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Getting There

Numerous direct flights connect Xianyang Airport with all major cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdu, Kunming, Shenzhen, Ürumqi, 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. 029/8728-3333). Airport shuttle buses (¥25 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 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 square has recently been redeveloped and now has a KFC, a McDonald's, and a 24-hour Internet cafe. The station itself is open 24 hours, and window 3 or 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 6:42pm, and the T232 (12 hr.) at 8:40pm. Other useful trains are the Z94 to Shanghai (12 hr.) at 5pm; the K84 to Guangzhou (26 hr.) at 8:35am; the T164 to Lanzhou (7 hr.) at 10:12am; the K165 at 10:18pm, which passes through Chengdu (16 hr.) and terminates in Kunming (36 hr.); the T69 to Ürumqi (27 hr.) at 7:04am; and the T224 to Chongqing (11 hr.) at 10:33pm.

The bus station (Xi'an Qiche Zhan; tel. 029/8742-7420) is directly opposite the railway station. Regular buses connect with Zhengzhou (573km/355 miles; 6 hr.; ¥134), Luoyang (425km/264 miles; 4 hr.; ¥92), Taiyuan (685km/425 miles; 8 hr.; ¥170), Tianshui (380km/236 miles; 6 hr.; ¥76), and Tongchuan (100km/62 miles; 1 1/2 hr.; ¥26). Afternoon sleeper buses connect with Yinchuan (720km/446 miles; 9 hr.; ¥160). For Hua Shan (2 hr.; ¥22) buses leave from east of the station square. For Yan'an (402km/249 miles; 4 hr.; ¥78.50) you'll need to head to the east station (Dong Keyun Zhan).

Alternate Ways to Book Rail Tickets -- The station can get crowded, so either book tickets through your hotel, which will charge around ¥50 and ¥80 to book a ticket, or visit a branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Gongshang Yinhang), which levies a reasonable ¥5 service charge. A convenient central branch is at Nan Dajie 50 (tel. 029/8726-3725); tickets are sold between 8:30am and 5pm on weekdays and from 9:30am to 3pm on weekends.

City Layout

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.

Getting Around

Regular buses cost ¥1, while K buses, which are air-conditioned, charge ¥2. Most taxis are green Santana sedans that charge ¥6 for the first 3km (2 miles), then ¥1.50 per additional kilometer; add ¥1 if you're traveling between the hours of 10pm and 5am. The first subway line, running north-south through the city, is due to open in 2010 and an east-west line will follow.

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.

Tours

While you can arrange tours of the sites within Xi'an, it's easy enough, more fun, and cheaper to see the town by yourself. For trips outside of the city it is worthwhile to book a tour and many travel agencies and hotels offer 1-day tours. The most popular tour follows the Eastern Route (Dong Xian), which usually includes the Terra-Cotta Warriors (Qin Bingmayong Bowuguan), Huaqing Chi (Huaqing Pools), Banpo Bowuguan, and sometimes Da Yan Ta. The more expensive and 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; 8am-8pm), charges ¥310 for the Eastern Route and ¥650 for the Western Route; both tours include all transport, an English-speaking guide, entrance fees, and lunch. They have plenty of branches around the city including one on the second floor of the Bell Tower Hotel (tel. 029/8760-0227). Most hotels offer their own tours, and hostels offer cheaper versions of the same. Shuyuan Hostel (tel. 029/8723-1126) offers Terracotta Warrior tours for ¥160, tours to see the pandas at the Foping Reserve in the Qingling Mountains for the same price, and even day trips out to Hua Shan for ¥330.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.