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How to: Visit the Terracotta Warriors On Your Own

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About the Terracotta Warriors:

One day in 1974, some farmers decided to dig a water well in east Xi’An. After some time, their shovels unearthed what appeared to be figurine horses and the mystery of the Terracotta Army was discovered. the farmers had stumbled upon the tomb of the first emperor Qin’s tomb mound at Mount Li.

Four pits make up the Terracotta site, home to many artifacts that have yet to be uncovered. Site one houses the famous rows of 6,000 life sized figures facing east as to protect emperor Qin’s tomb from the his eastern conquered states.

The warriors differ in height, facial expression, hairstyle, and rank. It is estimated that there are 8,000 warriors, 130 chariots with 520 chariots and 150 cavalry horses, many of which still remain buried.

Getting to Xi’An:

The cheapest way to get to Xi’An is by train. When buying any train tickets in China you are required to show your passport, so don’t forget it. The overnight train running from Beijing to Xi’An is about 14 hours travel time, that’s if the engine doesn’t blow out. You can pay for a soft sleeper, hard sleeper, soft seat or hard seat. The cheapest option is the hard sleeper for 150 RMB (approximately $15 US). The hard seats are not ideal if you’re looking for a good night’s sleep.

You will most likely be the only foreigner(s) on the entire train, which is full of farmers and enough hot water to make a cup-of-soup, but no running water for the toilets. Washrooms are typically only a hole in the floor that begins to pile up with paper and excrement.  Occasionally a train attendant will use the “poo stick” sitting in the corner of the washroom to sweep together and push down the items into the hole and out onto the tracks. The seats are upright, do not recline and bench-like with no arm rests. It is common to have a few seating neighbours to fall asleep on you. But, just think, at least you have a seat. Many of the train steps and aisles are also full of bodies standing and crouching for the entirety of their trip. No smoking signs are present, but are ignored by both passengers and train attendants; however, many people will smoke by the train doors. It’s definitely an adventure and a worthwhile one at that – if you’ve survived a Chinese slow train, you can survive anything.

Night buses are also possible, but they are much less crowded, confining and are without toilets. Buses will make pit-stops, but for the people who don’t get off still crouching in the aisles, you’ll have to fandangle yourself over them, or start learning some Chinese.

Budget Accommodation in Xi’An:

Hostel Shuyuan – One of the best hostels you could ask for on a budget. Very clean rooms, comfortable beds, bed-bug free, and always toilet paper ready washrooms with hot showers. Lockers are available in dorm rooms; you’ll just need a lock. There is an in-hostel cafe decaled in worldly flags. Downstairs is the in-hostel bar that draws a healthy crowd. In the summer time, you can enjoy the rooftop patio.

The hostel offers all kinds of tours, including: trips to the Terracotta Warriors, Chengdu, The Great Wall of China and the Yangzi river. If you opt to do the Terracotta Warriors on your own, it’s entirely possible and extremely easy.

How to Visit the Terracotta Warriors on Your Own:

From the North bus station, head towards the McDonalds on the other side of the street. Keep straight, passing the McDonalds, and there will be a parking lot on the same side as the train station full of buses. Hop on a bus going to the Terracotta Museum for seven RMB. The ride is about 45 minutes to an hour. The bus will drop you off in a parking lot outside of the entrance. The fee to see the Terracotta Warriors is 150 RMB. There are several touts about offering to be your guide and an on-site locker room to store your baggage until 4pm is available.

4 comments on “How to: Visit the Terracotta Warriors On Your Own

  1. beaufortninja
    February 8, 2012

    Thanks for the info. I’m planning a trip to northern China soon and the Warriors are on the itinerary but I absolutely dread going in tour groups. -_-

    • Lindsay Anne Williams
      February 9, 2012

      Hey beaufortninja – You are welcome! Visiting the Warriors is super easy to do on your own. Please do send me any questions you have. I’d me more than happy to help. thepeoplesquare@gmail.com. I just noticed your blog. Have you done a road trip across the U.S. perchance? Cheers.

  2. Rev. Josh
    February 9, 2012

    I might be passing through China in the coming months, and I’ve been curious how to get to this sight without a tour. Thanks! You mentioned the hard seat option–exactly how hard would that be? Something along the lines of a wooden plank, or a bit more flexible?

    • Lindsay Anne Williams
      February 9, 2012

      Hey, Josh – Thanks for your message. The seats were lightly padded and at a back-correctly 90 degree angle. I too fully expected the wooden plank. I was slightly disappointed. The site is super easy to do on your own and I’d be happy to help you with any questions you have about this site and/or other spots in China. Cheers.

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