Aston has been in Xi’an since 2001. Our first location was opened on Dong Da Jie (East Main Street), right in the middle of the city. We have since then expanded to seven more locations. The second location was opened in 2004 to the south of the Old City walls, near the Big Goose Pagoda in the “Xiao Zhai” district near many of the foreign language universities. The third location opened in 2009 in eastern Xi’an near Changle Park and continues to grow. The fourth location was opened in northern Xi’an on the west side of the ancient Ming Dynasty palace. In 2013, our school in the Gaoxin District was opened. Gaoxin district is a booming area for business. The 6th location, which is still part of Gaoxin, was opened in 2015. In 2019, the location has moved to a bigger location to accommodate growing number of students. In March 2019, the 7th school was officially opened. It’s located in Banpo District. It is in the outskirt of the city. Commute is not a problem since it’s near a subway line. Combined, we have over 3500 young learners studying at Xi’an Aston English School.
Xi’an Aston is one of the “hub cities” of the Aston Educational Group. Teachers come from all over western China to receive their initial training (Aston TCERT: Teacher’s Certification) before returning to their cities and beginning the term. If you are planning to travel in your off time, these people would be the perfect contacts to have. After a few months in their own new homes, they’ll know the best places to see, eat, and drink.
Due to our large staff numbers and two locations, Xi’an Aston owns and rents a number of apartments throughout the city. While each of these has its own unique character, we have taken great care to ensure all are high quality and suitable to our standards. We also try very hard to get all of the individual preferences of our teachers fulfilled. We always strive to find an apartment placement that suits our teacher’s needs and special requests. All types of concerns are taken into account when assigning apartments to incoming teachers, including smoking status, age, physical limitations, and personality are taken into account. Since X’ian Aston has different apartments for our foreign teachers’ accommodation, we are usually able to take into account everyone’s wishes. All the apartments for our schools are also located within a block or two of each other, making socializing extremely easy yet (being spread across a variety of buildings) giving you your own feeling of space and community. In fact, everything you will ever ask for is within a stone’s throw: thousands of shops, restaurants, malls, cinemas, bars and clubs, beautiful parks etc.
With the meter starting at 8.5 RMB, you should be able to travel between any two places within the city walls for not much more than 12-17 RMB. Occasionally, particularly in the area around the train station, the driver might try to bargain with you about the price instead of using the meter. If this is the case, find another taxi – you are not going to get a good deal!
Didi is a Chinese version of Uber. All you need to do it to download the English phone application. Communicating with the driver is easier because you can message the him/her in English and it will automatically be translated in Chinese and visa verse.
Tuktuks and motorcycles
Taxis can often be difficult to find in Xi’an, especially around rush-hour, which is infuriatingly when they switch shifts. Tuktuks and motorcycle cabs are illegal, horribly dangerous, and often more expensive than a metered cab. Have fun!
The public bus system is a good method of traveling in and around Xi’an as cheaply as possible. Payment is usually 1- 2RMB, which is either put into the box near the driver when you get on the bus, otherwise there will be someone on the bus that will come to you to collect payment and give you a ticket when you tell them your destination. Drivers and ticket sellers usually don’t speak English, so make sure you know when to get off the bus before you get on it. Buses are often crowded, pushing and shoving is to be expected. Passengers enter at the front of the bus, exit at the back. Remember to keep your valuables safe. Google Maps and its Chinese counterpart, Baidu Maps, now give directions from place to place using the bus system.
You can also get a public transport card from any subway station, which you can top up at any subway station ticket vending machines. This card gives you reduced fares on buses and the Subway in Xi’an.
Currently, Xi’an has four subway lines. Travelling around the city becomes much more convenient. Due to the increase of number of expats in Xi’an, there are many subway staff who could communicate in English in their own simple way. Subway card vending machines have English options.
Crossing the road in Xi’an, or any other Chinese city, requires more care than in many western countries. Take note that cars can still turn even when waiting at a red light. Just because there’s a sign that says it’s a one-way street, doesn’t make it so. Traditionally, the bigger the transportation vehicle, the more priority it has over pedestrians. This is particularly true for places where there are no traffic lights at pedestrian crossings. Pedestrians often cross the road one lane at a time, so be prepared to stand between rows of traffic waiting for a space to cross. Drivers will often drive around you as you cross, so it’s usually not a good idea to change your mind and step backwards, just carry on walking. The most important idea is not to do anything sudden or unpredictable. If in doubt, cross with a Chinese person!
What is there to do here?
All seven locations are located in urban centers of Xi’an, so most of your needs can be met within the immediate vicinity of your apartment. Bars and restaurants are everywhere. Below you’ll find a few suggestions, but your personal favorites will probably be personally discovered or recommended by the friends you make here!
YangrouPaomo羊肉泡馍This Xi’an specialty is a mutton soup with torn strips of bread. It’s a hearty meal with hints of pepper and cilantro.
Liang Pi(r) 凉皮 This cold noodle dish is served with sesame and peanut sauce and your choice for a level of spiciness. It’s a refreshing mid-day snack in the summer.
