This is a mountain town and its economic activity centers on one of China's largest iron ore mines, which also gives vanadium and titanium, and on steel making. It is a relatively prosperous city and has many migrants from nearby areas, mainly come to seek work.
It is also moderately popular as a tourist destination, mainly for domestic Chinese tourism. The region's attractions include mountains, caves, lakes and canyons.
The land transport in the area runs mainly north-south, along the valleys; the few east-west routes are through mountain passes.
National Highway G5 runs through the area; the town is on a provincial highway a few km off it. G5 is one route between central Sichuan and Yunnan though highway G85, parallel to G5 and further east, provides a more direct Chengdu-Kunming route.
The town also has an airport and a railway station.
Panzhihua can be used as a link when traveling between Chengdu and Lijiang. As an alternative to the 24-hour bus between the cities, one can take the train from Chengdu and transfer to an 8-hour bus in Panzhihua. The train station is at the east end of town, about 25km from the bus station. Bus #64 runs between the two, costs ¥4, and takes about 90 minutes. Taxis are plentiful and much quicker, but will cost over ¥50. Stepping off from a train, you will be swamped by taxi drivers offering rides. The city bus stop is slightly to the left of the train station exit.
Primary transport is by bus or taxi. The downtown city is quite mountainous. An intracity taxi ride can cost as little as ¥5.
The industrial base drives the city, so there are some minor attractions, but no major ones. Most of the daily life of the city revolves around industrial work. The major state-owned enterprise is Panzhihua Iron and Steel (also known as Pangang).
Local food is available in downtown. Most of the food choices are local. There are a few Western establishments including a KFC, Houcaller and Pizza Hut at the intersection of Panzhihua Avenue and Airport Road. In general, there are very few Westerners.
Hotels are available. They range from the business class hotels, such as the Jinhai Mingdu Hotel on Airport Road, to other regular travelling hotels, to hostels. Because of Panzhihua's size and typical visitors, there are no international chain hotels. The options compared to a city such as Chengdu are limited.