Planning a Trip
Numerous direct flights connect Xianyang Airport with all major cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdu, Kunming, Urumqi, Lhasa, and Hong Kong. The CAAC office, located at Dongmen Wai, Shimao Dasha (tel. 029/8248-1111), will deliver airline tickets free of charge. You can also book tickets through the ticketing agency on the ground floor of the Melody Hotel on Xi Dajie (tel. 029/8728-2615). Airport shuttle buses (¥25/$3.25/£1.65) depart from the CAAC office and from outside the Melody Hotel on the hour from 6am to 7pm; aim to leave at least 2 hours before your flight. A taxi from the airport into town costs about ¥150 to ¥180 ($20-$23/£9.75-£12) dependent on the time of day.
The railway station is located outside the northeast side of the city wall, 20 minutes by double-decker bus no. 603 from the main hotel area. The station is open 24 hours, and window 4 should have an English-speaker. Ticket refunds can be obtained from window 2. The fastest trains to Beijing are the Z20 (11 hr.) at 8:16pm, the T42 (12 hr.) at 6:48pm, and the T232 (12 hr.) at 6:10pm. Other useful trains are the T115 to Shanghai (16 1/2 hr.) at 9:13pm; the K84 to Guangzhou (27 hr.) at 8:33am; the K119 to Lanzhou (10 hr.) at 10:26pm; the K165 at 10:18pm, which passes through Chengdu (16 hr.) and terminates in Kunming (36 hr.); the T54 to Zhengzhou (6 hr.) at 11:32pm; the T69 to Urumqi (27 hr.) at 7:09am; and the K544 to Chongqing (14 hr.) at 7:22pm.
The bus station (Xi'an Qiche Zhan; tel. 029/8742-7420) is directly opposite the railway station. Regular buses connect with Hua Shan (2 hr.; ¥22 ($2.85/£1.45), Zhengzhou (573km/355 miles; 6 hr.; ¥133/$17/£8.65), Luoyang (425km/264 miles; 4 hr.; ¥61/$7.95/£3.95), Taiyuan (685km/425 miles; 8 hr.; ¥112/$15/£7.30), Tianshui (380km/236 miles; 6 hr.; ¥76/$9.90/£4.95), Tongchuan (100km/62 miles; 1 1/2 hr.; ¥23/$2.95/£1.45), and Yan'an (402km/249 miles; 4 hr.; ¥71/$9.25/£4.60). Afternoon sleeper buses connect with Yinchuan (720km/446 miles; 12 hr.; ¥130/$17/£8.45).
Alternate Ways to Book Rail Tickets -- The station can get crowded, so either book tickets through your hotel, which will charge around ¥50 ($6.50/£3.25) and ¥80 ($10.40/£5.20) to book a ticket, or visit a branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Gongshang Yinhang), which levies a reasonable ¥5 (65¢/35p) service charge. The closest branch to the railway station is 1.6km (1 mile) south of the station at Wulukou Gonghang, Jiefang Lu 288; tickets are sold between 8:30am and 5pm on weekdays and from 9:30am to 3pm on weekends. There's a convenient central branch at Nan Dajie 50 (tel. 029/8726-3725), which operates the same hours.
The center of town is generally denoted by the massive Ming Bell Tower (Zhong Lou), which marks the crossroads between the main north-south and east-west roads -- which connect with the four main city gates. The main arteries are Bei, Nan, Dong, and Xi Dajie (North, South, East, and West aves.). Most of the main hotels, and many of the main sights and restaurants, are along these roads.
Regular buses cost ¥1 (15¢/5p), while K buses, which are air-conditioned, charge ¥2 (25¢/15p). Most taxis are green Santana sedans that charge ¥6 (80¢/40p) for the first 3km (2 miles), then ¥1.40 (20¢/10p) per additional kilometer; add ¥1 (15¢/5p) if you're traveling between the hours of 10pm and 5am. You'll encounter few problems with drivers overcharging or failing to start the meter, but they will round the fare up or down to whole yuan, so don't sit around waiting for change.
Xi'an is flat and thus seems suitable for biking, but the streets are congested, and traffic rules are often ignored by motorists. Aside from a ride along the top of the city walls, cycling in Xi'an is only recommended for the experienced urban cyclist.
Many travel agencies and hotels offer 1-day tours of the sights around Xi'an. The most popular tour follows the Eastern Route (Dong Xian), which usually includes the Terra-Cotta Warriors (Qin Bingmayong Bowuguan), Huaqing Chi (Huaqing Pools), and Banpo Bowuguan. The less-traveled Western Route (Xi Xian) should include Famen Si, Qian Ling (Tang dynasty tombs), and perhaps Mao Ling (Han dynasty tombs) and Xianyang Bowuguan (Xianyang Museum); in this book, we'll focus on the Eastern Route.
CITS, at Chang'an Bei Lu 48 (tel. 029/8526-2066; fax 029/8526-7487; www.citsxa.com), offers some of the most reasonably priced tours in town, charging ¥600 ($78/£39) for the Western Route, and ¥350 ($46/£23) for the Eastern Route daily. They have plenty of branches around the city including one on the second floor of the Bell Tower Hotel (tel. 029/8760-0227). Another option on the second floor of the Bell Tower Hotel is the Golden Bridge Travel Service (tel. 029/8725-7975), which charges ¥350 ($46/£23) for the Eastern Route and ¥500 ($65/£33) for the Western Route. Most hotels offer their own tours, and hostels offer cheaper versions of the same.