Xiàguān lies at the southern tip of Ěrhǎi Hú, about 400km west of Kūnmíng. It was once an important staging post on the Burma Road and is still a key centre for transport in northwest Yúnnán. Xiàguān is the capital of Dàlǐ prefecture and is also referred to as Dali City (Dàlǐ Shì). This confuses some travellers, who think they are already in Dàlǐ, book into a hotel and head off in pursuit of a banana pancake only to discover they haven’t arrived yet. There is no reason to stay in Xiàguān and you only need to come here in order to catch a bus or train.
To go straight to Dàlǐ, upon arriving in Xiàguān, turn left out of the long-distance bus station, and left again at the first intersection. Just up from the corner is the station for local bus 4, which runs to the real Dàlǐ (Y1.50, 30 minutes) until around 8pm. Bus 8 also runs from the centre of Xiàguān to Dàlǐ’s west gate. If you want to be sure, ask for Dàlǐ Gǔchéng (Dali Old City).
Alternatively, minibuses run from a block east of the bus station (turn right out of the entrance) but you’ll spend a lot of time waiting around for other passengers.