Do you have to pay the entrance fee if you only want to visit the lake? We are not interested in visit the pagodas, but we would like to visit the area (may be do the Inle-Kalaw trek). Will they ask us for an entrance? When? When we arrive to Nyaungshwe or after this point? Is possible to visit the area without paying or it is mandatory?
The entrance fee is collected by the government from a little police booth by the side of the road that leads to the lake, before you get to Nyaungshwe. It is not collected at temples or at other places, and is actually a fee to visit the entire "architectural zone" rather than an entrance fee for specific attractions. All visitors to the Inle Lake area are required to purchase it.
Theoretically it may be possible to sneak in and not pay the fee; however this is dishonest. I had to show my ticket to leave as well, but I was never asked to show the ticket other than on this occasion, though I was cautioned to keep the ticket with me at all times.
I passed by the booth at around 4:30 AM on the back of pickup, and the booth was open then. I don't know if it closes at night. It's worth noting that you can pay the fee in kyat rather than USD, contrary to what most places indicate.