Access from Tak is about 100 km along Hwy 105 via Doi Musoe (870 m) and Doi Son (784 m). Tak is on the regular bus route between Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
Frequent mini buses connect Mae Sot directly with Tak bus station, starting at 05:30 and ending around 19:00, and should depart every 30 minutes from the lower end of Burmese market. However those that are already full can be expected to leave early, and those that are not will probably go late. The journey takes about 90 minutes and costs approximately 78 baht/person. The surcharge for putting a bicycle on the roof rack is 50 baht. There is a through bus from Mae Sot to Sukothai, via Tak.
There are buses in the early morning and late evening from Mo Chit Bus Station in Bangkok. A single ticket for the VIP buses cost approximately 613 baht per person. Try to get a spot on the top level of the VIP bus as you are not near the toilets at the bottom level. There are also cheaper first and second class buses- 394 baht and 306 baht respectively. The buses leave Mae Sot and Mo Chit early in the morning and throughout the evening, day bus or night bus. This means that after approximately 7-8 hours of travel time you reach your destination very early, around 17:00 depending on the bus you take. Tickets on first class and VIP buses entitle you to a free light meal and/or drink at a half way stop. There are motor bike and tuk tuk taxis at Mae Sot bus station. It is best to have a map of your destination, with Thai directions, if possible. The typical fare into town or to one of the guest houses listed here, is between 50-100 baht. Negotiate prior to embarking.
From Myanmar: You can walk across the 'friendship bridge' directly from Myawaddy to Mae Sot. The bridge is a few hundred metres long so the walk takes 15 minutes or so, but is completely exposed to the elements (no shelter/shade). Pickups frequently cross the bridge however they often get stuck in queues, meaning walking may be faster. Once arriving on the Thai side, you can catch a Songthaew to town for THB20, motorcycle taxi for THB60 or attempt to hitchhike, which is generally fairly easy as all traffic is passing alongside Mae Sot, and often includes large pickups and trucks.
You pass through immigration on the Burmese side, then again to enter Thailand. Both sides of the bridge have 'foreigner' booths which generally provide a fast, queue-jumping service versus the crowds of locals crossing back and forth.
Buses leave twice daily from Yangon to Myawaddy directly, morning and evening, with several different companies to choose from. MYK9,000-15,000, often including transfer from Yangon city to the appropriate bus terminal.
Buses also go direct from Hpah-An and Mawlamyine, along with various shared taxis which can be caught at various times throughout the day. Bus approximately MYK5,000-10,000; Shared taxi MYK8,000-15,000.
Nobody wants to buy Myanmar Kyat in Thailand, so best to change or spend all your Kyat before you cross the border into Thailand.
Mae Sot Airport (MAQ) is about 2 km west of the edge of town, and just 1 km from the border. Nok Air operates flights from Bangkok and Yangon.
Getting around town is pretty simple by foot but if you are looking for other forms of transport, bicycles and motorbikes can be rented at many guest houses for approximately 50 baht per day and 150 baht per day respectively. A helmet is supplied as the police fine people not wearing one. You have to leave your passport for bond and fill up with petrol when you return it. Cars and 4 wheel drives can be hired from several places around town (e.g., Well Driving, close to Casa Mia). Be very careful as the driving in Thailand can at best be described as unconventional and at worst, downright dangerous.
Taxis come in the form of motorbike or tuk-tuk, usually found near the Burmese market and outside Tesco. The drivers have special licence number jackets. Obviously, prices depend on distance and passengers, but as a rough guide, 50-100 baht will get you to most places around the town.
- Gibbon Sanctuary (Take the light blue songthaew #48 from the main road for an hour and a half; ring the bell to disembark at km41.5.). While many other animals reside here, the gibbon sanctuary houses dozens of rescued gibbon, of the great ape group, who are often adopted as pets and then neglected by their owners when they reach adulthood. These fascinating creatures speak to you as you walk among their pens and hand feed them ripe fruit.
- Mae Kasa Hot Springs (At km13-14). Legend has it the Mae Kasa Hot Springs are hot enough to boil an egg. There's a nice walk you can take around the area and it's a great place to have a picnic.
