Whilst we did enjoy our 3 day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, we couldn’t help but think we didn’t need a guide for most of the walk. Not that there was anything bad about our guide but having someone leading you down such an obviously well trodden route seemed arbitrary for relatively experienced trekkers like us. So we thought we'd try and break down the experience so others could walk it on their own. We have written this guide for independent travellers who want to do-it-themselves.
Everyone has different expectations for a trek like this; meeting friends if you're a solo traveller or a couple exploring the village culture or discovering all about the local flora and fauna by chatting with the guide. For us, we like the freedom to walk at our own pace and feeling like we have conquered something independently. Having a guide removes the fun and adventure out of the experience, which was our rationale for writing this piece.
3 Day Trek With A Guide
Firstly, If you want to trek the 3 day route we would recommend using a local tour company because the first day of the trek includes a web of hard to find routes around the reservoir up a view spot for lunch. You really need a guide to find these routes. If your interested in the longer, more popular, 3 day route we did some research before booking so you’ll have a rough idea of what it might cost for 2 people. The prices include a guide, accommodation, 3 meals a day, delivering your bag to either your next hostel or the boat port, boat trip ride to Nyaung Shwe and entrance into the protected area (you will pay this yourselves but we’ve included it in the total price). None of the tours include water but it's easy to buy it on the way. If more people join the tour the price goes down by about 10,000 Kyat / £5 per person. We picked Eagle Tours because they cap the tour group at 6, although no one else joined our tour so it was just the two of us and the guide. If you don’t mind how big the tour group is pick Ever Smile because they offer a fixed price of 44,000 Kyat / £23.60 pp but groups can be as big as 12, perfect for solo travellers.
Cost of tours for 3-day tours for 2 people
2 Day Trek Without A Guide
If you’re the adventurous individual, group or couple who wish to tackle the 2-day trek without a guide we think this is entirely possible. With a bit of planning and an explorers spirit you can use a map to plot your route and follow our tips for successfully trekking to Inle Lake without a guide:
Before You Leave Kalaw
• One of the biggest barriers is the weight of you bags. When you use a tour company they will deliver your bag either to your next hostel, if you have one booked, or to the boat port so you can travel onwards with it. Your choices are to either walk with your backpacks, which is definitely an option if you travel light, or speak to a travel company to see how much it will cost for them to deliver your bag onwards.
• Bring enough money for the 2 days. Your accommodation shouldn’t cost more than 12,000 Kyat / $10 /£6.40 for 2 people for one night. This is based on what our guide said his company paid to each guesthouse for 2 people. There are many guesthouses in Htee Thein so don’t worry about finding a room. You could of course bring camping equipment and camp wild, which we would love to return one day and do! We have written about wild camping in this post: Living In A Tent
• Bring enough snacks for 2 days of lunches and a breakfast, have emergency noodles for dinner as well just in case. We’re sure a local villager would boil you some water as they’re lovely people.
• Prepare cue cards with Htee Thein and Inn Dein (the two end destinations) written in Burmese in case you need directions from a villager. It might be wise to translate water, food, guesthouse too.
• You’ll need to organise a taxi to take you to the starting point of the 2-day trek. It’s further south on the national road towards La Mine. It’s also where all the other 2-day trekkers get dropped off so drivers will definitely know it. Ask your guesthouse to book it to get the best price. Alternatively, you could walk from Kalaw towards the MyinMathi Caves and follow the road south to La Mine. You’ll need to leave at 5am as it will take between 3/4 hours.
• Try and get a proper map of the area.
Day 1 Trek to Htee Thein
• The route isn’t particularly challenging with only a few uphill sections, so if you are carrying your bags it is more than suitable for a fit backpacker carrying 10-20kg. (Mark carried 12kg to practice for the Annapurna trek)
• The walk is pretty much one straight route, which is very well trodden. The paths are also very wide to accommodate the many tourists so be prepared to see many other walkers. The beauty of this is that if your not sure on the route you could always tag along behind a tour group or ask one of the guides for help. There are plenty of people around to help you if you get stuck.
• You have the freedom to decide when you will stop for snacks and water, most of the walkers will stop for breaks every 2 hours in one of the villages.
• Make sure you’ve saved Htee Thein and Inn Dein on your mapping app as you can use GPS to track your progress across the day.
Accommodation In Htee Thein
• Finding a place to stay in Htee Thein will be very easy as hordes of tourists enter and leave every day. They may be a bit surprised that you’ve come on your own but they’re friendly hospitable people who will find you a bed. Your accommodation shouldn’t cost more than 12,000 Kyat / $10 /£6.40 per night and may even be negotiable or include dinner.
• Your host may make dinner for you or you can get some boiling water for your noodles. Alternatively there is a restaurant in Htee Dein where you can grab food and beer, so lots of options.
• You may wish to bring a mosquito net as there are many animals in the village, and with animals come mosquitos!
Day 2 Trek To Inn Dein
• Leave early if you want to get ahead of the crowds.
• Be ready to pay the entrance fee into the protected area just after you have passed the large hotel before the road, entrance is 13,500Kyat / $10 / £7.40 pp.
• Some sections of this walk pass along the road for over an hour. You should start to look out for a dirt track appearing on the left side of the road and use GPS to check you are walking towards Inn Dein. If you are unsure you can always wait for the tour groups to catch or ask a local person for some help using your cue cards.
• There is at least one checkpoint where rangers will check that you have paid to enter the protected area, be ready to show them the ticket.
•You will need to negotiate a boat ride to Nyaung Shwe when you reach the canal. You'll know its the right way because of the number of restaurants on either side of the canal. Through our tour company we paid around 15,000 Kyat / $11 / £8.40 for the hour long boat ride up across Inle Lake, but we think it should be much cheaper than this considering you can hire a boat for the whole day for around this price and upwards.
Hints & Tips
• Be aware, by walking this trek on your own will mean that less money goes back to the local community. You will be paying back through accommodation and paying for food but not to the guide or tour company.
• On both days you will pass relatively busy national roads. If at any point you feel you might be lost then you should wait on the road and get advice from a local person. Or ask them to help you get some transport.
• The tour group guides are nice people, always ask for advice if you need it. The local people are incredibly friendly too and will want to help you if you ask them.
• Our guide told us that many people have successfully walked the route on their own, our guess is that it will become a more popular way to experience this excellent trek as time goes on.
* If you intend to use GPS make sure your battery lasts for the two days or bring a power pack.
* Buy water in the villages as you need it.
* Always bring extra food and money in case you have an emergency.
* Tell your guesthouse in Kalaw that you are going to walk without guide, just in case.
• It might be worth reading our day walks from Kalaw post if you're thinking about walking the whole way from Kalaw to Inle Lake, here it is: Myanmar: Day Walks From Kalaw Without A Guide
We hope you find our post useful, if you want to ask any questions please use the comments box at the box at the bottom of the page...
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