Getting from Myanmar's biggest city to Loikaw, the gateway to the Kayan Lahwi tribe, is not a difficult endeavor but it does involve some planning. It's roughly 300 miles (490 km) from downtown Yangon to the central part of Loikaw, one of Myanmar's best destinations. The trip takes you north through the Moe Yin Gyi Wildlife Reserve and the Bago region before cutting over through the mountains of the Kayin State. It is a scenic journey, if somewhat long and bumpy.
The easiest way to get there is to fly which avoids the 9-hour journey by road. It only takes an hour and the airport is located in the middle of town so you won't have a long taxi ride at the end. Then again, if you travel by air you miss the beautiful scenery, so it's a bit of a tradeoff. There are also buses that make the route daily and are fairly comfortable. It is also possible to take a series of trains but the logistics are extremely impractical.
A final option is to save yourself arranging transportation and book a trip instead. This 7-day tour explores off-the-beaten-path adventures in eastern Myanmar which include Loikaw, as well as He Hoe, Pindaya, Kalaw, Pan Pei, and other destinations. It ends in Yangon so you'll have time to explore the city, too.
Duration: 1 hour
Flying is by far the quickest and most efficient way to travel between Yangon and Loikaw. It surpasses the long journey by road, zipping you north and over the mountains in an hour flat. What's more, the airport in Loikaw is directly in town, reducing travel time to and from the airport. The entire journey with security lines can all be done in 3 to 3.5 hours.
Myanmar National Airlines operates a flight that departs daily in the early morning from Yangon International Airport (RGN) in Mingaladon, roughly 9.3 miles (15 km) north of town, and dropping passengers at the Loikaw Airport (LIW) in central Loikaw.
By Private Vehicle
Duration: 9 hours
The next most convenient option for traveling to Loikaw from Yangon is to venture by private vehicle, though if you hire a driver this can be rather expensive. You can also rent a car which allows you to go at your own pace.
To get there, head north on the Yangon-Mandalay Expressway for about 3.5 hours. You'll pass through the scenic Moe Yin Gyi Wildlife Reserve on the way which is a beautiful stretch to stop, stretch your legs, and get some photos. When you arrive in Taungoo, you'll head west through the mountains to Pyi Aung Yadanar, veering north on Route 5 the rest of the way.
Duration: 13 hours
Shwe Yar Zar Express operates buses that makes a direct journey from Yangon to Loikaw. They are comfortable, VIP-style vehicles with reclining seats, air conditioning, and a personal TV. They also provide water and a blanket for the 13-hour journey. The bus will pick you up at the Aung Mingalar Highway Bus Station in Yangon and drop you off at the Loikaw Bus Station.