Dalian (大连; Dàlián)  is the second largest city in Liaoning Province, Dongbei (Northeast), China and the largest port in northern China as well as a major destination for Chinese tourists. Located at the southern tip of the Liaodong Peninsula, the main part of the city is on its own sub-peninsula, with the port to the north of the town centre and natural coastline dotted with beaches to the east and south.
Dalian in fact encompasses 8 districts and 3 sub-cities. Visitors would likely have a need to spend in only 5 of the city's 8 districts (and none of the sub-cities), 4 of which follow (and to locals, "Dalian" is used when referencing):
The wider Dalian administrative area encompasses 4 further districts and 3 sub-cities (北三市 Běisānshì three northern cities). Jinzhouqu District, Lvshunkou District, Kaifaqu District and Changhaixian District, a small group of islands east of the Liaodong Peninsula, represent the other half of Dalian's 8 districts. Wafangdian, Pulandian, and Zhuanghe represent the 3 sub-cities within the municipal territory of Dalian. Pulandian is the future home of the municipal government headquarters, with the center of control no longer in Xigang District as the China's central government's plans continue to build growth in the district areas north of Dalian's city center. Of these remaining districts and sub-cities, Kaifaqu is the likeliest to be visited as the name translates to "Economic Development Zone" and thus it is home to several factories and shipping centers.
There are numerous sub-districts within each district, which would equate to a "neighborhood" but far too numerous and specific to be of much help to travelers.
Dalian, as a city, is young by Chinese standards, dating from 1898, though smaller settlements had long existed in the area. Like Hong Kong, Shanghai and Qingdao, Dalian's development stemmed from colonial occupation, in this case by Russia. Under Russian rule Dalian, or Dalny as it was known, became the southern tip of the Trans-Siberian Railway and the main port of the eastern Russian empire. Following the Russian defeat in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5, the city was transferred to Japanese control and renamed Dairen. The Chinese government resumed control following the Second World War (though the city was jointly run with Russia until 1955) and in 1950 was again renamed by the newly formed Communist regime, this time to Luda City. There followed a period of relative stagnation until the city (once again named Dalian) was opened up to foreign investment in 1984. This sparked the first period of redevelopment of the city, the second period coming with the appointment of Bo Xilai as mayor. Under Bo's stewardship, the city became a model example of redevelopment, with extensive redevelopment of its infrastructure and open spaces and a new focus on tourism and commerce and away from heavy industry.
Dalian is less reliant on heavy industry than its Northeast counterparts, and what heavy industry there is is mostly located in the development zone far outside the city center. This, combined with the city's many parks and green hills, wide thoroughfares and army of street cleaners, make Dalian a more pleasant city to visit and live in than most Chinese cities of comparable size. Though most of the tourist industry in the city is targeted at the domestic, rather than the international market, overseas tourists should still find enjoyment in the city. The large number of foreign businesses in the city and foreign students and teachers at the city's many universities ensure that there are plenty of companies (from upmarket hotels to bars and coffee houses) which cater to those who do not call China their native home. The city has a population of around 6,000,000. Dalian's perhaps most abuzz when it hosts the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the Champions (summer Davos).
Mandarin is the main language of Dalian, and most Dalianese speak a fairly standard version of the dialect, though the local variety (known as Dalian-hua and related to the Shandong dialect) can sometimes be hard to follow for those unfamiliar with it. As in the rest of China, English is increasingly spoken, but still not understood by most Dalianese. Outside of the more expensive hotels and businesses that cater to overseas customers, a grasp of basic Mandarin phrases (at least) is advisable.
