The Ayeyarwady River, also known as the Irrawady River, stretches 2,288 km North to South nearly the entire length of Myanmar. Depending on the season, around 2,000 km of the river is navigable by passenger ferries which are an important form of transport for the people of Myanmar.
About Ayeyarwady River Boats
The navigable part of Ayeyarwady River runs from Bhamo, north of Mandalay, to the river delta near Yangon before discharging into the sea. If you want travel the entire navigable length of the river on the same boat then you need to take a tourist cruise boat. The premier cruise boat operator on the Ayeyarwady River is a company called Pandaw. Pandaw’s Yangon to Bahmo cruise lasts 21 nights, which includes lots of stops on route to visit the major tourist attractions, and costs in the region of $8,000 to $9,000 USD per person. They also offer shorter cheaper cruises during which you only follow part of the same route. Lots of other cruise boat operators offer 3 to 4 night cruises between Bagan and Mandalay and this is the most popular tourist boat service on the Ayeyarwady River.
If you are unable to afford one of these luxury cruise boat services, or you are seeking more of an adventure, then you can cruise the Ayeyarwady River on one of the many local commuter services for a fraction of the cost. Passenger ferry services in Myanmar are far from luxurious. For overnight services most passengers sleep on deck. Food and drink tends not to be provided by the ferry operator, and needs to be taken on board by passengers or purchased from the hordes of vendors who crowded around the ferries as they stop on route for passengers to board and alight. Some long distance ferry services, however, also have cabins which you book fairly cheaply making travel on these services more comfortable, although still nowhere as comfortable as a luxury cruise boat.
Cruise from Katha to Mandalay
One of the more exciting local ferry services you can take is between Katha and Mandalay.
- Slow boat service:
- Katha to Mandalay – Depart Monday 06:00 and arrive Tuesday 16:00
- Mandalay to Katha – Depart Monday 06:00 and arrive Wednesday 01:00
- Cost – $30 USD for a 2 person private cabin
- Fast boat service:
- Katha to Mandalay – Depart Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 06:00 and 21:00
- Mandalay to Katha – Depart Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 06:00 and 21:00
- Journey time – 15 hours
- Cost – $40 USD per seat
This trip is one of the most interest local ferry trips you can do on the Ayeyarwady River, The journey take you past lots of interesting scenery and small villages. The reason why more people don’t do this trip is because of the long and uncomfortable journey either from Mandalay to Katha to start the journey, or from Katha to Mandalay to finish the journey. The easiest option is to take a train between Mandalay and the village and Naba, which is 23 km to the east of Katha. You can travel by bus it is a bumpy journey on bad roads.
Location of Katha Boat Pier
- Katha Boat Pier is 343 km by road from Mandalay Railway Station.
Cruise from Bagan to Mandalay
This is the most popular of the Ayeyarwady River Cruises you can do and there are lots of different ferries for a variety of prices you can take. Some are local ferry services which are very cheap, but slow and uncomfortable, and other more luxurious, faster and of course more expensive:
- Cost: 10$ to $70 USD per person
- Journey time: 12 to 15 hours
The highlights of this journey are at the start and finish of the trip, which are the riverside temples of Bagan and the riverside temples of Sagaing on the outskirts of Mandalay.
Location of Bagan Boat Pier
- Bagan’s Nyaung Oo Jetty is 7.7 km by road from Bagan Railway Station.