There are flights from many major cities to the undersized Dali airport, but flights are often expensive. Flying into nearby Lijiang is often much cheaper, and organizing a ride to Dali using a ride-hailing app is easy. By the end of the summer, a high-speed train from Kunming should be open. There are also overnight trains from Kunming – book in advance as they often sell out. It takes an hour to get to the Dali Old Town from the airport by taxi – there are no buses. It takes about two hours to get to the Dali Old Town from Lijiang airport. Note that Dali City is divided into the Old Town, and the new town of Xiaguan, which is 30 kilometers away and to be avoided, except for its weekend secondhand market.
When to Go
The best time to visit is spring and autumn. The summer rainy season is pleasant enough, but the sky is often overcast with a little rain each day. Winters are sunny, dry and pleasantly warm in the daytime, but the nighttime temperature can dip to 0 Celsius. The spring San Yue Festival, marked according to the lunar calendar, features a huge market with traditional Bai music on free outdoor stages and three days of horse racing. The main tourist streets in Dali are jammed on major holidays. Dali and Erhai have many extremely tasteful boutique hotels opened by Dalifornians, so expect to find a lovely place to stay in a perfect location at a reasonable price outside of major holidays. Couchsurfing or Airbnb-type services are an excellent option for an insider experience. Renting an electric scooter is an excellent way to get around town and see the local sites.