When to go
The city is best visited in the spring, when Dalian begins to shed its drab winter coat and cherries begin to appear on the trees, waiting to be plucked. Autumn is also very enjoyable, mainly because the temps are a tad cooler but the humidity is far less evident. During the summer school holidays (early Jul-late Aug) the city attracts large numbers of domestic tourists, making long distance transport tickets and hotel rooms harder to find and some sights more expensive. Labour Day (one week around 1 May) and National Day (one week around 1 Oct) holidays see similar, though smaller, influxes and so it may be preferable to schedule visits outside these times. Although the cherries are long gone and wintery gusts have settled in, the Chinese New Year (lasting weeks, beginning in Jan or Feb depending on the lunar calendar) may be an enjoyable time to visit the city if crowds are not your thing, as Dalian's short history prevents many from calling the city their hometown, and therefore the city has a quiet feel during these winter weeks.
Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport (大连周水子国际机场 Dàlián Zhōushuǐzǐ Guójìjīchǎng), (IATA: DLC), +86 411 8665-2071, to the north-west of the city center, offers direct domestic flights to Beijing, Changchun, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Guiyang, Hangzhou, Harbin, Hefei, Hohhot, Jinan, Kunming, Linyi, Mudanjiang, Nanjing, Nanning, Ningbo, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Shijiazhuang, Tianjin, Weihai, Wuhan, Xi'an, Xiamen, and Yantai. International destinations include Bangkok, Busan, Fukuoka, Hong Kong, Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, and Vladivostok. Although busy at times, the airport is fairly easy to manage, having only one terminal and a very simplistic layout. International check-in takes place on the west end of the building.
When needing to venture from the airport to the city, be sure to hail a taxi from the official taxi queue on the east side (ground level), just a few feet from any of the glass doors on the ground floor. Failing to use one of these could prove problematic (unless venturing further outside of the downtown area, where most drivers waiting in the queue will resist driving to).
A regular airport bus departs after every flight lands and runs to the main train station (it also stops at the smaller Shahekou train station so be careful not to get off too soon) as well as Renmin Lu. ¥5. Public buses #701 and #710 also run from the airport to the train station, #701 terminating at Zhongshan Square and #710 going on to the harbor, Sanba Square and Erqi Square. ¥1. As no change is returned, don't forget to bring some changes before boarding. If you are visiting quite a few scenic spots, you should take such special lines as No. 801, 802 or nonstop Benz Mercedes deluxe shuttle bus.
Tickets for outbound flights can be booked in advance from the airport ticket office on Zhongshan Lu, just opposite Xiwang Sq.
Long distance buses are available and serve most destinations in the vicinity of Dalian. A popular long distance bus station is on Jianshe Jie, just to the south of the train station along Changjiang Lu. Smaller stations, serving mainly local cities, are located next to the passenger ferry terminal, another about 1.5 km west of the train station at the intersection of Anshan Lu and Xinkai Lu (běi gǎng qiáo station (北岗桥汽车站)), and in Heishijiao in Shahekou District.
Ferry services run from the passenger ferry terminal (大连港客运站 Dàlián Gǎng Kèyùn Zhàn) on the eastern side of Zhongshan District (along Gangwan Jie) to cities along the Yellow Sea as well as to Incheon in South Korea. A fast ferry runs to Yantai and has transport options of 3 /12 or 6 hours. Tickets can be purchased either from the ferry terminal or from a kiosk at the train station. On long haul domestic ferries (excluding fast ferries) first class berths typically offer a two bed room with a shower, second class offers a four bed room with a wash basin while lower classes may offer only a bunk in a large, shared area, a hard seat, or no reserved place at all.
