Travel Guide Asia China Qinghai Xining



Downtown Xining

Downtown Xining

© Lavafalls

Xining (西宁) is the capital and largest city of Qinghai province, located along the upper reaches of the Yellow River. The city was originally a trading center along the Silk Road and a meeting point between Tibetan, Central Asian and Chinese people. Today it is slowly turning into a new commercial center, as business in China slowly grows further west. Although many would say this town is boring and a little industrial there is a certain charm to Xining if you give it a chance. From nomadic Tibetans hanging out in shopping malls to the glory of Ma Bufang’s warlord palace there is plenty to see and experience.



Sights and Activities

  • People watching is a great activity in this town, since countless minorities come to Xining to do there business and visit family. Another fun activity is “spot the temple,” which is a game played by walking around the back alleys and looking for small local Tibetan temples or Muslim mosques.
  • Ta’er Si (塔尔寺) is a large temple located about an hour away from Xining and is an excellent day excursion. Ta’er Si is famous for being the first temple the 14th Dali Lama was housed in before being sent to Lhasa. To get there take a bus from the bus station, although the ways of getting there are constantly changing. One suggestion is to take a taxi there then take the public bus back. Just ask locals “Chezhi qu Xining?”
  • Ma Bufang’s Palace is a glorious traditional Chinese home located just west of the bus station on Binhe lu, but this place is difficult to located so ask your hotel owner for directions. Ma Bufang was the last warlord of Qinghai and his power is well represented in his home. The palace has multiple courtyards meant for people from foreign dignitaries to his daughters. It is worth taking the time to explore all the rooms because very few traditional court yard homes are this well preserved and open for touring. In the third and fourth courtyards there are nice exhibits to the different minorities of Qinghai and the natural history of Qinghai. Next door is a traditional red hall that has been turned into a Muslim market.
  • Qinghai Provincial Museum (青海省博物馆) is a large museum with a small collection with a heavy Tibetan focus. The strange part of the museum is that the first floor is empty. All the galleries are on the second floor, so don't be confused when you walk in. Just proceed to the second floor up the main stairs. The museum is located off of Xiguan Dajie.
  • Qinghai Lake (青海湖) is a stunning lake that is about a two hour drive from town. The lake is the main attraction of Qinghai province and is a bit far for a day trip. For more information read the Qinghai Lake article.



Events and Festivals

Qinghai Lake Bike Race starts and ends in Xining every July. Professional road cyclists brave the high altitude in order to gain fame.

China has three "Golden Week" holidays per year. People get a mandatory two or three days off work for each holiday, and workers' companies can grant them the rest of the week off, making each holiday a total of 7 days. As you can imagine, having almost 1.4 billion people with the same days off can make travelling at these times arduous to say the least.

Travelling during the Spring Festival/Chinese New Year is incredibly difficult. Chinese New Year is China's Christmas, so the millions of migrant workers and students flood back to their home towns. Everybody else takes the opportunity to spend their hong bao (gifts of money traditionally given at CNY) and go travelling. Most of the time, since you are only allowed to purchase train tickets 6 days in advance and must be present in the city of origin, sometimes only standing room tickets are available. Be aware! The Spring Festival is undoubtedly the busiest time for the Chinese transportation system. Flying will avoid the crowded trains, but book early and expect to pay higher prices. All the main tourist attractions will be crawling with tourists (worse than usual), so unless you like crowds, it's best to avoid it altogether.

Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar, so the date changes each year. The Chinese New Year/Spring Festival holiday is 7 days long and usually starts on New Year's Eve.

The two other national holidays are October 1st, National Day, celebrating the founding of the People's Republic of China and May 1st, which is International Labor Day. Almost all Chinese get the two holidays off and many take the opportunity to travel. If you want to avoid the crowds, fly, but it should get a lot less busy towards the end of the week.



Getting There

By Plane

The airport is around 27 kilometres outside of town and has flights to most major airports in China. A CAAC bus meets every flight.

By Bus

The main bus station is located on Jianguo Lu just south of the Yellow River. This bus station serves all the cities in Qinghai and several cities in Gansu. There are also several trains a day to Lhasa, depending on the time of the year.

By Train

The train station is located north of the Yellow River at the termination of Jianguo Lu. There are trains to every major city in China and a few cities in Qinghai.



Getting Around

Xining is located on the Yellow River in a valley. Most of the city is on the south side of the bank. The city centre is located in the western part of the city and is easy to walk around.

By Public Transport

Taxis are all over town and start at 6 rmb.





You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)



Keep Connected


Wangba (联网) means internet bar in Chinese. Almost every town will have an internet bar or gaming center. The best way to spot an internet bar is to look for the 网(ba) character, which means net, and large digitized images of computer game characters. Often, there will be a sign saying Green Power in English at the entrance. Most gaming centers cost about RMB3 an hour. You prepay at the main desk and are then given a plastic card or a piece of paper. Once you are done you return the card or piece of paper and get reimbursed for the money you didn't spend. Be prepared for a place that might be dingy, basic and messy. Internet bars in China tend to get crowded starting in the late afternoon to the late evenings.

Some hotels provide access from the rooms that may or may not be free; others may provide a wireless service or a few desktops in the lounge area.
Also, quite a few cafes provide free wireless Internet service. Some cafes, even provide a machine for customer use.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to China is 86. To make an international call from China, the code is 00.

When making international phone calls it is best to buy an IP card. They typically have a value of ¥100 but sometimes can be had for as little as ¥25. The cards have printed Chinese instructions, but after dialing the number listed on the card English-spoken instructions are available. As a general indication of price, a call from China to Europe lasts around 22 minutes with a ¥100 card. Calls to the U.S. and Canada are advertised to be another 20% cheaper. There is no warning before the card runs out of minutes.

If you already have a GSM 900/1800 cellphone, you can roam onto Chinese networks, but calls will be very expensive (¥12-35/minute is typical). If you're staying for more than a few days, it will usually be cheaper to buy a prepaid Chinese SIM card; this gives you a Chinese phone number with a certain amount of money preloaded. Chinese tend to avoid phone numbers with the bad-luck digit '4', and vendors will often be happy to offload these "unsellable" SIM-cards to foreigners at a discount. If you need a phone as well, prices start around ¥100/200 used/new. Chinese phones, unlike those sold in many Western countries, are never "locked" and will work with any SIM card you put in them. China's two big operators are China Mobile and China Unicom. Most SIMs sold by the two work nationwide, with Unicom allowing Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan usage as well. There is usually a surcharge of about ¥1/min when roaming outside the province you bought the SIM, and there are some cards that work only in a single province, so check when buying.


China Post (中国邮政) is the official postal service of the People's Republic of China, operated by the State Postal Bureau of the People's Republic of China (website in Chinese only), and has more details about price to send letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically as well as internationally. The Chinese postal service is very good. Remember that in more remote places usually only one post office in a city can handle sending international boxes or letters. Also many times it might be worth having the name of the country you are trying to send to in Chinese characters, because small town people might not know what Estonia is in English. Post offices have a striking green logo and can easily be found everywhere in the cities. They are mostly open every day (including weekends!) from 8:00am to 6:00pm, though small offices might have shorter opening times, while the bigger ones in central and touristic areas are sometimes open during evenings as well.

Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 36.6306136
  • Longitude: 101.784693

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