Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor :: Transport Travel Tip

Get in

By plane

Xi’an Xianyang International Airport (IATA: XIY) is located 40 km northwest of the city centre, in Xianyang. Flights are available to Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dunhuang, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Harbin, Hangzhou, Hohhot, Kunming, Lhasa, Lanzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Urumqi, Wuhan, and Xining within China, International flights are available to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Macau, Seoul as well as Nagoya, Fukuoka, Niigata, Tokyo and Hiroshima in Japan, and Singapore via Kunming. As Xi’an is located in the heartland of China, it takes no more than 2 hours to fly to most major Chinese cities.

Most people use taxis or the airport bus to reach town from the airport, however taking a taxi is not recommended, as most taxi drivers will raise the price for non-local tourists. A taxi will cost about ¥100 from the airport to the Bell Tower downtown. The airport bus leaves every half-hour from 6AM to 6PM, a ticket costs ¥25 and takes about one hour; there are several lines but the most useful are Airport Bus No. 1 (no stop to the terminus in front of the Melody Hotel, at the beginning of West Street near the Bell Tower) and No. 2 (to the railway station). As long as there is an arriving flight, there will be a bus, so don’t worry about arriving late at night or early morning; officially, on line 1 there is a bus every 20 minutes but buses will often depart as soon as they fill up. The airport bus route is the best way between city and the train station.

Getting to the terracotta warriors from the airport is complicated but can be done. Immediately when you walk out of the airport you can take bus #2 (¥27) to the train station. The train station is extremely crowded and most people do not speak English. When looking towards the train station, go to the parking lot on the right and catch bus 306, also called Tourist Bus #5 (¥7). There are many fake public buses, so make sure you only take #306! The last stop is the terracotta warriors. To get back to the airport simply take the same exact route in reverse. Alternatively, taking taxi will costs you approx ¥85 plus toll charges of ¥15.

By train

There are plenty of trains transporting passengers to and from most of the major cities inside China. Keep in mind train tickets may only be available if booked far in advance (most ticket sales open 10-21 days in advance; an agent can help book but will probably charge significant commission fees). Traveling in a seat (hard or soft-class) means you will share the car space with lots of locals. You will most likely encounter smoker, loud noise, and constant activity in the aisle while you try to sleep. Do not travel hard class if you are uncomfortable with these settings. Sleeper cabins are limited to 4 people each (2 for deluxe soft sleepers, which are only on a few trains from Beijing); bottom bunks cost a bit more because they’re a couple cm wider. If traveling alone, be especially careful of your luggage! Also note that bathrooms and washrooms may be closed (and locked!) 30-60 minutes before getting to the train station.

Trains run to several domestic cities including: Beijing (11-13 hours), Chengdu (13-18 hours), Chongqing (14 hours), Guangzhou (24 hours), Kunming (36-53 hours), Lanzhou (8-10 hours), Lhasa (36 hours), Shanghai (16-20 hours), Urumqi (31-56 hours), Wuhan (14-18 hours), and Zhengzhou (2 hours).

Xi’an Station is at the north end of Jiefang Road (解放路), just outside the northeast city wall. As you exit, there will probably be lots of people offering cheap hotel rooms; just ignore them if you already have a room booked. Even if you don’t, you probably don’t want to get one from them anyway. Also, don’t fall for the people who offer to exchange a Xi’an map for your used train ticket – they reuse them for some shady purposes, e.g. re-selling them to people who just want to get into the station or try to sneak on a train.

In Xi’an, it is very easy to get to the railway station by city bus from anywhere in the city. There are several stops within 200 m of the station (look for train station East or North on a bus route (火车站东/北). Many hostels also offer free pick-up if you arrive between 6 and 9 AM.

By bus

The main long-distance bus station is located across from main railway station.
Bus service is available to: Huashan (2-3 hours), Lanzhou (8-10 hours), Luoyang (5-7 hours), Taiyuan (12 hours), and Zhengzhou (9-12 hours).

By car
Traffic is heavy, right of way is unheard of, and the rule of thumb is “keep going no matter what” (although drivers do note red lights).

Get around

The city is surrounded by a city wall, in its middle the Bell Tower (钟楼 Zhōnglóu). From this one, the four main streets descend into the four points of the compass.

  • North-Street (北大街 Běidàjiē).
  • East-Street (东大街 Dōngdàjiē).
  • South-Street (南大街 Nándàjiē).
  • West-Street (西大街 Xīdàjiē).

Do not get confused by different names in tourist guides, addresses and bus stops: Nandajie, Nanda-Street, South-Street, South-Avenue are all the same.

Locals often speak about Within city walls and Outside city walls when talking about locations. Outside the walls, the southern part is the most interesting, it offers shopping streets, bars and some nightlife.

There are plenty of buses departing everywhere in short-intervals (main lines every 5-10 minutes). If you are not confident enough with orientation, or if you do not like packed buses, the cheap taxis are the best alternative, broadly available, except for during rush hours.

By train/subway
The first subway line, running north/south, is under construction and is scheduled to open in 2011.

