As mentioned in earlier posts Kunming is the main transportation hub for Yunnan province. Therefore you are most likely going to enter Yunnan from Kunming – at least if you are an international visitor arriving by plane.
Kunming International Airport Changsui (KMG – 昆明长水国际机场)
Kunming International Airport Changsui (昆明长水国际机场) is an modern and rather efficient airport as it was just opened in 2011 – after a building period of only two years. Changsui Airport replaced the old Wujiaba Airport which was located closer to the city, but no longer considered modern enough for a rapidly growing city.
Changsui Airport is located some 25 kilometers out of town, so you won’t be able to walk into the city. As of 2015 the airport bus was the cheapest option. There are several companies running busses to the city. If you don’t speak Chinese you have to be a bit careful (so that you don’t repeat my mistake) to catch a bus that has English announcements (remember that Google Maps won’t work in China). Those busses are located to the very right when leaving the airport and the ladies selling the tickets speak decent English. The booth directly in front of the airport sells tickets to another bus, which runs to the city centre as well. But no English is spoken at those busses, so you might get lost not knowing where to exit.
Another option would be the metro, but as of 2015 it only links the airport to the East Bus Station, which is of little use when you don’t speak Chinese and heading to the city centre.
Of course you can use a taxi, too. Just be sure to use an official one with a driver that can at least read Latin letters, so that he knows where you want to go. Non English speaking taxi drivers have been a problem during my stay. At least they won’t accept you as a guest if they don’t understand where you want to go (true for the city centre).
Kunming Train Station (昆明站)
Kunming Train Station is located at the Southern end of Beijing Lu and very easy to find once you are in the city. It’s totally possible to walk from the city centre if you don’t have too much luggage. Otherwise take the metro (this line is operational), local bus or a taxi.
Back in 2014 the train station was the location of an terror attack that killed 33 people. Therefore security measures here are understandably very high. You should not expect a train station where you can walk in and out as you want. There are several security checks and you won’t be able to enter the inner station area without a ticket. Security officers were very friendly and even showed me the way as the station is huge.
Kunming Train Station operates connections to Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Nanjing, Chengdu, Guiling just to name a few. Some of these connections take up to two full days. So this is nothing like a quick flight, but slower ground travel in a very big country.
After passing the security control, you have to find one of four waiting halls which lead you to your eventual train. Just find your train number of the big board and head to the hall associated with it:
These waiting halls offer you all kind of shops and restaurants. Once again keep in mind that you need some food or drinks if you are going to sit in the train for some 30 or 40 hours. There’s some catering in most trains, but you need Chinese skills for that. The waiting halls are build over the tracks, so you have to head down for your actual train. Find your train on the small boards (in my case gate 29 for the K166 night train to Emei) and wait until the gates are opened approx. 30 to 45 minutes before departure:
I’m going to write more about my journey to Emei later. But taking trains in China is in general a great and wonderful way to explore this country.
Kunming Western Bus Terminal (昆明西部客运站)
As in all Chinese cities there is not only one big bus station in Kunming, but several smaller ones. If you want to travel to a location North of Kunming you’d use the Northern Bus Terminal, to a location East of Kunming the Eastern Bus Terminal etc. Kunming has five main bus stations: In addition to North, West, South and East; there’s a Northwestern one as well.
I used the Western Bus Terminal as I was heading to Dali with my group. This bus station was built in 2008 and is also known as Xishan or Xibu Busstation. It serves many for tourists interesting destinations such as Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-La, Baoshan and Deqin. As the Western Bus Terminal is quite a bit away from the city centre, I’d recommend taking a taxi. Just show the driver the Chinese letters above and he should know where you want to go.
When entering the station you find various ticket booths. Sometimes there are different ones for every destination, while sometimes they are separated by bus company. In general you won’t have problems to get your ticket (unless they are sold out) as English is usually understood here. After passing the security check you are allowed to enter the waiting hall:
Here you can do some shopping for your bus ride or visit the toilet. The bus station shops are surprisingly inexpensive. So just buy some drinks, fruit or cookies especially when you facing a longer bus ride. If you forgot to buy something don’t worry, your bus will stop after some hours for toilet, smoking and snack breaks. Almost always at a place where you can get coffee, tea and some food as well.
You cannot board your bus at wish. Just head to the designated gate and wait for it to open. This process is well organized and nothing to worry about. Once you have your ticket your seat is guaranteed. If it is occupied (sometimes locals try to catch a seat in an earlier bus) just call the driver or the bus station servant. They will “clear” it for you.
My bus rides in China were all very solid. The busses were comfortable enough and leaving on time. The drivers drove rather well, too. Also the regular 15 minute breaks were a good thing:
More about my stay in Dali in my next post.