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Last year Xi'an hosted a total of 136 million sightseeing tours, and is thus the third-most-visited destination in China, after Beijing and Hong Kong. However, Xi'an is a cheap city compared to Beijing, and definitely compared to HK!
There are several tourist destinations you can tour at a low budget, and some are even free. Additionally, you can lower your budget by eating at low-cost restaurants and sleeping in hostels and value hotels.
The Terracotta Army is a must-see while in Xi'an, despite the cost. If traveling on a tight budget, you can get a ticket for 150 Yuan (120 yuan December–February) and avoid ticket re-sellers and guides who charge a higher fee for their bolt-on services.
You can also visit First Emperor Qin’s Mausoleum, 2 kilometers away, for free if you buy a ticket to the Terracotta Army Museum. Though there's not much to see there, it might be worth the walk to say you've seen the huge burial mound, if you've got more time than money to spare.
Most hotels also run a tour to the site, which can be inexpensive (though beware the downside of group tours), so be sure to ask in your hotel.
Again, be sure to avoid the "black" (illegal) taxis at Xi'an Railway Station: these promise to offer cheap transport, but they might later charge higher on the way, abandon you before reaching the destination, or even rob you.
The Xi’an City Wall, the largest of its kind in the world, and which dates back to the Ming Dynasty, hosts tourists who enjoy walking its sections, especially the landscape park around the base of the exterior wall. The 54 yuan entry ticket is well worth it.
Again, choose to stroll around it instead of using a bike that is rented at any gate for 40 yuan for a 90 minutes ride, plus a refundable deposit. Strolling can also be done on top of the wall at night, since the wall is lit up and secure.
If on a budget, avoid paying 54 yuan (27 yuan for students) to visit the Xi’an City Wall Museum, unless you are particularly interested in seeing unrestored remains of a gatehouse and a calligraphy collection.
This tourist destination is 2 hours' train ride from Xi’an and makes a good Xi'an outing, because 2,000-meter-high and perilously steep Mount Hua provides spectacular views of the nature around.
Instead of taking a bus on your way up the mountain, you can walk to the top, although it takes 2 to 3 hours.
If taking a cable car, take the old cable car for 80 yuan instead of paying 140 yuan for the newer cable car. The cable car helps you to explore the four peaks in 3 to 4 hours.
Again, instead of going for accommodation in the very pricey hotels at the mountain, opt for the dormitory-style lodgings in the guesthouses near the mountain.
Instead of paying 35 yuan to visit only the 36-meter-high Bell Tower, located at the center of Xi'an, and then separately paying 27 yuan to enter the Drum Tower, located northwest of the Muslim Quarter, pay 50 yuan to explore both towers on a joint ticket.
Built in 652 AD during the reign of Emperor Gaozong Li Zhi in the Tang Dynasty, it is one of the top Xi'an tourist attractions you can visit on a budget. It costs 30 yuan to enter the pagoda and enjoy its bird's eye view of the city, the pleasant park, and its nice free fountains and music show at various times during the day.
If on a budget, avoid paying an extra 50 yuan to enter Ci’en Temple (which is far les value for money) located nearby, and make sure to visit the large North Square, which is free of charge.
It's also 30 yuan for the smaller, but equally interesting, pagoda, a brick structure of fifteen stories where people go to learn of ancient Chinese architecture, culture and history, as well as have nice bird's views of the surroundings.
If planning to visit only the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, do not pay for the 50 yuan joint ticket, since that includes Jianfu Temple and Xi'an Museum.
(The exhibition hall for treasures of the Tang Dynasty at Xi'an Museum costs 20 yuan, and Jianfu Temple costs 20 yuan to enter. But these are lesser attractions and probably not worth the time or money.)
This Zhou Dynasty location is famous for waters that contain minerals that have body healing effects. You can take a hot bath.
To lower the costs, explore the Huan garden, Lishan backdrop, pavilions and the natural hot springs by foot instead of paying an extra 60 yuan for the cable car that gives you a bird's view of the area.
The fee is 80 yuan (60 yuan for students) during the off peak season (December 1 – February 28), instead of 110 yuan during the main tourist season (March 1 – November 31).
It is located near Lintong Museum, which is reasonably priced at 24 yuan.
This is one of the best museums in China, and one of the Xi'an museums that do not charge any entrance fee and thus ideal for a budget Xi'an tour.
You get to explore 370,000 exhibits showing history of over a million years from prehistoric times to the Qing Dynasty.
Shaanxi History Museum is located near the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
In addition to its beautiful architecture, Muslim Street is one of the best places for cheap food in Xi'an, especially convenient if touring the Bell Tower and Drum Tower.
You get to sample variety of food at very low prices, including nang (flat bread), and roujiamo — marinated beef or lamb stuffed inside a freshly baked bun.
However, you need to avoid over-priced food from outlets along Huimin Street and the small restaurant owners who sell food in the alleys. Instead go to the likes of Jianguantang Bao restaurant for cheap food.
See more on avoiding paying too much on The 10 Most Common Xi’an Scams.
You can reduce the travel costs by visiting the Muslim Quarter just after visiting the Bell and Drum Tower because the Muslim Quarter is just a short walk from there.
If you want to enjoy special the Spring Festival Lantern Show during the Chinese New Year holiday, understand the Tang Dynasty culture in full, and see a movie screen made of a film of water (largest movie-on-water screen in the world), all at a low budget, then visit the 165-acre (67-ha) Tang Paradise during the November-1–March-31 low season when they charge 90 yuan.
It costs 120 yuan during high season. Also, avoid paying for the Pantomime since that could hike the fee to 168 Yuan, even during low season.
You can explore the park, the square and see the ancient Tang Dynasty palace gate (built in the 634 AD) all free of charge. You also get to see a model of the palace next to the gate, enjoy sitting on open green spaces, and sometimes witness public performances at the IMAX theater.
Avoid paying to explore the restored palace ruins and other park sections protected by a moat.
Eating kabobs or dumplings in inexpensive hotel outlets, and sleeping in inexpensive hostels or lodgings for as low as 35 yuan per night, will save you a lot of money while on a budget tour in Xi'an.
Try places such as the Bob’s Guesthouse, Duolamaer Gallery International Youth Hostel, Hq Guesthouse, Ibis Hotel, Ludao Binguan, Shuyuan International Youth Hostel, Han Tang Inn Youth Hostel, and Warriors International Youth Hostel.
The Super 8 Hotel Xi'an Railway Station charges 116 yuan for a hotel room accommodation, while the Super 8 Hotel Xi'an Lintong Hua Qing Chi 130 yuan for a room. Some other budget Western-oriented hotels include the Jinjiang Inn that faces the old city wall (137 yuan for a room) and the Kejie Road Inn at the city center for 130 yuan.
The Essential Style option is available for all our main Xi'an itineraries. We will only supply the parts of the tour that are difficult to arrange on your own. See the Essential Style details for our best-sellers: