Cheapest way to travel to Bagan (Pagan) is by bus. However, it is not the most convenient way of travel in Myanmar. The roads are usually rough and bumpy in Myanmar, and buses are usually old, dirty and crowded. But for those who are budget conscious, the following is a rough guide to go to Bagan by bus from Yangon (Rangoon).
There are a number of highway buses that run between Yangon and Bagan. Some of them are ordinary buses where buses are very old, dirty, crowded, and slow and carry a lot of cargo together with passengers. However, there are currently two Express bus services between Yangon and Bagan. One is Ye Thu Aung Express and another is Bagan Minthar (Bagan Prince) Express. They are competitors and both of them have more or less the same quality of service.
From Yangon, they leave at 3:30 PM everyday from Aung Mingalar Highway Bus Terminal. Both leave Yangon at the same time, although the departure time might be earlier or delayed depending on passenger arrival. If all the passengers arrive before the departure time, they tend to leave 10 to 15 minutes earlier. However, if one or two passengers are late, they might wait another 10 to 15 minutes more. Unless there is a problem with the bus, the departure time is not much delayed more than that. Departure time from Bagan is also the same.
Both of them are air-conditioned buses. However, many a times, some buses switched off the air-con, once they left Yangon area. Some simply reduce the air-con power. The reason is to save some money for the bus owner. (In Myanmar, most bus lines do not own buses. They charge the bus owners a percentage of the ticket price). Still, many of them do not do these tricks, and when they open the air-con to its full power, it can be extremely cold, so it is always advisable to bring a sweater or a jacket in case they do open air-con to full power.
Another thing about these buses is that both of them sell tickets for the axle (middle) seats. It really is very inconvenient, especially if they also switch off the air-con. In such case, the inside of the bus becomes hot like hell.
Most buses from these two bus services are in good condition, but it does not mean they are reliable. Due to poor condition of the roads and poor maintenance of the buses, they are easy to break down on the way.
As soon as the bus leaves the station, they will start showing the local soap opera or music video. Sometimes, they will show A-Nyient, which is a local traditional dance troupe. Sound volume is usually very loud, sometimes quite to the unbearable extent. This will continue until the bus stops for dinner/supper and resumes again as soon as the bus leaves. A good reason for you to bring your iPod.