Small Pockets: Living it up in Xi’an, on a Budget

Small Pockets: Living it up in Xi’an, on a Budget

Being an expat in Xi'an is fun and comfortable. Not only does the city cater to certain Western needs, it also allows for a great living experience on a budget that would hardly last five minutes in a Western country. Saving money in Xi'an isn't tough: you can eat, travel and shop without having to skimp on the essentials.


If you manage to look past the hygiene alarm bells that start ringing when you tuck into an authentic Xi'an restaurant, the food on offer is both delicious and cheap. The obvious draw of eating Xi'an cuisine is that most meals will only set you back about 20 RMB. The city is full of little restaurants, food courts, barbeques and street food vendors offering you great food at even better prices. Here are some cheap and delicious snacks that may tingle your taste buds:

Rou jiamo (肉夹馍| Chinese hamburger: bun with meat)

You can find these at most food courts and street vendors. They range from a very reasonable 4-6 RMB, depending on how little fat you want in your meat. The less fat the higher the price. Tip: to ask for no fat in your meat say "bu yao feirou" (不要肥肉) or "Wo yao quan shou de" (我要全瘦的).

Shāokǎo (烧烤 | Barbeque)

Many little restaurants in Xi'an have a barbeque available outside. These offer different meats, fish and vegetables. A skewer of chicken wings (two wings per skewer) is generally priced at 5-6 RMB, while a beef skewer goes for 3-4 RMB, with spice available on demand. Tip: for no spice say "bu yao lajiao" (不要辣椒). Be warned that these barbeques also offer traditional Xi'an food, traditional being the key word here. Heart, liver and cow stomach lining are common delicacies. You've been warmed.

Cheap Chinese food is great for those not hoping to bust their budget, but every once in a while, your taste buds clamour for something else. For a non-Chinese treat, Xi'an's got you covered:

The choice of Indian restaurants in Xi'an is limited, but the restaurants that are there are affordable and of high quality. Located on Dayanta Xi Lu, a short distance west of the Big Goose Pagoda, Delhi Darbar (新德里餐厅) can quench your cravings. The food here tastes authentic, the staff speak English, and the average price for a curry or for most other main courses is 30 RMB.

Western food is popular in Xi'an with both expats and locals, but it doesn't come cheap. A great spot for Western food is the Traveller's Café, at the Shuyuan International Youth Hostel (书院国际青年旅舍). Located right next to the south gate of the city, the Traveller's Café is a convenient spot to grab a Western bite to eat without having to break the bank. Sandwiches and burgers cost on an average 20-30 RMB, pizza costs 45-65 RMB and pasta costs 30-40 RMB.

Delhi DarbarView In Map
Add: 3 Datang Tongyifang, Yanta Xilu, Yanta District, Xi'an
Tel: 029 8525 5157

Traveller's CafeView In Map
Add: 2 Shuncheng Xixiang Nanjie, Xi'an
地址: 西安市南门里顺城西巷甲2号.
Tel: 029 8728 7720

Public transportation in Xi'an is, by most standards, amazingly cheap. While taxis are convenient, buses and the subway will be your go-to methods for moving about the city on the cheap.

Bus  (总线)
Travelling within the city by bus is reliable and convenient. The buses run on a regular schedule and you will probably find that there is more than one different bus going in the direction of where you want to go. The price of a single ticket ranges from 0.5 to 4 RMB, depending on the bus you take and how far you want to travel within the city. Tip: To save even more money I would advise you get a bus card which you swipe when you get onto the bus. Using a card over cash will not only prove to be more convenient but will also cut the fare by half. To get one, head over to any Bank of Xi'an, hand over 18 RMB for the card and however much else you'd like to put on it.

Metro (地铁)
The metro service is new to Xi'an and is a much more comfortable and clean travel experience than the bus. Once construction is finalised, metro stops will be available all around the city; by 2018, Xi'an will have six lines and approximately 150 stations. Line 2 goes from north to south and is the only line currently operating. Tickets cost 2-4 RMB, depending on how far you are travelling.

