Once we had our India visa and had applied for our MTT permit we had the green light to cross the border. We applied for our permit on December 23rd to cross on January 6th. The MTT office assured us that it would be no problem and they would email all the necessary paper work to their contact Zin Ko Aung in Tamu and we would have to meet with him once we arrived. The India visa for Americans at the time of writing was $102 usd and had to be paid in usd using crisp and unfolded money. The MTT permit cost us $90 per person and could be paid in kyats.
Due to unforseen lodging issues we ended up in Tamu on the 3rd and Zin Ko Aung informed us he had not received the paper work yet which made me a little nervous since our visa for Myanmar was supposed to expire on the 7th. He assured me the forms would arrive on time for us to cross on either the afternoon of the 5th or the 6th. Zin Ko Aung works for several travel agent companies and even though his English may not be the best he knows what’s up more than immigration.
Zin Ko Aung also informed us India was having issues with foreigners entering Manipur since there have conflicts going on for decades and at the New Year, India had not given this exemption status to the state. Myanmar immigration knew nothing about this until the 4th when we went there. Two other backpackers were there when we arrived along with Indian immigration officers explaining the situation to Myanmar immigration. They told us we could pass through on the 5th but it was unclear if they were honoring our visas and situation or if this was all going to be sorted out and the border would remain open for good.
Our MTT permit arrived slightly ahead of schedule and we were able to cross on January 5th. The taxi for the 3 of us cost 3000 kyats from the hotel to immigration and then across the bridge to India. Zin Ko Aung went to Myanmar immigration with us to make sure everything went smoothly. Immigration gave us our exit stamp and kept the MTT permits.
Across the bridge on the left side of the road is a big white official looking building that is customs. We filled out a form and were then sent up the road 1km to immigration. On the way we stopped by a lot of armed military personnel. They had us sit in a tent where another backpacker was sitting. He had been there an hour and once the three of us showed up it seemed to put a little pressure on the military to let us through. They checked our passports and had us write down all of the contents of our backpack. They never verified any of that information and sent the four of us to immigration in Moreh.
Immigration is currently located at the police station on the left side of the road. There is another police station on the right as well. They had us fill out some forms and then told us to go to customs which confused us since we were already there. They sent us to another building across the street but no one there knew anything about what we had to do, so we left, hoping everything was alright. Immigration also instructed us to contact the police in Imphal and register with them.
Further down the road we came to a bank with an ATM. The bank would not exchange any money but the ATM did accept our Visa card. We were also told someone in the bazaar would exchange money but we never went there. It’s also unclear how often the ATM works so bring INR if you can. There is no place to get INR in Tamu either though the Western Union will exchange kyat for usd or euro.
Since we had already spent some time in Tamu we had no interest in staying in another border town so we caught a share taxi. The customs people told us not yo pay more than 500 INR per person but since there were four of us we were able to get them down to 400 per person. Manipur is also a dry state but they sell Myanmar beer at the border, so stock up of you need to.
Imphal doesn’t have a lot of accommodations for budget travelers. The Youth Hostel has the best price at 300 inr for a double and 120 for a dorm bed. The police station we registered at was located across the street from the Governor’s Residence and south along the road running along the west side of the old fort. It’s not clear how necessary it is to register with police or how often someone might follow up on us but they did stamp our passports and enter our information in a ledger. It’ll most likely take you longer to find the police station than to sit there while they record your information.
Even though we had a few hang ups during the border crossing we were still allowed to enter India relativity hassle free. It was just a matter of understanding their way of doing things. With violence in Manipur on the decline over the years there is no reason why the Indian government should keep this border closed but it is important to double check with the Indian government ahead of time.