Yunnan Travel Guide

Here are a few hints we discovered along the way which may help other travelers


>Chinese visas are very expensive

>Tourist visas are only valid for 30 days.

>We were required to include with our visa application a detailed itinerary of our whole trip including all flights and names, addresses and phone numbers or all hotels together with copies of confirmations for all these.

Kunming Airport

>Is huge. Allow plenty of time for domestic flight departures to get to the airbridges.

Luoping jinjifengcong sunrise

Luoping jinjifengcong sunrise

The international terminal is much smaller.

>Has regular coaches departing from the airport to the terminal near Green Lake for arrival transfer. 25RMB. There are probably others we didn’t discover.

>Has lots of taxis with sometimes frustrated taxi drivers if you don’t speak English, but we eventually got there and it was cheap – have the phone number for your destination handy so the driver can call if he can’t find it.

>Has a foreign currency exchange counter with rip off exchange rates and 60RMB commission.

Getting Chinese money

>Foreign cash can only be exchanged at any Bank of China on week days during banking hours. The only other cash exchange option we found was the counter at Kunming Airport.

>Foreign ATM cards work in most ATM machines but some don’t have English option.

If there is English you must select “English” before entering your pin number or it will all be Chinese once you log in. Bank of China has an English option. 3000RMB is usually the maximum withdrawal amount.

>China is no longer cheap.


>Take antibiotics with you from home for upset tummies and the runs. We had several bouts between us as did quite a few other travelers we met. Norfloxicin works very well.

>Antiseptic handwash is useful as there is often no opportunity to wash hands when using public toilets.

>Tuberculosis is quite common, particularly around Lijiang and Shangrila.

>Mosquitoes are also a pest. Take a wall plug or buy one there to keep your hotel rooms mosquito free.

>Toilet paper is not generally provided in public toilets but only bring a small supply. There are plenty of opportunities to stock up on toilet paper and/or tissues.

>Toilet paper goes in the rubbish bin beside the toilet not in the toilet bowl for nearly all toilets.

Otherwise the toilet will be blocked due to poor plumbing design.


>Everywhere we stayed (places from US$20 to US$150 a night) had power sockets which took US (2 flat pins), European (two round pins) and Australian/NZ (two diagonal and a vertical pin) plugs. Forget adaptors if you have one of these.

Guides and Drivers

>English speaking guides are available through the Synotrip website. We used this website for two guides and were very happy with both. Approx 500RMB to 600RMB per day plus extra costs if overnight.

>Most English speaking guides do not drive.

>Your accommodation can usually provide the best deal on a good Chinese speaking driver with reasonable quality car. Organise it the day before you want to travel. Around 400 to 500 RMB for all day between cities with tourist stops depending on distance traveled.

>Chinese speaking drivers use google translate or will call your hotel to translate if there is a problem during your journey and you don’t have a guide.

>Most Chinese motorways have tolls. When negotiating for a driver check that he will use the motorway (if you want) and that his price includes tolls. Some will take you by the much longer toll free back roads if not agreed otherwise.


>Backpacks are most practical especially if you are not staying in upmarket places. Lots of accommodation is in old towns where there is no vehicle access. Suitcase wheels are useless on cobblestone streets in the old towns.

>Pack light, especially if using public transport.

>Most guesthouses (even the very cheap ones) have a washing machine for your use and its often free. It will wash even if it looks like Grandma’s old twintub and lives on the street or in the garden.

>Almost every second shop in Shangrila (it seems) sells quality jackets and other warm/wet weather gear for tourists at less than Western prices.

Domestic Flights

>We booked through Ctrip. No problems with the booking process. Would use again.

>Recheck your departure times the day before travel

Both our flights were with China Eastern Airlines. The departure time changed before the departure date (one earlier, one later) and we were not notified.

Accommodation bookings

>We used direct bookings with guesthouses (phone or email), and elong.

All were fine.

>The amount of accommodation available in every place we visited far exceeded demand even though we traveled in May which is a popular month with good weather.

>Chinese New Year, May National Holiday and the October break are likely to be heavily booked everywhere.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

>The highlight of our trip! The scenery is amazing. If, like us, you are not fit enough for the steep uphill section at the beginning, have a driver drop you at Tea Horse Guest House and begin your hike at the top.

The drive up the narrow concrete zig-zag road to Tea Horse GH is exciting.

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