Kunming Travel Guide

- Everything you need to know before visiting Kunming -

Kunming is the capital of Yunnan province in China known as the City of Eternal Spring. The air pollution is rare compared to other cities in China, but the traffic is huge like other major cities of the country. Since the weather is very delightful in this city, the main industry is flower growing. Kunming is filled with numerous highways and modern buildings, which gives you the sense of a real metropolitan.

Kunming is one of the main transportation centers in southwest China in which, you can easily access other regions of China and Southeast Asia by airways, railways, and roads. Major residences of Kunming are Yí people who are an ethnic minority in the city and around. When you visit Kunming, you will encounter people dressed in traditional Yi garb and selling handcrafts or performing local dances.

  • Local Name 昆明市
  • Country China
  • Population (2014) 6,626,000
  • Time Zone UTC+08:00 (China Standard)
  • Area Code 0871
  • Website http://www.km.gov.cn/

Why Visiting Kunming?

Kunming is not your first or even second choice for traveling even in China, probably. The reason is that you don’t know how amazing is this city! We recommend you reconsider your decision and have a fantastic trip to Kunming. You will be stunned by the mixture of nature, history, and culture of the area.

Kunming is one of the most livable cities in China. The city has a very moderate climate during the year and because of that, it’s known as “Spring City”. In other words, Kunming is the best place to escape from hot summers and frozen winters! There are many attractions like temples, national parks, etc. in the city, which can you keep busy in a couple of days. Kunming is also classified as one of the ten hottest destinations in China because of its fantastic scenery, exceptional historic sites, and gorgeous ethnic customs.

Crucial geographical position is another important feature of the city. Kunming is located near the borders of Southeastern Asian countries including Vietnam, Myanmar, and Thailand. Therefore, it can be a great destination for commercial and business purposes.

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What to See in Kunming

Best Time to Visit Kunming

Kunming is located at almost-tropical latitude; however, as the altitude of the city is 2000 m, it has a very temperate climate. You will not face a very extreme coldness in winter or extreme heat in summer. Average temperature in Kunming is 15 Kunming Travel Guide 2C (59 Kunming Travel Guide 2F). However, there is a big temperature difference between day and night from November to February. Kunming has two main seasons instead of four; a wet and a dry season. The wet season is from May to October and the dry season is from November to April in the following year. The best time for visiting Kunming is from March to November not just because of fantastic weather ans beautiful nature and landscapes in the city, but also because of the attractive minority cultures and customs

Spring

    • March – April – May
    • Temperature:  7℃ – 21℃
    • Warm and Dry
    • Normal Prices

What to wear?

T-shirt and light jackets are enough for downtown but you need more layers in villages. Bring umbrella for harsh sun light or occasional rains.

Summer

    • June – July – August
    • Temperature: 16℃ – 24℃
    • Mostly cloudy and rainy
    • Normal Prices

What to wear?

T-shirt, medium-length light pants, hat, sunscreen, proper shoes for hiking.

Fall

    • September – October – November
    • Temperature: 14℃ – 22℃
    • Awesome Weather
    • Higher Prices

What to wear?

T-shirts, long light jeans, light coat (in rainy weather), hat or umbrella for sunlight and rain

Winter

    • December – January -February
    • Temperature: Less than 10℃
    • Temperate Weather
    • Lower Price
    • What to wear?

T-shirts with long sleeves – sweater – long jeans -overcoat or jacket.

Things to do in Kunming

Enjoy Stone Forest Park

Stone Forest Geological Park, also referred to as the “Sword-shaped karst terrain”, is located 87 km away from Kunming city. The park covers a total area of about 400 Square km consisting of numerous scenic locations in addition to small and large forests. This park was referred to as the First Wonder of the World during the Ming Dynasty. Stone Forest Park is definitely an artistic work and enjoying this scenery is one of the things to do in Kunming.

Capture The Landscape of Western Hill and Dragon Gate

Western Hills, also known as Sleeping Buddha Hills, is located in the western suburbs of Kunming and it’s one of the top destinations in Kunming that you should not miss. The landscape is covered with lush plants and dense forests and you can have a bird-eye view of Dianchi Lake. The scenery is one of the best opportunities for photographers to capture a unique view in Western Hill. On top of the western hill, you can find the Dragon Gate, which is a big exquisite stone-carved edifice. Stone paths, stone grottos, stone  Buddhist figures, etc have carved carefully by the great artists.

