Writer: Morris Averill.
Taxi trucks are the feature of Mandalay public transport, packed with passengers, with an erratic timetable, often on routes that only Mandalayians understand. Alternatively, hotels can organise the perfect taxi.
Adventurous travellers can head out in the street, you can choose between 2 wheels, (moped) 3 wheels (‘tuk tuk’) or 4 wheels (standard taxi (cab) or a taxi truck). As Mandalay is flat and the streets wider than Yangon, hiring a bicycle is an option. You just have to consider your willingness to engage with the traffic, which can be busy at rush hour. Grab taxi service, Oway Ride and other ride hailing mobile phone apps can be used to arrange a taxi.
Pedal trishaws are found around the markets and will take you to destinations around Mandalay Hill and Mandalay Fort. The motorbike taxis and three-wheelers are plentiful – but the Myanmar Times newspaper reported in October 2019 that Mandalay city authorities intend enforce strict regulation of motorbike taxis and three-wheeled vehicles, as many are unlicensed, with an unsafe driving record, such passing other vehicles on the wrong side.
For three-wheeled vehicles, expect to pay US$1 – 1.30 (MKK 1,500-2,000) to cross the central parts of Mandalay; US$6.50 (MKK 10,000) for 1/2-day hire within Mandalay; and US$10 (MKK 15,000) to go to Amarapura and U Bein Bridge, (11 km (7 miles) south of the city), and Inwa, which is located 21 kilometres (13 miles) south of the city.
Taxis (cabs), the 4 wheeled variety, can be hailed for a ride. Like in other cities of Myanmar. Haggling the price should be the first conversation, as fare meters in taxis in Myanmar are rarely. Expect to pay double the above costs for a regular taxi. A taxi hired through your hotel will cost about US$45 (69,000 MKK) for 5-6 hours to visit Pahtodawgyi, Mingin Bell, Pahtodawgyi Paya and one or two of the many pagodas in the Sagaing Hills. The Mingin sites are also accessible ferry boat (USD$8 (12,000 MKK), with the journey taking 1 hour in each direction.
Rather than the regular buses (such as those operated by the Yangon Bus Service) public transport in Mandalay is based on taxi trucks on regular routes with the route number on the taxi truck in Burmese numerals. The fare is usually 400-500 MKK to local destinations, such as Amarapura. Taxi trucks congregate at the Mandalay markets. The taxi trucks usually do not leave their starting point until they are full. They are double-decker, in the sense that you could choose to sit on the roof of the taxi truck, taking your chances, as it speeds along the roads.
The Grab taxi service operates in Mandalay for the 4 wheeled variety of taxi as well as providing a three-wheel taxi service named GrabThoneBane. The Grab taxi service app can be downloaded from the Google app store, which gives business travellers and tourists the ability to travel by taxi without having to haggle the fare, as the price is always fixed on GrabTaxi; as well your fare can be paid by credit card stored in your GrabTaxi account.
If you are arriving at Mandalay International Airport (MDL), the taxi counters are located outside of the baggage claim area, where you purchase the coupon for the taxi, and then go outside the terminal to the taxi ranks. The taxi fares are fixed for the 40 kms (25 miles) ride from the airport to Mandalay:
- USD$4 (4,000 MKK) – Shared Taxi
- USD$8 (12,000 MKK) – Private Taxi
- USD12 (15,000 MKK) – Private Taxi with air conditioning.
The shared taxi is usually a 12-seater bus. You will have to wait until it is full before leaving; then the shared taxi could be dropping off and picking up of locals along the way. When you arrive in Mandalay tourists are be dropped off at their respective hotels, so that the journey usually takes 1 hour, could end up being up to 2 hours before you reach your hotel.
If you are arriving by train, Mandalay Central Railway Station is located in downtown Mandalay, which is close to many hotels. Mandalay is and is the starting point for the rail lines to the north and north east of Myanmar.
Travelling by taxi trucks in Mandalay public transport, requires knowledge of where to pick up the taxi truck for your destination and making sure that the taxi truck you climb into, is actually going to where you want to end up. The journey may be chaotic, which passengers being dropped off and picked up along the way; and passengers packed in the back wooden bench seats, or clinging precariously on the roof the truck; unless you chose the more expensive ride in the cab with the driver.