Online future for highway bus tickets

The scrum for bus tickets in the lead-up to popular holidays like water festival could soon be a thing of the past, as more companies – and, they hope, customers – head online to make bookings. The country’s increasing interconnectedness, particularly in Yangon, is allowing people to save time they would have spent buying tickets in person by instead using their laptop or smartphone.

Ko Phyo Zaw, business development director of online booking company BNF Express, said that while many people in Myanmar are only now getting online for the first time, they are quickly becoming familiar with online purchasing.

BNF has been offering bus tickets online since 2013 and initially targeted foreigners travelling around the country. “We started offering the service for local residents in June, and the results are very good. Local customers started to book online when they saw from watching the foreigners how easy and convenient it was,” he said.

Users online can access up-to-date information and navigate different sites. They also save paper.

“The number of online customers is increasing as people grow more accustomed to doing it this way,” he said, adding that some customers still lack access to or familiarity with the ATM card. BNF offers a buy-now-pay-now system as well as bank transfers and deposit payments for customers and travel agents, he said.

BNF has links with 30 bus companies with 200 bus lines through in English and Myanmar. The company works with KBZ and Ayeyarwady banks to receive payments through Myanmar Payment Union cards, he said. Ticket prices are the same, with the bus line paying BNF a commission.

Ko Zaw Htet, marketing director of Myanmar Nine Elephants, said foreigners were still more adept than locals when it came to online bookings. “We have to get this system up and running as soon as possible. We look forward to working with other companies that are interested in online marketing in a systematic way,” he said.

The company plans to offer e-tickets for both local and foreign customers at the end of August via It hopes to have about 15 bus companies signed up, particularly those operating on the popular Yangon-Mandalay route.

“Computerised ticketing can only benefit the country, but people need to be familiar with using online booking systems,” said Ko Zaw Htet.

U Min Khint Ko, general manager of Shwe Mandalar express company, told The Myanmar Times that once the system catches on, customers would be able to get hold of tickets without making a single phone call, let alone visiting an agent.

Shwe Mandalar Express is already connected with the Gold Bus and Star Ticket online booking companies, he said. “Anyone who can use a mobile phone can book online. But right now online service companies are struggling because the number of users is very small. It’s just a question of time.”

The lack of a widespread payment system is one problem. Most Myanmar people do not hold bank accounts, prohibiting the use of credit or debit cards. However, increasingly common payment systems such as Red Dot, which enable phone users to deduct the cost of the purchase from their phone credit, bypass the need for a bank account completely.

Some are predicting change will come very quickly. Daw Shwe Zin, owner of Shwe Zin express ticketing company, gives it just one or two years.

Shwe Zin is linked to 145 bus lines operating out of Yangon’s Aung Mingalar bus station and enables customers to book tickets by phone or Facebook, with phone the most popular option. They can then pay and collect the tickets at the terminal an hour before departure. If customers order three or more tickets, Shwe Zin offers a free delivery service.

“Customers pay just the basic ticket price,” she said. “There’s no extra charge.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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