Sittwe or Akyab (Burmese စစ်တွေမြို့) is a city (pop. 148,000 as of 2014) and district in Rakhine State, Western Myanmar.
Sittwe is in the far west of Myanmar and has been a hub for tourists travelling to Mrauk U via plane, e.g. from Yangon.
By car or bus
The road to Sittwe (via Pyay) is quite comfortable if you have your own car. Buses also travel the route. Either way, set aside two days for the journey from Yangon. The coastal route is still long and arduous.
- 1 Sittwe Bus Station (almost 4 km out of the city on the way to Mrauk U). There is also a bus stand near the central market available, which should be good for short distances.
From specific destinations
- Yangon – 26 hr, 25-35,000 kyat.
- Mandalay – The bus from Mandalay stops at Magway near the bridge across the Irrawaddy river.
- Bagan – If you starting from Bagan, you have to take a bus to Magway and switch to the bus to Sittwe (or Mrauk U) near the bridge across the Irrawaddy river or in front of the K.H.M. Fashion store. The bus from Bagan to Magway leaves the bus station near the airport at 10:00, 12:30 and 23:00, and costs 4,000 kyat. The bus from Magway to Sittwe is about 25-30,000 kyat and 18 hr. A similar trip is possible via Kyauk Padaung, best ask your guesthouse or travel agent of choice.
- Ngapali – The bus from Thandwe bus station starts at 11:30 & 13:30, and takes 17 hr to Mrauk U and is about 20,000 kyat.
- Taungup – Mostly the same buses that start in Thandwe bus station (Ngapali). They will stop at 14:30 & 16:30 in Taungup and take 14 hr for about 17,000 kyat to Mrauk U.
- Pyay – Served by the Yangon buses that stop in Pyay. Advisable to book in advance. 18 hr, 22,000 kyat.
- Mrauk U – There are various local buses, pickups and vans available for the 70 km. 1½ hr, 2-3,000 kyat.
The journey through the backwaters and then up the river is a wonderful trip. There are some concerns regarding the security on the boat, robberies have occurred. Please get updated information on-site.
- Sittwe <> Taungup. The boat leaves Wednesday & Saturday, 06:30 from Taungup harbour, and arrives at 15:30. Tickets are sold at Malikha Transportation office at the street north from the bus station by the guesthouses towards the market, just after the wide open junction (see Taungup article).
- Sittwe <> Mrauk U. A boat between takes only 3 hr and runs every day. It leaves Mrauk U at 14:00. 20,000 kyat.
There were, although thae current situation is unclear, 2 large ferries running from Mrauk U to Sittwe: the ex-government boat (XGov, now privatised) and the Aung Kyaw Moe (AKM) double-decker boat. Prices for both are US$10 (tourists) and they take 7 hr. An express boat is $20, which takes 3 hr. Also ask for private boats/places on private boats (5 passengers+, $20, 6 hr, one-way), which may be useful if it goes that afternoon, as you save a night in Sittwe.
Sittwe to Mrauk U: a ferry goes Monday (AKM); Tuesday (XGov); Friday (Xgov); Saturday (AKM) at 07:00. Express boat Wednesday, 14:00 and there one more sailing of the Aung Kyaw Moe, Thursday (possibly Wednesday).
Mrauk U to Sittwe: a ferry goes Tuesday (AKM); Wednesday (XGov); Friday (AKM); Saturday (Xgov); Sunday (AKM) at 07:00. Express boat Thursday, 07:00.
Food is available for purchase. The ferry is not in good condition, but seems safe enough. The ferry has been known to skip a day or two every now and then so, if relying on it for travel, keep a reasonable buffer to avoid being stuck. Private boats are available for rent in Sittwe and may do the trip considerably faster (4 to 6 hr) for $80 (as of 2008) depending on your negotiating skills and the number in your party. The principal advantage of renting a private boat is that you are no longer tied to the ferry schedule. In high season 2011 there were private boats leaving Mrauk U seemingly every day, which you could join for negotiated fare. Flights from Yangon arrive in Sittwe in the afternoon and it is easy to rent a boat and be in Mrauk U in the evening, which means a travel time of one day from Yangon. With the government ferry, count on at least two days to get from Yangon to Mrauk U (including flight), longer if you arrive the day before a ferry off-day.
