The large city of Xining acts as one of the major gateways to the Tibetan Plateau. It is an ancient highland city on the Yellow River which offers many scenic spots and historical sites. Although the city itself has a strong Islamic flavor, as it is home to many Hui people, you will start getting a more Tibetan feel as you move away from the city.
The airport bus makes a run from somewhere in town 2 hours before the flight departs and heads back to the city centre whenever a flight lands. The bus stand is directly in front of the exit door. The 30min ride to/from the airport ¥21. For taxi, it costs ¥100 to/from the airport.
Most useful train tickets are completely bought up by the Xining mafia many days before travel - buy well in advance (eg, be prepared to queue at 5 or 6 in the morning 5 days before travel), or find black market connections and be prepared for a premium that may be well in excess of the ticket price. (eg 1,500 yuan for a 500 yuan Lhasa ticket)
Xining's main station is under renovation for the upcoming high-speed rail to Lanzhou and Urumqi, with construction set to complete in 2014. The temporary West Station is currently in use. Be aware that pickpockets operate outside the station near the crowded buses where the police do not go.
As of 2011, a metered taxi journey between Xining West (Xiningxi) Station and the center of town should be slightly less than 20 yuan - some local taxi drivers may refuse to take foreigners at meter rates.
There are plenty of buses that get you around town. The most useful is bus #1 that runs through the centre of town along Dajie to the train/bus station. All fares are ¥1 regardless of distance. Please note that most of the bus services end around 9pm, and maybe even earlier during the winter season.
North Mountain Temple, (North of the city, bus 10 or 11 will take you there). Taoist Temple in the hills. At the moment a lot of it is closed for safety reasons. This includes the walkways between man-made caves in the mountain. There is a pagoda above, on the hill. From here there is a great view over the city.Temple ¥5; pagoda ¥2. edit
Dongguan Mosque (东关清真大寺; Dōngguān Qīngzhēndàsì), Dongguan Street (东关大街; Dōngguāndàjiē) (Bus 1, 2, 23). edit The main mosque in Xining. A spectacular site when ten of thousands of Muslims gather for prayer during the morning of Hari Raya Puasa.
Northern Ch'An Monastery. See the Taoist Tulou (Rammed-earth Pavillion)edit
Tibetan Wildlife Zoo, (Number 41 bus west (From central area), number 30 from the highway next to Lete Guesthouse. Get off at 殷家庄 (There is a brown sign for the zoo at the intersection, or ask the bus driver) and then walk up the hill to the south). til 6pm. The zoo is a little rundown and if you have never been to a Chinese zoo then you may not like the way the animals are kept. That said, some of the animals (Monkeys and big cats) are actually pretty good and seem healthy and happy. The zoo won't be winning any awards but if you have some spare time and want to spend 2 - 3 hours somewhere, the zoo is an ok distraction30Y for entry, main zoo animals and Big cats safari. Extra for Aquarium and other attractions. edit
The Banks in Xining only accepts foreign credit cards, not debit cards. The only exeption is the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China(中国工商银行）, and "China Construction Bank"（中国建设银行） accepts Bank of America debit cards. (As of 03/09/2012, Bank of China accepted a foreign Visa Debit Card with no problems)
Handmade Tibetan Handicrafts can be bought at the AmdoCafe (see Eat section under Cafes).
There is a very interesting Tibetan Market close to the Eastern Railway Station and opposite the long distance Bus Station.
Xining's main minority groups provide a large portion of the food on offer. The Hui, a broad term for Chinese Muslims, serve up spicy noodles, lamb kababs and flatbread (bing). Tibetan food choices are concentrated around the train station, mostly small places the serve momos and noodles and seat guests on small coaches.
There is a restaurant area right next to the Shuijing Xiang Bazaar, in the center of the city, and throughout the evening and into the night there are many street stalls serving good food around Ximen and on the western side of Jianguo Road.
