Crossing the border with China: Muse / Ruili

Please also read recent comments below this post from other travellers regarding this crossing.

There is only one current border crossing between Myanmar and China and there is a certain amount of uncertainty and mystery about how cyclists can cross.

There is comparatively very little online about cyclists crossing this border and lots of differing information about what you need to organise to be permitted to cross. Posts by cyclists on the Lonely Planet ‘Thorn Tree’ forum led us to an agent and described what others had done.

The area between Lashio and Muse remains a restricted zone in which foreigners need a government permit to cross.

We had read some reports that we also needed a guide, the travel agent we were liaising with regarding the permit (Exotic Myanmar Travel and Tours) was insistent we did, although 2 weeks previously they sent other cyclists up the road without a guide and only a permit. Apparently the rues had recently changed and now you need a guide, and not a cheap guide!

Initially we were also told that we needed to go with the guide all the way from Mandalay but we knew that we could definitely cycle as far as Lashio.

We are uncertain why exactly the area is currently closed, the official line is that there is still regional fighting between Shan separatists and the government; the area has seen its fair share of fighting in the past. We suspect the real reason however is more opium related.

Either way we were told we could cycle to Lashio but that we would need to meet the guide there and then rent a car from Lashio to Muse. The guide would bring our permits with him and organise the necessary paperwork at the border.

The whole thing is an expensive option, but we hooked up with a Dutch couple, Geart and Sytske, cycling the same way and split the guide cost with them. We temporarily had a 5th member of the team, but Victor had to withdraw after a pretty bad illness forced him to cut his trip short.

Dealing with the agent was very tricky due to language differences and the shifting sands of information which trickled from her. After 50+ emails we finally settled on the plan, costs timing etc…

As the day of crossing approached Geart and Sytske decided they wanted to put the system to the test and head for the border without the guide or permit. Would they get through?! Unfortunately well never know as they fell ill and did well just to get to Lashio in time.

This meant the 4 of us met the government guide in Lashio in the evening. He turned out to be very friendly and helpful arranging a good value taxi for the morning…although the information he would give about the area, permits, his role, his expenses, was incredibly vague and changeable – but we enjoyed his company.

We set off in the morning for Muse with Tandem sitting upright on the roof of an estate car sandwiched between the 2 other bikes.

We only passed one checkpoint on the road from Lashio and that was just outside Muse. Our guide needed to show our permits and passports and his official guide identity card. Our guide told us that this check point is open 8am-6pm so it might be possible to cross after hours with a bike and avoid this… 

Upon arriving at Muse at 4pm and finding out the cheapest hotel in town was $30 (!!) we persuaded our guide to take us over the border that day.

There were a few phone calls back to head office to check this was OK before he headed into the border post with a big box of biscuits for his friend to speed up the process. Finally, around 5pm,  we crossed into China.

We still have no idea if we needed the guide or whether we got ripped of by the agent, the guide or the government policy for travel in the region… but this is part of the game! We got to China and are now very comfortable with our overall schedule.

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8 thoughts on “Crossing the border with China: Muse / Ruili

  1. Hello! We cycled alone from Lashio to Muse in two days and crossed to Ruili on the 2nd of May, so here is how we did it just in case is useful for someone:

    – checkpoints: we didn’t see any and we were not stopped at any. Apparently there is one 10kms outside Lashio heading towards Muse, after the toll, but at 7am it was empty. We were told there is another one 10kms before Muse, with a sign that says something like “if you have a foreigner in your vehicle report here”, but we didn’t see it. At this point there were many trucks, we waved at all the policemen we saw on the road, and no one gave us a stop sign. In case we were stopped, we had downloaded some information that said that from January 2013 the road to Muse was a “free” zone.

    – permit: we didn’t have a permit, because everything had been closed during the New Year’s celebrations (almost two weeks), and they didn’t let us cross without one. We had already crossed the Myanmar border without realizing, but the Chinese sent us back to get our stamp out of Myanmar. We contacted Exotic Myanmar who still wanted us to pay the 300 USD for the guide on top of the 100 USD for two permits, even though we were already in Muse! Instead we used the services of a local agency, run by three very young girls that spoke a little English. Even their business card was only in Chinese and Burmese. They asked for 500 Yuan for the permit for each person (around 77 USD), we negotiated and ended up paying 50 USD each, and they said they could have it ready in one week (compared to the 3 weeks Exotic Myanmar required). In our case, our Myanmar visa was about to expire, same as the entry date for the Chinese one, so we contacted MMT and everyone was super helpful and we had the permit issued in two working days. One of the girls at the local agency walked us through both the Myanmar and the Chinese borders. I attatch the location of the local agency: 23º59’32.26”N, 97º53’54.56”, that is 1,4kms north before the border on the main road. It seems like a house, and the sign is in Burmese in green and white colours. They had an address in Mandalay on the heading of their papers, which is probably more useful for travellers to contact, as you need to organise things before arriving to Muse and their expensive hotels:
    MOE SIN KYAI COMPANY LIMITED
    Address: No. (534), 37th Road, Between 84th & 85th St, MaHaAungMay, Mandalay, Myanmar
    Phone numbers: 09-422205668, 09-423685855
    Email: moesinkyai26690@gmail.com

    Good luck to everyone cycling that way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Bego, thanks for the info, it’s very useful!

      I am attempting to cross the border of Muse into Ruli next month. Just wondering would you please provide the information of Muse was a “free” zone?

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      1. Hi YK – our understanding is that you still need a permit butnot a guide. Bego can confirm this? If you have the permit then you should be able to cycle the full length of the journey to Muse. Thanks for reading and let us know how you get on. Annie x

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      2. This is the link to the map of the free areas: http://www.tourismtransparency.org/no-go-zones-changes
        We asked many people (tourist police, immigration, MTT, …), they made calls, and we were always told that the permit is only needed to cross to China not to transit from Lashio to Muse. The problem seems to be that the people at the checkpoints do not have that information, as according to a NGO worker we met in Lashio, they were always stopped and asked for a permit when they travelled from Lashio to Muse. Since you will probably ask fo the permit to cross before hand, I guess that permit should be enough in case you are stopped? Good luck YK!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am now in Myanmar, 20days to go to Muse. Just heard that the permit is now closed for application. A Chinese cyclist couldn’t go back to China on 1st July 2016 and he chose to cross the river to China illegally (without any departure and arrival stamps…)

    Will find out what to do for me (I am from Hong Kong, get into Myanmar with British National Overseas passport and have Hong Kong China card)

    YK

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi there!

    I was stuck with a similar problem. After doing the runs to three different agencies and “ministries”, I got the answer that since June, it was impossible to get a permit for June, July or August.

    If any of you had a solid source of information differing from this one, I would be incredibly grateful as I am in Yangon now and I have to decide what to do.

    Thanks Guys!!

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