Coming from Laos, Mengla (勐腊) will probably be the first Chinese city you enter.
It's likely that ATMs don't work for you unless you use the VISA cash advance feature, so make sure you have some cash. If you don't have Yuan, US dollars, Hong Kong dollars, Euro, and Japanese yen can be converted only at certain banks far from the centre, and not in the middle of the day.
There are guesthouses for 40-60 Yuan but most have no English sign so look for the character "馆".
Buying a map of Yunnan (10 Yuan, in Chinese only) and a dictionary (18 Yuan) will prove to be very useful later on. Kunming is still 866 kilometers away.
There is free Wi-Fi in Dico's, a large fast-food restaurant and at some Tea Story stores. The one about 600/700 metres west on the right side of Qingnian Road along the stream is very friendly and has delicious food.
Further into China
Heading to Dali, Lijinag and north to Sichuan, hitching directly towards Dali on the more western route is not easy and not recommended for first-timers. As with all "side roads" in China (and this includes 90% of the non-toll-way roads) there are a lot fewer cars, a lot more people who ask for payment (sometimes at the end of the drive) and a lot fewer people who stop for a hand gesture. The view is amazing though. That's why coming from Laos it is more common to hitchhike on the main road to Kunming and from there travel the extra 300 KM towards the west. unless you are into adventure (like walking for hours with no cars and sleeping in a kids' pottery school), stick to the instructions above.
- When you're going to Laos you can get a 30 day Laos visa on arrival in Boten (ບໍ່ເຕັນ). You will need a blank page in your passport and between $30 and $40 depending on your nationality (Yuan and Euro accepted).
- There is a new highway between Laos and Mengla-Jinghong which will cut travel time by half, or even more - take this into account when reading up on travel stories from the early 2000s.