The tragedy with shopping is there's never enough time, and more importantly, never enough money! If you're on a budget but in need of a retail therapy, Xi'an is the place for you. If you barter well and hard, you can walk away with a new wardrobe and a clear conscience. Great places to exercise your bartering skills in Xi'an are Zhong Lou (钟楼) and Xiao Zhai (萧翟). You will come across a plethora of market stalls and small shops selling clothes, shoes, electrical goods, entertainment goods and much more.
How to get there: There is a bus to Zhong Lou from almost every corner of Xi'an: 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 15, 16, 26, 29, 32, 35, 36, 37, 43, 45, 46, 118, 201, 203, 205, 206, 208, 214, 215, 216, 218, 221, 222, 229, 235, 239, 251, 252, 300, 302, 502, 600, K600, 603, 604, K605, 606, 608, 609, 611, 612, K618, K630, 706.
The easiest and cheapest way to get to Xiao Zhai is to take the metro, line 2.

Social activities
Often people think that you need money to have fun. In Xi'an, nothing could be further from the truth. There are plenty of cheap (sometimes free) things to do in this historic city, so put your money away and go out and enjoy yourself.

The Shaanxi History Museum (陕西历史博物馆)
The Shanxi History Museum, opened in 1991 and is situated in the southern suburb of Xian City, northwest of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. It displays many items and precious relics which were uncovered in Shaanxi Province, which include bronze wares, pottery figures and mural paintings in Tang tombs. The museum issues 4,000 free tickets every day. Tourists and expats can grab hold of one at the ticket office by bringing their valid certification (such as ID card or passport).

Cycle the City wall
For a different vantage point on the city, why not try biking on the city wall? Though this activity isn't free, it's still surprisingly cheap for the amount of fun (or romance, depending on your biking partner) to be had; the entrance fee for the city wall is a mere 40 RMB and the bicycle rental cost 20 RMB for 100 minutes, with a 200 RMB deposit for a bike.

There are 18 city gates on the wall and visitors can ascend the wall from eight of these: South Gate, Small South Gate, East Gate, West Gate, North Gate, Heping Gate, Wenchang Gate and Hanguang Gate. The South Gate (Yongningmen/Nan men南门), where bike rentals are available, is the most spectacular one among all the city gates.

South Gate opening times: 08:00-22:00 (April 1-October 31); 08:00-19:00 (November 1-March 31)
How to get here: Take the metro to Yongningmen (永宁门) station.

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Keywords: saving money Xi’an living expenses in Xi’an food and transportation in Xi’an expat life in Xi’an budget Xi’an


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Aug 20, 2022 05:33 Report Abuse




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May 10, 2022 06:23 Report Abuse



I'd say one of the best Western budget restaurants is the Turkish restaurant near Da Yan Ta. There's also a nice little sushi stand near Jiao Da, and an Indian Muslim guy named Jaffar who cooks (and sells) out of his kitchen near Yi xue Yuan for ridiculously low prices. A bit more pricey would be the Village Cafe near Wai Yuan, the Italian restaurant in Gaoxin, or Savi (spelling?) near Jiao Da. As for Chinese food, there's always jiaozi, liangpi (very affordable), dao shao mian, and some really amazing lamian. There's a dao shao mian guan near Jiao Da which makes some absolutely amazing noodles for 6-8 kuai (depending on the size of the bowl). In Xi Tie Ju, there's also some great street food. There's one particular guy who makes the most amazing yang rou chuaner. Bring your own mo, and 2 people can easily eat on 25 kuai. For the occasional splurge, there's hot pot, and yang rou pao mo. I'm not sure if it's there anymore, but there was an absolutely amazing Xinjiang restaurant at the Xi'an Diannao Cheng, which had da pan ji to die for, and a really nice zhua fan with large servings of lamb.

Aug 21, 2012 10:26 Report Abuse