Learn About Local Culture in Village of Ethnic Culture

Village of Ethnic Culture is a great place to enjoy and learn about the ethnic culture of Yunnan. Interestingly, about 25 nationalities live in Yunnan, and in the Village of Ethnic Culture, you can see characteristic architectures and special activities. Besides, you can enjoy the beautiful and rare flowers and trees in the village.

Take a stroll around Dianchi Lake

This is a plateau lake, which has damaged severely in 60th for changing the wetland to the farmland; however, it’s going to be improved. The best places to enjoy the picturesque scenery of the lake are Guan Jing Road and Haigeng Park. Dianchi Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the city.

Learn About Buddhism in  Yuantong Temple

Yuantong Temple is the largest temple in Yunnan with over 1,200 years of history. You will be stunned by the fantastic architecture of the temple. The complex is a combination of Buddhist temples and Jiangnan Area Garden Style.

 

Where to Stay in Kunming?

You can find many accommodations in every part of the city. However, some areas like Green Lake neighborhood is recommended. Here, you can find many foreign visitors like yourself, so it’s not very difficult to find English menus in restaurants or hotels with English-speaking staff. Besides, in this area, you can find many markets and shops here. However, it’s recommended to learn a bit of Chinese in order not to have any major problem in the city; especially if you are just a backpacker and you don’t have any guide.

How to Get to Kunming

By Plane

Kunming Changshui International Airport offers many flights to almost anywhere in China and Southeast Asia. Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore are destinations that have a flight to the airport. However, the flights are not restricted to Southeast Asia and you can have a flight to Amsterdam Schiphol, Kolkata, and Delhi as well.

If you want to reach the airport from the city center or vice versa, you need to have 30-40 minutes of a journey by taxi. At peak seasons, you will need more as the city suffers from huge traffic problems.

You can also reach the airport by metro line 6. The operation hours of the metro is from 7:00 to 19:00. Trains depart every 5-10 minutes in peak seasons and every 30 minutes in regular days. The price is 6 CNY and you should leave at Airport Center/Kunming Airport station, not Airport Front.

You can also take shuttle buses called Airport Express, which offers 6 lines costing about 25 CNY.

By Bus

Here, there are four stations for each of the cardinal directions and you should go to the station, which is in the direction of your destination. Long-distance buses are great as they are cheap, reliable, and comfortable; however, overnight journeys can be cold and dirty. Also, you should be aware that people in Chinese buses can smoke and if you are non-smoker, you will be having a big problem. Also, there are international buses here to Laos and Vietnam. For Laos, the bus stops at Vientiane costing about 80 USD with stops at  Luang Prabang or Udomxai (Oudomxai). If you go all the way, you should expect 38 hours of journey.

For Vietnam, it’s not as difficult as Laos. The buses leave regularly to Haikou, the border city between Vietnam and China. The night buses leave every night at 8:00 to the Haikou bus station. The bus station is 3 km away from the border crossing and public buses help you to reach there. From the border, you can take the bus to Sapa and bus and train to Hanoi.

By Train

The station offers domestic destinations such as Hekou, Nanning, Guilin, Chengdu (Sichuan), Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Yunnan (limited), and Xi’an. Also, there are two high-speed railways in the new Kunming South (Kunmingnan) Station located 20 km southeast of downtown. With the help of the high-speed train, you can reach Kunming from Guangzhou, Nanning, Shanghai, Guiyang, Changsha, Nanchang, and Hangzhou.

In Town Transportation

By Metro

There are 4 metro lines in Kunming and you can buy tickets from the machines in the stations. They only accept cash money and you should pay 2-10 CNY depending on your destination. In the metro, you can see English signs, which are good guides.

By Bus

The bus covers almost all parts of the city costing 1-2 CNY per trip. Their operating hours are from 06:00 to 21:30/22:00. You can expect terrible driving from the bus drivers like racing, stopping suddenly,

By Taxi

Find taxis that have a meter to avoid scamming. If any driver asked you to pay a flat fee, refuse it as they are much expensive than using a meter. Each taxi driver should work in a specific zone; therefore, don’t be surprised if a taxi driver cannot take you to your destination. Also, be aware that large taxis cost more than small ones.

By Bike

There are many bike lanes in major streets of Kunming and you can rent bicycles for about 20 CNY per day.

