mae Sai - Crossing the Border
 Tachileik to Mae Sai - Crossing the Border

I wanted to post this blog so that it may be able to help other travelers learn from my experience. It was fairly easy, but I went in pretty nervous, and not knowing what to expect because there wasn't much information in the guidebooks, as well as the internet about crossing the border from Tachileik (Myanmar) to Mae Sai (Thailand). 

I departed Bagan on a Mini Van for Mandalay which costs 10,000 Kyat ($10), there were other bus options from $8,000 to $9,000 Kyat, but I did it last minute and had to take what I could get, not that I was complaining, $10 for a bus ticket is like a Dollar Store version of Greyhound Bus Lines back home, can't beat that with a stick! Anyways, the ride took a little over 5 hours with one stop to eat dinner (I left Bagan at 4pm). The bus ride was pretty entertaining because I was riding with about 5 young college kids from Bagan who were attending a University in Mandalay, they were singing American Pop Music with their strong accents almost the whole entire time, and they just made the trip fun. They seemed like they were from well to do Burmese families, and were quite lucky to be able to go to college, it was a pleasure hanging out with them =).

We finally arrived in Mandalay, and I stayed overnight at this place called Rich Queen Guest House. I was originally planning to stay at AD-1 Hotel which was suggested by the Goats, but they were all booked. Rich Queen Guest House had some average reviews on Trip Advisor, but from my experience, it was quite nice. I paid $18 US for a single room with A/C, and the Wi-Fi was decent so I was able to get some work done and catch up on some emails. Breakfast was also included, so that was a nice touch. I highly recommend it for Backpackers looking for a nice quiet place away from the Mandalay city life.

So I took a shared taxi from my guest house to the Mandalay International Airport which costs $6,000 Kyat ($6 bucks) and it took a little less than an hour to get there. I shared the taxi with this guy named Daniel from Singapore. He had some great stories, especially the one about how he was  mugged in Kathmandu and lived to tell about it.

Mandalay International Airport
Tachileik to Mae Sai - Crossing the Border

We arrived at Mandalay International Airport and my goal was to buy a ticket for Tachileik. But let me rewind a little bit. Someone told me that I could take a bus from Mandalay to Tachileik, but that was false information. I did hear about another bus route, but they told me that something happened enroute, and they had to turn back and just fly to Tachileik. So when I arrived in Mandalay, the staff at AD-1 Hotel told me that I would have to fly....I was like darn, I was trying to save a few bucks!

So we get to the airport, and the only air ticket counter that I saw was this lady behind what looked like a food vendor both lol, but apparently she was a travel and tour employee. There were signs on the counter, but they were all in Burmese, and I definitely couldn't read it. I asked if there was a flight to Tachileik today and what time it departs. She quoted me $160 US with a $1,000 Kyat ($1) fee, not sure what it was for. I was like, that seems a bit too high.

The staff at AD-1 Hotel told me that flights to Tachileik were about $70 US, the internet said around $149, and this ticket counter lady said $160! I then said let me think about this for a minute. So as I was thinking, she started assisting these other backpackers that I just met from Belgium. As they were chatting with the ticket counter lady, one of the backpackers told me that they just bargained their fare from $105 per person to $56 US per person to Yangon, I was like what?!! You bargained your air fare?? So after that, I began to start walking around the airport to see if there were other ticket counters to get service from. I found one by the name of Sun Far Travel & Tours and they quoted me $131 US, so I said I'll take it. It wasn't $70, but it was a lot better than the internet price of $149, and a heck of a lot better than $160. Apparently it's the "Travel & Tour Companies" who sell the air tickets for the airline companies at Mandalay International. So my suggestion to you is if you are at this airport and you are not satisfied with the ticket price, I would look for another ticket counter (there are other ticket counters on the lower level where baggage claim is located), or even try bargaining lol, that's crazy! That would not happen in the US of A, only in Myanmar. But I guess it could happen anywhere else, but this was definitely a first for me.

After I agreed to the ticket price, I paid cash to the ticket counter at Sun Far Travel & Tours. They did not give me a receipt, and I was a little worried about that. I was then escorted by a Sun Far Representative to another counter to "check in". That's where they checked my passport and then printed out my boarding pass. From there, I went to passport control and immigration (it went pretty fast) and then I was finally off to my departure gate.

Here's the thing, the process just seemed so shady to me, but I just brushed it off and was just happy to get a ticket to Tachileik. After that, things started to get better. As I was sitting down waiting for my departure, one of the Sun Far Associates gave me a free lunch consisting of Steamed Rice, Vegetables, and Chicken. They also gave me a bottled water. I noticed that they were giving it to all of their customers who bought airline tickets from Sun Far Travel & Tours. I have to admit, I was pretty impressed by that. No other airline company, or company affiliation with an airline has ever done that in my whole life I've been traveling. Also let me remind you, I didn't book First-Class, as if they would even have that =). It was pretty funny though because everyone else who didn't book their flight with Sun Far seemed to be "jelly" because they weren't getting any free food =).