- Myawaddy in Myanmar (Via the border bridge, for a small fee, with passport). Situation unclear regarding day trips at present (Nov 2015). Pre-applied for and approved visa is required to enter Myanmar here, as Visa on Arrival is not available.
- Phra Charoen Waterfall (25 km outside Mae Sot). There is a well-beaten trail alongside its 97 steps, providing a beautiful stroll through the jungle. Bring a picnic with you and be prepared to get wet.
- Reclining Buddha and Buddha Foot (on the way to the border, look toward your right). a beautiful Buddhist temple which contains a giant reclining Buddha. Continue straight on and find the Buddha's footprint.
- Rim Moei Border Market. Well-worth a visit for a whole range of locally made and Chinese and Burmese imports, including bootleg Viagra, cigarettes, whisky and designer goods, plus gems and plants.
- Town markets. The vibrant Burmese market in the centre of town represents an amazing cultural mix. There are Indo-Burmese textiles, food and teak; as well as Karen, Mon, Hmong, and other Burmese minority shops of all kinds. Turtles, eels, and frogs all available at food stalls while pork, chicken, beef, and lamb are also sold. There are numerous gem and jade shops - but they are not for amateurs. You had best be able to tell the difference between real and fake gems if you plan to buy. Open morning and evening is a small indoor Thai market at Baan Nua, on the way to Mae Sot Villas with lovely fresh vegetables, meat and cooked take-away meals.
- Tararak Waterfall (26 km south of Mae Sot). Tararak is part of the Ti Lor Su waterfall group and like its cousin Phra Charoen contains a nice walking trail and plenty of places to picnic.
- Gecko Garden Yoga Studio, ☎ . Daily, 18:00-19:00,. Yoga in a peaceful setting. Mat provided. Regular classes on Monday, Wednesday & Friday. Advanced classes on Tuesday & Thursday. 100 baht per class.
- Puzzlebox Art Courses. The Puzzlebox offers courses in batik, ceramics, sandblasting and basic art. Professionals teach basic techniques, and you create your own original work. The course culminates in a product you can take home. Participate individually or schedule a group course.
- Swim. Delightful swimming pool in a private house in Mae Sot villas plus a gym and pool at Centara Hotel.
- Thai Massage. Most recommended is the one on the grounds of Mae Sot Hospital, rear entrance, and the one on the Asian Highway on the left towards the river, just past the traffic lights to Mae Ramat.
- 2Wheels Bike Rental, ☎ . Explore the scenic surroundings of Mae Sot on bicycle. Fully-loaded Trek 3900 with disc brakes. 216, 218 and 220 inch available. 100 baht/day, 50 baht/half day.
- Volunteering in an orphanage. The Center for Children in Need needs short- or long-term volunteers in their grass-roots project for abandoned Burmese children. Volunteers participate in the daily activities and there are often small construction and renovation projects going on. The director also takes the volunteers to the market and shows them around. You pay 300 baht per day, which includes 3 meals and the use of a bicycle and Internet.
- Wat Mani Herbal Sauna (On the east side of town, near Tesco Lotus. If you walk on the northern main road (direction east), enter the temple complex at the sign Wat Mani, walk straight and turn right around the main building. The herbal sauna is at the back of the main temple). Open afternoons. Bring your own towel and water bottle. Women should wear a sarong or loose wrap. There's a separate section for men and women. The steam room is tiny, but this gives a good opportunity to mix with locals. 20 baht.
- The main market is a great place to purchase some Burmese goods. Wandering around it is easy to see the ethnic diversity in Mae Sot. Its is also a fantastic place to buy great fresh, often live, food.
- There are many gem stone and jewellery shops offering good bargains. Most of the trade is for wholesale however. As with anywhere in Thailand, although many sellers are reputable, be wary that if you look European, low quality stones might be sold for high prices. Do some research before you buy.
- For locally made ethnic handicrafts, Fair Trade / Social Enterprise, goods try the WEAVE & Borderline shops, which are almost opposite each other on Inthrakiree Road heading into town from the west. Borderline also has an artist's gallery, a coffee shop, and free Wi-Fi out the back.
- There are a couple of trekking/tour companies operating out of Mae Sot, with jungle trips, elephant rides and white water rafting. SP Kitchen on Asia Highway is one option, Bai Fern in the centre on Inthrakiree Road is another. Some routes are seasonal and cannot be accessed at the height of the rainy season, May-Oct.