Mojia Market, Mojia Lu (off Dong Dajia). 6AM-whenever. The front end of the market has many small snack stands selling spicy ground meat birds egg pizza-style bing (¥3), spicier Liangpi noodle (¥4.5) and mouth cooling bowl-set yoghurt with a creaming texture and slightly sour/citrus flavour (¥3). Further into the market mounds of dried fruit and nuts from the region can be bought by weight.edit
Western food options are very slim, but not bad for a city so remote.
Casa Mia (卡萨米亚意大利餐厅), No.10-4 West Wu Si Road, Chengxi District （五四西路10-4）, ☎ 0971-6311272. 10am-10pm. as to October 2013 Casa Mia does not exit anymore. It has been replaced by a ripoff called Bolonia that has mediocare chinese bersion of italian food.¥30-150. edit
KFC (肯德基), Near the Wangfujing Shopping Mall, Xi Dajie, ☎ 0971-8227987. 6am-10pm. There are a total of three KFC's in the city, but this is by far the most centrally located.edit
The city is littered with small coffee shops, especially around the newer apartment complexes that are being developed. See below for some of the better ones.
AmdoCafe, Ledu Road (East of International Village), ☎ 8213127, . 9AM-8PM. This coffee shop, which also offers AmdoCraft Tibetan Handicraft products, provides a relaxed, quiet atmosphere in which to sip and sample real, fresh-brewed coffee, or sup on steaming pastries, cakes, and cookies. The coffee is some of the most inexpensive real coffee in the area. Free WIFI.edit
Cafe Java, 47 Haiyan Road (海晏路47号9-1号铺) (Opposite of Culture Park), ☎ 0971-6314012, . 8:30am-9:30pm. Expat couple from the UK opened this cafe in 2009. Excellent coffee and home-made food at a great price. Favourite dishes include Mexican Wraps, Chilli, Bagels of all kinds, Pancakes & Waffles with sweet or savoury toppings. Also a great place to meet other foreign residents or expats in Xining. Free wifi.edit
Green House Cafe, Xiadu Avenue, Near Yangshan Villas, ☎ 0971-8202710. Great little cafe opened up by an American expat in Xining. Relaxed atmosphere, good wifi, and, some say, the best coffee in the city. They have desserts and sandwiches as well. edit
A number of bars are located at the end of the city's main snack street. These tiny places each have only a dozen tables, and all offer extensive drink specials. Beer starts at ¥6 for a Tsingtao, but expensive imported liquor is also available. There is usually no cover charge.
Qilin Bay Bar Strip (Qilin Wan), Intersection of Kunlun West and Huanghe Road. A complex of bars by the riverside, built around an atrium. You can't see them from the road, but just below the bridge you will see a number of cars parked, with steps down into the park. About a half dozen or so small bars.edit
Culture Street Bar Strip (文化街酒吧), Culture Street (Wenhua Jie). A large complex with about two dozen bars over three different floors with an open center atrium. You can choose between more relaxed lounge bars, live music venues, or one or two bars that have dance floors on the ground floor. edit
SOHO (苏荷酒吧), 116 Nanguan Street (West Side of Xining Stadium), ☎ 0971-8252991. 9pm-late. SOHO is Xining's most popular nightclub, usually busy past 2am most nights. Lots of tables and a bar, but there is no dancing. Music is mostly live. SOHO is a nightclub franchise in China, but this one apparently is an "unofficial club."edit
No. 88 Bar (88号酒吧), 7-1 Road, Across from the TCM Hospital (七一路中医院斜对面). Similar to SOHO bar, but a larger dance floor. Crowded on the weekends, but a bigger crowd at SOHO.edit
There are dozens of small guesthouses near the train and long distance bus station. Look for the characters "招待所," which in this part of town are on every other building. Most places seem aimable to taking foreigners, and prices range from ¥10 in a grimy four-room bunk (expect the other occupants to smoke in the room all night long) to ¥100 for a deluxe double. More guesthouses can be found around the town's West Gate, or Ximen.
