As the water festival approaches, bus passengers on the Yangon-Mandalay route are getting soaked. In what some say is a tradition as venerable as drenching passers-by with water, ticket prices have soared, with some more than doubling in price as the holiday looms, customers complain.
The K8000 price of a ticket from Yangon to Magwe has already reached K15,000, supposing there is a bus running. Services are curtailed during the New Year holiday period, which falls from April 8-13 this year, though services to Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw and Pyin Oo Lwin will run through the holiday. Already there are no tickets available for a range of Upper Myanmar destinations, including Mandalay, Kyaukpadaung, Myingyan, Bagan-Nyaung Oo, Sagaing, Pyin Oo Lwin, Lashio, Magwe, Yenangyaung, Minhla, Thayet, Aunglan, Pakokku and Monywa.
Part of the problem is the last-minute rush to buy tickets by hopeful passengers who have not booked early, a ticketing officer from Nan Htike Taw Win said. Ko Nyunt, a native of Magwe now in Yangon, said there was a black market in bus tickets.
Tickets to lower Myanmar destinations like Bago, Nyaunglaypin, Zayyawaddy, Pyay, Maubin, Kyaiklat, Pyapon, Mawlamyinegyun, Myaungmya, Pathein, Nyaungdon, Hinthada and Myanaung are also in heavy demand, though prices have not risen to the same extent.
Ko Thaung Htike, who hopes to return to Magwe from Mandalay during Thingyan, said he paid K10,000 for a ticket that would normally cost K6000 three weeks ago. “They told me the price had gone up because of Thingyan,” he said.
“Increasing inter-city bus ticket prices before Thingyan is a kind of tradition. It causes a lot of trouble for people trying to get home.”
Nan Ni Ni Lwin, of Namhkam in northern Shan State, said the problem was few buses are running during the holiday period. “That’s why we have to pay more. Mandalay-Namhkam ticket prices increase every year by more than half. It is not difficult to a buy ticket. You just have to be sure the bus is running.”
But getting a ticket to some other destinations has proven difficult.
“They wouldn’t let us book in March. Then, when we tried to buy in April, they said there were no tickets left,” said Daw Khin Aye Mu of Minbu in Magwe Region.
Officials say the price gouging is against the law but little has been done to stop it.
“We tell operators not to increase ticket prices before Thingyan,” said U Tun Win Aung, secretary of the Mandalay Divisional Management of Highways bus committee.
“We have trouble keeping prices down as the water festival approaches. If people complain to us we can take action under the regulations,” said Yangon Region Supervisory Committee for Motor Vehicles deputy head U Myo Win.
Source: Myanmar Times
Consult-Myanmar note: We closed our office on 9th April 2014 – 3 days before the official public holiday start so that our Myanmar staff can buy bus tickets ahead of everyone and returned to their home town to celebrate the new year with their love one.