Taxis are plentiful in Dalian and flagging one down is rarely a problem except in the more remote parts of the city (where high car ownership exists or large numbers of those who would have trouble paying a taxi fare)--or in rush hour. Rates start at ¥5, for the first 3 km and ¥2 for each additional kilometer. For idle time, tack on ¥0.3/minute. At various times. Round all taxi fares to the nearest whole number as drivers do not accept any coinage less than ¥1 (e.g., ¥11.60 would round up to ¥12. Drivers range in mood, some acting quite gruff and excessively aggressive while some are keenly interested in where you originate from or other small talk. On the good side, they are less likely to take needlessly long routes compared to other tourist cities in China as Dalian is a relatively small city with a limited number of major highways/thoroughfares. Drivers don't understand basic English. Be prepared ahead of time to ensure accurate drop-off (have an address or business card with information in Chinese). If a driver is looking to pick up additional passengers along your route, encourage him or her to keep on driving unless you're comfortable with what might ensue (if you speak Chinese, you can convince him to give you a discount when they do this). Especially during rush hour, when taxis are heavily sought after, it's quite common for drivers to pick up additional passengers if heading in the same direction as those in the cab.
A thing to note on taxis is however, same as anywhere in China is that during bad weather (eg: heavy rain, snow, etc), some drivers may decide to go off the meter (illegal but not enforced) or only accept far-away destinations. Plan your trip beforehand if there's bad weather.
The city does suffer from a large number of illegal taxis, both drivers and vehicles (even vehicles that are painted and have meters may be operating illegally). These drivers may be hesitant to go on routes which might be more heavily patrolled. The driver may use the meter, thus charging you an accurate fare, but they will often times avoid giving a receipt. The best way to avoid running into any issues is to aim for the taxis which have a blue or white light on top of the car. These is the highest color ratings afforded to a Dalian taxi driver. Conversely, yellow is the lowest rating while all other colored-lights are somewhere in between.
"Black taxis" are another form of illegal taxi in Dalian and are littered throughout the airport area usually trying to scam passengers who do not know how or where to catch a real taxi. They offer immediate pick up but at about 5 times more expensive than it would be if you use Uber and about twice as much as it would be if a passenger takes a regular fare.
Many taxi drivers smoke and play their radios. Some may also hesitate to start the meter so be sure you let them know to start it if you think they've forgotten or up to their tricks. Few use the A/C during the summer except for maybe during the hottest parts of day. The nicest thing about the taxis and size of Dalian is that ¥20 can go a long ways in getting around.
All around it is recommended to use Uber which is now set up in Dalian and goes as far as Jinshitan for less than 100 RMB. When you find a taxi driver that understands you be sure to get their phone number and contact them when you need a ride
Being a fairly compact city, it's easy to break up taxi or bus rides with a short walk. In the morning, it's not uncommon for the streets to be slick due to the pollution and dust mixing with the dew, so take caution. Additionally, some surfaces consist of shiny tile which make for beautiful viewing but can be incredibly slippery when wet or during the winter when snow may be hiding the slick surface underneath. Lastly, the sidewalks may have pits or missing utility covers, along with low-hanging clothes lines draped in front of businesses or homes, so be on the lookout at night when it can be harder to see these hangups. Controlled crosswalks and pedestrian tunnels (along with a few pedestrian bridges) make it easy to cross major intersections. It is advised to keep your head on a swivel when going to cross a street--autos typically do not yield even when the crosswalk signal is green for pedestrians.
Buses  are the main form of public transport in Dalian and most services run very frequently. Roadside signs at the queues are available in Chinese and English (often translated, which is nice for knowing what some of the words mean but impractical when needing to reference a spot). The typical wait between buses is about five minutes. Seats are generally hard and, even with very frequent services, buses on major routes can still get crowded at peak times. Although fitted to do so, most operate with air conditioning or heating systems off, although in extreme heat or cold the driver may decide to turn them on. Services start early in the morning (anywhere from 04:30-08:00) and usually finish around 10PM, although some services finish earlier/later depending on the popularity of the line. Fare is ¥1-2.
Bus routes that may be of use to visitors include #2 (from Qiniwa station to Tiger Beach), #4 (from Olympic Square to Tiger Beach), #5 (from Zhongshan Lu near Qingniwa to Jingsha beach via Fujiazhuang), #13 (from the west side of Victory Square to the ferry terminal), #16 (from Zhongshan Lu near Qingniwa to the Xinghai conference centre) and #22 (from the railway station to Xinghai Square). Ticket prices for all these routes, as with most buses in Dalian, are ¥1 regardless of distance and exact change must be given.
