Are you wondering what is the fastest or cheapest way to travel from Beijing to Xian? Based on my own experience traveling between the two cities many times, I’d like to share with you the best (and fastest…and cheapest) ways to get from Beijing to Xian.
Xi’an (written as both “Xian” and “Xi’an”) was once the eastern terminus of the Ancient Silk Road and capital of the Qin, Han, and Tang Dynasties. It’s a fascinating city that offers travelers a window into China’s imperial past and ethnic diversity.
In 1421, the capital was moved to Beijing by the Ming Dynasty, where it has remained ever since. Because of this rich history, both Beijing and Xi’an have become extremely popular China travel destinations and thankfully traveling between the two is quite simple.
Since you’re going to be traveling between Xian and Beijing, I’m going to share with you a number of fast and budget-friendly ways to make the journey. If you’re in the planning stages of your journey, you’ll also benefit from my new China travel guide, available as an ebook and paperback.
*Note: All the travel methods below are applicable whether you travel from Beijing to Xian or you travel from Xian to Beijing.
1. Travel from Beijing to Xian by High Speed Train (Recommended)
Taking the high-speed train from Beijing to Xian is my top recommended way to make this trip.
As you travel at speeds of up to 250-300 km/hr (155-185 mph), you can finish the 755 mile journey 4.5-6 hours! Although not as fast as a plane as far as travel time goes, you save so much time and stress by avoiding having to get to an airport 2 hours in advance and long security lines.
The high speed train stations servicing the railway between Beijing and Xian are also conveniently located within the city, as opposed to airports which are often way outside the city. This means less travel time and a cheaper taxi fare should you decide to take a taxi in China!
- Departure Stations: Beijing South Station (北京南站; Běijīng nánzhàn) to Xi’an North Railway Station (西安北站; Xī’ānběi Zhàn). These stations are both served by subway lines, local buses, and taxis.
- High-speed Train Schedule: Trains between Beijing and Xi’an run as early as 6:20 am and depart once or twice every hour through 7pm. There is also now an overnight high speed sleeper train available.
- Ticket Prices: Approximately US$75 to US$250. Check ticket prices here.
The cheapest tickets have you sitting in coach whereas folks willing to splurge $250 can enjoy business class. In my experience, the coach seats are comfortable enough and make for a pleasant journey.
You can use the train ticket booking widget to the right or try to purchase China train tickets directly online. Be sure to select a “G” train when booking as this specifically refers to high-speed trains.
2. Travel From Beijing to Xian by Airplane (Easiest)
Another great way to travel from Beijing to Xian is by plane. In most cases, this is the most expensive option (unless you prefer business class tickets on the high-speed train) and for most travelers, traveling by plane might also be the easiest.
The flight is only around 2 hours, but after factoring in travel time to the airport, checking-in, security, traveling by plane is almost the same if not longer than taking the high-speed train. This also assumes that there are no flight delays, which as we all know can add considerable travel time to your trip.
- Departure Airports: Beijing Capital Airport (PEK) to Xi’an Xianyang International Airport (XIY). Check prices between these airports. Airports are always easily accessible by metro and taxis.
- Flight Schedule: Numerous flights all throughout the day.
- Flight Ticket Costs: Round trip tickets can be as low as US$135 all the way up to US$400 depending on the flight, season, and when you schedule. Here you can read more on tips to save money on China flights.
Overall, I recommend taking the high-speed train over flying from Beijing to Xian. The only circumstance where I would take a plane is if you need to be at your destination on the same day and tickets for the bullet train are all sold out.
Should flying sound like the best option for you, I recommend booking travel from Beijing to Xi’an via Ctrip/Trip.com, which has some of the best prices in my experience.
3. Travel Beijing to Xian by Overnight Train (for travelers on a budget)
For budget travelers not in a hurry to travel from Beijing to Xi’an, taking a 12-hour overnight sleeper train is a great means of travel. Sleeper trains run through the evening and you have your own private bunk to sleep away the journey.
The biggest perk from traveling by sleeper train is that it is incredibly budget friendly. Although the costs are similar to the bullet train – especially if you opt for a soft sleeper ticket – you save a night’s worth of hotel expenses with the overnight train. You can also save more money by opting for a hard sleeper ticket, which lacks the luxury of a private compartment and has six beds in a single space rather than four.
READ MORE: Learn about different classes of China trains, including how comfortable they may be and what to expect.
Whatever you do, avoid taking a hard seat for the sake of saving money. Picture yourself sharing seats with hundreds of people in a single carriage without being able to get a single wink of sleep during the entire journey. You are likely to be in plenty of pain from sitting in the hard seat all night long too and is not worth the savings.
The last thing to remember here is when buying train tickets is that most of the standard (i.e. slow) China trains are labeled with a “T”, a “K” or just numbers.
Enjoying Transportation Between Beijing and Xian
Should you travel from Beijing to Xian by rail, there are several steps you should take to ensure your journey is a pleasant one.
- Stock-up on snacks and instant noodles (this is the classic meal to have on trains) before getting to the train station as food and drinks on trains are overly priced. This is especially the case on sleeper trains where the dining car charges an insane amount of money for mediocre food. As you are likely to get hungry on your trip, do your self a favor and stock up on food essentials before traveling from Beijing to Xian.
- Another tip is to bring along a pack of cards to play games with fellow travelers. There is plenty of space to interact with other travelers on trains and card games can liven the journey. You may even attract a small crowd of Chinese and learn how to play the local favorite card game, Kill the Landlord. (true story)
- If possible, bring headphones and an eye mask. In the hard sleeper compartment, you don’t have control over the lights and sometimes they stay on late into the night. I also love using a good pair of noise cancelling headphones since there are constant noises throughout the night on a train.
Finally, taking a train from Beijing to Xian is not all fun and games. In order to enjoy your journey, you should also be aware of and prepare for what can go wrong on your trip.
- Tickets should be purchased well in advance. Often times, both soft sleeper and hard sleeper tickets sell out a week or more before the train leaves. This leaves you no options but to deal with the hard seats. So remember to get your tickets early!
- Don’t plan on having a perfect night’s sleep. While the bunks are comfortable enough, I always managed to be stuck with someone who snored obnoxiously throughout the night.
Being properly prepared is key, which is why I wrote the book Travel to China | Everything You Need to Know Before You Go. Overall, with proper planning well in advance, your trip from Beijing to Xian by train is likely to be smooth and fun.
Travel from Beijing to Xian
As I shared above, my advice for traveling from Beijing to Xian is to take the high-speed train. It’s easy, fast and reasonably priced. My second choice of travel is to take a sleeper train, which reduces your hotel expenses by a full day.
That said, I understand that for some people, flying is the most comfortable way to travel. Thankfully, the Beijing and Xian airports are connected with many daily flights that will be easy to book.
Once you’ve booked all your transportation for your trip to China, make sure you do your research on travel insurance, especially for China. Read through my 9 reasons to consider travel insurance for China.
Have you traveled between Beijing and Xian before? What was your experience and what would you recommend?