Expats with cars: I was wondering how the road toll system works here in Yunnan and if it's actually is worth taking your car on a trip to Lijiang or Tengchong instead of cheap air tickets? The reason I'm asking is that someone told me the toll is pretty steep. Would be absolutely perfect if someone who's done trips to Banna, Lijiang or Tengchong can remember the rough amount spent on gas and toll.
I have done the trip to Dali and furthur south a few times,,but a few years in the past and cant remember the tolls (claimed them anyway so didn't pay much attention), but my advice is that driving in most parts of Yunnan (read out of KM) is a really nice thing to do, and definitly having a car when you get to either of those places is such a big plus in terms of freedom of movement that I would suggest you drive, even though it will be more expensive than a flight after you consider fuel and tolls ( a smaller amount by far).
Thx, do you know how to pay? Do you get a card at one end and pay at the other, or do you have to keep cash ready before you even enter a toll stretch? My Chinese could be a lot better so having some impatient 1200-kuai-a-month operator explain it to me with honking Chinese behind might not be ideal.
You get a card when you enter the toll-way and pay when you exit according to how far you've gone. From Kunming to Dali is around 130RMB. The highways are great, and you can go 100-130 kph most of the way. The trip to Dali takes about three hours. Currently the roads between Dali and Lijiang and Shangri-La are under construction, so plan for some delays there, but no tolls. If you're only one person, flying might be cheaper, depending on the ticket price. If you're two or more people, driving works out to be cheaper usually. Plus, as mentioned above, having a car once you get there is very convenient. Not having to deal with airports, taxis, or buses makes driving the best choice in my opinion.
One other small point is to watch your speed and keep an eye out for tempory speed zones as cops love to wait for you there.
i've made the baoshan trip. it really depends on how many are travelling with you to determine which is more cost effective. to fill up my car I'm looking at more than 400. then the toll fee from here to baoshan was more than 200. when you enter the toll they give you a card and when you exit they measure your distance and charge the fee.
the biggest problem is if there is an accident or road construction. what should be a 6 hour trip can take up to 10 if there is those problems.
for a car consume 6.4 L/100km. feul cost is around 0.5kuai/km. toll around o.42 kuai/km. to Banna total cost of fuel and toll is around 540 kuai.
Speed limit on Chinese expressways is 120km/h, not 130, however, you will probably be able to get away with driving slightly above the speed limit (about 10% more should be OK).
On the other hand, I have noticed plenty of speed cameras (fixed) and occasional cops waiting to catch speeding motorists. Road traffic laws also state that anyone caught driving 50% or more above the speed limit automatically loses their license, so watch out.
Accident scenes can cause incredible delays and frustrations, however, they are most common on small, narrow 2-way roads rather than expressways where I have yet to see any large scale accidents. On expressways, you can usually still use one lane to bypass the scene unless it's an absolutely horrendous tragedy that results in both (or all) lanes being blocked.
For example, on the road down to Hekou, the sections that have only 1 lane in each direction are notorious for accidents. While I was on travelling by bus (I was headed for Vietnam where I was picked up on the Vietnam side and travelled by car inside VN); there was a 3 hour delay going down to the border on a Saturday somewhere south of Mile city due to a massive accident. By the time we were able to pass the accident scene, virtually all evidence was removed but since sand was placed at the scene, I assume there were a couple of fatalities; possibly 2-3 or more people died on that day. On the return journey an overturned truck smashed into the concrete barrier spilling his produce onto the road, only a few km north of the accident scene 9 days earlier. A delay of about 40 min ensued but fortunately no deaths or injuries were evident in that accident.
Tolls are expensive in Yunnan and China in general - the trip from Kunming to Dali is 129 Yuan each way, so 258 round-trip, more of course for trips to Baoshan and Mangshi, the city just after the expressway ends. BTW there are tolls on other roads, including between Dali and Shangri-la, though they are minimal compared to those on expressways; for example, a tollbooth somewhere south of Shangri-la wanted 4 Yuan and another time it was 8 or something. I didn't pay much attention, since those amounts were petty compared to the expressway charges. The price you pay for fuel, for the trip from Kunming to Dali, for example, also varies depending on a number of factors including your driving speed, the car's mileage (fuel economy) etc. but as John Xie has mentioned, assume 500+ Yuan to Tengchong each way including tolls.