Many people come to Xi’an purely to see the Terracotta Warriors, but because they are around 40km North East of Xi’an, most opt for a tour. The problem with this approach is that you are must follow a set timetable, pay more for your ticket and enjoy being herded around like sheep. However, it’s incredibly easy to take public transport to the Terracotta Warriors, enjoy a more authentic Chinese experience and save money to boot. It just takes a little planning and effort. So, here is how to create your own DIY Terracotta Warriors Trip.
How to get to the Terracotta warriors by public transport
Depending on where you are staying in Xi’an, you may need to take the metro to the main Xi’an train station. The metro is easy to use with only 3 lines in operation, and tickets cost just 3 Yuan each. You may also be able to take a local bus but will need to ask your hotel which to take.
Once you arrive at the station, head to the the west square (located to the right of the entrance if you are facing the railway station) jump on bus 5 (otherwise known as 306). It takes around one hour to get to the Terracotta Warriors and costs 8 yuan each (around £1). Buses 914 and 915 also take you to the Terracotta Warriors but are slightly more expensive at 10 Yuan each.
A Terracotta Warriors tour can easily set you back 350 yuan. Given that Terracotta Warriors tickets cost just 150 yuan (half price for students), you will be paying less than half the price for a guided tour of the Warriors even after adding in the bus and metro costs. That’s a hell of a mark-up but if you want detailed historic insight then you might find the premium for a tour guide worthwhile.
Tickets can be purchased at the venue and there are no restrictions on ticket numbers so there is no need to purchase in advance.
Finding the ticket office
The bus drops you by a parking lot where Chinese speakers appear to be able to purchase Terracotta Warriors tickets for just 40 yuan. My two words of mandarin would not allow me to pull of that blag so we had to head to the main visitor ticketing centre. This is signposted (although not especially well) on small blue signs and is around a ten-minute walk from the bus terminal.
To guide or not to guide
Once you arrive, you will likely be accosted by guides wishing to sell their services, but unless you require a detailed historical account, I recommend you simply download a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide. Our Lonely Planet guidebook provided enough of an overview of the three pits to quench our thirst for knowledge. History buffs can purchase a raft of publications on site or order a detailed guide from Amazon beforehand. This will allow you to gain the understanding you seek and still take the tour at your own pace.
Visiting the Terracotta Warriors
The Terracotta Warriors truly are magnificent. Over 40 years since their discovery by peasant farmers, work continues to uncover and restore thousands of warriors. Around 2,000 are on display but estimates suggest the site may contain upwards of 6,000. They are incredibly well preserved, considering they date back to over 400 years before Christ.
There are three pits but pit one is by far the most impressive. I highly recommend visiting them in reverse to save the best to last.
Pit three contains a small number of warriors in varying degrees of disrepair, and some remarkably well-preserved horses. Your first sight of the warriors will wet your appetite for what is to come in the larger pits.
Pit two is much larger but currently houses very few warriors. It is evident that work continues to uncover relics and I can only imagine the painstaking labour involved to piece together fragments. There is little of interest to see in the pit, however there are exhibits of warriors around the pit. These are displayed in varying poses and with different facial expressions. I found it utterly captivating staring at the intricate detail on these ancient warriors.
Finally, pit one is nothing short of miraculous. Even with many areas yet to unearth, row upon row of warriors give an idea of how fearful a sight such an army must have been more than 2,000 years ago.
Be prepared for some pretty vigorous jostling as swarms of visitors attempt to see the main attraction. I was rather violently pushed aside by one elderly chap intent on capturing the warriors on film. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to be awed by the sheer scale of these magnificent terracotta sculptures in mind boggling numbers.
Be sure to make a full circuit of the hall. The most impressive sights are by the entrance, but to the rear of the hangar digging and restoration continue. You can see figures in varying stages of reconstruction and restoration. Large swathes of cling film keep partly restored warriors intact, and magnifying glasses perch on tables used to piece together fragments of broken warriors. That is one hell of a jigsaw puzzle!
During our visit, a partially restored horse was contained in a suspended contraption to facilitate reconstruction. Sadly, no workers were at work during our visit, but I imagine it would be fascinating to watch.
You can closely inspect further warriors and horse drawn chariots in the exhibition hall. The attention to detail is marvellous. Some look so lifelike I practically developed romantic inclinations towards one!
Terracotta Warriors shopping mall
Upon leaving the museum, you can wander through the Disney-Esque shopping mall back to the bus pick up point. Souvenirs are ridiculously expensive, so you may wish to pick them up in Xi’an instead. The Muslim quarter is a particularly good place to shop for all kinds of tourist memorabilia. Don’t forget to bargain.
Several food stalls also line the mall and I highly recommend sampling some of the fare. We honestly had no idea what we were ordering but it was delicious. We feasted on little round potatoes in hot spices and tofu (we think!) on a stick.
How much time to allow for visiting the Terracotta Warriors
Allow the bulk of the day for a visit as it will take 6 – 7 hours including travel time and your visit. We left our hotel at around 11am and needed 7 hours to take the metro and bus and visit the museum. Admittedly, we initially struggled to find the bus stop at the station and took a detour for snacks, but you will struggle to do this trip in less than six hours.
To allow you to plan, we spent around 2 hours in the actual museum. Note however that Jason and I are not big on detail and rarely read all the information panels, so if you like to absorb everything, you will need much longer.
We then spent a further 30 minutes wandering the shops and stalls of the mall, but you could spend much longer here.
DIY Terracotta Warriors visit costs
If you opt to avoid the over-priced private guided tours of the Terracotta Warriors and DIY your trip, you will save considerable cost. Here is what we paid in total:
|Metro tickets for two
|Bus tickets for two
|Entrance fee for two
This is less than half the Terracotta Warriors price for a tour. Plus, we got to visit the site at our own pace, so if you are considering a Terracotta Warriors Visit and are concerned about your ability to DIY a trip, don’t be. This is certainly one of the easier trips I have done independently.
Have your say
If any other readers have visited the Terracotta Warriors independently or otherwise, I would love to know how you got on. Plus, if you feel you have some burning tips for other visitors, please feel free to share them in the comments below.