Arriving in a place or country where you do not know the country can be very hard. Especially in Xi’An where not many people speak English. Joshua and I were very lucky as we were visiting a friend and he perfectly knew how to get from the Airport to Xi’An city centre, but I can imagine it might not be that easy – and honestly quite overwhelming – when you need to figure out how to transfer to Xi’An with massive airport brain.
Although Xi’An’s metro system is absolutely amazing and in many ways one of the best metro systems I have used, they do not (yet) connect Xi’An Airport to Xi’An city centre. This means that it might be quite hard to figure out how to get from the airport to the city.
As for now broadly speaking, there are 4 different ways to get from Xi’An Airport to the city and I will advise you on every single one of them.
Taking a Taxi from the airport to the centre of Xi’An might be one of the first things you think of. Taxis in China are not expensive. You would pay about 85 RMB from the Airport to the Bell Tower (in the middle of the city) which comes down to $12 for a 30km drive. That is fairly cheap!
Taxis are very well regulated in China and you do not have to haggle nor worry about being scammed. I found using taxis was incredibly easy and although not many taxi drivers speak English you can easily show the Chinese address of your hotel on the email confirmation or look up the address on Google Maps (with VPN or when offline downloaded) or Amap (Chinese version).
After a long flight you might not want to go through the hassle of finding a taxi of bus and trying to communicate where you want to go with someone who essentially does not understand anything you are trying to say. Although people are always respectful and patient, I can imagine spending 10 minutes figuring out and explaining where you need to go to might not be high on your list after an excruciatingly long flight with hardly any sleep.
That is why booking a transfer from Xi’An Airport to the centre of Xi’An can be a really good idea. The driver will await you in the airport with a plaque with your name and drive you to your hotel. As you were able to communicate the hotel when booking the transfer, this will be a hassle-free and overall very smooth experience.
Transfers start at $7 per person on Viator which means they are not much more expensive than a taxi when travelling with a partner.
Another way to get from Xi’An airport to the centre of the city or your hotel is Didi. Didi is essentially the Chinese version of Uber or Careem. I would recommend setting up your Didi account before you travel as you need a VPN for the Google Play Store and Wifi isn’t very prevalent.
Although many websites and blogs say that you need to have a Chinese phone number and bank account to use Didi, you can easily sign up as a foreigner or tourist. I was able to connect my UAE phone number and my British bank account through the app.
However, when using Didi you will need a data connection. It is best to buy a sim card at the airport and specifically ask for a prepaid card with data. Data is VERY cheap in china. The reason you need a data connection is that when getting out the Didi you need to confirm that you have reached your destination and release the payment.
Didi is available in both Chinese and English and is very easy to use!
As we were visiting a friend in Xi’An he met us at the airport and travelled back with us to the centre of Xi’An. The bus took about an hour but was overall comfortable and very easy to use.
There are 15 busses that will take you from the Airport to the city centre. If you are travelling from the city to the Airport I would recommend to take the bus at least 3 to 3.5 hours before your flight as rush hour can be a killer in the city!
The 15 lines are:
- Airport – Xishaomen Airport Business Hotel – Bell Tower Hotel Line
- Airport – West Bus Station – Xishaomen Airport Business Hotel Line
- Airport – Ziction Liberal Hotel Line
- Airport – Railway Station (Longhai Hotel) Line
- Airport – West Bus Station – Xi’an Hotel (Nanshaomen) Line
- Airport – Tangcheng Hotel – Orient Hotel – Shaanxi History Museum Line
- Airport – CityOn Shopping Center – Jianguo Hotel Line
- Airport – North Railway Station Line
- Airport – East Bus Station Line
- Airport – North Bus Station Line
- Airport – South Bus Station – Jiyuan International Hotel Line
- Airport – Xigang Business Center – Holiday Inn Greenland Century City – ZTE Hotel – Hilton Garden Inn Line
- Airport – Land Center – Ramada Plaza South Hotel – Westin Hotel Line (Giant Wild Goose Pagosda)
- Airport – Shaanxi Xi’an Bus Station – Yitian City Terminal Line
- Airport – Xianyang Rainbow Hotel Line
- Airport – Xianyang High Speed Railway Station Line
You best look up your Hotel on Google Maps and have a look whether or not these final stops are close. Most of these lines have multiple stops, but when you are new in the city it might be best to choose a bus line that has a final stop close to your hotel as they do not call out stops on the bus.
If you would like to buy train tickets, follow the signs for the busses to the little outbuilding. Here you will find a food court, and some little shops. There is a big ticket counter where they sell you the tickets. They are able to help you in (broken) English and advice you what bus to take.
Finding an ATM in Xi’An Airport
When you arrive in China, you will soon notice that most pay terminals do not accept MasterCard or visa and finding an ATM can be very tricky as China is literally evolving to becoming a cashless society thanks to WeChat wallet.
It would be a good idea to get out at least 1000 Yuen – or more, as you will need to go to a 24-hour bank branch in order to get money out. We had to visit 4 banks before we found a machine that would accept our Mastercard (we were able to get money out from the Agricultural Bank of China).
You can find an ATM in the arrival’s hall, but it does not always work and there often are large lines of foreigners trying to get money out. There is an ATM by the bus ticket counter that is easy to use and accepts almost any card.