- 2 Sittwe Airport (AKY IATA). Air Mandalay, and Yangon Airways all fly to Sittwe from Yangon for US$70-140. Most of the flights go on to Thandwe (Sandoway). The airport (nothing more than a World War II airstrip) is only a couple of kilometres from the city and taxis are available but it is cheaper to take a trishaw for the short ride to the city (trishaws wait outside the airport gate).
Most sights can be reached on foot if you stay in one of the guesthouses in the centre. Trishaws and motorbike taxis are readily available and the easiest way to get around for destinations outside this range. A private ride to Sittwe Bus Station is 1,000 kyat or more. Shared pickups are about 500 kyat for 10-15 km.
As always, you can also rent a bicycle for 1,000 kyat or more from most hotels and guesthouses.
- 1 PhaYar Gyi (The Great Buddha Image) Pagoda (in the center near Sayokya canal). Built in 1255.
- 2 Law Ka Nandar Pagoda (on the road towards the airport). A different and modern building and the No.1 sight on Tripadvisor.
- 3 U Ye Kyaw Thu Pagode (in the northern part of the city).
- 4 Shwe Zedi Kyaung (close to the center, but northwest of it). U Ottama monastery.
- 5 Kyayoke Kyaung (northwest of the center, 100 m from the river).
- 6 Jama Mosque (northeast of U Ottama Park). Leftovers of a dark and very near past. Built in 1859, this is what remains after the crackdown on the Muslim population (Rohingya) after riots broke out in 2012, which killed 200 people. Most of this community (140,000) has been displaced and now lives outside of the city in camps, not accessible to tourist.
- 7 Buddhist Museum (Maka Kuthala Kyaungdawgyi) (where the first road to the airport turn left, when leaving the city). An odd museum with a mixture of colonial era and Buddhist artifacts. This is almost a must for a stay in Sittwe. A little tour is included. The museum is in a colonial mansion that is itself well worth a visit.
- 8 Rakhaing State Cultural Museum (northeast of U Ottama Park, just next to the mosque). An easy way to get up to speed on the culture of the region. The visit takes less than an hour. US$2.
Most people use Sittwe as a stopping point for Mrauk U and rarely spend time in the city. However, a brief visit is well-rewarded.
- 1 The Point (at the southern end of the city, the outlet of Kaladan River). At sunset, visit this point for a glimpse of the sun setting over the Bay of Bengal. Walk back along the Strand to the City Point Restaurant/Music for some beer and music by the water. 50 kyat.
- 2 Fruit Bat Trees (next to U Ottama Park). The city is known for its fruit bats which take wing by the hundreds at dusk. Try this location for a good sight.
- 3 Mya Yu Golf Club (southeast of the airport).
- 4 Bayonga Island (in the outlet of Kaladan River). A group of islands, which are used for oil production and by local fishermen. A chartered or regular boat can be used to get there, but you will need a permit to go there. The regular boat starts from the quai at Kaladan River.
- 1 Fish Market (next to the Central Market towards the water). 06:00 or earlier. This is actually more a See than a Buy. If you like seeing various kinds of fish by the thousands, this is your place. Busy and fascinating.
- 2 Central Market (near the bus stand). A lively town market.
Sittwe is a much better place for trying Rakhine food than Mrauk U. Rakhine food is spicy and is a nice change from the blander Burmese curries. Mondi, the Rakhaing version of the Burmese mohinga, is thinner and spicier. Rakhaing fish curries, catfish is the local favourite, are fiery and can be enjoyed at several hole-in-the-wall (or rather shack-on-the-ground) eateries that dot the main street and side streets of Sittwe. Restaurants, such as City Point, Nyein Chan, and in the Shwe Thazin Hotel in Sittwe tend to serve blander Burmese or Chinese food, so forget about them.
- 1 River Valley Seafoods Restaurant, Main Road (next to U Ottama Park). To enjoy the fresh fish you saw at the market, try this restaurant.
- Gisspanadi (Min Bar Gyi St, near City Hall), ☏ . Similar to River Valley Seafoods, but mostly cheaper. 1,500-6000 kyat per platter.
- 1 City Point Restaurant/Music (behind the post office at the waterfront).
- 1 Prince Guest House, 7 Main Rd., Yupar North Qtr (in the centre),, ☏ . The guesthouse offers simple rooms with fan and shared bathroom, as well as more expensive ones with AC, en-suite and fridge. US$6-20.