Bus 306 To Terracotta Warrior Museum

By bus

Regular buses within the city cost ¥1 (¥2 for air-conditioned, marked with a snow-flake) no matter how far you go. Since there are many buses in the city, it can be useful to go to the Tourism Office Center (which is situated near the Bell Tower) and ask for a free map of the city, with the buses’ lines on it.

A popular line for tourists is #610 (also labeled “tourist #8”) which connects the railway station, the Bell Tower, the Small Goose Pagoda and Xi’an museum, the Shaanxi provincial museum and the Big Goose Pagoda. Unfortunately it is not one of the most frequent (sometimes you can wait for half an hour, though usually it comes in a few minutes). Near the Bell Tower, it stops at the beginning of West Street; take it westwards to then go south to the museums and pagodas, take it eastwards to then go north to the railway station. Near the railway station (there are many stops for different lines) you can catch it at the third block on the main street going straight south from the station.

Another useful line is #609 that connects the Bell Tower, the South Gate and the Big Goose Pagoda. Near the Bell Tower, it stops at the beginning of South Street.

Although the 609 and 610 can be infrequent, the 611 is very regular, and connects the train station and the Bell Tower. Look for it over the road from the station.

There are many buses leaving regularly for the Terracotta Warrior museum in front of the Xi’an bus station (opposite the train station, just outside the city walls).

Bus 306 (Chinese bus green 5) leaves from the lot in front of the train station and will take you to a parking lot right in front of the museum site in about an hour (it can take up to 90 minutes in case of traffic jams). A one-way ticket costs ¥7 (pay on the bus). It also stops at several other tourist attractions along the way, e.g. the hot springs. Make sure you don’t make the mistake of going to the bus station on the inside of the wall near the train station. That’s were there are touts with signs saying bus 5 and bus 306, trying to hustle you onto their private bus. Although they do take you to the destinations, you are forced to go to visit attractions you might not want to go to.

Small buses which are used by the locals (e.g. number 914). These buses will also take you to the Museum however they go through local small roads (no highway express like bus 306) therefore it will take longer to arrive. Not a bad trip if you want to see the local bumpy rural roads.

Most hostels and hotels run tours to the warriors with an English speaking guide. These aren’t necessarily better, be prepared to spend a good portion of the day (as with any Chinese tour) visiting “terracotta factories,” “museums”, “Chinese medicine shops”, and other tourist traps. But, you will get to your destination without dealing with the bus (the warriors are quite far outside of town) and not all of the public buses that go there are legitimate.

By taxi

Watch the taxi drivers in Xi’an as the industry is not regulated as it is in other larger cities. You may find yourself being taken on a long ride around town to get where you are going. It can also be difficult to convince them to take you anywhere (even to the railway station). If in doubt get your hotel or hostel to write down the place you want to go in Chinese. Between 3 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon the taxis change their shifts. This means the drivers are rushing to their handover points, so they won’t pick you up even they are empty.

Trips within the city walls are generally around ¥10, longer trips to the attractions south of the city are ¥12-20. Especially when you take a longer ride, like to or from the airport, it is always good advice to insist on using the taxi meter.

The rate for the normal (green) taxis is ¥6 for the first 2 kilometer and then ¥1.5 for every additional kilometer. Waiting times longer than 2 minutes will be charged ¥1.5 per minute. After 11PM the starting price is ¥7. At the airport and around some of the big hotels you might also find black taxis. They charge ¥2.4 per kilometer, but are more spacious and comfortable. There is a road fee of ¥10 for the Airport Expressway. This is not included in the price the taxi meter shows. So going to or coming from the airport is usually ¥10 more than what the meter shows.

You can also take local day tour in private way which offered you a private English speaking tour guide and one private car or van with one local driver. Prices are varied according to your numbers of traveler from ¥450. You can ask for onetourchina.com who can help you on this.

By bike

Fortunately Xi’an’s main sites (with the notable exception of the Terracotta Warriors) are bunched fairly close together, so renting a bike is a good option. Be wary of the narrow streets and cars that squeeze you out of the way. Bike lanes are available, making it somewhat safer than driving in the direct lane of traffic.

Get out

Chen Lu Pottery. An hour and a half drive north of Xian, this community of potters has been producing pottery since the Tang dynasty and is well worth the look if pottery is your thing, private transportation recommended.

Hu Kou Waterfall (壶口瀑布 Húkǒu Pùbù). Located 150 km north of Xian, private transportation recommended; can be combined with a day trip to Huang Di Mausoleum. If arriving by public transportation, take note that as of 2008 there was only one bus returning to Xi’an from the waterfall. It departs around 10AM and must be flagged down as it does not stop.

Huashan National Park. Approximately 2 hours by train or bus east of Xian. Huashan is a 2000 metre mountain with spectacular views. It is possible to take the 2-3 hour (6 km) walk up or take the 10 minute cable car for ¥70. It is best to go for sun rise on the East peak. Take plenty of warm clothing for when the sun goes down. Basic accommodation is available, but can be quite pricey. Guesthouses with dormitory style lodging are available on the mountain.

Source: Wikitravel