PS- I agree that this is not the time to generate the wanderlust ideas in our minds. But, this article contains some important information about my border crossing experience to Myanmar. I have listed down the good bad both the situations that I have faced while crossing the border. So that, once we are free from the chains of quarantine, this information will come in handy for those wanting to have the International border crossing experience.
How to Travel from India to Myanmar or Vice Versa by Road?
Honestly, Myanmar was not really in my wish list of places to be visited in 2019. As whenever I used to check flights that too from Kolkata (which is suppose to show economical airfares), I always used to end up getting an exorbitant flight rates and as a result had to keep the plans away.
It was last year November , that I stumbled upon a super cheap Ex Kolkata airfare deal because Indigo airlines had just launched a direct service from Kolkata-Yangon-Kolkata and it was as low as 8K INR return fare. The kind of traveler I am, I always get lured by such deals. And, eventually it got me thinking about my Myanmar trip. But, also having heard about the Indo-Myanmar Border crossing agreement which was signed between the two nations on May 11, 2018. It really had me to consider the idea of border crossing by road.
So what does this Indo-Myanmar Border Agreement facilitates ?
Since, Myanmar shares almost 1600 kms with India, which is spread across the four states –Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland. As per the agreement between Indian and Myanmar government , now two of the international entry-exits check points which is Moreh – Tamu in Manipur and the other one is Rihkhawdar – Zowkhawtar in Mizoram are open to normal tourists/ visitors with valid passports and visa. Moreover, the agreement also provides a pass for people living in border areas to travel within 16 km of the border without special permit.
Why the Moreh-Tamu Border is more popular than the other ?
I did analysed both the choices, by checking the feasibility of flights nearest to the international border from both Manipur and Mizoram side. But, I found that the distance between Imphal airport (Manipur) and Moreh Border was much lesser for about 3.5 hours and convenient as well. Whereas, the other entry-exit check point which is in Mizoram has the nearest airport Lengpui at a distance of 242 kms (roughly about 10 hours from there). It is clearly evident that crossing from Manipur is much wiser and faster. Because, further to add another 17-18 hours of treacherous journey should also be kept in mind after border crossing .
You may also like to read about my Imphal Experience
Can we drive our own vehicle from India and Myanmar ?
Yes, one can , totally!! And, given the money and convenience of time , I would totally love to drive through the much talked about India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway next time which facilitates a smooth connection between India and South East Asia in order to boost the trading and commerce partnerships.
But, in order to drive one’s own vehicle into foreign nation , we need Carnet De Pass and International Driving License (IDP) . The latter can be applied through Regional Transport Authority Office at a nominal cost. However, for the carnet, one has to shell out as heavy as twice the value of the vehicle as a security deposit fees along with additional cost. Also, there are charges for the processing of the same as per ATA . The detailed guide on the same can be found in this road trip guide.
How to get Myanmar Visa ?
I had to get my Myanmar visa beforehand. So, unlike Thailand and some other South East Asian countries, Myanmar is not providing the Visa on arrival facilities for Indian Passport Holders. But, acquiring the same is pretty easy, as all you have to do is to apply for an E-visa in Myanmar Tourism Site .E-Visa is generally issued at the cost of USD 50 for a general tourist single entry visa which allows stay upto a period of 28 days. Also, it is important to mention the post of entry and exit while applying for Visa. For me I was entering via land through Tamu border but was flying out of Yangon to save some travelling time. That being said, this Visa definitely gives the flexibility to opt for different mode of entry/exit travel.
How to Get to Moreh Border ?
So, after I landed in Imphal, the capital of Manipur, I decided to spend a day in the quaint city of Imphal and to leave for Myanmar only next day.
Infact, it would be my suggestion to keep a day aside and park yourself in Imphal for at least a day if not more, in order to explore the place and also to get much-needed rest before the long road journey. However, this is only if the time permits.
