Getting To Xi’an
Xi’an’s airport is some 30 miles from the city and it takes a good hour’s bus journey to get there. Airport buses leave from the Melody Hotel by the Bell Tower and the Jiefang Hotel by the train station. They cost ¥25. A taxi should cost around ¥150 to or from the airport. You can book air tickets through your hotel, hostel or the CAAC, west of the city wall on Laodang Nan Lu (tel. 029-8879-0042).
Destinations, frequencies & durations
Beijing (18 daily; 1 hr 40 mins), Chongqing (5 daily; 1 hr 10 mins), Guangzhou (8 daily; 2 hrs 45 mins), Guilin (6 daily; 2 hrs), Hangzhou (5 daily; 1 hr 50 mins), Hong Kong (2 daily; 3 hrs), Shanghai (17 daily; 2 hrs), Shenzhen (6 daily; 2 hrs), Yichang (1 daily; 1 hr 10 mins).
Xi’an is near a major rail branch divide, with one line heading east to Luoyang and Shanghai and another running north to Beijing. It’s a popular stop and thus it’s worth buying a ticket as soon as you arrive in order to get the train you want a few days later.
The train station is conveniently located just outside of the northern city wall, but the roads on the way out here can get seriously gridlocked – some taxi drivers will drop you just inside the gate to save getting snarled up, which is fine if you don’t have too much luggage!
The ticket office is at the eastern end of the station and, although the lines appear long, they move fairly quickly, but hostels and some hotels can also book train tickets. To get into town, take a taxi, or bus #603 runs down Jiefang Lu, west to the Bell Tower and then south to Nanmen (South Gate).
Destinations, frequencies & durations
Beijing (5 daily; 12-15 hrs), Chongqing (1 daily; 14 hrs 30 mins), Guangzhou (1 daily; 26 hrs 20 mins), Guilin (1 daily; 28 hrs), Hangzhou (2 daily; 24 hrs), Shanghai (1 daily; 16 hrs 30 mins), Suzhou (1 daily;15 hrs 30 mins), Yichang (1 daily; 15 hrs 45mins).
Destinations within a few hours of Xi’an are feasible by bus, but anything longer is far more comfortable by plane or train. Buses run from Dongguangchang Station, just south of the train station to Banpo, Huashan and Lintong.
The main sights within the walled city are close enough to one another so walking is an easy way to get around, but if your legs are tired or you want to head outside of the walls, taxis are cheap. Roads can be gridlocked at rushhour within the city walls, however.
Since taxis are cheap, there is little point in taking public buses, which are invariably crowded, but a few useful numbers are included where appropriate, notably sightseeing buses that allow you the freedom to jump on and off throughout the day – route #5 heads to most of the major sights.
Xi’an’s army of green taxis seems to overrun the streets and (except in rain or snow) it’s fairly easy to hail one. At ¥6 minimum for the first two km (1.2 miles) and ¥1.4 per km (0.6 miles) after this, Xi’an’s taxis are some of the cheapest in the country and it’s worth making use of them.
Bicycle is a great way to get around Xi’an’s backstreets and along the city walls. Some hotels and all the hostels (¥20 per day) have bikes for rent, and they are also available at the South Gate for rides around the wall. Wherever you rent, you’ll need to put down a ¥100-200 deposit.
Xi’an’s ancient city walls encircle the old city which makes it easy to navigate. Many of the main sights are within the city walls and this central zone is bisected by four major roads. They run along the points of the compass to their respective gates in the wall and are named Bei, Dong, Nan and Xi Dajie (North, East, South and West Avenues). These roads meet just south of the center at the BellTower.
To cross this busy intersection you need to use the subterranean tunnel, which has access points from each of the four roads. A little west of the Bell Tower, across a large public plaza, you’ll see the DrumTower, marking the entrance to the atmospheric Muslim quarter.
With its tangle of alleys, this is one of the only parts of the city you’re likely to get lost in, but it’s great fun. Sooner or later you’ll emerge somewhere you recognize, or where you can flag a cab. Within the Muslim quarter, the Great Mosque is the main sight, and it’s easy to find – there are signs, but you can just follow the souvenir stalls. In the southeast of the old city there is an artist’s quarter, which is definitely worth a stroll.
You’ll also find the Beilin Stone Tablet Museum here.
Outside the city walls the sights are a little more spread out. Not too far south of the South Gate you’ll find the LittleWild Goose Pagoda and, farther south still, the Shaanxi History Museum and, to the east, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Although there are a few hotels out this way, you’re much better off staying within the city walls, which has options for most budgets.
Likewise, the best eating and drinking are within the old city, particularly the lively Muslim markets and Defuxiang Bar Street.
Drum Tower, City walls, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Shaanxi History Museum,…
The Terracotta Warriors
Pandas, Huashan, Adventures
maps of Xi’an
Xi’an Travel Guide homepage
Cities and regions of China homepage
China Travel Guide homepage