No worry, Go Dali
You need no prior preparation if you go in November, which is not a peak season for tourist.
The weather is a bit cold (5C at night), so wear enough not to be held down by a fever.
Just get to the old town. Then everything is accessible on foot.
Accommodation costs as little as 15 yuan per night, and is not difficult to find. (recommended : Bird's Nest on Ren Min Lu)
There are plenty of restaurants. In my opinion, all serve very good food. The clear blue sky and the good food and the leisurely pace of life.
The Yunnan coffee is a must-try. And so is the farmer's dishes. Try the various types of fungi.
Bai nationality performers
The organized tour included a performance by Bai nationality members depicting a courtship and wedding ceremony. One notable aspect is that after the wedding the bride is often pinched by the guests.
Also, notice the quirky sunglasses and what looks like a large clock necklace.
Came here for a western breakfast on each of the two mornings that I stayed in Dali and this place is a good choice with a nice atmosphere etc. There's many places in nearby Foreigner Street that all do similar things so check them out for price etc before deciding where to eat.
The Reflection Park is probably the nicest spot to admire the three pagodas, the symbol of Dali as they reflect in the lake. Though the entrance fee is a bit exaggerated for what you get (13 Yuan, I think it was), it is a good place to take some nice pictures.
Take a horse carriage if you do not want to walk, it is quite cheap.
Dali Gucheng - the Old City
One thing to bear in mind when traveling here, is that the Dali that travelers arrive in from Kunming is not the same Dali renowned as a backpakers getaway. In fact, the bus from Kunming arrives in a town known as Dali City, a local administrative municipality that is officially known as Xiaguan. Like many Chinese cities, there is an old historic portion, termed the Old City, and a new portion with modern buildings and newer amenities. Most travelers head straight for the ancient city of Dali, also known as Dali Gucheng. The old city is where the three pagodas and Foreigner's Street are located, while Erhai lake is closer to the new city.