Baozi包子These steamed dumplings have a rice-bread outside filled with just about anything you can think of. They’re a cheap and delicious solution to breakfast. I recommend the meat, red bean paste, or pumpkin.
JianbingGuozi煎饼果子This is China’s answer to the crepe. A little heavier on the egg than its French counterpart, it’s also filled with crispy potato and sausage. You’ll Find a few guys with carts set up in the mornings.
Waimai. Ordering food from your apartment becomes more convenient. There is a wide-range of selection from Chinese to Western food. The delivery would just cost around 5 RMB for local restaurants and 9 RMB for fast food restaurants. The drawback is that this phone application is in Chinese. You can ask for help from our Chinese staff to do a tutorial.
For your essentials, there are smaller grocery stores almost everywhere, but for all your one-stop shopping, you can head to the larger places. Wal-mart is here, with several locations around the city. Vanguard and RenRen Le are Chinese equivalents.
Pharmacies can likewise be found everywhere and are often indicated with a green cross. They usually don’t carry foreign brands, so ask your Chinese friends or veteran co-workers for recommendations. If the pharmacist can understand you, they’ll also have some recommendations, but will often also recommend you more expensive things or things that won’t harm you, but also have no effect on your condition. Many teachers take this opportunity to try Chinese remedies. While most of us aren’t used to them, many of the traditional solutions here are more effective than western methods.
There are several large malls near each location for clothes shopping, but if you’re looking for a deal on something with personality, just north of Aston 2 is the Baihui Market 百汇市场. While fashions here are different than back home, walking through the plethora of stalls in this shopping area can often yield some surprising finds. Don’t forget to haggle!
Taobao is like heaven for those shopaholics. You name it, you have it. Taobao is the Chinese version of amazon but cheaper and faster. It's great go to for all things and especially those difficult to find. Taobao does everything from: food and drinks, clothes and shoes (larger sizes available), electronics, homeware, western medicine and way much more. Once you get used to it taobao is easy and convenient it can be your best friend for finding things and your bank accounts worse enemy.
Taobao does require alipay (a Chinese payment app) so after you have your Chinese bank set up ask a Chinese friend or someone at your school with help setting it up. Happy shopping.
Xi’an has an extremely vibrant nightlight, and you’ll doubtlessly establish your local haunt before long. Here’s a few recommendations!
On the Road and Aperture- these two bars are right next to each other, further up the road from the Claypot Rice Place on Juhuayuan. As you keep walking up the street you’ll pass a restaurant/hotel and then here will be an alley on your right with buildings on one side and a parking lot on the other. Both of these bars often have live music and are located the closest to the apartments of Aston 1.
Jano’s Backpackers(The Belgian Bar) is located just east of South Gate down a small road right next to the wall. This is a fairly new bar and is foreign owned. The owner‘s name is Bart and he has made sure his bar has the biggest selection of Belgian beer in Xi’an.
Defu Xiang 德福巷has been named “Bar Street” by the expat community mostly because that’s all that’s there! There’s so many bars here that they never seem to get busy. Walking down South Street you’ll take a right through the big gate before you get to the wall and then right at the fork of the road. It will wind around further to the right and you’ll find yourself in this neon nightmare.
Xi’an Brewery Xi'an brewery in the Dayanta area is a great place to hang out with friends and enjoy a craft brew. Made on site, their craft beers are great for someone who enjoys a pint. If beer isn't your thing they also have cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks. Their menu also includes many western dishes like Hamburgers and ribs. The sister location is Nearwall, which, like the bame suggests, is near the wall. Located close to south gate, Nearwall has a more limited food menu than Xi'an brewery but an extensive drink menu. The hamburger at Nearwall is very good.
Parkqin has been an expat favorite here for as long as anyone can remember. Heading down South Street, you’ll find an alley just before you hit the wall. Turn right and you’ll see Hosteling International signs and the “Shuyuan Youth Hostel.” Upstairs is a coffee shop with decent food at decent prices, and downstairs is one of the most popular bars in town with foreigners and Chinese alike.
Starbucks:Xi’an has not escaped the invasion, so you’ll never be too far from a decent cup of coffee. There are some located in the centre of Xi’an: There’s one on East Street, on the corner of the Xingzheng Yuan shopping mall, underneath Kaiyuan shopping mall at the south-east corner of the Bell Tower, and also to the west of the Bell Tower, as you walk towards the Drum tower. If you want a break from cigarette smoke, head to Starbucks, one of the few non-smoking places you’ll find in Xi’an.
Village Café and Sculpting in Timeare two western-style coffee shops on Shida Lu 师大路 south of Aston 2 towards the TV tower. Village Café has much better food, and Sculpting in Time has better drinks and a nicer atmosphere.
Café BeneThis is one of the new coffee shops increasing in number around the city.
Maan Coffee – a Korean style coffee shop with multiple locations in the city.
Gym habits are something that’s been catching on recently in China, so you’ll find places to exercise more and more common. Unfortunately there’s not located immediately around the schools, and very few Chinese of the staff attend. The best bet is to ask one of your FT co-workers which one they go to. Most gyms cost around 1000RMB for the year. Very few gyms offer shorter memberships.