As the words of the song go, “The wheels on the bus go round and round”, Yes! You can watch them through the hole in the floor. In Yangon, that experience is disappearing with old, decrepit buses being removed from service. Travelling by bus is a classic Yangon experience, so this is the time to jump on a bus to experience a journey in transition.
For 200 Kyat cash, Yangon Bus Service (YBS) takes you on an unlimited ride through Yangon, so you can see the Yangon community in action.
Not all buses are airconditioned – some are very old, with hard suspension, and the occasional ‘old-school’ driver, chewing betel nut, suddenly brakes hard, which makes it a rough journey.
Hold onto the rail as you approach a stop, or at any time. Buses are jerky, bumpy so prepare for sudden stops. Yet rest assured, anyone loses balance will feel supportive hands of others squished into the bus.
YBS provides essential transport for women heading to and from the markets, carrying huge containers of food or baskets of fruit. Even travellers with heavy bags will find someone sitting down offering to hold the load so you can hang on to the railing.
Cash is king on Yangon buses, with 200 kyat slipped into a box beside the driver. At first, it seems suspicious when someone is standing at the top of the stairs ask you for your money. After a while, you realise there is a trust system. If someone has only 500 or 1,000 kyat, they will take your 200 to make up the change then slip their note into the slot.
This is all about to change as new technology has started appearing. An electronic system will replace cash.
The system for bus beginners seems unfathomable but there are apps and maps that guide you through the YBS routes.
TIPS TO HELP
Most bus stops are named, in English, written on the top of the bus stop, with each bus stop usually having a pair on the opposite side of the road. To help remember it’s good to take a photo of the stop in case you forget. On the side of the shelter the buses that stop there are numbered in Burmese, so remembering your Burmese numbers helps.
The bus stops are spaced well apart, including in downtown Yangon. However, bus drivers can sometimes be persuaded to open the doors when the bus is stopped in traffic.
Every bus is numbered, most in English numerals, some in Burmese.
The YBS website shows the bus routes and bus stops http://ygnbusdirectory.com/. Once you know your bus route, you’re set!
There is none, so allow sufficient time to complete your bus journey. Although information about the bus frequency is usually known by the local people. Buses on some routes run until 11 pm, although most routes stop after 8 pm or 9 pm.
AIRPORT BUS SERVICE:
The airport bus is operated by Omni Focus. There are two routes – Pyay Road route (Green) and Kabar Aye Pagoda Road route (Red) to downtown Yangon, terminating at the Central Railway Station. The bus stop for these air-conditioned buses is located at the front of the airport terminal, in the road beyond the taxi pick-up lanes. The cost, just 500 Kyats. To catch the correct bus, you should ask which route the bus will take. See our guide to it here.
There are a couple of apps that together to create a workable system. In the future it will all be made simpler as the Yangon Smart Transit App, which will track buses fitted with GPS, is being developed by Asia Starmar Transport Intelligence Co, the company that is also responsible for the installation of the Yangon Payment Service card system in YBS buses.
Yangon Bus On The Map
‘Yangon Bus on the Map’ is a simple useful app based on a mapping service that provides GPS for your location; and which allows you to identify the name of each bus stop and the buses that passing each bus stop. If you can identify that your starting point, and your destination, are on the same bus route – then life is simple. However, ‘Yangon Bus on the Map’ doesn’t help you identify where you need to change buses.
Yangon City Bus
To use the “Yangon City Bus” app, you need to know the names of the bus stops at the start and finish of your journey. The “Yangon City Bus” app offers you an alternative route to your destination and the location where you change buses.
The “Yangon City Bus” app identifies each bus stop name as a pair – the stop on each side of the road. Therefore, you have to work out which direction the bus is travelling – either towards or away from downtown Yangon – as the routes produced by the app can be different with the selection of the stop on each side of the road.
Every bus trip is a new journey. There are Buddhist decorations hanging above the windscreen in some, air-conditioning in many. The Yangon public transport may feel confusing, but it is workable for first-time travellers in Yangon and long-time residents. Phone apps provided for navigation of bus routes and the implementation of a card payment system will end the need to carry low-value notes.