Updated for 2020: We had visited India to Myanmar by road crossing the land border at Moreh in Manipur in 2018. We went on to Mandalay and spent 10 wonderful days in Myanmar. In this post, we had also written about the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway by which you can travel on road from India to Myanmar and further on to Thailand. We had received many questions about this road by mail, messenger and in person. So here is an updated blog about India to Myanmar by road and further to Thailand, all by road.
Previously crossing the land border to travel to Myanmar was quite a hassle. You could cross the border and remain in the other country only for a day. For longer duration of stay, it required special permission that was approved by the Myanmar Government. Whether you will get the permission or not was also not sure. Flights to Yangon were also quite costly. In short, travelling to Myanmar from India was a costly affair.
When we did this road trip from India to Myanmar by road, we did not have much idea about the logistics and the communication of the place. Well, we were among the first few who went from Indian to Myanmar by road by crossing the land border! Yes! We are pretty proud of that! We did not know where we would get buses or vans from Tamu to Mandalay, neither did we know what to expect from the immigration offices of both the countries. Nevertheless, we trusted on our guts and decided to travel all the way to Myanmar from Moreh, the small border town in Manipur.
To be honest, there were no buses from Tamu to Mandalay when we did the trip. For buses, you had to go to Kalewa, another small town 150 km from Tamu. There were service vans that mainly used to carry goods and a few local passengers. The people were not yet ready for tourists moving down this route. Even the immigration officers were a bit surprised when we turned up there.
But now, the scene is different. Buses run from Tamu stand now and there are small vans as well. So we have collated all the information we got from the friends that we have made along the way. Here is some important information about India to Myanmar trip followed by our trip experience. We have also added how you can actually go further to Thailand by road. Let us know if you have any questions.
- 1 What is India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral (IMT) Highway?
- 2 India to Myanmar by Road | Land Border Crossing
- 2.1 Zokawthar – Rikhawdar Overland Border Crossing
- 2.2 Moreh – Tamu Overland Border Crossing
- 3 India to Thailand by road via Myanmar
- 4 India to Myanmar by Road – Our experience
What is India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral (IMT) Highway?
Sixteen years ago, India, Myanmar and Thailand decided to build a road connecting the three countries that would boost trade as well as connect the people of the three nations. The India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is a project to build a 1360 km stretch of highway between Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar. It had an ambitious beginning in 2002 and is still a work in progress. The first 160 km stretch of road is known as India-Myanmar Friendship Highway and you can see a small yellow slab at the bridge announcing the same.
The deadline for completion has been missed once. It was in 2015 and now the revised one is in 2020. India is supposed to implement two projects on the IMT Highway and both in Myanmar. You will get all the facts and figures about the project on the internet.
India to Myanmar by Road | Land Border Crossing
India is on the west of Myanmar sharing borders with Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. However, there are only 2 open border crossing between India and Myanmar.
Zokawthar – Rikhawdar Overland Border Crossing
Zokawthar lies in Champhai district of Mizoram, India while Rikhawdar is in the remote and hilly northwestern Chin State of Myanmar. We do not know much about the route from this border. Google Map shows the distance between Rikhawdar to Mandalay is about 480 km. The distance to Mandalay from both the border towns is almost the same, but I heard that the road from Rikhawdar goes through the mountain road.
We had been to Zokawthar and crossed the border to Rikhawdar and visited the Rih Dil Lake, which is considered one of the most important lakes in Mizoram. In this border, we saw most people from the border towns crossing the land border for trade. We did not see any tourists crossing this border to Myanmar and the BSF personnel near the border could not enlighten us on this either.
However, it is possible to travel to Mandalay by public transport in from Rikhawdar. Please note that we have not done this route and the information written here is gathered from various sources. While we believe that these information are in order, but cannot guarantee about the time and frequency of the public transport. Here your journey will start from Aizawl in Mizoram.
- Aizawl – Champhai – Zokhawthar : You will get shared sumos from Aizawl to Zokhawthar. The distance is 220 km and takes about 11-12 hours in sumo. Alternatively, you can also come to Champhai and then take another sumo to Zokhawthar. You can stay for the night at Zokhawthar.
- Zokhawthar – Rikhawdar – Tedim (52 km): Cross the border and enter Rikhawdar in Myanmar. From Rikhawdar Van Terminal, you will get a shared vehicle to Tedim, a small town in the Chin state in Myanmar. At Tedim you will get guest houses to stay for the night.
- Tedim – Kalaymyo Bus Station (70 km): From Tedim, you will get a bus to Kalaymyo Bus Station. You might also get a direct vehicle from Rikhawdar to Lalaymyo Bus Station.
- Kalaymyo Bus Station – Thiri Mandalar Highway Bus Station, Mandalay (365 km): From Kalaymyo Bus Station, you will get buses for Thiri Mandalar Highway Bus Station at Mandalay.
