Preview of car travel in the future

Bangkok, 25 June 2018: A five-day car rally between Thailand and Myanmar ended at the weekend illustrating the potential for overland travel.

The roundtrip road trip from Yangon, 19 to 23 June, was hatched by The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Myanmar Tourism Marketing (MTM); two organisers leading marketing activities for their respective countries.

TAT deputy governor for marketing communications Tanes Petsuwan said: “This is a great way for our two countries to boost cross-border travel and raise the number of tourists coming to Thailand through overland tours.”

The caravan rolled out of Yangon crossed the border to Thailand, to explore secondary tourist destinations in central and west Thailand.

The objective was to show that overland travel was technically feasible, although it still not practical for the individual self-drive car expedition.

It illustrates what is possible on a government-to-government basis with transport, customs and immigration rules fast tracked to ease red tape.

The one-off car caravan featured 30 vehicles and 80 participants including senior officials from Thai government agencies.

Representation from the private sector from travel agencies, traders, media as well and Myanmar influencers such as beauty queens ‘Miss Grand Myanmar 2014’ and ‘Miss Myanmar International 2018’ joined the trip.

The caravan covered 2,500 km over five days (19 to 23 June 2018) on a roundtrip route: Yangon – Dawei – Kanchanaburi – Nakhon Sawan – Phitsanulok – Sukhothai – Tak – Myawaddy – Yangon, passing through overland checkpoints.

On the outward led the group crossed the border, 19 June, at “Phu Nam Ron Temporary Border Checkpoint” in Kanchanaburi province. This checkpoint is identified as a permanent checkpoint by Myanmar’s Ministry of Labour Population and Immigration, but not for eVisa travellers.

Senior officials from TAT and related agencies were onsite to see the group through the checkpoint.

After a visit to Sukhothai in central Thailand, a city on the Asian Development Bank’s East-West Trade corridor, the group crossed back into Myanmar, 23 June, at the Mae Sot Border checkpoint, which is a permanent checkpoint valid for eVisa visits.

To put self-drive cross border touring between the two countries into perspective here are the facts posted online by a reputed destination marketing company.

“Crossing into Myanmar with your own vehicle (motorhome, car or motorbike) requires special permission and you will have to be accompanied by a guide and sometimes a Ministry of Hotels and Tourism liaison officer.

“The permits typically take at least a month to process. Note that cycling groups also need permission for border crossings,” posted Go-Myanmar.com.

Similar tough Land Transport department rules apply for cars crossing into Thailand from neighbouring countries, but without the guiding and liaison officer requirements.

They have been strict enough to virtually end all self-drive trips by Chinese to Thailand’s northern provinces via Laos.

There are easier rules that apply for vehicles registered in Myanmar and Laos for cross border visits to the Thai province adjacent to the border for trade rather than tourism purposes.

TAT said in its publicity that the five-day rally generated THB 3 million in revenue and publicity value without saying what was the source of revenue generation, or how much of the cost was jointly subsidised by the two marketing organisations.

As for the caravan’s publicity value it was calculated on positive media reviews against what it would have cost to buy the equivalent advertising space.

In 2017, over 386,600 Myanmar tourists visited Thailand (+ 7%) and generated an estimated THB 16.653 billion in revenue (+11%).

They flew from gateway airports Mandalay, Nay Pyi Daw and Yangon to Bangkok and Chiang Mai to Thailand and very few of those who travelled overland through four recognised immigration checkpoints between the two countries crossed in their own vehicles.

The four official land border checkpoints between Thailand and Myanmar are:Tachikeik-Maesai; Myawaddy-Maesot; Kawthaung-Ranong; Htee Kee-Phu Nam Ron.

Tachileik, Myawaddy and Kawthaung International Land Border Checkpoints are approved for enter/exit with eVisas.

Checkpoints both land and air for eVisa holders are:
Yangon International Airport; Mandalay International Airport; Nay Pyi Taw International Airport; Tachileik Land Border Checkpoint; Myawaddy Land Border Checkpoint; Kawthaung Land Border Checkpoint.

(Source: TAT)