There are three places commonly referred to as Kyaiktiyo by travellers:
A number of bus lines operate from the Highway Bus Station (also know as the Aung Mindalar Bus Station) in Yangon to the town of Kyaiktiyo and Kinpun which is a town 10km (6 mi) from Kyaiktiyo right at the base of Mt Kyaiktiyo. You can usually organise the bus from the reception where you're staying. If you want to see the Golden Rock then do not get off at Kyaiktiyo (except in wet season, when you will be transferred to a pickup for the leg to Kinpun), disembark early at Kinpun, if in doubt tell the conductor you want to get of at Kinpun, their English is limited but they should be able to tell you when to get off. The first bus leaves at 06:30 and then go at hourly intervals until 14:30 (maybe later in high season). The fare is MMK8,000 and the trip takes 4½-5 hours.
You can also take the train from Yangon. Trains leave throughout the day with the earliest departing at 07:15 (and at 18.25 and 21.00). Upper Class seats (basically padded seats with footrests rather than the wooden benches in "ordinary class") cost about MMK2,450. The fare for ordinary class is MMK1,200 (As of April 1, 2014 foreigners pay the same price as locals for trains and can pay in kyats.) You can buy the tickets directly at the train station or at the office just across the street from the Sakura Building Downtown, but remember to bring your passport (or at least know your passport number). The train leaves on time from Yangon and supposedly takes four hours but expect delays. It is a very old train and travels quite slowly with rocking and bumping along the way. Nevertheless, it offers a great chance to see the countryside and interact with locals. Drinks, snacks, cigarettes and betel nuts are all on offer from sellers who wander up and down the aisles. On the way back trains supposedly come through Kyaiktiyo every hour until around 18:00 and then not until around midnight. Expect delays for these trains returning to Yangon as they are coming all the way from Dawei Port and lose time on the way. The Pick-Up up to Kinpun takes about 20min and costs MMK1,200 (this writer paid MMK500 October 2015).
There are direct buses from Mawlamyine.
From Bago you can take a bus/pickup to Kyaiktiyo that costs about MMK3,000, takes 3.5 hours and stops close to the train station.
Only a few travel agencies are proposing group tours to Kyaiktiyo. Goldenrockmyanmar.com offers day trips from Yangon to Kyaiktiyo with a tour guide, prices start from $29 when booked ahead.
To get from Kinpun to the Golden Rock you have to take a truck and/or walk. The truck stop is just up from the town centre, to the left of the Sea Sar Hotel/Restaurant.The trucks are dump trucks rebuilt with seats to fit passengers.They are usually packed to the brim with 7 rows of 6 people, so you will end up sitting on each other, and won't leave utill they are full. Try to choose a truck with seat-backs rather than just benches as they will be much more comfortable for the steep ride up. The trucks have a metal cage at the back for storing larger objects such as backpacks or extra passengers. The last trucks depart the mountaintop just before sunset at 6pm (the drivers claim it is against the law for them to drive at night -- and on the dark, meandering road it is not hard to understand why) so make sure you don't miss the last trucks departing. If you miss the last trucks, you will either have to to walk down (about 3 hours) or stay in one of the hotels at the mountain top.
The trucks are all pretty similar, though two types of seats are available. There are 5 seats in the more comfortable air-conditioned cab. These are 3000MMK each, and can be prepurchased at a small desk in the truck station. For a more authentic experience take a ride packed in the back with the locals. These seats are 2000MMK each. Simply board the waiting trucks without a ticket, part-way up the mountain the truck will stop and money will be collected from each passenger.
A number of times along the route the convoy of trucks will appear to stop for no reason, this is to allow trucks coming from the other direction to pass sections of the road to narrow for two-way traffic. While your waiting street-vendors will offer food and drinks for sale.
The trucks stop a 15 minute walk from the top. From there it is an easy walk to the top though Sherpas are available, who will charge you a fee (MMK6,000) to carry your stuff (they can also carry you up for about MMK 15,000.
It's also possible to walk the entire way up which is a 5 hour very steep climb. It is possible to get carried up the mountain on a Palanquin, an oriental transport cart powered by the legwork of two persons bearing the cart's and the occupant's weight on their shoulders, for around USD8. How happy the Burmese are with this mode of transport remains questionable. Not advised for overweight tourists.
The Golden Rock (Foreigner Entrance Fee MMK10,000 - unavoidable unless you get a pass from a previous tourist, good for 2 days) is one of the most important religious sites in Myanmar and a dream destination for devout Buddhists. The site comprises a pagoda built atop a massive granite boulder, which has been balancing on the edge of a cliff face since antiquity - indeed, the boulder's worryingly tenuous grip on the cliff has held for so long that it features in Buddhist mythology: The boulder is said to be anchored to the mountain by a lock of the Buddha's own, ascendant hair. The boulder itself is decorated with leaves of gold, historically and contemporaneously affixed by monks as part of a pilgrimage to the location.
The rock is a quite spectacular sight, especially at sunset when it's lit up by the setting sun and electric lights gathering a huge crowd of pilgrims and monks. However the whole site is commercialized, and feels like walking through a resort rather than a religious site. The setting sun makes for some great camera shots in the background of your photos. If you are fair skinned expect to be constantly approached by locals wanting a photo with you. Sunrise is not nearly as great as sunset as the rest of the mountain covers the first rays of light. You're probably better off getting to the other side off the mountain - maybe to the other pagoda at the end of the mountain - for some great views.