In addition to the regular public buses there are also three air-conditioned tourist buses. #801 runs a circular route from the railway station and takes in People's Square, Xinghai Square, Fujiazhaung Beach, Tiger Beach, Labour Park and Zhongshan Square along the way. The entire journey takes about an hour and costs ¥20, though earlier stops cost less (the minimum being ¥5). #801B runs from the ferry terminal to Heishijiao via Zhongshan Square, the railway station, People's Square and Xinghai Square while #K901 runs from the Foreign Languages University to the south-western edge of Dalian via Zhongshan Square, the Railway station, Xinghai Square and Heishijiao. Tickets for both buses are ¥2.
Of particular interest to tourists is a bus traveling Binhai Lu for ¥10 (08:00-16:00). It starts from near the railway station and covers the Conference & Exhibition Center, Dalian Seashell Museum, Forest Zoo, FuJiazhuang beach, Yan Woling, Birdsong Forest, Tiger Beach Paradise, Harbour Square and Zhongshan Square. There is a bus every 40 mins and through out the day you can travel in this bus, or just stay aboard for a 90-min ride.
Dalian has a few trams and trolleybuses, a legacy from the years of Japanese occupation, and which add character to the city in addition to being a practical means of transportation. The occasional hilly street with a tram scooting along past colonial buildings combine to give Dalian a look unique in China. There are two main tram routes: #201 runs largely west-east from Xinggong Street near the Shahekou Railway Station to the Haizhiyun (Rhythm of the Sea) Park on the coast. #202 runs from the High Tech Zone (near Xiaoping Island) to the Jinhui shopping area where the #201 starts. The #203 line was merged into the #201 route. As a result, travelers should note the destination sign on the tram before boarding, as the express and other special trams will skip some stops. Fare is ¥1, although an additional ¥1 may be asked for once passing certain stops (for example, boarding the #201 west of the train station requires ¥1 and then another ¥1 to continue riding east of the train station).
By light rail
This not a means of transport around the downtown area as there are only two downtown stations, but effective transportation for those travelers with transportation needs to Ganjing District or even further out to Jinzhou District (construction is underway to extend even further north to Pulandian). The light rail (qīng guǐ) can be quicker than a taxi to get to or from areas north of downtown (if traffic is bad on the Shenda Expressway, this mode will easily be the quickest). The Economic Development Zone stop serves as a transfer station, with no line transfer necessary to continue north to Jinshitan but a transfer required if wanting to hop on the Jiuli line (which goes to downtown Jinzhou and beyond). Fare is based upon the distance with the furthest distances having a ¥8 fare. Light-rail cars are air conditioned and the waiting stations are sheltered from precipitation but the journey can be extremely crowded during peak hours. At night, once the light-rail has stopped operating for the day, it's possible to return downtown by taxi (or a shared taxi) for a decent fare.
By motor bike
Motor bikes are rarely seen in most parts of downtown (and typically only used for transporting food stuffs at that), but they are more common appearance in those areas outside downtown or areas where passengers would struggle paying for taxi fare (Kaifaqu and Jinzhou, for example). A price is negotiated based upon distance and bartering skills. Helmets are not provided, as some drivers might think their passenger would then be unable to hear the late-90s techno pumping from their boombox.
The city is undergoing subway construction. Despite reported deaths to workers and many a delay, progress marches forward. Lines are expected to open before 2015.
Dalian has a decent number of universities, a number of which offer undergraduate and graduate courses in a variety of majors for foreign students, as well as Chinese classes of varying levels of proficiency. The universities below all offer course for overseas students.
