Catching the “Circle Line” trains in Yangon

One of the most beautiful experiences not to be missed in Yangon is to visit the Railway station – a structure built in traditional Burmese architectural style, landmark building since 1996 – and have a ride on the old train. An urban railroad line, better known as the ”Circle Line”, begins and ends at Yangon Central Railway Station. It has several departures a day going clockwise and anti-clockwise, passing through the city, suburban areas, and satellite towns.

Yangon Central Railways station
Yangon Central Railways station

Travelling in the old carriages, without doors and glass at windows, you will find all types of commuters, students, workers, traders, monks and families with children. The old diesel train snorts and travels very slowly while his carriages swing to the right and the left. Along the railway, you can see the old rundown houses of the city, children playing, workers, food vendors and any local life slice.

Yangon, vendors at the central Railways Station
Yangon, vendors at the Central Railways Station

Completing the circle line takes about three hours. It runs between 6.10 and 17.10, and not all the trains complete the whole ride. Without a doubt, the best time to have a trip is as early as you can, since Yangon life is most active just after dawn. When you are ready to go to the next spot that Yangon offers, you can always get off at any stop and take a taxi heading to your next visit.

Yangon, old train approaching
Yangon, old train approaching

We walk to Yangon Railway Station early in the morning while the city streets are already congested with hundreds of noisy cars. The building is huge, and after visiting the crowded main hall, we head straight to platforms 6-7 from where the ”circle line” trains arrive and depart. Here there’s a stationmaster inside a small booth, halfway down the platform, where we buy our ticket, getting instructions about the line and on how to board.

Yangon, riding the old train with locals
Yangon, riding the old train with locals

The train approaches very slowly while a black smoke column comes out from the diesel locomotive. We jump quickly on the carriage with many Burmese people sitting on the ‘’uncomfortable‘’ tough wood benches near the window. Along with the platforms, some women sell food and drinks for travellers, railroad workers who patch up the line here and there, students holding books and families with children. There are no tourists on the train, just youth chatting, older adults resting and mums holding babies. Sometimes our sights cross each other, receiving back a big smile. At each station is a “race”. After approaching, the train stops just for few seconds and the vendors are ready to hop on and off very quickly, trying to sell boiled peanuts, eggs, fruit and traditional food.

Yangon, inside the train's carriage
Yangon, inside the train’s carriage

It’s usual to see people catching the train with a jump while we are already moving since the train runs as fast as a  turtle. As the old carriages move from side to side, which seems to be in the middle of the rough sea, the rundown houses of the city and its inhabitants pass by us. We feel like to be in the past, a distant past where the time looks like to be stopped. After more than 1 hour ride, we get off at Thamine Railway Station, taking a taxi to go back to the city centre with still in our thoughts a fantastic genuine experience.

Yangon, Thamine Railway Station
Yangon, Thamine Railway Station

Need to know about the Circle Line

The trains usually depart from platform 7. There is a small booth along the platform with a stationmaster where you can buy your ticket for a few kyats and ask for all the information you need. You can easily get to the Railways station catching a taxi.

If you need to buy a ticket to other Myanmar destinations, you can use the search engine, one of the best web platforms to move around Asia. You can usually check and book the means of transport within 7/10 days.

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Circle line map
Circle line map



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