My name is Anna and I lived and worked remotely from Bagan, Myanmar for good 4 months in 2019! I am originally from Sydney although I was born in Nepal and choose to live elsewhere all the time!
For work, I write my travel experiences into words in my blog. Such as this 3 weeks Myanmar itinerary. I also work with brands strategizing and helping them to provide exposure on social media channels and IT consulting work. On saying that, I also ran an eCommerce store on my earlier digital nomad days. So, I think it’s fair to say my personal experience as a digital nomad is mostly writing, social media, and IT consulting work.
Bagan for digital nomads: personal experience
One of my goals in life is to complete a slow meaningful journey to all the countries in the world. So, on this journey, I ended up living in Bagan for 4 months last year. First, I visited Bagan for close to a month and I absolutely loved the quietness, vast land touching the sky, stunning sunrises, and sunsets from pagodas and temples, and the Burmese tea leaf salad! Then I returned after a few weeks to stay for a longer time. I fell in more love with the place as I figured the internet speed was decent, cafes, and restaurants were great and the weather in Bagan was just perfect. Plus, I could wake up to a picture-perfect view of the hot air balloons every morning! So, living in Bagan was a dream in some ways with 2000+ temples to explore, delicious Burmese food to eat, and kind people to meet.
The digital nomad scene in Bagan
Something worth mentioning is perhaps it is not for everyone though especially if you like meeting new people all the time. I mean you can still meet other travelers who pass by Bagan but not in those very hot summer months when it is low season and even locals go to Yangon/other places to beat the heat! So, if you are looking for a place to connect with fellow digital nomads, the chance is slim. On saying that if you are someone who doesn’t mind being on their own most times and happy to hang with a small ex-pat group or your local new Burmese friends, Bagan could be for you! Personally, for me being an extroverted introvert helped and felt it was an easy switch from visiting to actually living there!
Cost of living in Bagan
Until a couple of weeks later when I realized it wasn’t all easy when it was time to look for the apartment! (In the beginning, I was living in a hotel room) There are two reasons I found it hard to find a house in Bagan because there was not 1 FB group to find apartments or houses like in Bangkok or other Asian countries and not many local spoke English except the hotel staff, cafe owners, and the ex-pat group.
So, I was explaining I wanted to rent a house/flat to all the five cafes and restaurant owners! Some days I even explained it to a lady at a printer store and clothing store! Ah, the good times! But eventually, I was living in Bagan at a cute little house with a front yard surrounded with small trees that the landlord had just planted and a high fenced gate with big locks! Price was $300 USD per month including the hot water, 2 bedrooms, a small living room, 1 bathroom/shower, and kitchen at the back. It was a great experience living in Bagan with my landlord next door and even though there were no nets on the window!
But the real problem started when I found out there is no set public transportation available in Bagan. You either have to be riding a scooter, cycle, drive a car, or call a cab. Luckily, I had kept a name card from my driver from the airport so, I called him to go grocery shopping! I tried learning how to ride a cycle but let’s just say I am best at other things.
Wifi, sim cards, internet connection, etc
When it came to WIFI it was available but patchy throughout my hotel and even in the cafes and restaurants except for some very good days! Cafes all gave the WIFI password as soon I sat down, sometimes even without asking! If I compared the internet speed between Sim card and Wi-Fi speeds, the sim card is 100% a winner in my books.
There are three sim care providers in Myanmar. MPT for near-nationwide coverage, Ooredoo for the fastest internet in the cities and Telenor for the cheapest sim card. I personally used MPT and Ooredoo which you can buy from any mom’s and pop’s store to a convenient store.
I suggest grabbing a local sim card when you land at an international airport. I also receive a free 5 GB with it! It will take 5 minutes to set up (the network staff will do this for you) and pay extra a few dollars for data access. I recommend Ooredoo, which gave great coverage and speed.
Visas, entry/exit requirements, etc
For the Myanmar visa aspect, you can apply directly here https://evisa.moip.gov.mm/ This is the Myanmar e Visa (Official Government Website) You will need one colour photograph (4.8cm x 3.8cm) taken within the past 3 months. Also get a credit card handy to pay the US $50 application fee for the standard tourist visa, $70 for the business visa, and tourist Express Visa $56. You can then fill in the secure online e Visa form, confirm, and pay which gets you an approval letter within 3 days. Then once you land you get visa stamped upon arrival.
Cafes in Bagan for digital nomads
Maybe you will see a business opportunity here, there are no coworking spaces in Bagan as of 2019! But if you want to live a digital nomad life in Bagan cafes and restaurants will welcome you with open arms. Having said that most days I worked from home but a good amount of time I worked from cafes in Bagan. So, here are 5 cafes/restaurants I highly recommend.
Sharky’s Bagan deli and café
I love their Pizza and sandwiches, and coffee the most. It was my go-to place whenever I missed western food, although prices are high for Bagan it wasn’t every day I would eat here. And yes, I mostly went there to eat than work, but it is a big restaurant with loads of space and usually quiet. If you want to work, I recommend heading upstairs as there are AC and great tables that can easily turn into work desk too.
Date Cafe & Bakery
okay, this one was basically my workstation every morning. So yes, they have plugs, fan going, WIFI is good and great coffee also. Usually, I would also get their toasts or breakfast items that are reasonably priced. It is not on the main road, so noise is minimum but not that far from it either. If you ever make it here, and if they still have that wall where you can write what you want, try to find my name! Conveniently next door runs a laundry, so if you got some washing done you can leave it here, works by the kilo, and pick it up when you are leaving or the next day.
Cafe Friends is inspired by the TV sitcom Friends! I was amazed to find this inspired cafe in the middle of centuries-old temples in Bagan! It was my alternate cafe to work in Bagan as they had plugs, good WIFI, and good food. Although a bit noisy as it is right across the road, but the traffic wasn’t too bad in the mornings. I recommend their lunch menu, club sandwiches, and juices.
This restaurant is located right in front of the Date cafe. It is usually quiet during the day so, after my morning work hours, I would cross the street to have my lunch and start working from there. It was super easy to go from breakfast to lunch in this area! I highly recommend tea leaf salad, avocado smoothie, and other Burmese meals on the menu.
I also recommend wonderful tasty for a dash of Burmese Nepalese meals or a harmony restaurant for typical Burmese BBQ. Lastly, head to fantasia garden for a sundowner as locals and travellers gather to see the beauty of mother nature together.
Final conclusion I would like to draw is, Bagan is a beautiful place if you want that semi-quiet town to just focus on your work online or offline, whether that be to write your daily blogs, novel or the next book. Be inspired by the stunning sunrises and sunsets from the top of centuries-old temples and enjoy the delicious Burmese food. There is no better time than now to visit which is obviously after all the current world situation settles! I hope this Bagan digital nomad guide helped you to make up your mind. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.
About the Author
Anna is a Nepali-Australian who left a career in the software industry to become a solo female traveller. Currently she is on a slow meaning travel to all the countries in the world but also being environmentally conscious while sharing her journey. Her enthusiasm for travel is contagious and inspires others to live a life they love as well. So far she has solo travelled to 47 countries, lived in 5 and have ticked some big adventures off her bucket list. She enjoys travel writing, travel photography, and a minimalist lifestyle.