As the roads of Myanmar in most areas are rather poor or non-existing transport goes on the rivers where possible.

The boats sailing on the rivers span from a type of long-tail to regular ferries.

The small boats can usually be rented in the same way as you take a taxi. Don’t look for comfort equipment, the boat is made of wood with an engine fitted in the back. The motor looks like the ones mounted in Burmese tractors or something ripped from a car. They are typically fitted with a small and inadequate silencer, so a lot of noise is produced.

At long-tail boat at Inle lake
At long-tail boat at Inle lake

Seating is either a wooden bench or a plastic garden chair. Boats at Inle Lake usually provide blankets as it can be rather chilly in the morning.

Larger boats are operated more like ferries with fixed routes and timetables. When you go on the tourist boat you’ll have few or no stops on the way, they are mostly called express boats.

Some express boats  actually sail faster than slow boats, but not much, they will have less frequent stops. The slow boat is primarily used by Burmese. In the slow boats you be seated directly on the deck or a wooden bench, the express boats will often provide individual seating and perhaps a life jacket. 

Prices are normally reasonable, but you should look out because some of the express boats are rather expensive. I had to pay $ 100 for a trip from Mandalay to Bagan. The bus will only cost $ 15-20 and the trip will be 2-4 hours faster. The boat will provide less dust and bumpiness.

Boat on river near Mrauk-U in Myanmar

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