Visting the Terracotta Warriors without an organized tour

Visting the Terracotta Warriors without an organized tour

The summer before my sophomore year of college my good friend Janet invited me to go with her to LACMA‘s exhibition on China’s famous Terracotta Warriors. I remember being so excited for this exhibition and talked it up for the weeks leading up to the big day. Then, when the big day finally came, the line to the exhibition was long, the day was hot and it felt so crowded but it was all worth it.

LACMA’s Terracotta Warrior exhibition was one of the best exhibitions I had ever been to, and well, my experience visiting the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an was not all that different. Except this time, we got to see the Warriors in their natural resting place.

Visting the Terracotta Warriors without an organized tour

Visting the Terracotta Warriors without an organized tour

Our trip to the Terracotta Warriors began in Xi’An where we grabbed a public bus to see the warriors. We got off to a great start with an impromptu stop for dumplings when we saw a long line of locals waiting – our San Francisco predilection for waiting in long lines kicked right in! Armed with a bag full of dumplings for about $2, we set off to catch the bus at the train station. We needed a little help from a younger Chinese couple to locate the right bus (we knew we needed Bus #306, 914, or 915), but we were soon on the right path. It took a little less than an hour and a half to arrive, and from there we just followed the crowds. And by crowds, I mean CROWDS – there were so many people!

With that said, the ease of travel that comes with an organized tour group is not worth it when visiting the Terracotta Warriors. In fact, getting there and viewing the museum independently will allow you to get the most out of your experience.

Here is my advice for visiting the Terracotta Warriors without an organized tour:

  1. Leave early in the morning to avoid the crowds (and heat in the summer).
  2. Buy water and snacks before you leave Xi’an.
  3. Download the wikitravel page for Army of Terracotta Warriors and Horses before leaving the hotel.
  4. Take Bus #306, 914, or 915 and expect to pay about 8¥/person). The street leading up to the train/bus station is filled with bus stops. None of these stops are what you are looking for. You must walk outside the old city walls and look for a large parking lot filled with buses.
  5. Once you arrive, bypass all the guides offering tours and head straight to the ticket office. Expect to pay about 150¥/person. Although the guides’ prices sound enticing, the crowds in the museum are huge. You can barely reach the viewing points let alone have a guide be loud enough for you to hear their information, so save yourself the money, and enjoy the moment.
  6. Buses back to Xi’an run simultaneously. You will not wait long.

Visting the Terracotta Warriors without an organized tour

Visting the Terracotta Warriors without an organized tour

Visting the Terracotta Warriors without an organized tour

As we were exploring the exhibition, I couldn’t help but compare this visit to my earlier visit at LACMA, with the biggest difference being the ability to get up close and personal with the warriors. At LACMA, I felt like I could get almost nose to nose with the Warriors, and inspect all of their details. However, with so many people tromping through the museum in China the reality of getting that close is just unrealistic. Overall, I felt my Terracotta Warrior experience was complete having experienced both the LA and Chinese version of the exhibition.


We are currently in transit, follow along with us on Instagram @gingersideoflife.

LocationLOCATION: Xi'an

  1. Oh wow! I’ve never heard of these terracotta warriors before, but what an experience! And my mouth is watering over your bag full of fresh dumplings… that would make any trip even better!

    • Thank you Susie! PS I was trying to get caught up on your blog and was unable to access your site…just thought I’d pass that along!

    • Hi Shaunacey! There are way too many cool things in the world to keep up with, right? I only knew about the warriors because I was an art history minor in college but I am glad I could share this experience with you, so thank you for following along.

  2. I love the specifics you’ve given on timing and even rates, you really know what you’re talking about! I have wanted to visit this place for quite some time, however my travelling to this point seems to have only extended to Europe and just occasionally Florida – I need to broaden my horizons! :)

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice

    • Hi Gabrielle! Yeah, I am always happy to be able to inspire wanderlust! But hey, Europe has so much to explore and if we truly explored it all, we would never leave (which would be okay too, right?!?!)!

  3. Oh wow. I would be totally freaking out over camera lenses to bring to this (and water and snacks too)
    Glad you got to finally see them – love the story of how you saw the exhibition.

    • I know, we so wished we had had a longer lens in this case :( We just had our 20-70mm lens but were wishing for our 70-200 lens that was packed away in the storage unit at home because it was too heavy to carry on this trip!

    • Hi Kiki! I am so glad you enjoyed this post and also had an interest in visiting the warriors! They are pretty spectacular and I hope they have bumped their way to the top of your list :)

  4. woow you actually got to see that
    every culture and country has their very own unique uniform for the battlefield
    thanks for sharing a piece of history with us

    • Wow what perfect timing for your boyfriend to have been recently talking about the warriors! We must have been on the same wave length!

  5. Isn’t it a magnificent sight? Houston has a miniature replica, nothing of this magnitude at all, of course, but at least I have that if I can’t personally visit China :) or, as in this case, I could always live vicariously through your adventures :)

    • I had no idea that Houston also had a miniature replica of the Terracotta Warriors! I will have to visit next time I make it to Houston! Thank you for the tip!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *