Lijiang sits on a huge plateau some 2,400 m above sea level. The surrounding area is littered with small villages, often accessible only by path from the main road. There is virtually no traffic on the roads, except the occational cart, bike or a very occasional lorry! The roads around are all yours and well worth exploring.
I set off with a fellow traveller I met over breakfast int he square. We hired bikes from the dealers at the Mao statue just outside the main gate of the old town, but bike hire is also available through many hotels and inns. Our bikes were good quality. Just wander out of the old town, you will find the main square with old Mao very easilly, and the bikes are sitting just waiting for you, around his feet.
Bike hire was not at all expensive and in plentifull supply. We paid around 10 RMB for the day, but I met someone who found a bike for 5 RMB. You will probably need to leave some documentation (they normally ask for a passport) to guarantee that you will return the bike.
The flight ticket from Kunming costs between RMB 340 to RMB 420. Ask a few travel agents.
There is a RMB 50 airport on top of that.
The taxi ride from the airport into Lijiang costs between RMB 60 to RMB 80. The ride takes about 30 minutes.
The biggest bus (Volvo) costs RMB 50. Non-smoking. Takes about 4 hours.
Don't fall asleep as the ride includes some of the most spectacular views of the surrounding area.
There are about 3 trips per day. The lastest (on this luxurious bus) is at 2:30pm. Just ask at any bus agent in the old town.
There are 2 other types of bus. They are smaller and allow smoking. They run at more frequent intervals.
Most travellers probably come to Lijiang via Kunming/Dali by bus. In this case it might be useful to take a plane back in order to safe time. Southern Airlines for example fly to Kunming for approximately € 40-60. I think there at least 2 daily flights, you can buy your ticket for example at the very small travel agency at the market square.
Inside the town, the best way to linger around is by foot.
The best way to go to suburbs including Yulong Mountain, Lu Gu Lake or Tiger Leaping Gorge is to rent a taxi. There are buses going either of the places, but the buses go like 1 or 2 per day, and there are still a lot of places you will miss travelling by bus.
if it's not peak season, the taxi can be very cheap. Another advantage of renting a taxi is that with a local driver, you will discover a lot of really local stuff.
Lijiang is well connected with Dali and Kunming by bus and trains, there are several day ones and some night ones too.
I came here with a private driver as which I hired to go to Zhongdian and we just stopped here for a couple of hours before going to the tiger leaping Gorge and proceeding to the final destination.
I got this service in Jeam tibetan hotel in Dali and it was about 120 euro included an english speaking guide and the hotel for the 3 of us.
We took the bus from Dali, Took the number 8 city bus to the long distance bus depot. From there to Li Jiang it was 37 RMB, we luck out and got a nice bus (Bigger bus, soft seat, no smoking...for the most part) But in Chinese style you never go directly to you destination, spent a about an hour rive the back roads trying to pick up more customer. The waited another half hour in the old part of the city for a few more passenger, but once we were under way it was on ok ride, only about 4 hour.
Leaving Lijiang for Dali our luck was not as good on the bus, a small bus, smokers all the was, and the person who handles the ticket head head out the window yelling the whole way back tying to get more passenger. Went via a few small towns ( to drop off some hitch hikers that we picked up on the way.) But we made it back in about 3.5 hours The small bus was pretty cramped.
If you do not want to walk around the Gorge to see it you can use a king of cyclo carried by a guy.
I do not know how much it cost, but in my opinion, walking is the best idea.It's an easy walk more or less 2 hours long depending on how frequently you stop to take pictures.
• We decided that we would wing it and try and do it ourselves. Mindful of other advice we walked out of the Old Town and along to catch the Number 7. The sign for the bus itself is not along the main road but in a laneway. There is a sign for it but if you are not looking for the sign itself you might miss it as we did. I have included a photograph of the sign. We were the only passengers – halfway there we were transferred into a smaller mini bus which was a little concerning but, we did get there. Make sure that you ask to be dropped off at the booking/ticket office NOT the tourist office.
Not to far away from Lijiang is the Yulong Xueshan Mountain, or the Jade Dragon Mountain, visible at clear weather from the upper part of Lijiang. Distance is about 40 km. To go there, I took the public bus No. 7, starting from the sqare of the Mao statue. When you are leaving the ancient town on the south-gate, turn right in the big avenue of the new city, walk 10 min. and you'll arrive at this sqare. If the bus is not waiting there, you'll see on the oil traces, where he will arrive... Cost are some Yuan. It's not the most modern aircom bus, but OK, it's not a private car. Please ask your hotel to write the chinese name of Yulong Mountain on a paper, the bus will stop a several small, and pitoresc villages and you go out at the last stop.
This terminal is situated at about 2900 m. For comments on horseriding high up in this Yulong Mountain, please turn over to my of the beaten paths tip.
The best way to get to the sights around Lijiang is by hiring a cab. Most of the drivers have a bit of knowledge of the places so they will explain a bit on the road as well. Some of them can be hired for daytrips or even overnight trips to farther places like Lugu Lake or Shangrila. Just ask your hotel staff to help book, they usually provide such service.
There are plenty of cabbies* at the airport to ferry you to town. Each ride just 60rmb on a metered cab. It's slightly higher if you choose to take a private mini van (usually 100rmb). The distance between the airport and town is about 15km.
*it's a different story in the wee hours of the night. arrange for your hotel to pick you up if the airport is deserted.
If you intend to do the tiger leaping gorge, then go to qiaotou. It's the more popular starting point compared to da ju.
Ask your hotel owner to scribble down qiao tou (bridge head) and express bus stop for you on a piece of paper. Hand the instructions to the cab driver.
Alternatively if you speak Mandarin, just tell the driver you're heading for the bus stop to Qiao Tou.
•Buy at the ticket office to the east of the Old City (entry to the east of the Old Town Management Board Tourism Service point). Much much cheaper. We were able to buy tickets for Chengdu for 510 Yuan cash.
Bus from Lijiang to Zhongdian took 6-7 hours. RMB27. It was a mini bus. So, my advise is go to bus station 30 mins earlier, wait for your bus and try to get a good seat in front (more leg room). Otherwise it was ot really fun to squeeze yourself for 6-7 hours along the bumpy road.