The first thing to know about Dali is that the "Dali" you arrive at from Kunming is probably not the one you intend to visit. Dali City, officially known as Xiaguan is where most buses pull in. The Dali known as a backpackers’ paradise is another 12km away from Xiaguan. Locals like to call that area "the Dali Ancient Town" or Dali Gucheng.
Dali lies at the junction of the Yunnan-Burma Highway and the Yunnan-Tibet Highway. From here Dali connects to other regions of western Yunnan Province. Its increasingly modern transport system makes it easier than ever to commute between Dali and other cities.
Located between Fengyi Town and Haidong Town, the Dali Airport is 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) east of downtown Dali. There are scheduled flights from Dali to Kunming and Xishuangbanna daily, taking thirty and fifty minutes respectively. The Dali-Guangzhou flight leaves once a day and takes about three hours. There are also flights to Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou with a forty-minute stop-over in Kunming.
Dali Railway Station is located on Yunling Street in the Dali Economic and Technological Development Zone. It can be reached by city buses No.6, 7, 8, 10, and 11. Trains run only between Dali and Kunming. There are five trains daily.
The main Dali bus station is located at 21 Jianshe Road, Xiaguan. It operates bus lines to Kunming and Lijiang, as well as to cities in other provinces such as Panzhihua in Sichuan and Putian in Fujian. Most comfortable express buses depart from this station.
It is very convenient for tourists to get to all scenic spots in Dali by taxi. Taxis are available from most hotels and shopping districts, and are generally permitted to stop at the passenger's signal.
If you just want to wander around the Ancient City of Dali, renting a bicycle is a good way to do it. Bicycles can be rented quite easily, for example at the Hongshancha Hotel on Huguo Road.
If you want to visit Erhai Lake, you can take a yacht from the Erhai Dock to the north of Xiaguan. You can get on at Xiaguan Pier and reach many tourist attractions, such as Erhai Park, the Mirror Pavilion, and the Butterfly Spring.