Myanmar (Burma) — Travel Tip: Taxis in Myanmar (Burma)

Taking a taxi in Myanmar

March 2015

Photo by Author — driving from Mandalay International Airport (MDL) to Mandalay — the view from the cab
Photo by Author — driving from Mandalay International Airport (MDL) to Mandalay — the view from the cab

Taxis in Myanmar (Burma) don't appear to be metered, seat belts are optional, and the vehicles are in various states of repair.

You will often get approached on the street for a taxi with a ’taxi sir?', but beware, some taxis are motorbikes.

I found taxis much more common in Yangon (Rangoon) than in Mandalay, and they were also considerably cheaper in Yangon (Rangoon). It should be noted that taxis from hotels tend to be more expensive than ones stopped on the street. I could get very few taxis to stop on the streets in Mandalay, and I regularly had to go to tourist attractions or hotels to get a cab.

The first taxi I got completely freaked me out. I was at Mandalay Airport, and I got into a cab. The driver was sitting on the right, so I assumed that cars drove on the left in Myanmar. At the first roundabout, the driver went around not clockwise (as cars driving on the right would do) but anticlockwise. He then shot up the righthand side of a dual carriageway.

I was alarmed.

I thought we were on the wrong side of the carriageway.

Luckily, there was nothing else on the road, but I thought it was only a matter of time before we had a head-on.

Then I discovered that they drive on the right in Myanmar, with righthand drive cars. This makes no sense as it results in poor visibility for the driver, so there is a lot of car horn use.

I tried to find out why everyone (taxis, cars, lorries) had the steering wheel on the wrong side. There was no obvious answer. The import of righthand drive cars has now been banned.

One final tip — negotiate the price for the trip before you get in the taxi. Often you are not paying for the trip by distance but by time, and drivers seem to charge for an hour even if the trip is only 10 minutes.