Kunming is connected by daily flights to eight provincial airports: Jinghong, Dali, Lijiang, Mangshi, Simao, Baoshan, Zhaotong, Zhongdian, and Lincang as well as 50 domestic routes including Beijing (2 1/2 hr.), Chengdu (1 hr.), Guilin (1 1/2 hr.), Shanghai (2 1/2 hr.), Dali (1/2 hr.), Lijiang (40 min.), Xianggelila (1 hr.), Nyingchi (2 hr.), and Xishuangbanna (40 min.). There are twice-weekly flights to Lhasa via Xianggelila. Tickets can be purchased at the CAAC/Yunnan Airlines office at Tuodong Lu 28 (tel. 0871/316-4270 domestic, or 0871/312-1220 international). Tickets can also be purchased at the airport, at CITS and other travel agencies, and at hotel tour desks. On the international front, Yunnan Airlines and several international carriers serve Hong Kong, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Yangon, Mandalay, Vientiane, Osaka, Singapore, New Delhi, Kolkata, Katmandu, Siem Reap, Phuket, Phnom Penh, Dacca, and Hanoi. Foreign airline offices include: Dragonair, Beijing Lu 157 (tel. 0871/356-2828); Lao Aviation, Camellia Hotel, Dongfeng Dong Lu 96 (tel. 0871/316-3000, ext. 5166); Thai Airways, Beijing Lu 98, second floor, King World Hotel annex (tel. 0871/351-2269); Silk Air/Singapore Airlines, Dongfeng Dong Lu 25 (tel. 0871/315-7125); Japan Airlines, Bank Hotel, Qingnian Lu 399; third floor (tel. 0871/315-8111); and Vietnam Airlines, Tuodong Lu 80 (tel. 0871/315-7175). Sanya Travel always beats anything online (tel. 0871/351-6888); they accept foreign credit cards (with a 3% fee) and are about 2 blocks up from the train station. The airport is 5km (3 miles) south of city center, a quick ¥30 taxi ride depending on your destination in town. There are no CAAC airport buses, but public bus nos. 52, 67, and 78 also serve the airport at ¥1. This is all soon likely to change when the new Kunming international airport, which is projected to be the third-largest in China, will be located 21km (13) miles northeast of Kunming.
The Kunming Railway Station is at the far southern end of Beijing Xi Lu just past the bus station, which you will see on your right. Kunming is well connected by rail to many major Chinese cities, and major investment into the railway network means that all these routes are getting faster all the time. Trains run to Beijing (38 hr.), Shanghai (37 hr.), Guangzhou (22 hr.), Guilin (16 hr.), Chengdu (18 hr.), and Shilin/Stone Forest (90 min.). There are at least four trains a day to Dali, including a day train which is long and laborious, and three huge double-decker sleeper trains in the evening, which leave late in the evening and arrive first thing the next morning (8:40pm to 5:06am; 9:43pm to 6:15am; 11pm to 8am). The South train station has recently been refurbished and has a ticket office on its lower level (tel. 0871/612-2492) open from 6:30am to 11:30pm. There is also a small ticket office on Kunshi Lu, the first road on your right as you walk downhill on Jianshe Lu from its intersection with Wenlin Jie. After turning onto Kunshi Lu, walk about 75 to 100m (246 ft.-328 ft.) until you find an alley on the left (south) side of the road. About 15m (49 ft.) into the alley you should find a train ticket office on the left (east) side of the alley. Train fans will be pleased to hear that many new projects are underway in Kunming. A new high-speed rail line will shorten the travel time between Shanghai and Kunming from 37 hours to less than 9 hours. The Dali-Ruili railway will extend the existing line 366km (227 miles) through to China's border with Myanmar by 2010.