Mandala youth hostel, Nan xiao jie, no.41, house 2E (Opposite the Cheng Dong police station), ☎ +86 971 5229053 (firstname.lastname@example.org). This hostel is a lovely house in a quiet, yet central quarter of Xining. The hostel has been opened recently (2014) and is modern and clean. It is a large, 3-storey villa with a garden. Use of the kitchen is provided and there is no curfew. The Tibetan owner speaks fluent English, and is always more than happy to offer his help in arranging travel in Qinghai. Dorms ¥50, private rooms ¥150. edit
Lete Youth Hostel, 16th Floor, 5# Building, International Village Apartment, ☎ +86 971 8202080 (email@example.com), . In 2011, the hostel has had new management and has undergone many new renovations to the rooms and bar area. Its cozy environment sits high on the 16th floor with beautiful views of the city and mountainous backdrop. It's within walking distance to many downtown shopping areas. The staff speaks English, but note there is a 12 midnight curfew. There is a travel company upstairs that will organise trips in the local province and into the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Dorms ¥30, private rooms ¥120. edit
Qinghai Shuili Hotel (青海省水利宾馆; Qīnghǎishěng Shuǐlì Bīnguǎn), 18-8 Kunlun Road, Chengxi District (城西区昆仑路18-8号; Chéngxīqū Kūnlúnlù. Listed rates for doubles from ¥168, discounted from ¥128, no breakfast. edit
Home Inn (Xining Central Square) (如家快捷酒店 (西宁中心广场店); Rújiākuàijiéjiǔdiàn (Xīníngzhōngxīnguǎngchǎngdiàn)), Near west building of Ximen Gym, Chengzhong District (城中区西门体育馆西附楼; Chéngzhōngqū Xīméntǐyùguǎnxīfùlóu). Doubles from ¥199. edit
Qing Hai Moslem Mansion (Three stars), 65 Qiyi Street, ☎ +86 971 8138011 (fax: +86 971 8138900). Good hotel, near the railway station, heated in winter. Good restaurant, good American breakfast.¥360. edit
Yinlong Hotel (青海银龙酒店; Qīnghǎi Yínlóng Jiǔdiàn), 38 Huanghe Road, Chengxi District (城西区黄河路38号; Chéngxīqū Huánghélù), ☎ +86 971 6166666 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +86 971 6167428), . Five star hotel with rooms with free internet. Business center, beauty salon, ticket office, disco, billiards, fitness, massage and sauna available. Chinese and Western restaurants, coffee shop, bar and room service.Listed rates for doubles from ¥1,480, discounted from ¥1,080, including breakfast. edit
Qinghai Hotel (青海宾馆), No.158 Huanghe Road, ☎ 0971-6148999. Recently renovated (2009). Rooms are spacious and clean. Good facilities and restaurants. A cheaper alternative to the Yinlong Hotel. ¥500-2,000. edit
Many train tickets are completely bought up by the Xining mafia days before travel - buy well in advance, or find black market connections and be prepared for a premium that may be in excess of the ticket price.
The new West train station is in use now. Be aware that pickpockets operate outside the station near the buses where the police do not go.
Ta'er Si (Kunbum) Monestery (塔爾寺) - one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist sites in China, in the village of Huangzhong.
Guide (贵德） - Take a bus to this charming, predominantly tibetan village, beyond the southern mountains.
Trips from Xining travel agencies offer apparently cheap 60 yuan day trips to Qinghaihu National Park. This price does not include entry to 丹噶尔 old town (50 yuan), 赞普林卡 (40 yuan), 日月山（40 yuan) or the wharf at Qinghaihu (100 yuan) [the 'park' itself]. The last of these seems the most overpriced for what it is - but you are expected to pay. There may be a couple of forced shopping stops, including a minimum 30-minute wait at a jade/crystal sales outlet.