So, Moreh border is about 108 km away from Imphal which takes about 3-4 hours to reach. I started off early in the morning as my host in Imphal decided to drop me off at the shared cab point which was few kms away. So, there we found out that these cabs depart at an interval of every half an hour. Mine started off at around 8.30 am and I reached Moreh main town at around 12.15 pm. From the main market, I got an auto who agreed to take us first at the Indian Immigration Office or the Moreh ICP, which was few meters away from the Indo-Myanmar Friendship Bridge . Infact, he was kind enough to wait for me to complete the immigration process which took around 20-30 mins tops. After I got the stamping done on my passport, it was time for me to finally cross the INTERNATIONAL border . My auto driver dropped me off at the edge of the Indo-Myanmar Friendship Bridge, which was built during WWII. So this was it!! I got off from the auto and finally walked through the bridge to officially step into Myanmar at around 1.30 pm approx.
About Myanmar Immigration Process and Getting to Tamu
Myanmar immigration office is just a few steps away from the opposite side of the friendship bridge . Completing the formalities for documentation check, visa stamping and immigration didn’t take more than 15-20 mins.
Note: Please keep at least two copies of your E-Visa, 2 copies of photographs and ensure to keep the immigration form safely till the time of your return.
After I was done with the immigration office, it was time for me to figure out as to how to reach the main Tamu market which was about 1.5 kms away, the place where I would be able to get a transport till Mandalay. It wasn’t surprising to know that there are actually no fixed public transport in this stretch. So, I started walking in the hope of hitching a ride. After few minutes of walking, I saw an auto which was empty and requested him to drop me off at Tamu Market. He agreed and charged around 100 INR . Thankfully he was kind enough to accept Indian Rupees.
Further travel info about how to reach Mandalay
After reaching Tamu main town area, I got down infront of one of the first mini van/bus shop which was selling mini van tickets for Mandalay. It was already around 2pm and the chances of getting big buses were already out. Hence, without any delay I enquired about the seats available in a mini van which was scheduled to depart at 4pm. He agreed on 1100 INR per seat upto Mandalay.
Note:that Mandalay is about 476 kms from Tamu (through Mongwa-Kalaywa Highway) , however, there are about 69-70 rickety bridges in the initial stretches between Tamu- Kaleywa . And, as per the google info it takes 13-14 hours but it took 18 hours for me to reach .
It is generally advised to check with other minivan operators as well, in order to compare rates. But, as I was already tired, famished and was happy with the fact that he agreed to accept Indian Rupees and at these odd hours I wasn’t very hopeful with others. Hence, I finalised with them. Since, I had some time in hand. I went further towards the town to get the money exchanged and have lunch.
So, it is possible to get your Indian money exchanged to Kyats (Myanmar Currency 1 INR ~ 20 Kyats) at Tamu . I just walked in to a random utility shop and ask for an exchange , and the lady happily agreed at a good rate. Next, I bought a local SIM with data, which is an absolute must in order to navigate in Myanmar. I also had my first Myanmar meal which comprised of vegetables, rice, some soup (with dried fish) and Chicken stuff bun.
There is always an unexpected experience waiting to make your journey eventful enough
So, when I came back to the minivan operator shop, to my surprise they told me that it was already full. I was in utter shock and furious at them. Later they came up with a proposal to get on to a private car of someone who was travelling to Mandalay as well. So, now I was a bit overjoyed that, what was expected to be a cramped travel of 14 hours in a packed minivan, would now be done in a luxury sedan at the same cost. Wow!
As the journey started around 4.30 pm , initially I felt quite comfortable because we were taking it slow and haulting every 1 hour for food or refreshments. But later when it got pitch dark and we were slowly getting clueless into which routes we were taking. That is when it got me a little worried as the driver and owner continue to stop at every joint to actually drink alcohol. This really was getting on my nerves by now as I was already sleep deprived and feeling obnoxious. Even after requesting, the owner was taking it very lightly and continued to delay. Somehow, I felt a bit frustrating and disappointed at myself for having to choose them to transport me. Thankfully, In the morning around 8.30, I finally reached my pre booked hotel in Mandalay, which he was courteous enough to drop me. So, it took almost 19 hours to reach because of unnecessary delay.
This experience, did put me off a bit initially but later on as things went smoothly, it was ok. And so on I went ahead on my trip to the Big four of Myanmar for the next ten days.
My return was done through Yangon as I flew home straight . One can choose to travel back same way by road but that would add up another day or so into the travel itinerary.
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