Kunming has a number of long-distance bus stations, all within 5 minutes of each other and the railway station, but the main one that should serve most travelers' needs is the Nanyao Qiche Keyun Zhan at Beijing Lu 60 (tel. 0871/351-0617), at the northwest corner of Beijing Lu and Yongping Lu. From here, buses go to Xiaguan (17 buses; 5 hr.; ¥119 from 7:30am to 7:30pm); to Lijiang (9 hr.; ¥150 at 7:30am, 9:30am, 11:30am, and 2pm); to Xianggelila/Zhongdian (12 hr.; ¥174 at 8:20am); to Jinghong (16 hr.; ¥150 at 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, 7pm, and 8pm); and to Jianshui (4 1/2 hr.; ¥54 every half-hour from 7:20am-9pm). The long distance buses are cheap; however, overnight sleepers can be cold, bumpy, and dirty. Check out the bus before you buy the tickets. It also has international departures to Laos and Vietnam, though these services are not always running. The bus to Laos goes all the way from Kunming to Vientiane, and costs approximately ¥800 and lasts 40 hours if you go all the way. The journey to Vietnam is less arduous. Buses to Hekou, the border city on the Chinese side, leave regularly. Night buses leave Kunming at 8pm from the bus station next to the train station and arrive at Hekou in time to cross the border as soon as it opens. The bus station is just a few blocks from the border crossing. From there, you can take one of the many buses to Hanoi, Sapa, or elsewhere.
For the really adventurous, or those who are allergic to Chinese sleeper buses, cycling into Southern Yunnan from Kunming deserves serious consideration. Not only are there some beautiful back roads, but it is downhill all the way. For further inspiration and a day-to-day report from somebody who has already done this, check out www.pratyeka.org/bike/southern-yunnan.html. China has already completed renovations on its 600-km (373 miles) segment of the Stilwell Road, upgrading the route to a six-lane expressway that will cut the distance between China and India by 5,000km (3,106 miles). A former World War II supply route, the road is named after U.S. General Joe Stilwell, who oversaw its construction in 1944. The 1,700-km (1,000-mile) road once connected Kunming with the city of Ledo in Assam state.
Downtown sights can be toured on foot or by bike. If your hotel does not offer bike rental, the Camellia Hotel rents them for ¥2 an hour or ¥15 for the day. For a choice of mountain bikes for rent, visit Fattire Fun Mountain Bike Club at Beimen Jie 1 hao, Qianju Lu 61, off Cui Hu Nan Lu (tel. 0871/530-1755; owner Xiong Jinwu's e-mail: email@example.com).
Flagfall for Xiali and smaller taxis is ¥7 for 3km (2 miles), then ¥1.60 per kilometer until 10km (6 miles), when it goes up to ¥2.40 per kilometer. From 10pm to 6am, the cost is ¥8.40 for 3km (2 miles), then ¥1.90 per kilometer until 10km (6 miles), then ¥2.70 per kilometer. Santana taxis cost ¥8 for 3km (2 miles) and ¥1.80 per kilometer after that; from 10pm to 6am, flagfall is ¥9.60 for 3km (2 miles). Taxis start at ¥8 and usually have reliable meters. As usual, care should be taken when traveling at night or long distances (agree on a price ahead of time), but Kunming's cabbies are comparatively honest. Larger taxis cost more than smaller taxis. Also be aware that taxis are zoned and cannot access all areas. Don't be surprised if a taxi driver cannot take you to your destination as it may be outside their zone. Only certain taxis are allowed into the central areas at certain times. This is to allow all taxis a chance at the lucrative business areas.
While many of the outlying sights such as the Bamboo Temple and Dragon's Gate can be reached most conveniently by taxi, public buses also travel most of these routes. Bus no. 52 runs from the airport to Da Guan Yuan via the railway station. Bus no. 47 runs from the railway station to the International Horticultural Exposition Park, from where you can either take the cable car or bus no. 10 to the Golden Temple. The fare for each bus is ¥1. Unlike other cities in China, buses have special access to the innermost lane rather than the outside lane. This is a very effective innovation and makes buses the fast way to get around the city, especially during rush hour. In addition, most routes now have bilingual stop announcements making travel around the city very easy.
CITS at Huancheng Nan Lu 285 (tel. 0871/353-5448; fax 0871/316-9240; www.kmcits.com.cn; Mon-Fri 8:30am-noon and 2-6pm) is often busy juggling international tour groups but can be very helpful with arranging accommodations, ongoing transportation, or customized tours throughout Yunnan for individual travelers. The Camellia Travel Service on the ground floor of the Camellia Hotel is the rudest and most unhelpful agency in town and worth avoiding. Yunnan travel service hot-line is tel. 12301.