Because of Myanmar's near encirclement by mountain ranges, international land transportation is virtually non-existent. Historically, Myanmar has been dependent on sea and river transport externally and internally, supplemented in modern times by the airplane. The Myanmar Road, connecting Lashio with Kunming in southern China, and the Ledo Road between Myitkyina and Ledo in Assam, northeastern India, are the only land ties between Myanmar and adjacent nations. There were an estimated 27,000 km of roads in 2006, but only 3,200 km were paved. In 2000, Myanmar had about 73,900 passenger cars and 49,300 commercial vehicles.
Myanmar's railway system, a government monopoly, operates 3,955 km of track, all of which is meter-gauge in 2008. The main lines are from Yangon (Rangoon) to Prome (259 km) and from Yangon to Mandalay (621 km) and then to Myitkyina (1,164 km from the capital).
Inland waterways, including some 12,800 km of navigable passages (25% of which are navigable by commercial vessels), are the key to internal transportation, partly compensating for limited railroad and highway development.
Some 500,000 small river craft ply the Irrawaddy (navigable for about 640 km), the Salween, the Sittang and numerous tributaries. The Irrawaddy Delta, the focus of most water transportation, has some 2,700 km of rivers and streams, providing a seaboard for all types of craft. The state merchant fleet totalled 24 ships in 2002.
Ocean shipping, the traditional means of external transport, is controlled by the government, which operates coastal and ocean-going freight-passenger lines. Yangon, on the Rangoon River about 34 km inland from the Andaman Sea, is the chief port for ocean shipping, handling the majority of the country's seaborne trade; it is also the principal terminus for the highways, railroad, inland waterways, and airways. Other ports include Sittwe (Akyab), serving western Myanmar; Pathein (Bassein), serving the delta area; and Mawlamgine (Moulmein), Dawei (Tavoy), and Mergui, which handle mineral and timber exports of the Tenasserim region.
As of 2009, there were 77 airports, but only 5 with paved runways. Mingaladon, outside of Yangon, is the principal airport. In 2001, 398,200 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.
Airports - with unpaved runways
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 12
under 914 m: 23 (2009)
gas 2,228 km; oil 558 km (2009)
total: 3,955 km
narrow gauge: 3,955 km 1.000-m gauge (2008)
total: 27,000 km
paved: 3,200 km
unpaved: 23,800 km (2006)
12,800 km (2008)
by type: bulk carrier 1, cargo 17, passenger 2, passenger/cargo 3, specialised tanker 1
foreign-owned: 3 (Cyprus 1, Germany 1, Japan 1)
registered in other countries: 1 (Panama 1) (2008)
Ports and terminals
Moulmein, Yangon, Sittwe