A good way to reach Kunming is by airplane. From big cities, you have several flights daily and, if you book well in advance, you can buy a ticket for a very good price. I travelled from Shenzhen to Kunming with 40% off the normal fare.
The bus for Dali leaves from the bus station near the train station. Despite the sign saying that it went to Dali (which I checked the Chinese characters in my Lonely Planet against) and not Dali City, the bus only went to Dali City and I had to get another bus the short distance to Dali itself. The main bus cost RMB84 and took around 5 hours. Along the way, you'll pass by villages with white-washed houses right up against the motorway with painted signs and pictures saying "Dinosaur Valley" as it was in this region that many complete dinosaur skeletons have been found (which can be seen in the Kunming City Museum).
We took an overnight sleeper bus from Kunming to the border. It was not pleasant, but it got us where we needed to go! A few things to say about the bus journey, which I hope will prepare you!
Upon arrival at Kunming Bus Station we found chaos! We found the bay that our bus was supposed to be in and it was not there! Eventually we located the bus, behind numerous other buses - be prepared to ask around and arrive early enough to be able to do this.
The bus itself is basic. There are no toilet facilities at all. The bus will stop en route, but your toilet will be the roadside!
People smoke on the bus, so if you can make yourself understood - try and get a window bed. I smoke, not on buses - this was extreme.
The beds are tiny! Ok, I am above average size, but even being slightly smaller I still would have been uncomfortable. They are not only short but skinny too! Don't expect to get much sleep.
Don't be alarmed if in the middle of the night the bus stops, just get off (with your valuables) have some well earned fresh air :-) You'll probably need your passport; it's more than likely that it's an ID check.
As you approach the border in the morning, the roads turn to mud roads, if you don't like heights - don't look out of the window. The scenery is gorgeous though!
Upon arrival at the border town, walk to the bridge - it's not far, you don't need transport.
Have your Vietnamese visa!!
Go to the Camelia Hotel and ask for Mr. Chen. We set up a car and driver in about a half an hour, not recommended, but it worked for us. (Mr. Chen had no prior warning that we were coming.)
He will set you up with a car and driver, who, if you must, can take you on the tour of the area to which you want to go, or who you can hire to take you where you want to go. We didn't hit the tour route, really, but to some extent the places we went coincided with the tourist hotspots. Oh well.
3000 yuan for 6 days, three people, and the driver paid for his own food and lodging, gas and tolls.
Fuimos a Dali en autobús pasando por una carretera llena de arozales y pueblos muy bonitos
El viaje es muy cómodo , ya que la carretera es buena y los autobuses son modernos
Tardamos cinco horas , con una parada de media hora para comer algo y nos costó 116 Yuan
Ojo!!! El autobús llega a Dali , pero lo normal es ir a"Old Dali" que está a veinte minutos y es la parte más turística que está a orillas del lago .
Nosotros nos pusimos de acuerdo con otros dos viajeros que iban también en el autobús y nos llevó un taxi por 35 Yuan
We went to Dali by bus , passing through a road full of very nice villages and rice fields
The ride is very comfortable because the road is good and the buses are modern
It took us five hours, with a stop for half an hour to get something to eat and it cost to us 116 Yuan
Atention!!! The bus arrives to Dali, but most people go to "Old Dali" , that is the old and tourist area near the lake and is 20 minutes away from the bus station
We came to an agreement with two other passengers who were also on the bus and we took a taxi for 35 Yuan
It's easy to fly to Kunming since its airport has links with many countries, including Singapore ( SIA and Silk Air flies there! ) , Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea and even Myanmar.
Transport to the City: The airport is located 4km from the city and there are metered taxis available just outside of the arrival hall. A ride into town will probably cost you about 22rmb.
Tip: The only thing that sucked over here was its business class passenger lounge. It wasn't proportionate to the size of the sprawling airport and they did not serve alcohol to ease the pain of travelling.
I arrived in Kunming from Bangkok which is a hour and 45 minuts flight.
Once you leave from Kunming airport, before going to the check in you are supposed to fill a qustionaire for customs which is on a desck just in front the custom office.The quastionaire is written only in Chinese, so not understanding a word, I just wrote my name, surname and number of passport and that seemed to be ok as they let me go.Kunming airport is pretty small and check in, domstic and internationals open just 2 hours before the flight so, don't go so early, once inside there are no smoking rooms also so, you really do not know how to spend your time.
