By Brianna 29/June/17 Myanmar
Travel advice in Myanmar tends to go out of date very quickly so here's the low-down for crossing the border at the Southern tip as of June 2017...
Myanmar is in a constant state of flux. With it's rapidly changing political climate, travellers can have a tough time figuring out exactly what parts of the country are accessible at any given time and how to access them. On top of this, the difficulty of travel within Myanmar is often over-exaggerated, especially compared to a lot of other countries. We were not sure what to expect when we reached the lesser-trodden southern strip when arriving from Ranong/Kawthoung, so here's an up-to-date account of our experience to help anybody else in the same situation*:
*Disclaimer: almost all of this information will most likely be invalid 1 year from now.
After you stamp out of Thailand (very simple process - offices to the right of the port entrance), head towards the jetty. By this point, you've probably already encountered some commission hungry touts looking to offer you safe passage across to Myanmar immigration. We assumed as we arrived at the Thai border just before it closed (5pm) we might struggle to get a boat to the other side, so we bargained with a tout for 50B p/person. Once we saw the bustling onslaught of options waiting for us in the water, however, we just hopped on the longboat with the most people already waiting (still 50B). Tip: waterproof your bag as much a possible . Luggage will be covered if the water gets a bit choppy (it probably will - it's the sea) but, especially in rainy season, better safe than sorry. Foreigners, it would seem, don't have to get off the boat for the first stop, and so you will wait for your fellow shipmates to return before completing the journey to the Kawthoung coast.
When you arrive at the port 20 minutes later (you will be able to see Honey Bear Hotel in front of you), you will most likely dock to the right of the immigration office. Make sure that after you disembark, you walk back over to the office to get stamped into the country. This was much easier than we expected: all you need is your passport and CORRECT VISA. As UK national we have an e-visa which states specifically our wish to enter the country at this point. We also needed copies of both of these documents because when we visited the printer wasn't working, so although these may not be necessary we recommend keeping a few print-outs on you to make your life easier. Proof of onward travel was not necessary and the whole experience was very relaxed and took about 10 minutes. Congratulations! You have legally entered a remote corner of Myanmar, go and get yourself a culturally acceptable beer in a place that isn't heaving with the new-age South East Asia flashpacker.
Let's face it: you're probably not planning to stay in Kawthoung that long. It's the perfect nosedive into Myanmar culture due to it's remoteness and lack of 'tourist objects', but it's small and what you have seen has made you itching to move on. Of course, by saying this I'm assuming you're not diving in these parts. I'm assuming if you have enough money to dive here that you already know/ have no interest in this information. Speaking of money, there is now a fully functioning ATM that accepts foreign cards (5000 Kyat transaction fee). Follow the coastal road for about 10 minutes after the park and you'll find a huge KBZ branch. The hotels in Kawthoung and Myeik accept Thai Baht at very good rates, as well some travel companies, although their rates are significantly worse. If you are in need of a place to stay, the Honey Bear was the Lonely Planet suggestion we went for - 800B for a double is reasonable for this region, although the guide description of the hard beds is not over dramatised; it's like sleeping on the floor.
Boats from Kawthoung to Myeik were definitely not running while we were there, but there was a minibus that left for Myeik every day at 12pm. Lucky for us, the road from Kawtoung to Myiek sprang into existence sometime between the 2013 Lonely Planet and our arrival. The office for the minibus company we used is just to the left of the clock tower and the ticket cost 25,000 Kyat. If you have time to walk to the bus station outside of town there may be a couple of larger buses doing the route as well, but it's safe to say your options are relatively limited. The road itself, however, is in brilliant condition and timings are fairly accurate. Additionally, contrary to popular belief, foreigners are allowed to travel this route (unlike the NH4 to the Mai Sai Thai border which is still very off limits). The journey took us about 11 hours door-to-door, arriving at 11pm. Important note: the minibus route is actually KAWTHOUNG -> MYEIK -> DAWEI. Getting to Dawei costs an extra 10,000 Kyat and may involve you spending the night with a family in Myeik, before departing again at 7am the next day. This happened to a friend of ours who was also on our bus, however we have no way of knowing how 'commonplace' this procedure is.
So there you have it. It's a fantastic border, which allowed us to explore what quickly became our favourite region of Myanmar, making it well worth the effort. A few final pointers for when you arrive in Myeik: the Dolphin Inn was more expensive than our usual haunts but decent value for money. Plus points for its proximity to one of the best bakeries in Asia (a few hundred metres down the road towards the centre). There is also another ATM that accepts foreign cards (AYA bank, the others were closed during our visit), and a diverse selection of unique regional cuisine to work your way through.
All the best for your overland travels friend, hope you have as much fun as we did!