- 2 Palace Hotel, 5 Main Road, ☏ . The rooms have fan and en-suite bathroom. US$10-15.
- 3 Kiss Guest House, No.145, Main road, South Rupa Quarter (just south of the central market). A decent budget option with 20 rooms with en-suite bathrooms and some have AC. US$15-20.
- 4 Yadanar Htun Guest House, No 39 Main Rd (in front of U Ottama Park).
- 5 Star Guest House (at the northern end of the city).
- 6 Noble Hotel (northeast of U Ottama Park). Air-con; private bath; generator. Single/double US$25-30.
- 7 Shwe Thazin Hotel, 250 Main Rd. Kyaebingyi Qtr. (just south of U Ottama Park), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. New hotel, decent, clean and business-style rooms with TV. Air-con; restaurant; private bath; generator. Restaurant on the upper storey. US$20-50.
- 8 Shwe Myint Mho Guest House (just north of Shwe Thazin Hotel), ☏ . A decent guesthouse. From US$25.
- 9 Hotel Memory, 19. Akauk Yone Street, ☏ , , , email@example.com. New and fresh, including everything a not so tight budget longs for. The restaurant on top is recommended. From US$50.
- 10 Royal Sittwe Resort, West of San Pya Quarter (about 1 km west of The Point), ☏ , , , , , , firstname.lastname@example.org. AC, en-suite bathroom, big rooms, pool and restaurant. US$30-120.
Road travel is becoming more and more popular. In the past it was only possible to fly into Sittwe and take a boat to Mrauk U, or the other way around, due to travel restrictions on tourists.
- Mrauk U – Famous for is ancient sights and traditional, surrounding Chin Villages, and 70 km away. Many buses leave from the Bus Station northwest of the city. But there are also local pickups and vans available, try the bus stand near the central market. 1.5 hr, 2-3,000 kyat. Also boats are available to Mrauk U. One leaves in the afternoon at 16:00, takes 3 hr and is 20,000 kyat. Try: 09 49660076, 09 421720296, www.mraukutraveler.com, www.mraukukyawmoe.com, email email@example.com. For more information on boats have a look at #Get in.
- Taungup – Is nothing special, but there exist some tourist accommodation options. It can be a convenient hub for road travel between Sittwe, Mrauk U, Pyay and Ngapali. There are at least two buses a day heading for Ngapali with a stop in Taungup. The trip is quite unpleasant due to the terrible condition of the road - expect to arrive very tired and make sure to get a decent seat in front. 14 hr, 17,000 kyat. Taungup also has a harbour where boats from Sittwe depart on Monday & Thursday, leave Sittwe at 06:00, arrive in Taungup at 15:00.
- Ngapali – Has the most beautiful beaches in Myanmar, but is mostly a resort place with few budget options available. There are at least two buses a day heading for Thandwe Bus Station, 6 km away from Ngapali at the highway, with a stop in Taungup. The road conditions are terrible. 17 hr, 20,000 kyat.
- Bagan – One of the most famous attractions in Myanmar. There are no direct buses available to Bagan, you will have to take a bus to Magway (07:00 & 10:00, 18 hr, 25-30,000 kyat) or Mandalay (similar times) and get off at Magway or Kyauk Padaung (19 hr, same price as Mandalay), respectively. From there it should be easy to catch onward transport, pickup/van or another bus. Check the bus does goes through there (Kyauk Padaung), especially when entering the bus. Often the ticket seller and the bus are different companies, because passengers are shuffled around depending on availability. The Kyauk Padaung route is preferable, because Kyauk Padaung is very close to Bagan and you can stop at Mount Popa on the way to enjoy the sunrise on top of the pagoda. 22 hr, from 30,000 kyat.
- Pyay – Famous for the nearby and ancient Pyu city. Mostly served by the morning buses to Yangon. 18 hr, 22,000 kyat.
- Mandalay – Famous for the U Bein Bridge, the Buddha face washing, as well as the nearby mountains by train. 07:00-10:00, 23 hr, 25-35,000 kyat.
- Yangon – Most buses to Yangon leave early morning between 06:00 to 09:00. You have to get to the bus station early, even at 05:30, to ensure you get a seat, or book sufficiently in advance. The last bus is around 12:00. All buses will make a stop in Pyay after 18 hr. Overall duration 26 hr, costs 25-35,000 kyat.