- Aiya (Intharakiree Rd. When heading E, across from Bai Fern). Thai-Burmese restaurant with an expansive menu in English. Friendly, but very slow service.
- Cafe de Moei (Next to PTT, left side of Asian Hwy on the way to Moei River). Good Thai fusion cuisine.
- Casa Mia (Left off Intharakiree Rd when E of the bus station at the W end of town). Thai, Burmese, and Western food. Friendly, English-speaking staff, with homemade bread, pasta and cakes.
- Coffee Corner (DK Plaza, opposite DK Hotel on Intharakiree Rd). Thai, Burmese and Western food. Comfortable with friendly staff and Bu, the owner, speaks English. The food is reasonably priced with good service. They make excellent coffee.
- Hazel Cafe (Right side of Intharakiree Rd, just before the police station). Sleek décor with delicious cakes and chocolates. Air conditioning and free Wi-Fi.
- Krua Canadian Cafe (Mae Sot centre, opposite the police station on Inthrakiree Rd). 07:00-. European, Mexican, and Thai menu. The owner always offers help to foreigners. However, it has been reported that the owner can also be rather nasty and rude. Reasonable prices with good quality food. Sells take-away bread, wine, and Thai coffee in gift bags. Now has a pub attached next door. Free Wi-Fi.
- Mai Thai. Lovely place to eat and drink. The Thai owner and chef cooks each dish to order according to her northern Thai roots. Open early for "after-work" drinks and on until late. Food is tasty, but standards of hygiene are not perfect.
- Opposite T Corner (Fishtank, due to its location next to an aquarium shop). Good Thai food. Don't be put off by the décor and TV soaps as the food is all freshly cooked in front of you by a chef recently returned from a top Bangkok hotel.
- The Passport @ HCTC, ☎ . Th-F-Sa nights. Call for reservation. Vocational restaurant run by the Hospitality & Catering Training Centre, a charity offering a hospitality programme to under-privileged children of the Tak-Myanmar border. As part of their studies for the Certificate of Hospitality and Tourism, students are required to master basic cooking and service techniques. In order to enable this, they have opened a casual dining venue opened to the public 3 nights per week. Great cocktails and the most extensive wine list in Mae Sot. Thai specialities: sum tam spring rolls, tom yam gung, curries, dessert tray. All reasonably priced.
- Peace Cafe (Sawanwithi Rd in town centre, at the traffic light of Intharakiri Rd, just round the corner from the VIP bus stop to Bangkok). 09:00-21:00. Supports The Best Friend Libraries and education projects. Sunday night at 19:00 is the Burma Film Series, admission free. European and Burmese food. Many vegetarian dishes. Bicycles for rent and guided tours.
- SP Kitchen (Left side of Asian Hwy heading towards the border with Burma). Delicious Burmese, Thai, and Western food.
- Wadee Restaurant (Up the road from Casa Mia). Delicious Burmese food, also some Thai dishes. Very friendly service.
- Yellow Green Coffee Shop, 599/1 Inthrakiree Rd (Westbound, before Irawadee Resort). Owned by a husband & wife, who bake daily. Free Wi-Fi and has a nice balcony on the 2nd floor.
- There are many restaurants and good street food sellers in Mae Sot. Som tam on the street heading east from Tesco towards the temple, pad Thai on the left just before the traffic lights on the road towards Mae Sot Villas, fish on the right, Vietnamese on the left heading towards the bus station, fish opposite the junction to Casa Mia, Burmese chicken curry at Mandalay, an atmospheric Thai diner just off the main road to Tak and the up-market place a couple of kilometres on the left on the road north towards Mae Ramat. However, good vegetarian food is limited: there is one good restaurant on the left hand side of the road heading out towards Mae Sot Villas (and a small, very reasonably priced cafe off the main road leading towards Mae Sot Hospital. Incidentally, the turning left to this place is just after a good curry cafe opposite the main town mosque.
- A bit past the mosque the road splits, and on the right fork at the end of the 1st block is a wonderful fried chicken take-away.
- Two steak houses are on Asia Hwy. One is named "Cowboy & Indian" (note "Cowboy & Indian" burned down in January 2015 but is being rebuilt). The other is a bit further east and has a bright yellow sign.
