For some visitors to China, just seeing the attractions in Beijing itself is not enough. In that case, you may want to spend a few days visiting Xi’an. Xi’an is the oldest of the Four Ancient Capitols, and is incredibly rich in history and natural beauty. This city was once the starting point for the Silk Road and is home to Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Terracotta Army. There are numerous ancient temples in the city as well as Geological Parks and National Forests just outside.
Travel from Beijing to Xi’an is relatively painless, and bullet / overnight train is by far the best way to get around. Train travel is fast, comfortable and cost effective than air travel. It’s also much less stressful than plane travel, and it gives you time and space to read, sleep, watch movies or get work done. Train prices are also generally pretty stable, so there’s no need to track price trends as you would for airfare. Here’s what you need to know about these options:
The Bullet Train
The Bullet Train, also known as the High-Speed Train, is only slightly slower than going by airplane. Xi’an is over 1200km (756 miles) away, so the Bullet Train will take you about 4 1/2 – 6 hours. Bullet Trains depart for Xi’an throughout the day. Unlike airlines, which sometimes have delays, these trains always runs on time.
The Overnight Train
There are several classes of sleeper beds available. You may run across upper and lower soft sleeper bed options. Please note that you need to climb up into the upper beds, so people with mobility issues may do better with the lower ones. Hard sleeper beds are available and cheaper, but not as comfortable. The Overnight train is a popular choice, so you may want to book your tickets a week in advance. The journey will take about 11 hours and can save you the expense of a night’s hotel stay.
Both trains run from the Beijing West Railway Station to the Xi’an North Railway Station.
Getting There and Around
Numerous bus lines can take you to Beijing West Railway Station. Meanwhile, the Xi’an North Railway Station is part of the airport shuttle line. This will give you convenient access to the rest of the city, and there’s a direct connection to the Terracotta Warriors.
Tickets can be booked through an online agency, at the railway station, through the railway website, or you can call in to the official hotline at 951 05 105. You may also be able to ask your hotel to arrange something. Please note that online ticket sellers can have massive mark-ups, so you may be better off buying tickets direct from a train station after you arrive in Beijing.
Both trains let you take up to 20kg of luggage. For the Bullet Train, your luggage maximum height is 51 inches, and for the Overnight Train it is 63 inches. However, they don’t strictly enforce these limits.
You can bring your own meals to eat on the route. Both trains have trolleys that sell snacks, drinks, and prepackaged food. In addition, the sleeper train has a dining car which may be a fun experience for visitors.
Internet access may be available, depending on your route. Inquire when buying the ticket. TV sets (in Chinese) are in most carriages. If you’re traveling with kids, bring some entertainment for them.