A complete guide to crossing the Myanmar/India land border
Our plans to travel to India from Myanmar were made up of 2 choices. Flying and by land. The option to fly would mean we would have to backtrack to Bangkok Airport (BKK) then to Mumbai (BOM) on some flight route’s and then over to Kolkata (CUC) and pay a hefty price in the meantime. This all seemed a little messy and did not make any sense financially.
The price for the entire EXPERIENCE of the border crossing was $210USD per person. I believe we may have paid a slight premium, however it was worth every penny.
We booked with Myanmar Travel, there are other agents you can go with however I found Myanmar Travel very helpful.
Here’s a small breakdown of the cost (per person):
Flights from Mandalay to Kalaymyo $130USD
Accommodation in Kalaymyo $20USD
Permission Fee $60USD
To complete the crossing you will need permission from the Myanmar Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. Your agent will step you through the process and you will receive permission around 7-10 days from submitting the application. If you’re keen on keeping your options open, you can also complete this process in Myanmar. Just make sure to allow enough time.
We chose to fly with Air KBZ from Mandalay to Kalaymyo on advice from our travel agent. You can also catch a 3-hour bus from Mandalay to Monywa and then a 10-hour boat upstream on the Chindwin River, which is the “scenic route”.
Kalaymyo is a beautiful little town and the people are just as lovely here as the rest of Myanmar, the airport is very small and is literally in peoples backyards. The immigration desk is exactly that a desk, and your typical hotel check in book. This was pretty unreal and felt like we had stepped back a few decades compared to the extreme security and technological infrastructure you see at other airports. Our hotel was the Taung Za Lat (price above), which is across the road from the airport. Book your bus to Tamu the night before at hotel reception. This will cost you 8000 kyat (around $6USD) per person. The entire 3-hour bus ride you will be hugging the Border and the scenery is amazing.
Driving through areas surrounding the border the mood didn’t really change although the amount of children with toy guns did which I found strangely interesting. We were dropped off at a checkpoint at the edge of the border and told to proceed by foot. We were directed towards the immigration building, went through the necessary paperwork and had our passports stamped. Make sure you bring at least 2 photocopies each of your passport details, Myanmar Visa and Indian Visa. You will also need a 4x4cm passport style photo of yourself.
The was no hostility in the area at all and in all honesty the whole process was very relaxed.
This sign in the immigration building did catch my eye though.
Myanma Spirit (Immigration)
We were told to not take photos, cross the border, turn right and head for Indian immigration. “How straight forward has this been” was said numerous times. We crossed the border and proceeded as instructed, where we came to a bit of a pickle. As it was Christmas day, immigration was closed. Make sure you check their opening dates as a precaution. We were scheduled to fly out of Imphal at 10:30am the next day and now we were going to miss the flight. The weather was cooking hot. We were tired, dehydrated and lugging around our awesome suitcase/backpacks. The mood on the Indian side of the border was a polar opposite from the Myanmar side. A certain tension was in the air, at least that was our opinion, or maybe it was just the numerous AK47’s slung over military troops shoulders and the giant German Sheppard in the camouflage bunker we were asked to sit in while our passports where checked out. “You don’t have a stamp”, our new friend told us. And after a few minutes of going back and forth he understood our situation and told us to shoot over to the police station for more information. We said thank you about 14 times and walked on to Moreh, which is around 2km from the border.
The police told us to go across the road to the immigration building, which turned out to be a compound with a bamboo hut where we were met by an official who gave us the necessary paperwork and slapped that stamp on our passport. We then went to customs, which was another compound across the road from immigration and adjacent to the police station. This was relatively straightforward and it was quite obvious everyone was in holiday mode.
After lunch we set off for Imphal.
The 110km 3-hour journey cost us 1500INR ($23USD) and was an experience in itself. We were stopped at 4 different checkpoints for passport checks. More military, more guns and a lot more sweat. At the second checkpoint we were asked to exit the car and our bags were searched down to a single sock along with the car itself from top to bottom. This can only be attributed to the Indian governments strong efforts in protecting its borders and its country. Nothing wrong with that! It seemed every turn on this ride was a hairpin, the road was in pretty bad shape and for the most part I considered different scenarios had the car fallen off the edge of these mountains. There are a lot of villages up in the mountains, which were pretty awesome to see. At this part of the day though we weren’t really in the mood for sight seeing and bed was the only thing I could think of.
Eventually we made it to Imphal.
The day was VERY long, scary, exciting, informative and amazing.
Everything we experienced I will remember for the rest of my life. A key point I will make is that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, wherever the remote place may be on a normal day or a public holiday there will always be kind people on this earth to help you through any situation or trouble you find yourself in.
Thumbs up to the world.
So for anyone wondering, the border crossing is safe and an awesome EXPERIENCE!