Any buses to Bagan stop at the new bus stop the outskirts of town so you will have a bevy of taxi drivers (no moto or tuk tuks at all) drivers ready to ferry you in. Hopefully you find a few other travellers. Bargain HARD as they know they have got you with no way of getting to Bagan otherwise. You should be abel to get them to $6 if staying in New Bagan.
Stay in New Bagan. Nuang U is a tourist town now that is downtrodden and dirty. New Bagan is where the savvy operators have moved to as it’s much nicer in pretty much every way.
There is much chatter that all hotels get booked up very early so as soon as you know when you will be in town – get booking on Agoda. We stayed at the Bagan Empress which was a bit of a splurge at $55 a night but it was money well spent – great rooms and bathrooms to do a clothes wash in, good wifi, a rooftop terrace and nice and quiet. It’s worth paying for a nice place as you may want to retreat in the middle of the day when you will melt among the temples and cannot physically spend the whole day outside.
If you intend to hire an eBike to get around Bagan (and you should) then it’s worth bargaining for a good price for however long you want them for. There are 2 types of bikes each business has so go for the better bike and try to get them down to $5 per 24 hours. Very worth remembering is that if you have a flat tyre or run out of battery, you just need to call up where you hired the bike from (on the front of every bike) and they will send a centralised person to repair your tire or bring a fresh battery – all free of charge.
The only street food you will find in Bagan in Nuang U and even there it’s pretty sparse. Try out the vegetarian restaurants in Old Bagan like Yar Pyi Vegetarian Restaurant – right across from Moon Restaurant.
Don’t bother with trying to see all the big sights and temples. Wins come from the dusty tracks off the bitumen roads to unexplored pagodas that no one goes to.
Buy more water than you think you’re going to need. Trust us you will need it. Even if you’re not cycling it’s hot, dusty and drier than a camel’s arse.
Slather on the sunscreen. You might be pretty covered up (especially if you are a girl – temple etiquette requires sleeves and long pants) but for comfort’s sake we would recommend packing a pair of shorts to change into between temples. You might get a few looks as locals speed past on motorbikes, but you will feel a whole lot better for wearing less layers as you ride by.
We recommend doing sunrise (along with most other people, but it is stunning) at Shwesandaw Temple – it gets even busier at sunset so instead head for somewhere else. We arrived at 5:45 and could have got there even earlier to get a great seat. Maybe pack a head torch as the steep climb requires lots of steps and it’s dark, obviously.
When not doing sunrise, we still started pretty early – between 6-7am as you will have most places to yourself, there’s great light for photos and it’s not mental hot just yet.
Yes, you will suffer with this even though it is all stunning – be prepared to take the odd break to rally energy.
Look for temples that look like small square boxes with square roofs. Very few temples can be climbed but if you know what to look for, these buildings usually have a small staircase onto the roof.