In a nutshell
The ancient city of Xi’an is one of China’s oldest cities and is the oldest of the Four Great Ancient Capitals; it is the capital city of Shaanxi province and was the starting point of the Silk Road.
Why You Should Visit Xi’an
The name Xi’an means ‘Western Peace’ and the city has been a capital under several names from as far back as the Western Zhou dynasty of 1046-771BC. That long history is reflected through several of the city’s tourist attractions such as the Terracotta Warriors, the Wild Goose Pagoda and several museums including the Shaanxi History Museum. It is very hot in the summer, yet despite the heat it is the time of year when most tourists choose to visit.
Religion has an important past in Xi’an with several Buddhist temples as well as a large Muslim population with the Great Mosque being a mix of Chinese design and Islamic traditions. The city is an important centre of learning in the north west of China with several universities located here. The local cuisine is not one of China’s eight great styles of cuisine but despite that you will still find some very tasty local dishes and the local style of opera is a popular way to be entertained during the evening. There is plenty to entertain visitors if you are here for a few days or a few weeks.
When is the Best Time to Visit Xi’an?
Xi’an has a warm and pleasant spring lasting from March until May; the summer is hot up to 40C in July and some rain. The autumn has overcast days with some rain. The winters lasting from November until February are cold down to -10C in January with occasional flurries of snow. The best time to come to Xi’an is from late March until May, or you could also try September and October, although the autumn may mean a little more rain.
Where to Stay in Xian
There are lots of hotels to suit all budgets within the city walls and within a short distance from several of the city centre attractions. If you head south from the train station along Jiefang Road you will find several cheap hotels and should be able to get a room for as little as CNY100 per night. There are also several international hostels within the city walls and dorm beds are available from around CNY50 while double rooms may cost you a little over CNY100 per night. Xian has a good selection of mid range and luxury hotels. Most are in or close to the city centre from CNY2-300 per night for 3 or 4 star hotels, going up to more than double that cost for 5 star hotels.
Where and What to Eat in Xian
The cuisine in Xi’an is known as Shaanxi or Qin cuisine. It has aspects of the more famous cuisines of the north and south using ingredients such as salt, capsicum, garlic and vinegar to enhance the savoury spicy and sour fragrances. The best area of the city for tasting local snacks is Muslim Street (Hui Min Jie) where several Muslim restaurants are located close together. Dishes that feature pork or mutton feature heavily in local foods. Local dishes include Yangrou Paomo, a mutton stew with unleavened bread. Fried rice with pickled cabbage or the steamed stuffed bun known as Jiasan, they are filled with mutton or beef.
How to Get Around Xi’an
The most convenient way to get around the city is on the metro with three lines currently in operation. By 2020 there should be a further six lines operating that will cover both the urban and suburban areas of the city and be linked to nearby Xianyang city. The long term plan is for 15 lines with a total length of 550km. A journey costs from CNY2 for the first 6km, rising up to CNY6 for journeys up to 26km. Visitors can buy a one day pass with unlimited travel for 24 hours for CNY15 or a three day pass for CNY40.
Buses are the main means of transportation around the city for most people but most buses use no English so unless you know which stop to get off at they could be a problem. There are more than 200 bus routes in Xi’an that begin at 6am and some routes continue until 11pm. there are also 13 tourist bus routes that make visiting the major attractions somewhat easier. You will need the exact fare when travelling on buses as no change is given; they usually cost CNY1, with air-conditioned buses costing CNY2.
There are more than 12000 taxis in Xi’an; the initial rate is CNY8.5 for up to 3km, and then an additional CNY2 per extra km. trips over 12km will be charged with a 50% surcharge. Taxis are slightly more expensive from 11pm until 6am. Taxi drivers do not speak any English so have your destination written in Chinese and show this to the driver.
In Xi’an there are some very good bicycle rental systems, several hostels and hotels have bikes that guests can hire for a half day or full day. There are also several bicycle rental sites located all around the city. They are usually open form 6.30am until 9pm. there are also dockless sharing bikes but to use these you need wechat or alipay and it is not worth it if you are only in the city for a few days. To rent a bike it will usually cost CNY1 for up to 2 hours and CNY2 for 3 hours. Over 3 hours and it is CNY3 per hour up to CNY30. If the bike is not returned within 24 hours you may have to pay CNY90. (You will have to leave a CNY300 deposit when you hire the bike).
You can cycle on the city wall; you cannot bring your own bike you must use one of the bikes supplied at the wall, there are single bikes and tandems available to hire.
How to Get To and From Xi’an
Xi’an Xianyang International Airport is located to the northeast of Xianyang city and 47km from the city centre of Xi’an. It is served by flights to and from more than 180 cities across China and more than 20 international destinations including flights to Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy and the UK, as well as several cities across Asia. There are 19 flights each day between Guangzhou and Xi’an, taking 2 hours and 40 minutes and costing from CNY700. There are 26 daily flights from Shanghai, taking just over 2 hours and costing from CNY740.
There are several shuttle bus services from the airport to various locations in Xi’an as well as some neighbouring cities. Buses take around one hour to reach the city centre and 90 minutes if you are heading to the south of the city. The cost of the shuttle buses cost from CNY25. There is a high speed rail line under construction that will connect Xi’an North Railway Station and the airport; it is due to open later in 2018.
There are 7 long distance bus stations in the city that have connections to cities within the province as well as to another 18 provinces across China including sleeper buses from as far away as Guangdong province and Shanghai.
There are two main railway stations in the city, Xi’an Railway Station is close to the city centre and just outside the city walls is served mostly by the ordinary trains with connections all across China. The North Railway Station is connected by the metro system and is one of the largest and busiest stations in the country. It handles mostly high speed trains and from here you can reach Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen in less than ten hours.
Is it Safe in Xi’an?
The city is extremely safe although care needs to be taken when you are in crowds due to pick pockets operating within the city. Keep your valuables safely hidden away and out of sight and you should have no problems. Take care when crossing roads as several drivers choose to ignore the traffic signals and jump the red lights. Should you require medical attention there are international hospitals within the city and possibly the best one is the university teaching hospital in the city centre.