How to Go Yuanyang
The easiest way to get to the Yuanyang Rice Terraces is by flying into Kunming Changshui International Airport and taking a bus from Kunming Bus Passenger Station to Xinjie Town (7 hours). Buses also arrive in Xinjie Town (Xinjiezhen) from Gejiu (5 hours) and Jianshui (2 hours).
Flights to Kunming
Kunming Changshui International Airport, or New Kunming Airport is the primary airport serving Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province. The airport has flights from South-East Asia and cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, as well as plenty of domestic connections through China. Immigration can sometimes be congested. Hong Kong flights are processed fairly quickly as Chinese from there need only show their identity card. For the old airport, processing of foreigners can take about two minutes per person and with only three immigration officers working this can get rather frustrating, but this has since improved with the opening of the new airport.
The new Changshui Airport is located about 25km north-east of the city area (Please note that the old Wujiaba airport is now out of use since 28 June 2012). A taxi ride to the city centre will take approximately 30-40 minutes, at peak times you can expect to double this, as Kunming suffers major traffic congestion.
There is also a Metro line (Line 6) now in service, running between the Airport and the City East Bus Station. East Bus Station provides a large number of bus services into the city centre within a short ride. There are two intermediate stops between the two stations, but these are not yet open as of August 2012. Currently the hours of operation for line 6 is from 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM daily. Currently the daytime frequency averages 20–30 minutes, and during peak hours, it is expected to be reduced to every 5–10 minutes. A single ride takes about 20 minutes, and costs ¥5.
You can book Air tickets from Air China Office, Wallton Building, 448 Baoshan Jie, (0871)3159171 or any number of travel agents in the King World Hotel a few blocks north of the train station on Beijing Lu. Tickets to Beijing are usually about ¥1600 to 2000, to Hong Kong about ¥1200 to 1500, with closer destinations getting ever cheaper as China's domestic carriers jostle for market share.
There are currently 3 direct buses from Kunming Nanyao Bus Station to Yuanyang Xinjiezhen every day. The Express departs at 10:40am and arrives 6-7hours later. The scruffy sleeper buses leave in the evening and arrive in early morning of next day. The alternative is to arrive Yuanyang Xinjiezhen from Kunming via Gejiu or Jianshui(also at Kunming Nanyao Bus Station).
Kunming to Jianshui: 4 hrs (220km), buses leave every half hour between 7:30 to 16:30, then 17:10, 17:55.
Jianshui to Xinjiezhen: 3.5 hrs either by a direct bus at around 8am or the Jianshui-Lvchun bus at noon between 11:30~12:10 (pass through). Or else, you need get to Nansha (Yuanyang new city) and then transfer to Xinjiezhen, which is much complicated.
Kunming to Gejiu: 4-5 hours (300km), normal buses departure between 7:30 -19:00. Express bus: 8:40, 14:20, 15:40
Gejiu to Xinjiezhen (Yuanyang Old Town): 3hrs for leaving, reverse of getting there except that one can even catch a direct bus to Zhongdian (Shangri-La) from Gejiu.
It is important to understand that Yuanyang, in fact, refers to three things. There is Yuanyang County, Yuanyang New City (Nansha), and Yuanyang Old Town (Xinjiezhen). Yuanyang New City is the Yuanyang you will see on most maps and the capital of Yuanyang County, while Yuanyang Old Town is the traditional heart of the county and definitely the location you will be heading if you are a tourist. To make things complicated, if you are in Nansha, then you are in Yuanyang, and Yuangyang Old Town is Xinjiezhen (or simply Xinjie), and if you are in Xinjiezhen, then you are in Yuanyang, and Yuangyang New City is Nansha. Make sure you clarify which Yuanyang you are going to when you hop on a bus.