All travelers arriving in Dali whether by plane, train, or bus first arrive in Xiaguan, the new part of Dali, so to speak. The Dali airport (DLU), also named Dali Huangcaoba Airport, is 13km (8 miles) from Dali City. Dali's transportation hub is Xiaguan, 15km (9 miles) to the south. From the Dali Airport, another 15km (9 miles) northeast of Xiaguan, are daily flights to Kunming (40 min.) and Xishuangbanna (50 min.). From the airport to Dali is about a 1-hour taxi ride, which will cost up to ¥100. If you need to purchase additional plane tickets, take a taxi into Xiaguan for about ¥40 to ¥50 (or see the buses below) and go to the Yunnan Airlines ticket office (tel. 0872/231-5339), located next to the railway station across from the China Telecom building. There is another outlet in the Cang Shan Fandian at Cang Shan Lu 118. Travel agencies or your hotel in Dali may be able to help you purchase airline tickets, but give them as much advance notice as possible and expect to pay a fee for the service.
From the railway station, bus no. 8 (45 min.; ¥3) runs to the West Gate of the old city in Dali, while bus no. 10 runs into Xiaguan. A taxi to the old town will cost ¥45. Tickets can be purchased at the train station office inside the main bus station on 21 Jianshe Lu, which is open 9am to 6pm. Returning to Kunming, trains depart Xiaguan at 7:26pm, (arrive Kunming 5:10am) and 8:24pm, (arrive Kunming 6:10am), 10:15 (arrive Kunming 7:10am). The long-awaited Dali-Lijiang rail line is scheduled to commence operations on the last day of 2009.
The expressway between Kunming and Xiaguan has brought the 9-hour journey down to just 4 hours. Back in the 1980s, this route took a good 2 days, although for Marco Polo it was nearly 2 weeks. Most Dali-bound buses actually stop in Xiaguan, which has several bus stations, but the main one that travelers will likely use the most is the confusingly named Dali Qiche Keyun Zhan (tel. 0872/218-9330) opposite Minsheng Plaza, on Jianshe Lu east of Renmin Lu. From here, luxury air-conditioned buses depart for Kunming (5 hr.; ¥104) every half-hour from 7:30am to 8:30pm; for Lijiang (3 hr.; ¥55) at 8:30am, 2pm, 7pm, and 7:30pm; and for Xianggelila/Zhongdian (6 hr.; ¥88) at 9am and 3pm. There are also regular buses to Lijiang (3 hr.; ¥55) every half-hour from 7:20am to 7:30pm; and to Jinghong (9 hr.; ¥168) at 7:30pm. A private bus company, YNTAC (tel. 0872/212-5221), operates luxury, air-conditioned, nonsmoking buses from Xiaguan's Cang Shan Fandian (Cang Shan Lu 118). The buses go to Kunming (4 hr.; ¥119) at 8:30am, 10:30am, 12:30pm, 1pm, 2:30pm, and 7:30pm; and to Lijiang (3 hr.; ¥55) at 8:20am, 1:40pm, 2:40pm, and 7pm. From the center of Xiaguan to Dali, take bus no. 4 for from the corner of Jianshe Lu and Renmin Lu.
In Dali, it's best to have a tourist cafe arrange your Dali-Kunming bus for ¥120, as they will take care of sending you to Xiaguan for the transfer. There is usually a ¥5 fee for this service. Buses to Lijiang also mostly originate out of Xiaguan. Again, the most hassle-free option is to have a travel agency or cafe book your ticket.
The beauty of Dali is that the old town is so small that it's possible to walk from the North Gate (Bei Men) to the South Gate (Nan Men) in half an hour. To explore farther afield, bikes are the best way to get around and can be rented all along Bo'ai Lu for around ¥10 a day. A taxi to nearby sights such as the Three Pagoda Park or the Cang Shan chairlift will run between ¥5 and ¥10. Many visitors head for the Hui village of Weishan in the south, but Shaxi valley in the north is a far superior experience.
Tours & Guides
Many of the Dali cafes provide a variety of tours, including a boat trip on Er Hai Lake which costs ¥20 to ¥40 per person, depending on group size; or horseback riding to a mountain monastery or local Bai village for about ¥40 to ¥60 per person. Local English-speaking guides can be hired through cafes for about ¥50 to ¥100 per hour, or around ¥300 per day. The Dali Travel Center, next to the Golden Flower Hotel (Huguo Lu 76; tel. 0872/267-1282), offers all the above services and also sells bus tickets to local destinations.
Free Maps -- An American company produces excellent free maps for Dali, Yangshuo, and Guilin. Check out their website at www.trax2.com for details.
Banks, Foreign Exchange & ATMs -- The Bank of China (Mon-Fri 8am-6pm) is at Fuxing Lu 333. It has a number of ATMs.
Internet Access -- Many cafes offer Internet access including the Tibetan Cafe at Renmin Lu 58.
Post Office -- The post office (8am-6pm) is at the corner of Fuxing Lu and Huguo Lu. There are two post offices in Dali Old Town. One is on the corner of Fuxing Lu and Yang Ren Jie. The second is about a 600m (1,970 ft.) walk out of the East Gate on the left-hand side.
Visa Extension -- These are available in Xiaguan at the Gonganju (PSB), located at Tianbao Jie 21 (tel. 0872/216-6090; Mon-Fri 8:30-11am and 2:30-5pm). An extension of the normal tourist visa can be done in about 20 minutes. To get to the PSB office from Dali old town, take bus no. 8 and get off at the north bus station; walk another 400m (1,312 ft.) and you'll see a building with large steel Eiffel Tower on top. Here your China visa can be extended twice with few questions asked.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.