- Night Market is terrific for late diners as the open air shops stay open quite late. All Thai food with English menus.
- EFCC (ExPPACT Foreign Correspondents’ Club), 206 Intarakhiri Rd (Opposite Yamaha showroom, near Tesco Lotus). Run by Burmese former political prisoners. ExPPACT is now defunct, but the club continues. Set in a nice garden, this laid back place mainly attracts longer-term residents. Cocktails, Burmese snacks and weekly film screenings.
- Sweet Harmony Coffee Shop and Bakery, 2/3 Sripanich Rd, ☎ . , Pleasant atmosphere in a bustling central location with good snacks and drinks.
- Y2K. A Thai nightclub. The interior is "table style" where everyone has their own group and table. On Friday and Saturday nights host a large number of ladyboys with live music. Admission is 70 baht, includes a small Leo beer.
- Auntie's B&B (Intharakiri Rd). A tiny, friendly, and comfortable bed & breakfast that will make you feel like home when staying here. They also have a good selection on their menu with a big breakfast, excellent coffee, a selection of teas and delicious yogurt smoothies.
- Baan Tung Guest House, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A boutique style mid-range place to stay. Quiet location, close to the town, markets, eating places and en route from the bus station. Large, clean and very comfortable en suite bath, double rooms with locally crafted furniture and seating area. Have a fridge, cable TV, and free Wi-Fi. Enjoy fresh coffee on the balcony or terrace and obtain excellent information from the Thai owner, Kung, or his friendly staff who speak Thai, English, and Burmese. 350-500 baht.
- Center for Children in Need (In Ban Nonq King Fa, close to KWO, Backpack, CDC, airport and bus terminal). Homestay in grass roots project. 3 rooms available with fan, shared bathroom. Village has Wi-Fi, taxi, restaurants and shops. 25 min by bike to town centre. Supports the orphanage. 80 baht.
- The Charm, 11/41 Intharakiri Rd, Soi 3 (Just outside the gate to Mae Sot Villa in the east of town), ☎ . , A boutique hotel with style and atmosphere. Offers clean, quiet, affordable accommodations. All rooms are en suite with air-con, cable TV, hot showers, towels, complimentary water, free unlimited Wi-Fi. Free bikes for guests. Services include pick-up and drop-off, massage, laundry, room service, English classes, cooking classes and photo/video. Native English-speaking staff can provide excellent information regarding the area and assist in organizing local sightseeing trips. Long-term rates available. Has a full-service restaurant on the ground floor. Good views of Mae Sot are from the penthouse. Conference room available. Smoking is permitted on balconies and the outside eating area of the restaurant. Two single rooms, each costing 400 baht, 550 baht with breakfast, 650 baht during high season. Six double rooms which cost 600-700 baht with breakfast.
- DK Guest House. A well-used tourist hang out with mostly older NGO people, missionaries, and the like. Tiled BIG double rooms with air, Western toilet (hot water), cable TV, and a balcony; fan double rooms are cheaper. Don't get the rooms at either end as the noise can be a bit much from chickens and cars very early in the morning. The staff are nice; Internet is available in the lobby, as well as free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel. Cable TV includes BBC, Al Jazeera, MTV, Thai, Burmese, and Chinese channels. 250-400 baht.
- First Hotel. Has invested its time and energy on its interior with wood carvings covering ceilings and bedposts, leaving the exterior to be remarkable only by their omission. Air-con rooms with double beds are available, as are other variations.
- Irawadee Resort, 758/1-2 Intharakiri Rd (westbound). Hotel décor is of old classic Thai-Myanmar style. Clean and well-maintained rooms making you feel like you're staying in a real hotel, not only overnight sleep room. Free Wi-Fi and breakfast included in the room rate. Opposite and surrounding it are several restaurants and coffee shops: Bor-Kung Phao, dinner only with seafood caught in Myanmar; Krua Kon Wan, lunch & dinner Thai-style food; Som Tam shop; Chansuda Shop, Thai traditional desserts and snacks; Yellow Green Coffee Shop, coffee, tea and baked goods; T Corner, coffee and some food. 850-1,250 baht.
