Bhamo was an important trading post with the Chinese Empire up to the nineteenth century, when copper coins from China flowed into Burma via Bhamo. VOC (United Dutch East India Company) records identified these copper coins as an important source of profit, and also mention the presence of a Customs Office in Bhamo to regulate the border trade.
From 1869 to 1879, it was the seat of British colonial Assistant political agent, subordinate to the Resident with the king of and in Ava. As of 1935, the town was situated at the highest navigable point of the river, and was the terminus of caravan routes from India and Burma, by which jade, in particular, was brought into China.
Bhamo was once called Sampanago, the capital of the now-extinct Shan predecessor kingdom of Wanmaw. The ruins of the old city walls, dating from the fifth Century, are found some 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from the modern town.
A once weekly Myanma Airways flight is available, as are three times a week river ferries. It is the terminus of river ferries from Mandalay. There is no river ferry between Bhamo and state capital Myitkyina. The land route between Bhamo and Mu Se District (Muse, part of Northern Shan State), is in poor condition.
Bhamo is one of the official border trading towns between China and Myanmar.
The town is home to Bhamo Degree College. One can also study Engineering at Technological University(Bamaw), and computer and networking at Computer University(Bamaw).
Bhamo has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cwa). Temperatures are very warm throughout the year, although the winter months (December–February) are milder. There is a winter dry season (November–April) and a summer wet season (May–October).