Cash is king. Chinese yuan (or renminbi) can be exchanged for at the airport, most 3-star and up hotels, and pretty much any bank. There may be restrictions to foreigners exchanging currency at some banks without the ID of a Chinese national, or limited amounts may only be permitted. Informal exchange personnel often spend time in the lobbies of large banks, with a black purse under arm, and typically offer a better exchange rate than the bank itself. Keep in mind these are not members working for the bank, and while there is a security guard(s) in all lobbies of banks, so if you ever feel you're not getting a square deal, you may begin to bargain with others or attempt to exchange directly with the bank itself. While Unionpay is accepted at several establishments, those hailing from outside of China won't find the brand too helpful. Major credit cards are accepted few places other than 4- and 5-star hotels.
There are many souvenir stalls around the main tourist sights in Dalian. The typical local souvenirs are Russian-themed items (remnants of a bygone era when Moscow laid claim to Dalian and much of Northeast China) and dried seafood, neither of which are of particular interest to foreign travellers (the first would be a strange thing to bring back from China and the second would violate customs regulations). There are plenty of other shopping areas that would be of more interest. Some general Chinese souvenirs include jade sculptures, shadow boxes with shell mosaics, calligraphy scrolls, Peking Opera masks, etc. Day to day essentials are also available in these shopping areas. As with the rest of China, haggling is pretty much mandatory outside of department stores and supermarkets (although some department stores, like the knock-off MyKals, will barter).
The local cuisine of Dalian is influenced by Dongbei regional style of cooking (which has a not wholly unjustified reputation for being big on portions and relatively low on flavors) and the city's proximity to the sea. Buns, pancakes and dumplings are staples rather than rice or noodles. The city also has a very good reputation for seafood dishes which are well worth trying. Overseas travelers should be aware, however, that in China seafood has different connotations than elsewhere, literally seafood refers to anything edible from the sea. Fish dishes invariably contain plenty of small bones that must be navigated around or crunched through (the local method). Additionally, due to its relation and storied history with Korean and Japanese empires, Dalian has many restaurants serving this kind of fare.
The range and number of restaurants is huge, and the listings provided should be considered as merely scratching the surface of what is available. Individual exploration of the restaurants is recommended. Reservations are generally not necessary, so phone numbers have only been provided for those restaurants where tables may need reserving. Those wanting to stick to the familiar will find a large number of western and Japanese and Korean restaurants available, and international fast food chains are well represented.
Travelers on a budget will be spoiled for choice in Dalian, with low cost restaurants on literally every street corner (particularly in the more residential areas outside of the main city center). It would be impossible to begin to list them all, so only a couple of options available near the center have been listed in the district articles. The quality of the restaurants can be highly variable. A good rule of thumb when searching for a decent place to eat is, if the decor looks shabby but the place is packed the food is almost always good. Ordering can be tricky for non-Chinese speakers as English menus are incredibly rare in cheaper restaurants, and English speaking staff are even more rare. Try the roadside snack stalls which offer pancakes, rolls, skewers of barbecued meat and candied fruits starting at ¥1. These may cause some upset stomachs or bouts of diarrhea, so be advised.
As with budget restaurants there are plenty of mid-range restaurants to choose from in Dalian (differentiated from budget restaurants usually by being larger and having better decor), so experimentation is the key. The restaurants listed in the various district articles are just a couple of particularly noteworthy examples. The same caveats as for budget restaurants apply as regards language, though quality is less variable.
The more expensive end of the restaurant market in Dalian is generally a seafood restaurant boasting fresh, usually local cuisine or the more authentic Japanese restaurants (as opposed to those which have been adapted for local taste preferences). English menus and English speaking staff are most common in the western-themed restaurants, but even mid-priced restaurants may have English or pictures available.
There are a number of restaurants which serve seafood. Typically those downtown or in Xinghai Square have the best seafood, notably Wanbao and Zihan Fan Dian.