Myanma Airways - Sun Far Travel & Tours
Tachileik to Mae Sai - Crossing the Border

I finally boarded the plane which was via Myanma Airways. I believe that Myanma Airways and Sun Far must work together or something. My ticket had a seat number on it, but the flight attendants told me that is was "free seating" and I could sit anywhere. That was awesome! The flight attendants reminded me of the Burmese version of Cebu Pacific Airlines. They were very pretty Burmese girls with fair skin and had great smiles, which really makes a huge difference in service. I come from the Hospitality Industry, and smiling is very important and represents professionalism. I know what you're saying right now "tell me something I don't know Arnel" =). So enough about my crush on these girls =). But check this out, Myanma Airways also provided each passenger with a Snack Box and cold beverages. These days, you'll be lucky if you get a small bag of peanuts from any airline, so big props to Myanma Airways and Sun Far because their name was on the snack box.

Free Snack Box - Not very healthy, but good for a cheat meal =)

On the way to Tachileik, we had one stopover at Lashio, Myanmar where we picked up a few more passengers heading the same direction. After jetting off and finally heading towards Tachileik, the flight attendants went around AGAIN and offered another Snack Box and beverages! I was like "WOW", this is too much, you guys are going above and beyond here. In the USA, I am happy to just get my typical "tomato juice"! So if you are ever flying out of Mandalay to Tachileik, I would go with Sun Far Travel & Tours and fly with Mynama Airways, I just had the best experience with them. It's not first class, but it's better than what you get in the states hands down!

Once we touched down in Tachileik (1 1/2 hours total), I went through immigration and it went very smooth. From the Tachileik Airport to the border crossing, it takes about 20 minutes with a Tuk Tuk and cost about $3,500 Kyat ($3.50 US). As far as I know, you can also take a taxi which costs about the same price as a Tuk Tuk, but may be more comfortable. I like riding in Tuk Tuks, especially if they don't try to rip you off.

Window View - Landing in Tachileik, Myanmar
Tachileik to Mae Sai - Crossing the Border

Tachileik Airport - Myanmar
Tachileik to Mae Sai - Crossing the Border

Tuk Tuk to Border Crossing

 The Tuk Tuk driver will drop you off at the Golden Triangle Roundabout. From there it's only a 2 minute walk to the border crossing. You first have to go to Passport Control and Visa Check before leaving the Myanmar side. After that, you cross over to Mae Sai and do the same thing before going into Thailand. You will need to fill out an Arrival Card before going through Passport Control, and you can get the arrival cards to fill out from the Passport Control Officials. Once you're done, you're in Mae Sai, Thailand!

Tachileik to Mae Sai - Crossing the Border

Mae Sai, Thailand
Tachileik to Mae Sai - Crossing the Border

If you need to do a "money exchange", there is one just past the Thai Police Department a few blocks past the the border crossing. There are banks along the way, but I couldn't find one that would change my Kyats to Thai Bahts, but that's when they recommended the Money Exchange place to me just passed the Poilce Station.

I was so happy to cross the border from Tachileik to Mae Sai. I thought that it was going to be much more difficult, but it was all smooth sailing. If you need to get to the Mae Sai bus station like I had to, I suggest getting either a Tuk Tuk or a motorbike to take you. I took a motor bike (guys with the orange vests) and it was $50 Baht ($1.55 US). It takes about 10 minutes depending on traffic to get to the Mae Sai Bus Station. Once I got there, my plan was to go to Chiang Rai, so I found a bus for only $39 Baht ($1.21 US) and it took about 1 1/2 hours (maybe a little less) to get to Chiang Rai because of all the Security Check Points, and pick up/drop offs along the way.

 Mae Sai Bus Station
Mae Sai Bus Station

Anyways, my apologies for the long dang post, but I hope that it helps a little bit for those of you who are trying to cross the border from Myanmar to Thailand. Feel free to leave any comments, or if you have done this before, please let me know if I left anything out.

Stay active my friends, and safe travels! =)

For more travel posts, click here!

Take the Beachbody Challenge - Stay Fit, You'll Travel Better!


  1. Thank goodness I came across this. I've been looking for rough costs of how to get from the airport in Tachileik to the border! We do this trip tomorrow, flying from Heho in Inle Lake. If it makes you feel better we had to pay $150 for our ticket too and the flight is under an hour haha. Ouch! Thanks for the info!

  2. Thanks for this! I'm in the middle of the same trip and couldn't find any information about getting from the Tachilek airport to Mae Sai.