There is a pilgrim path up to the golden rock, which takes about 4-5h up and about 3h down and climbs roughly 1000m of altitude. The path is mainly in the shade and is therefore also manageable during hot and sunny days. Do not attempt it after dark. Many teashops with views of the countryside are on the path.
If you walk through the village at the mountain top you can ask around to find the path that leads to a small waterfall.
Being a tourist attraction, the limited selection of restaurants in the mountain's surrounds are basic and practically identical.
At the main street in Kinpun are a lot of restaurants catering to westerners and wealthy locals. The small side streets lead to street stalls and eateries popular with Myanmar people.
If you want alcoholic beverages at the top of the mountain your best bet is the Móuntain Top Hotel which has a bar. Otherwise, being a religious site, the availability is very limited.
In Kinpun, 10km from the town of Kyaiktiyo, you can find affordable guesthouses. The disadvantage of staying there is that you have no possibility of seeing the sunset and/or sunrise at the mountain top as the first truck from the base leaves at 06:00 and the last one from the top departs at 18:00.
Lotus Da Dar - Kinpun - English-speaking staff, great WiFi, great food, okay rooms. The rooms are very cheap, and have air conditioning and private bathrooms. Also, the location is great, just at the base of the mountain and right next to the river. On google maps it is labeled as "the Eternity Resort". 25,000 kyat twin room
The Eternity Resort - Kinpun - This is the real Eternity Resort. English-speaking staff, great rooms, but a bit off from the main part of town. Wifi can be a bit limited. Staff are extremely helpful with bookings and other things. Don't look for "the Eternity Resort" on google maps, but simply continue along that road and pass the checkpoint and you will see the resort. A normal room (2 beds) is around $40.
Pann Myo Thu - Kinpun - English-speaking staff, but electricity on and off. A tiny double with shared bathroom and fan is USD6 (or 10000k) per person, while a bigger aircon room with ensuite bathroom is USD20 (or 21000K). Airconditioning does not operate during the day, and the shower takes a while to warm up but is very hot. They also have a bungalow for USD30. Basic breakfast is provided for some rooms - clarify which beforehand.
Sea Sar Guest House - Kinpun - Has a very helpful employee often greeting passengers coming off the bus from Yangon. They have rooms from USD8. Single room 8 usd or 10 usd; very old and dirty rooms. Double room 20usd(fan) or 25 usd (AC).
Emerald Villa - Kinpun - double room with shared bathroom 15,000 kyat. No WiFi.
On the mountain top accommodation is limited and expensive. There are a few alternatives:
Mountain Top Hotel - Finest hotel on the mountain top. Very clean and spacious with polite English speaking staff. Rooms start at USD85 for a standard room and $100 for a superior suite - includes breakfast. Wi-Fi is available for USD3/h.
Golden Rock Hotel - Located at the base camp 4km from the rock. Is a quieter alternative to the hotels at the very top as it sometimes can get quite noisy there. The hotel is currently (Apr 2013) closed for renovations.
Kyaikhtiyo Hotel - Rates are USD107 for a superior room and USD160 for a deluxe. If you want luxury accommodation you're better off staying at the Mountain Top Hotel which is both nicer and cheaper.
Yoe Yoe Lay Guest House - Located very close to the Golden Rock past the foreigner check-point in the no-shoes zone. Double rooms are quoted at USD50 (the price is actually MYK40,000 which is closer to USD45) and come equipped with fan and TV. The staff have very poor English skills. You're better off going a bit further to the Yoe Yoe Lay Hotel which has Wi-Fi and complementary breakfast at the same price.
Yoe Yoe Lay Hotel - Probably your best budget alternative on the mountain top. Rooms start at USD50 for a double room at the back, USD60 for a twin room with a view and USD100 for a family room with a double plus a single bed. They also have 4-person rooms. Includes breakfast (fried rice with egg) and Wi-Fi. The manager is very friendly and speaks good English. To get there you actually have to walk past the golden rock and continue until you see a neon sign that says "hotel". It can be hard to find when you first get there as you don't expect to find anything past the Golden Rock but there's actually a stairway leading down to an entire village. The hotel is right in the middle of the stairs.
Kyaw Kyaw - For accommodation at the Golden Rock, already inside the no-shoes area, call Mr. Kyaw Kyaw 09.8625177 or 09.401580555. The guesthouse is open for foreign tourists. Free internet access.
In "Kyaikto", about 500 m from the train station and the bus stop, there are two cheap and nice guest houses: "Happy guesthouse", double room with fan and AC, shared clean bathroom, free Wi-Fi, breakfast included (coffee, 2 slices of toast, jam, fried egg), 13.000 kyat for cheapest room (Feb 2017). For address see Maps.me or Google Maps. Behind the Happy GH there is a new guesthouse named "Shwe Hintar" with prices starting with 8000 kyat double room (Feb 2017).
Buses from Kinpun to Yangon leave from the bus station close to the truck stop and run until at least 14:00. The fare is MYK7,000 (8000K October 2015).
Pick-Ups (called buses) leave frequently to Bago from the bus station just a short walk from Kyaiktiyo train station through the village. They cost about MMK3,000 and take 3.5h
Uncomfortable pickups to HpaAn cost 5000 (3 hours) from the office near Win Express at the bus station area.
The last bus is 2030 transfer to Kyaikhto by van (included) and expected to arrive at the Highway bus stop for 2100. Cost 8000K. In high season I suggest buying your bus ticket before you go up to the top.
Alternatively take a shared or chartered van to Kyaikhto Highway and try to board a bus there.
Please note, very few people travel down after 5pm, and virtually non after dark.
Times Kyaikhto to Yangon, 1230, 2259, 0123. Expect delays.