Moreh – Tamu Overland Border Crossing
Moreh is located in Manipur in India while Tamu lies in western Sagaing division of Myanmar. The distance between Tamu to Mandalay is about 470 km. It takes around 15-16 hours to reach Mandalay from Tamu. Don’t get fooled by what Google maps say. This is the more common route for the land crossing to Myanmar and we had taken this route to for our trip from India to Myanmar by road.
The first few kilometres of the road is good. But after that the roads became bumpy. Later I came to know that there are 69 bridges between the 150 km Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa section. India is supposed to help Burma build these bridges! And also the road between Kalewa-Yargyi sector is helped by Indians.
How to reach Moreh?
Moreh is the small, dusty border town in Manipur. From Imphal, you can take shared vans to Moreh. The distance between Imphal to Moreh is about 110 km and should take around 3-3.5 hours. But it takes more time than that. The roads are bad and there are numerous military checkpoints in between. Sometimes, there is a huge queue of vehicles at the check posts and it takes almost 20 minutes to cross it. It took us almost 4.5 hours to reach Moreh from Imphal.
Where is the Indian Immigration Office at Moreh?
The Indian Immigration Office or the Moreh ICP is just 5 minutes distance from the Indo-Myanmar Friendship Bridge. The Moreh Integrated Check Point (ICP) stands on top of a small hillock overlooking the Bailey Bridge, the “border” connecting India and Myanmar. Ask your driver to take you to the office.
The bridge was built during the WWII era linking Moreh and Tamu, the Burmese counterpart. The ICP is a huge complex with a passenger terminal, parking and import warehouses. But it was all empty. There were only about two to three employees at the swanky office.
The entire process is quite seamless and quick. We were asked to fill up a form at immigration and another one at customs and submit it. One checked our passports and made all the necessary entries. The other did all the other customs procedures. We got our passport stamped and off we went towards Myanmar. The car which brought us till here then left us at the Bailey Bridge.
How to cross the border and reach Tamu? India Myanmar Friendship Bridge
A river flowing below the Bailey Bridge is the natural border between India and Myanmar, just like it was in the case of Mizoram. We had to walk across the bridge to enter Myanmar.
Because the nations have not yet agreed upon the movement of vehicles across the national border, our car with the Indian number plate could not cross the bridge to the other side. So we walked down the 100-meter bridge to the other side starting our journey on the India-Myanmar Friendship Highway. Well, there are a few vehicles crossing the bridge which we presumed to be for the people of Moreh and Tamu, a concession made for border trade.
At the opposite end of the bridge stands the Myanmar Immigration Office, a small one-room office quite unlike the Indian counterpart. The immigration officers looked at our documents, visas and get them stamped. The officers were quite friendly and they were also a bit surprised to know that we planned to visit all the way to Mandalay. I am sure now it has become much common to them. After all the official things are done, we were in Myanmar.
From the immigration checkpoint, Tamu market from where you would get the vehicles to Mandalay was 1.4 km. Usually, no shared vehicle is available for this distance. You could either walk down this 1.5 km or hitchhike.
We were looking out for cars to take us to the Tamu market when a betel chewing man approached us and offered to take us there. He charged INR 100 per head for taking us to the stop.
From where do I get a bus or van to Mandalay?
The change was palpable as we arrived at the other side of the border. People look almost the same, but there are subtle changes in their demeanour. The first thing that we noticed at Tamu was that the place was cleaner and the numerous hoardings of Myanmar Beer.
Once you reach the Tamu Market, head towards the bus station. There are many small shops and agencies selling bus tickets on the sides of the road. Let me tell you one thing, here the rates of the bus tickets are not quite regulated. So do not just buy your tickets at the first shop you see. Walk ahead and you will find more shops like that. Once you compare the ticket price, buy your bus ticket.
The buses to Tamu look good. There are two types – normal ones and VIP ones. The normal ones do not have an AC. VIP ones have an AC, reclining seats and provide blankets as well.
Tamu to Mandalay Bus Timing & Ticket Price:
VIP Bus leaves at 12 PM. Bus tickets cost about 23000-38000 Kyats (INR 1100 – 1400 approx).
I heard that there is another VIP bus at around 4 PM, but I am not quite sure of this information.
You can also get vans or the small buses from the bus stop at Tamu. Ticket for the van is 20000 Kyats per head.
Now, from Tamu, you will get buses to Mandalay, Yangon and some other Burmese cities as well.
India to Thailand by road via Myanmar
As I mentioned before, the India-Thailand-Myanmar Trilateral Highway goes all the way to Mae Sot in Thailand. So you can reach Thailand from India all by road without taking a single flight. So, how to reach Thailand by road from India?
For travelling onward to Thailand, you have to reach Myawaddy. Volvo buses are available from Yangon and Naw Pyi Taw (the capital of Myanmar) to Myawaddy. You will get buses to Myawaddy from Yangon bus station. A VIP bus ticket would cost around INR 1300 and the bus journey is for 10 hours.
