Thingyan Water Festival Myanmar: what you need to know

Myanmar (Burma)
You may have heard about the Songkran water festival in Thailand, but have you heard of the one in Myanmar. I suspect you haven’t unless you’ve been and experienced it for yourself. I didn’t even know it existed until we were a week into our trip and glanced at a calendar in the hotel reception. I didn’t even consider that it might be similar to the one in Thailand and completely forgot about it until it actually began.

One positive of the Thingyan festival being a lot less famous than the one in Thailand is that if you choose to involve yourself in the festival it is nowhere near as touristy or hectic as the Songkran festival. I’d still very much like to experience this one and was a bit disappointed that our route meant we were missing it but I’m so glad we still got the experience in Myanmar. 

Obviously, the festival will vary depending on which areas of Myanmar you are in during the festival period. We met people who had been in Mandalay and they told us that it had been quite intense, the streets had been flooded with water and you couldn’t go anywhere without being soaked.

We experienced it in a quieter area of Myanmar; Bagan. Still very much a big part of the tourist path in Myanmar but a much smaller town Bagan seemed like the perfect place to experience the festival. Not that we’d chosen it, it just so happened to be the next stop on our route. 

Now I’ve experienced it for myself and knew very little if anything before my trip I thought it would be useful to others to put together a post about the key things you should know about the festival and what you should expect. 

Myanmar water festival



1. Buses do not run while the festival is on. 

If they do then they're extremely limited and most likely already booked up.

In a lot of cases your only option, if you want to get to another destination, is to fly. This is pricey but flights can be booked very easily through your hotel the day before. Something that you wouldn’t get in the UK! The boarding passes were just a piece of paper with the flight time on and the logo of the airline. We also paid our money for the flight to our hotel, something else that I doubt would happen in the UK. 

As far as I'm aware trains were still running. In fact, we got wet on the way to Hsipaw even before the festival had begun. I thought at the time it was just something the children did as there were tourists on the train but looking back it was most likely in preparation for the water festival.

So just make sure that if you're in the window, well if your in any seat on the train you may get wet so keep your phone somewhere hidden which is a bit more difficult when you want to listen to some music. 

2. Prepare to get wet!

It is a water festival after all. I’d recommend purchasing a dry bag before your trip.Or along the way. I know a lot of places in Thailand sold them but I’m unsure Myanmar would sell them but they can be bought cheaply from Amazon.

This will ensure that your belongings stay dry. It’ not 100% so don’t submerge the bag in water but we were sprayed by a very large hose pipe and everything in the bag remained dry. It’s also best not to take too many valuables with you. I chose to leave my camera at home and bring my go pro which is waterproof instead along with my phone and money. I probably could have left my phone in the hotel as well. Or you can purchase a waterproof phone case although I’m never sure just how good these are so am yet to test one out just in case. 

Thingyan festival Myanmar

3. Embrace it and enjoy yourself

Join the locals and party on the streets. Or jump on the back of a truck and drive around. We joined various groups along the street which also meant that you could soak others and not get soaked yourself. 

4. It can get tiresome

I think the festival lasts around five days. That means five days with the risk of getting absolutely soaked as soon as you leave your guesthouse. After a day or so this can get annoying. While you can tell people not to wet you there’s no guarantee they’re going to listen to you, especially as you’re a tourist! 

5. It can disrupt your plans 

Like I said in point 1 buses don’t run. But there are other problems. Restaurants don’t have to open and people will not want to be driving you around. Our driver refused to take us to see other temples in Bagan after our sunrise visit because the water festival had already begun and they didn’t want to drive in it. Obviously, this is understandable even if it did mean we missed out. We also missed out on the sunset the previous day for the same reason. They told us it wouldn’t be very good because of the clouds and while that was probably true the reason they refused was the water festival. I doubt they would have turned down money just because we may miss out on a good sunset. 

Thingyan water festival Myanmar


  • The dates for the 2018 Thingyan festival are the 13th to the 16th of April
  • If possible book travel in advance, one of the main bus companies JJ Express let you book online
  • However, this may be very difficult as a lot of buses simply don't run
  • In this case, plan your trip so you're in the same place for the duration of the water festival
  • During the water festival, you will get wet so invest in a dry bag! 
  • Join in, lots of locals will let you hop onto their truck or join the street parties, eveyone is very welcoming!


While I had no idea about the Thingyan water festival until I was in Myanmar it was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. However, I would have liked to be more prepared it did mean we had to change our plans and not because we wanted to so do your research. The Songkran water festival in Thailand is still on my bucket list so hopefully, I'll get to experience it soon! 

Have you ever experienced a water festival? 


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