1. In Yangon, we applied for a special land-entry visa at the Indian embassy. We had help from a small storefront they recommended near the embassy because part of visa is done online and we needed it printed out, etc. It took about 4 days plus a weekend. $101 each. We were able to get a double entry, 90 day visa. It’s best to get longer than 30 days since the visa starts on day of issue.
2. We applied for the special permit to enter Sagaing region of Myanmar. The country is still opening to tourists and some places are off limits, others are accessible, and some require a permit to enter. We went through the government agency of MTT (Myanmar Travel and Tourism). We paid a lot, at least for our budget- $80 each in cash, kids too- and received a handwritten receipt and a phone number for a man who was to meet us at the border. We had no permit in hand. This seemed unusual to us, sketchy even, but we went to another travel agency and both places had same price and plan. We had to specify a date to cross, and we were told we could cross up to 3 days earlier, but not after that date. We looked into flights, realized yet again we had more time than money, and we decided to give it a try.
3. We travelled to Mandalay, then Monywa. We contacted the man who’s number we had been given. We told him our ETA. He said he was ready for us.
4. We took a night van from Monywa to Tamu, the border town. We did not need to show any special documents, which kind of surprised me since we were traveling through the restricted area. There was a checkpoint as we got into Tamu, and a guard seemed to check a list there. We did not show passports or our receipt when we bought the tickets or when we passed the checkpoint. BTW, our van broke down around dawn. The trip took about 18 hours.
5. We reached the immigration post at Tamu. This was an official building and they looked at all of our paperwork. We called our contact person, and he came. While the kids made drawings and took photos with some of the friendly young guards there, a more serious guard went through everything with our contact. We were asked for photocopies of our passports, which we hadn’t been told we needed and we did not have. This did not seem to hold up things. I kind of sweated this out, but things went smoothly and we were allowed to proceed.
6. We walked across a bridge (yellow Myanmar, silver India!)and said goodbye to Myanmar. Then we were in Moreh, India but we weren’t done yet. We were happy but a bit worried about the next part. Our MTT contact said something about needing a permit on the Indian side, which we did not have.
7. Indian customs. Declaration forms x 6, uniformed soldiers with guns, a quiet beaurocratic outpost that doesn’t see much action, it seemed. They pointed up the road to where they said we had to go to a police station to get our passports stamped.
8. The six of us walked on the hot, dusty road and looked for the police station. We stopped at a checkpoint and they looked at our passports. They were young smiling soldiers who were sweet with the kids but also kind of worried the kids because they carried large rifles. We went on, passing several schools and even a fire station but no police station for a mile or more. We were sleep deprived and lugging all of our baggage. We realized we could not return to Myanmar if this didn’t work out. This was not a pleasant thought.
9. Police station. An unimpressive building up a small hill of a driveway. We sweated our way up to an open-air pavilion surrounded by chickens. We filled out more forms and finally got the visa stamps. They did not ask for a permit, whew. We were in!
10. There are guesthouses on Moreh but we decided to push on. We negotiated a private taxi to Imphal right there at the police station. Several drivers said there are no busses, and that it costs 500 rupees per person for the 3 hour drive. We rejected one pushy driver with a vehicle that looked too small. We went with a driver for 2500 rupees. Leaving Moreh, there were at least three checkpoints. They went through our paperwork and luggage, but still smiled and chatted a little. We unpacked and repacked the car. We admired the amazing mountains around us and felt the cool mountain breezes as we waited to get through the checkpoints. Several more checkpoints were left, but we didn’t have to unpack the car again. The ride to Imphal was a roller coaster of sharp turns and steep hills.
And that’s how we did it! Looking back, it was a little crazy but we were lucky and it worked out. I understand, though, that things change and this plan may no longer be valid. Look into more current tales of this unpredictable border crossing. Good luck travelers!