Buses from Kunming to Dali [new town] departure from the south bus station [Beijing Lu], close to the train station.
I left Kunming at 08:50 and arrived in Dali at about 14:00. Fare is 76 CNY.
When in Dali (new town), you have to take a minibus to Dali Old Town.
Whenever you intend to take a train from Kunming, but you don't know the timetables, nor the prices, you can have excellent information inside the railway station. Southern excit of the town. Inside the Entrance hall, you'll find an information desk, with a very kind hostess, speaking perfectly english, and who will give you all information, with a smile.
A traditional trip outside Kunming is a bustrip to SHILIN for a visit to the famous Stone Forest.
You can take a train from South station in Kunming, but it's much longer for staying one day there. To go there, take the bus to Shilin at the South busstation near Bejing road, but prepare a paper where some helpfull chinees has written the name of Shiling and Stone Forest. Because there are many buses going of, all signs are in chinese, so just show your paper to some friendly person. Once in the public bus, you pay the ticket, not expensive.
My problem on this trip was, the the bus had a breakdown in the middle of the mountains to Shilin. So after one hour of just waiting outside, and trying to restart the motor driving downstairs the hill, (!), the engine was working again.
Prepare yourself to arrive in the small town of Shiling, and NOT at the Stone Forest.
So, at the bus station downtown, you have to take a very small bus to get up to the famous Stone Forest, distance ; about 8 km. Here you need really your small Chinese paper.
Trains going to Guilin leave from the main train station.
Picture 1 - Main Train Station;
Picture 2 - An example of a train ticket with translation into Portuguese. By the way, was the ticket I used when traveling from Shanghai to Suzhou.
Origem - Origin
Trem - Train
Destino - Destination
Date - ano/mês/dia, year/month/day
Hora de partida - Departing time
Carruagem - Carriage
Lugar - Seat
Preço - Price
The class of the ticket is written at the right upper corner.
Normally a sleeper bus connects Kunming to Jinghong. The trip takes about 10h and costs around 160 CNY. I left Kunming at 21:00 and I arrived in Jinghong at 07:10.
Travelling by airplane takes only 50 min. and, if you are lucky, costs about 340 CNY [60% off].
I found out the hard way on the way to the Village.
I actually wanted to take the taxi to the bus station to take a bus to this village, but the driver told me it won't cost much (about RM25-30) - so I agreed.
On the way back from the village, i decided to take the bus - and BOY! It only cost me RMB 1 all the way back to the city.
In my opinion, this may be useful information, as we surfed the internet before our trip to find out if and when it is possible to go from Kunming to Tibet by air and how long it will take to get the permit, and we read so many different versions that we were quite confused. The only thing that was clear was that it will take at least 3 days to get the permit - which is totally wrong!
Again the Camellia hotel should be one's choice, they now have a more obvious small travel agency in front of the hotel where you can book anything: flights, bus tours, hotels, etc.
Mr. Chen is very efficient and speaks English well. We told him that we would like to go to Lhasa and that we don't want to spend too much time in Kunming as we have already been there before, and he asked if we would like to go the next day! He checked if there were any seats left on the plane next morning and then just said he would have to hurry up now to get the permit! Apparently it's possible to get the permit within half a day, and the next morning he picked us up at our hotel, drove us to the airport and accompanied us as far as he could. I was a little worried because we didn't get any piece of paper, only a stamp on our boarding passes (which we kept with us in Tibet all the time), but obviously this was ok, as we never had any problems. It seems that there are flights to Lhasa every day, they are going via Zhongdian and on our flight there were still many seats available.
One way flight is approximately € 120 - 140.
Buses are cheap and are a good way of getting around in Kunming at 1 yuan per trip, but you need the correct change of a one RMB note or coin. You can only enter by the front door, and deposit your note or coin in the slot near the driver, then the trick is to "push" your way to the rear door in time to get off! If you are lucky enough to score a seat, be aware that they are designed for people 5'6" and under! The buses run throughout Kunming on many different routes, but some like the #98 stop running after 9pm. They are not ideal after a big shopping session, as they are often very crowded, so then you should get a taxi.............