Inle can be reached by a number of ways from either Yangon (Rangoon) or Mandalay. You can get to Inle by air flight, by train or by bus. As Nyaungshwe is the usual dwelling place for most foreign tourists going to Inle, we will describe how to go to Nyaungshwe from other parts of Myanmar (Burma).
All domestic airlines in Myanmar, namely Air Mandalay, Yangon Airway and Air Bagan, operate daily flights to Heho, a nearby town in Shan State. In peak seasons, there is usually more than one flight a day to Inle from each domestic airline. Usually, during peak tourist season, there are two flights a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The routes are usually Yangon-Heho-Mandalay-Bagan or the reverse order. This makes it easy and convenient to plan a route along these destinations. Air travel is the most convenient way of travel in Myanmar, as the condition of most highways in Myanmar are in poor condition, and most highways buses are also old and in poor maintainance. It also saves a lot of time. However, please bear in mind that ticket prices for airlines in Myanmar are quite expensive. Yangon-Heho air ticket is sold at around US$ 100 for foreigners (for Myanmar citizen, it is around half this price), and from Mandalay to Heho is about US$ 50. Bagan to Heho will cost around US$ 75.
You can get a taxi from outside Heho airport to Nyaungshwe. Taxi fare from Heho to Nyaungshwe is quite expensive (very expensive indeed), and difficult to bargain, as all the taxi drivers already fixed the price. The price of taxi fare is around 10,000 kyat to 15,000 kyat per taxi. Shared taxis are cheaper.
There are regular express bus services from Mandalay and Yangon to Nyaungshwe and Taunggyi in Shan State.
Express buses from Yangon to Taunggyi leaves everyday from Aung Mingalar Highway Bus Station. The popular express bus lines are Taung Paw Thar, Shwe Ka Bar, Yan Gyi Aung and New Mandalar Tun. Departure time from Yangon is 1 PM to 3 PM depending on the bus line. You will arrive to Taunggyi at around 6 AM the next morning. Most buses will make a stop in Nyaungshwe, but some will stop in Shwenyaung, a junction town 11 km north of Nyaungshwe, in which case you will have to catch a local pickup trucks (buses) to Nyaungshwe. The ticket price for Yangon-Taunggyi express bus is 10,900 kyat for locals and 15,000 to 18,000 kyat for foreigners (2009 price).
Several express buses leave Mandalay for Taunggyi from the main Highway Bus Station 7 km south of the town. Some buses leave in the early morning while others leave at night. Most buses will make a stop at Nyaungshwe, but if not, you will have to drop off at Shwenyaung, and get a pickup bus to Nyaungshwe. The trip from Mandalay to Nyaungshwe/Taunggyi will take the whole day (or night, depending on which bus you use).
One or two express bus lines operate between Bagan and Nyaungshwe. The buses are usually old, slow, suffocating, dirty and crowded, so we do not want to recommend taking bus from Bagan to Nyaungshwe/Taunggyi. Better choice from Bagan is to take a plane, or go to Mandalay first, and take a bus form Mandalay to Taunggyi/Nyaungshwe. (I once had to sleep on the roof of a crowded bus from Bagan to Taunggyi, which was not a very pleasant experience).
One way to go to Inle is to use train. There are regular train services between Thazi, which is a junction town on Yangon (Rangoon) – Mandalay Railway. Take a train from Yangon (or Mandalay), make a transit at Thazi to Shwenyaung. From Shwenyaung, you can take a local bus or taxi to Nyaungshwe. However, train to Inle is not a very popular way of travel among locals as well as among foreigners to Myanmar.
Nyaungshwe to Inle
Travelling from Nyaungshwe to Inle is easy. There are a number of boat taxis that you can hire from Nyaungshwe. Travelling in Inle Lake can only be done by boats.
Editor’s Note: Many of the above information has been obtained from our reference book Lonely Planet Guide to Myanmar (Burma)