Diqing Airport in Zhongdian is connected by flights to Kunming (50 min.; two to three daily), Guangzhou (2 hr., 20 min.; daily), Chengdu (1 hr., 10 min.; three or four flights a week), and Lhasa (1 hr., 45 min.; one or two flights a week depending on season). Following unrest, foreign tour groups have been forbidden from flying in Zhongdian. To fly to Lhasa, you must have your Tibet travel permit (TTP) in order. Tickets can be purchased at the Yunnan Airlines/CAAC office at Wenming Jie next to the Guanguang Hotel (tel. 0887/822-9901); it's open from 8:30am to noon and 3 to 8pm (2-5:30pm in winter). Taxi fare to the airport about 6km (4 miles) south of town will cost ¥20.
From the Bus Station (Keyun Zhan) on the intersection of Changzheng Lu and Jiantang Lu (tel. 0887/822-2972), buses run to Kunming (12 hr.; ¥180) at 9am, and then hourly from 11am to 8pm; to Xiaguan (8 hr.; ¥85) every hour from 7am to 8pm; to Lijiang (5 hr.; ¥35) every half-hour to hour from 7:10am to 5pm; to Deqin (7 hr.; ¥35) at 7:20am, 8:20am, and 9:20am; to Xiangcheng (9 hr.) at 7:30am; to Jinjiang (10 hr.) at 3:30pm and 5pm; and to Sanba (5-6 hr; ¥20) at 8:30am. The 3:30pm bus to Jinjiang will get you there in time to connect with the train to Chengdu. There has been talk of moving the bus station to the northern part of town along Zhongxiang Lu, so check beforehand. There is another bus station at the intersection of Changzheng Road and Huancheng Road. The number of destinations is more limited but fares tend to be lower.
To Tibet -- You can only travel overland to Tibet by Land Cruiser as part of an official travel agency group with all the requisite Tibet travel permits. If you haven't made prior reservations by the time you arrive in Zhongdian, check first at the travelers' cafes. During the summer, there may be enough interest to pull together a group, but it'll likely cost around ¥5,000 per person just for transportation and the permit. From Zhongdian, the overland route passes through Deqin, the last border town in Yunnan, another 6 to 8 hours away by car. Any questions about Tibet travel permits can be referred to Mr. Lin at the Tibet Tourism Office.
To Sichuan -- The back roads into Sichuan from Zhongdian are no less scenic or any more comfortable than the road to Tibet, but at least you won't have to worry about permits. Busing it to Chengdu will take at least 6 to 7 days over some very high altitudes (above 4,000m/13,120 ft.) and incredibly gorgeous terrain. Hiring a private car will cost around ¥1,000. From Zhongdian, a 7:30am bus departs every 2 to 3 days for Xiangcheng in Sichuan; the trip takes 10 hours. From Xiangcheng, the route continues to Daocheng or Litang, depending on weather and road conditions, then to Kanding (11 hr. from Litang), and finally to Chengdu (a further 8 hr.).
Return to Dali -- The alternate route back to Dali that does not stop at Lijiang, is an interesting option for those heading back south. Buses leave at 9:30 and 12:30pm and cost ¥48, the 6-hour journey starts on the Tibetan plateau and passes a surprising number of breeding centers for the shaggy Tibetan Mastiff, perhaps the only dog in the world with a hardier constitution than a St. Bernard. The road then drops away and descends through endless forest switchbacks, past numerous new hydro plants. After some breathtaking precipices, the surroundings turn agricultural once more and the roads turn to yellow as local farmers spread their rice husks across the road, to be conveniently winnowed by passing minibuses such as yours. Most travelers are very surprised by the huge amounts of one particular crop that grows in this province -- opium's natural successor, tobacco.
Around town, taxis (unmetered) cost ¥5 per trip. Bus no. 3 (¥1) runs from the Tibet Hotel up the main thoroughfare, Changzheng Lu, all the way to Songzanlin Si. There are only four local bus routes. Nos. 1, 2, 3 all run within the town. Bus n0.1 runs along Changzheng Lu, no. 2 runs along the southern part of Changzheng Lu and Jiantang Lu, and no. 3 goes to the Songzanlin Monastery. The fare is ¥1 and hours are 6:30am to 10pm. The fourth route serves Yila Grassland between 9am and 7pm; the fare is ¥5.
CITS at Changzheng Lu (tel. 0887/823-0152) just north of the bus station offers day tours (in Chinese only) to the surrounding areas. A group package to Songzanlin Si, Bita Hai, and Napa Hai will run to ¥150. Information on local sights and travel to Tibet and Sichuan can be picked up at the Tibet Cafe at Changzheng Lu (tel. 0887/823-0282). Mr. Lin at the Tibet Tourism Office (tel. 0887/688-3996; mobile 013988717676688) in the Xiangbala Hotel can arrange Tibet travel permits.
Banks, Foreign Exchange & ATMs -- The People's Bank of China (Zhou Renmin Yinhang; Mon-Tues and Thurs-Fri, 8:30am-noon and 2:30-5:30pm) is on Changzheng Lu. It offers forex, but it won't give cash advances on credit cards.
Internet Access -- China Telecom on Changzheng Lu 9 has Internet service from 9am to 9pm, at ¥3 per hour.
Post Office -- The post office (8:30am-8:30pm, 9am-8pm in the winter) is at the corner of Chengzheng Lu and Xiangyang Lu and has a nice collection of stamps and cards at very low prices.
Visa Extensions -- The visa section of the Gonganju (PSB; Mon-Fri summer 8:30-11:30am and 2:30-6pm; winter 9am-noon and 2-5:30pm) is located at Changzheng Lu 72 just south of the Diqing Binguan.