How to travel to Inle Lake
It will be a regret if you do not go to visit Inle Lake when setting your feet on Myanmar. Inle Lake is considered as Myanmar's precious pearl with the unique landscapes and specific culture of Inthar people, surely that you will have many interesting experiences. However, to make you trip perfect, you can consult some "ways" to transfer to Inle Lake.
1. Travel to Inle Lake by Flights (Domestic)
The easiest way to get into Inle Lake (and the most comfortable) is by domestic flight. Prices for flights are around US$110 from Yangon and US$75 from Mandalay, but unlike bus companies the government is heavily involved in the domestic air market, a good chunk of your money will be going into their hands. The closest airport is in Heho, which is a taxi-ride (about 1 hour) away from the lake itself (walking down the road from the airport, towards the highway, should see quoted fares drop, if not, try your luck hailing a taxi or passing pickup on the highway itself). Taking a taxi from the airport is expensive, as of Sep 2015 there is a fixed, non-bargainable price of 25.000 Kyats to go to Nyuang Shwe. When returning, you can often save by booking a shared taxi through your hotel or one of the many travel agents around. Check with them the day before you fly out.
Domestic flight from Mandalay
2. Take a local bus to Inle Lake
A less expensive but more uncomfortable and time consuming option is that which most Myanmar people take - the bus. Buses depart daily, and cost around US$14-20 (12 hours) from Yangon or US$12 (7-8 hours) from Mandalay. The journey from Bagan has improved a lot; 2 buses at 7:30 and 19:30; it takes 7 hours to Kalaw and ~8,5 to Nyang Shwe, and costs 11,000 kyats (US$ 8.44). Bus arrives directly to Nyaung Shwe, walking distance to many guest houses. Overnight buses do run and with the new road between Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw the time taken for the trip has been shortened.
Day bus transfer from Bagan to Inle Lake
There is also a direct bus from Hsipaw (14 hours) which leaves Hsipaw at 4.30pm and costs 15,000 kyats (US$11.51). Supposed to take 12-14 hours but expect some delays. From southern destinations like Hpa An or Kyaiktiyo you can change buses in Bago instead of going through Yangon.
3. Getting to Inle Lake by Train
A train coming from Kalaw, Thazi or even from Yangon (direct), can bring you to Shwe Nyaung, which town is situated only 13 km away from Nyaung Shwe, the main touristy town where you'll find most accomodations, restaurants, souvenirs shops as well as travel agencies and tour guides.
The train from Kalaw is about 3.5 hours through mountains and fields, lots of scenic views on the way.
Train to Inle Lake
The train from Yangon is about 30 hours, direct, including a 5 hours-stop in Thazi where passengers can have a rest and sleep (in the train). Definitly the cheapest way to get there. To get from the train station (Shwe Nyaung) to your accomodation in Nyaung Shwe, you can either catch a pick-up truck or take a taxi.
Image sources: Internet