The trip from Inle Lake to Loikaw is an easy three-hour journey by road. As the jumping-off point to visit the Kayan Lahwi tribe, it's a beautiful place and one of the must-see destinations in Myanmar. The distance is roughly 77 miles (or 125 kilometers). Although it's close, the drive can take up to 3.5 hours due to road conditions.
Renting a car or hiring a driver is the easiest, most straightforward way to travel between the two destinations. However, if you're up for an adventure, there are also alternatives via more roundabout routes by boat, train, bus. You can also fly but you have to go through Yangon first which typically involves an overnight layover.
Another option is to book this 7-day trip which brings you to a handful of destinations in eastern Myanmar including Loikaw and Inle Lake, as well as Pindaya, Kalaw, He Hoe, and others.
By Private Vehicle
Duration: 3 to 3.5 hours
The most convenient way to get to Loikaw from Inle Lake is by private vehicle. You can hire a driver or rent a car, depending on your preference. To get there, simply head out of Nyaung Shwe, the principal town around Inle Lake, on the main road and take it south about 40 miles until you hit Route 54. Head east on that highway to Route 5, then south a few more miles to Loikaw. Although a little bumpy, the route is scenic and you can stop at a cute noodle shop outside Sam Kar for lunch.
By Minivan or Bus
Duration: 6 hours
The next most convenient way to travel in between destinations is by minivan or bus, although you can't typically book tickets online. Moreover, you usually have to go to the bus station to access the schedules. That said, this option is cheaper than renting a car and the drive is equally scenic.
Minivans and buses depart from Nyuang Shwe most days and arrive roughly 6 hours later in Loikaw vie Route 54. Some have air conditioning and amenities while others are more basic.
By Boat + Taxi
Duration: 5-7 hours
If you're in the mood for an adventure, another option is to take a boat from Nyaung Shwe to the town of Pekon. This is typically a 4-hour ride that can accommodate up to roughly five people. From there, you can hire a driver to take you the final hour by road to Loikaw.
It's a scenic option that can be enjoyable for some people. However, you can't book it online and since it's not an organized route, you'll have to make your own arrangements which may involve haggling over prices. Also note that at lower water levels it is not an option.
By Taxi + Train
Duration: 10.5 to 11 hours
Another off-the-beaten-path option is to take a taxi cab to Aungpan and hop on a train from there. It's a one-hour drive to Aunpan and then 9.5 hours to Loikaw, however, bringing the trip total to roughly 10.5 to 11 hours.
Duration: 17 to 20 hours
Although flying can be more comfortable, it takes much longer than the other options because you have to go to Yangon first. This typically requires an overnight layover, bringing the total travel time to anywhere from 17 to 20 hours. Nevertheless, if you prefer the convenience of flying and have plans to go to the city anyway, it can be a good option as each flight is only about an hour.