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Once you reach Myawaddy, get an exit stamp on your passport by the Myanmar immigration office. Also, change your remaining Kyats into Thai Baht. Here again, there is a bridge between Myanmar and Thailand. Walk over the bridge and right across you will see the Thailand embassy. Mae Sot is the town on the Thailand side.
Thailand gives Visa on arrival for Indians. Also, you can get e-Visa for Thailand.
From the Thailand Embassy, you have to go to Mae Sot bus stand to get a bus to Bangkok or any other destination in Thailand. Mae Sot bus station is about 4 km from the border. You will get bike taxis from the border to the bus station.
You might get some buses to Bangkok from just near the Mae Sot border itself. But these buses will be a little more expensive than the ones you get from the bus station.
India to Myanmar to Thailand by own car or motorbike
We have been asked by many readers whether it is possible to take our own vehicle across the borders from India to Myanmar and then to Thailand. Yes, it is possible, but requires a lot of paperwork. We have written a complete blog on this topic. Please read the post to know more.
India to Myanmar by Road – Our experience
We reached Imphal from Kolkata and then travelled to Moreh on the Indo-Burmese border. By the time we reached Moreh, we were already late and it was drizzling. We had to cross the border by 4:30 PM IST. But before that, we wanted to exchange our Indian currencies to Myanmar Kyats.
During the time of our visit, a rupee gave 20 Kyats. So suddenly from a few thousands of currencies, we were the owner of few lakhs! Before I could really get hold of the Kyats, we had to literally run towards the Moreh ICP because we were really really late.
There is an Assam rifle Checkpost on the way. The sentries stopped us and wanted to know why we were going to Burma so late. How are we going to return back? He was quite surprised to know that we were planning to travel all the way to Mandalay. Well, he just told us to come back and get all the details entered after getting our passports and visas stamped.
After all the paperwork were done at Moreh ICP, we crossed the Indo-Myanmar Friendship Bridge, got a car and went to Tamu Bus station. Once we reached there, another shock awaited us. The last van to Mandalay had already left. Fatty Ko, the person whom we had contacted for the van said that the last van to Mandalay was at 4 PM Myanmar Standard Time (MST) and we were an hour late. Myanmar time is one hour ahead of Indian time.
He advised that we could stay back at Tamu and take the next days’ van to Mandalay. But that would mean all our plans go haywire because we had limited days. We wanted to go that day itself! He told us we can take a car to Mandalay, but that would cost us 50000 Kyats per head. Well, the van takes 20000 Kyats and this means our budget too would go a bit haywire too!
Finally, time won over money and we decided to start that evening. We started at around 6 PM towards a long and arduous journey to Mandalay. It was dark outside and our car sped across the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway. I would not say that I was a bit afraid. It was a new country, new people and a language that we did not understand at all. Neither did they understand English! But while travelling, you should always trust your gut! That is what we did and embarked on the journey of a lifetime.
We tried to sleep, but at every sharp bends and turn, we were literally thrown out of the seats. Anyways, we sat tight while sleep fleeted in and out. Early morning we were driving the villages of Myanmar and finally, around 8 AM we were at our destination. We had arrived at Mandalay.
While returning from Mandalay to Tamu, we took the 12-seater Van. This journey took longer time because, during the night, the driver would just stop in the middle of nowhere and sleep. Yes, he would stop the van and go off to sleep for a good 30 minutes to one hour. We were more comfortably seated in this van compared to the car as there were 3 of us and there was a seat belt too.
Border crossing mistake
Once we reached Tamu, we asked the driver to drop us at the border. As luck would be, he dropped us at Gate No. 2. This gate is near the market area and is for the Indian and Burmese traders moving across the border mainly for trade. Here you can keep your Identity documents and get into the other country for some time. There is no immigration office in this gate.
We very smartly went through the gate and showed our passport. The guard there saw it and even let us pass. But a little later, we realized that the immigration exit stamp was not put on our passport. We returned back to ask the security person at the gate. He looked at the passport once again and told us we were at the wrong gate! We had to go to Gate No 1 (the same place through which we entered).
So now we were still in Myanmar on paper and physically in India. An Indian auto driver came forward and told us that he would take us to gate No 1. So we sat on the auto, went through Indian territory, arrived at the Indian side of the Friendship bridge, crossed the Bridge and went to the Myanmar immigration Office.
We had some trying moment explaining the officers about our mistake. Well, the officers were quite surprised that we were coming from India and were trying to get an exit stamp from Myanmar. But the best part was that the officers once realized our folly had a hearty laugh and we too heaved a breath of relief. What an adventure!
After getting our exit stamp from Myanmar immigration, we again went to Moreh ICP and completed all the formalities there. It did not take much time and from there we came to Moreh market area. We took a shared van from Moreh stand to Imphal and arrived at Imphal at about 7 PM.
Very Important Tip: While return, please exit by Gate No 1 of the Border Gate and do not make the mistake we did.
We have tried to give information on all the queries that had come to our mind while travelling from India to Myanmar by road. Hope this information helps you to plan your trip to Myanmar and then further to Thailand. If you have any questions, please comment below or drop us a mail.
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