Dalian offers a wide variety of bars and nightclubs catering to a mixture of locals, foreign business people and the teaching crowd. The city lacks a bona fide bar street along the lines of Beijing's Sanlitun or Shanghai's Former French Concession with bars fairly liberally scattered across the city center (as well as near large universities). There are three main clusters of bars that those wishing to bar hop could concentrate on, however, the first and most centralized along a side street off Wuwu Lu near Sanba Square, the second along Changjiang Lu north of the Shangri-la Hotel and the third along Gaoerji Lu south of People's Square. KTV, or karaoke, is a large part of Chinese culture. There are a variety of such, some catering more to family or group get togethers and some for business outings. Typically the former are based in larger buildings and have little stores inside where drinks and snacks can be purchased, while the latter tend have a row of standing waitresses or mistresses lined up at the front door or shortly upon entering the singing room.
Another good place to go for drinks for those on the cheap are the night markets that spring up during the summer. These offer very cheap draught beer (¥1-3 for a large glass) and barbecued meat, tofu, vegetables and bread in an informal outdoor setting (some may not even have chairs). (This isn't recommended for those who are staying in Dalian a short time or those whom haven't spent a few weeks in China getting their immune system ready unless you're not worried about having any diarrhea issues. Many of the locals don't even eat at these types of places.) Those looking for non-alcoholic drinks, meanwhile, can check out the many coffee shops and tea houses around the city.
Budget accommodation options in Dalian, as in the rest of China, are fairly limited for overseas travelers as most of the really inexpensive hotels do not accept foreigners. The best bet for non-Chinese visitors looking for a bargain are youth hostels or university guest houses. Some universities offer foreign student dormitories to travelers during school holidays. Some (for example Liaoning Normal and DUT) also have hotels on campus which offer rooms year-round. (See the Learn section for contact details). Mid-range 3 or 4 star Chinese-run hotels typically offer clean, decent sized rooms, good quality restaurants and but English-staff is spotty. There's an abundance of such hotels around the city, with a handful standing out from the rest of the pack. Splurge hotels are dominated by larger international chains, nearly all downtown. These hotels tend to be very well run and offer all the amenities that could possibly be expected. Expect to pay international rates, rather than national, for these 4- or 5-star locations.
Some youth hostels do not host foreigners (see discussion page).
Most accommodations can be found in the Zhongshan District.
The area code for Dalian landlines is 0411 (the "0" is not needed if dialing locally). The main local telephone operator is China Netcom . Almost all hotels have at least a perfunctory business center offering Internet access (though usually at a far higher price than at an Internet café but most of the splurge hotels offer it for free).
There are a handful of public phones, as in standalone phones. These are few and far between, however, and to use them you need to purchase an IC card which can't be used for anything else. More practical, and cheap, are the phones that can be found at convenience stores or kiosks. To use these simply indicate you wish to use one, dial the number and then hand over the money (usually less than ¥1 for short local calls) to the shop assistant at the end. Not all such phones will allow you to dial outside of Dalian, however, and very few accept international calls (those that do will have the letters IDD on the telephone sign outside the shop/kiosk).
For international calls the best places to go are the phone bars (often labelled 电话吧 (diànhuà ba)), generally found around residential areas. To make a call simply walk in, choose a vacant phone and when finished indicate which phone you used to the cashier (typically the phones have a number written above them). Prices can be highly variable, but a reasonably long call shouldn't come to more than ¥50. A more expensive, and possibly more convenient, option is to ask to use the phone in hotel lobbies.
Calling cards (known as IP cards) are plentiful and, as in the rest of China, offer the cheapest way of calling overseas. Be aware, however, that not all brands of cards offer oral English instructions, so those not fluent in Mandarin would be best sticking to the two main brands (China Netcom and China Telecom).
