Dali Arrival and Departure:
Transport To and From Dali
Travelers should be aware that trains and buses to Dali arrive in Dali City (officially known as Xiaguan), not in Dali Old Town (大理古城). All buses from Kunming will arrive in Xiaguan (if a travel agent claims it will go all the way to the Old Town, they are most likely lying). However, buses from Lijiang might drop you off at the Old Town on the way to Xiaguan. Dali Old Town is around 12km north-west of Xiaguan. A taxi there will cost about ¥40. Alternatively, public buses #4 and #8 run between Xiaguan and the Old Town (more details below).
By Air – Flying to Dali
Not many people choose to fly to Dali and there isn’t any real good reason to do so unless you really hate buses and trains. Dali Airport serves only a small number of routes. Of most note are the daily flights to Kunming (full fare: ¥520; 30 mins) and Jinghong in Xishuangbanna (full fare: ¥780; 50 mins). The flight schedule changes seasonally and sometimes includes flights to destinations further afield such as Guangzhou and Chengdu, but never on a daily basis.
Dali Airport (大理机场) is located about 15km east of Xiaguan (Dali City). There are no regular public transport options to the airport. A taxi will cost about ¥40 to Xiaguan or around ¥80 to the Old Town.
Traveling To and From Dali By Train
The only route serviced by Dali train station is to and from Kunming. The journey takes just about 9 hours and costs around ¥100 for hard sleeper and ¥140 for soft sleeper. There are a few overnight trains departing from 7:30pm-10:30pm and also one day train which leaves around 9:30am. While it is slower than the bus, some might prefer to take the overnight train so they can get the traveling done while they sleep.
Dali Train Station is located in Dali City on Dianyuan Lu where it meets Yunling Dadao. Public Bus #8 runs from Dali Train Station in Xiaguan to the west gate of Dali Old Town (after traveling along Yuer Lu from the east side of the Old Town).
Traveling To and From Dali By Bus
Dali City (Xiaguan) has several bus stations and there is no telling which one you will arrive to no matter where you have come from. But the chances are that you will arrive to one of the bus stations on Jianshe Lu. In this case you should turn left as you head out onto Jianshe Lu and walk straight until you reach the first main road (Renmin Nan Lu). Then look for Bus #4 which runs from Renmin Lu to the north gate of Dali Old Town, passing the west gate along the way.
Departing from Dali by bus is much easier. There are numerous travel agents in the Old Town that will arrange tickets for buses that leave from the Old Town (so you don’t need to return to Xiaguan). There are regular buses to Lijiang (3-4 hours; ¥40-50) and Kunming (4-6 hours; ¥80-90).