Flight to Kunming (KMG)

Food & Drink

In Yunnan Local Dishes, you can taste a mixture of Han style and minorities’ styles, which focuses on the original taste of the ingredients. The most famous food in Yunnan is Crossing the Bridge Noodles (Guo Qiao Mi Xian in Chinese), and you should not miss it on your trip. Steam-pot Chicken and Rice in Bamboo Tube are other popular foods in Yunnan. 

 Local specialties

    • Over-the-Bridge Rice Noodles (过桥米线; guòqiáo mǐxiàn)
    • Steam Potted Chicken (汽锅鸡 qìguō jī)
    • Yiliang Roasted Duck (宜良烤鸭 Yílíang kǎoyā)
    • Xuanwei Ham (宣威火腿 Xuānwēi huǒtuǐ)
    • Er Kuai (饵块, ěrkuài)
    • Red Re-fried Beans
    • Sweet Tonghai Peapowder Candy
    • Qujing Pickled Chives Flower
    • Sweet Pickled Kaiyuan Chinese Onion
    • Smoked Smelly Bean Curd
    • The Eight Treasures of Yunnan
    • Wild Mushrooms (菌子 junzi)
    • Old lady potatoes with peppers and fennel (老奶洋芋 laonai yangyu)
    • Fried goats cheese (rubing)
    • Local barbeque
    • Stinky Tofu (臭豆腐 chòu dòufu)

The Best Chinese Restaurants

    • Fuzhaolou Yunnan-Style Chinese Restaurant (福照楼汽锅鸡饭店) – Best for its steam-pot chicken and flame mashed potato
    • A Seal (Fan’s Mansion) (一颗印) – Best for its steam-pot chicken and shredded chicken rice noodle
    • Shiping Guild Hall (石屏会馆) – Best for its Shiping tofu, Steam-pot Chicken
    • Jianxin Garden (建新园) – Best for its Guo Qiao Mi Xian and cool Guo Qiao Mi Xian
    • 1910 Railway South Station (1910火车南站) – Best for its Yunnan cuisine
    • Dian Jun Wang  (滇菌王) – Best for its Yunnan wild fungus hotpot

Western Restaurants

    • Flavor Street (味的道; Wèi de dào) –  Best for its pizza and Thai hot pot
    • Salvadors – Best for its western food and imported beer
    • The Wicker Basket Bakery Restaurant – Best for its western food

Cafes

    • Mazagran Cafe
    • French Cafe
    • Games Cafe
    • Prague Cafe
    • Salvador’s Coffee House
    • Lobby Lounge
    • Dawn Cafe
    • A’ table By Vincent
    • New Louisiana Cafe & Coffee House
    • Mazagran Cafe
    • Zi Yue Coffee

Bars & Clubs

    • Moondog
    • Turtle Club
    • Alei Lounge Club & Tapas Bar
    • The Turtle
    • Revolucion Cocktail – Kunming
    • Vervo club&bar

Shopping in Kunming

Kunming is a fine shopping destination for tourists and you can find lots of malls and plazas. Unlike many western cities, shopping malls and plazas are located in the city center and tourists will have no problem with reaching these districts. Qingnian Road, Dongfeng Road, and Zhengyi Road are three shopping areas of Kunming in which, various stores and malls are lined up.

What to buy in Kunming?

    • The Wax Print (One of the ancient arts among minorities of Kunming)
    • The Sani Handbag (one of the famous handcrafts in Kunming made by the women of the Sani ethnic group)
    • Dai Brocade (a gorgeous handcraft made by the women of the Dai ethnic minority)
    • Dai Bamboo Basketry (fantastic artwork by  Dai artists)
    • Batik (very famous artwork by ethnic minority areas in Yunnan province)
    • Wood Carving (Yunnan and Kunming are one of the best places to buy wood products)
    • Sani Saddlebag (amazing handcraft made by Sani women)
    • Jewelry and Jade (Kunming is a historic center of producing Jewelry and Jade)
    • Tea (Yunnan is one of the famous tea producers in China especially unrefined large leaf tea, Black Tea, Pu’er Tea etc.)

Safety Tips

    • Watch your bags and money in crowded situations like in public transportation
    • Be careful in shopping centers as there had been reports on handbag robbery
    • Scamming is common in barbershops and massage centers. They force you to pay a larger amount of money, Try to use the services of your hotel
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