Mobile phones, and mobile phone stores, are plentiful in Dalian. If you have an international roaming plan then you should be able to use your phone to call within Dalian, though this can be very expensive. For those staying for longer than a week or two it may be cheaper to buy a local SIM card (expect to pay around ¥50-100). The three main operators, China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom, operate on different standards. Select one of the three operators based on what type of phone you have. China Mobile and China Unicom utilize GSM, China Telecom CDMA.
Internet cafés, as in most Chinese cities, are plentiful and on nearly every street corner, especially in residential areas and around universities. Just look for the characters 网吧 (wǎng ba) on shop fronts. In the town center they're less numerous, though there are a few around the railway station and Victory Square. Expect to pay ¥1-5 for an hour. Foreigners are not allowed in Internet cafes without a special ID card which only Chinese Nationals can obtain. Wifi is available in coffee shops like Amici and Starbucks scattered throughout the city.
China Post offices are scattered around the city, with the two main branches located just west of the railway station and on Zhongshan Square. These branches, as with most larger post offices in the city, offer Western Union wiring facilities, though the branch next to the railway station is the only one which can receive funds.
Crime, particularly street crime, is low in Dalian as it is in most of China. That said, the people in northeastern China are on average more aggressive than their southern counterparts and fights do happen. (Most often when alcohol is involved.) While foreigners are unlikely to be targeted, one would be wise to avoid any heated exchanges. Additionally pickpockets do operate, so care should be taken with valuables especially in busy shopping areas or on crowded buses or trains.
Probably the greatest safety risk you'll face in Dalian is from the traffic which can be chaotic at the best of times. China has a very high rate of road fatalities and allowances made for pedestrians are practically nonexistent. Marked crossings seem to serve little purpose other than as target ranges. Dalian's many wide avenues may be good for congestion but by creating more fast flowing traffic than in, say, Beijing they make life harder for pedestrians. The best way to cross the road other than over bridges, through tunnels or at traffic lights is to wait for a gap in the traffic and run. Better yet, stand beside a local Chinese and follow them as they play 'frogger' through the traffic. Don't under any circumstances expect cars to stop for you.
Health-wise Dalian's relatively low levels of pollution (when compared to other domestic cities) mean health problems from bad air are less of an issue than in other Chinese cities. The water, while technically drinkable, is made drinkable via the addition of hefty amounts of chemicals and pipes are seldom kept in the best condition so boiling is pretty much mandatory, and bottled water is usually a safer bet -- locals either boil tap water or buy filtered water. Tap water should be fine for brushing teeth and washing with, however. The complete lack of any health inspection mechanism means food poisoning is a constant danger, but most restaurants should be OK. Even still, however, nice restaurants are known to sell outdated seafood from time to time. Avoid any restaurants that seem strangely quiet (customers tend not to return to places that leave them on the toilet for a week). It's always a good idea to pack a few diarrhea tablets before leaving, just in case. Hospitals are liberally scattered throughout the city with the Friendship Hospital on Wuwu Lu (+86 411 8271-8822) and the first affiliated hospital of Dalian Medical University (Also known as "Fuyi" in Chinese) are the most likely to have English speaking staff. China's hyper-capitalist health-care system means that payment in cash is required before any treatment is dished out, so make sure to bring a few hundred yuan with you should you need medical attention.
Though credit and debit cards are gradually becoming more widely accepted at department stores and supermarkets most stores and all attractions still operate on a cash-only basis and only the very largest or most expensive shops accept foreign credit cards. It's generally best to ensure that you have a decent amount of cash on hand when going out. ATMs are located at virtually all bank branches, and most (though not all) of the large banks now accept foreign debit or credit cards. Bank of China branches all have the ability to take cards from foreign banks, and most offer English instructions. For more advanced financial transactions (converting currency or travellers checks, for instance) the best places to go are the Bank of China branch on the north side of Zhongshan Square and the HSBC branch on Renmin Lu just east of the Shangri-la hotel.
There are a number of attractions around the city that, though technically within the Dalian administrative area, are far enough away from the centre to warrant devoting a full day to.