- Lusy's Home Guest House (GPS-coordinates: N 16° 43.012 E 98° 33.882). TV, hot shower, fan and a water bottle. 200 baht.
- Picturebook Guest House, 125/4-6 Soi 19 Intharakiri Rd, ☎ . A non-profit guest house run by a local organization that works in vocational training. Its design is unique and detailed and the rooms clean and comfortable. Described on their website as "boutique on a budget", it contains a secluded garden with a horseshoe recreation area and a beer-drinking table. Breakfast, air-con, hot water showers in all rooms. Ground floor rooms 500 baht and balcony rooms 700 baht.
- Smile Guest House, 738 Intharakeeree Rd (Beside Ban Thai Guesthouse and 5 min walk from Borderline Shop/Cafe), ☎ , e-mail: , email@example.com. Check-out: 12:00. Clean and simple. Staff speaks good English. Free Wi-Fi. 100-250 baht (Nov 2013). 100 baht single rooms with fans, 180 baht double room with fan and en suite bath. 250 baht with air-con.
- Green Guest House (2 Minutes walk south of the 'Market' bus terminal.). Check-in: Any if room available, check-out: 1200. An attractive and quiet collection of small rooms run by a friendly local family. Warm showers, towel provided, fan or air-con rooms with decent WiFi. No drinking/hot water provided. THB270.
Be aware that there are two bus stations in Mae Sot: The smaller, local station which is nearer to town, features a large traditional market in the centre (only operates on some days) and the larger "main" or "highway" bus terminal which is a small distance out of town and generally requires a tuk-tuk or taxi ride (motorcycle taxi THB60). Be sure you know which station your bus departs from. It is also possible to catch 'Green Bus' buses from their offices, which are a little closer to town and thus easier to walk to.
In addition to the Mae Sot to Mo Chit route, Bangkok, buses also travel directly to Mae Sai, via Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Departure times from Mae Sot are 06:00 and 08:00 from the main bus terminal. Tickets can usually be purchased without problems at the station on the morning of departure. Ask your guesthouse to arrange an early morning tuk-tuk to the station. The ticket booth opens at 05:30. The Green Bus, direct to Chiang Mai, has moved its ticket office to a building on the Asia Hwy just to the west of Hwy 105 North.
There are two classes of buses, but both are very clean and spacious and also include a free or 10 baht lunch voucher. Total travel time to Chiang Mai is about 6 hours; Chiang Rai, 9 hours. Tickets are 250-350 baht and 350-500 baht, respectively, and depend on the service class. Green Buses from Chiang Mai to Mae Sot depart daily at 11:45 (2nd class) and 13:10 (1st class).
The Laem Ngop bus travels south towards Bangkok, veering east before entering the city, and then travelling along the coast via Chonburi and Rayong. The travel time from Mae Sot to the ferry departure point for Ko Chang is around 16 hours and the ticket costs 750 baht.
Another way to leave Mae Sot is to catch the minibus to Tak to connect to onward buses. These leave throughout the day around every 40 minutes from the old market area which is over the bridge from Green Guesthouse. The trip to Tak takes around 1.5 hours and costs 78 baht.
Songthaews travel frequently to Mae Sariang (north) and Umphang (south). They leave from the market or you can flag them down on route, but beware they are bone shakers and sometimes very full.
To Myanmar: Songthaews to the friendship bridge leave frequently from the far side of the Burmese market. Locals should be able to point you in the right direction. They depart throughout the day, but only when full, so wait times may be up to an hour. Best to go fairly early morning, when the locals do. THB20 per person, and be prepared to squeeze in. Motorcycle taxis will run the route for THB60 (Nov 2015).
Be aware that there is no visa on arrival for this border crossing to Myanmar, so you will need to have obtained a visa previously. After passing through customs in Thailand, you can walk across the bridge (10-15 mins) and stroll into customs on the Myanmar side. Both customs offices have booths for foreigners, speeding up the process. From Myawaddy it is easy to catch onward transport into Myanmar, though generally easier earlier in the morning. The border opens at 0600.
There are a handful of places to eat in the Thai side, but little other than very simple street food immediately on the Burmese side. Nobody will buy or sell Myanmar Kyat on the Thai side, so change your money in Myawaddy.