How to Travel from Nepal to Tibet?
- by Catherine
- Last Updated: 2023-10-13
A trip from Nepal to Tibet offers you an opportunity to enjoy the profound Buddhist culture, breathtaking Himalayan landscapes, and explore the hidden connections between the two tourist destinations. There are currently two options for traveling to Tibet from Nepal. You can either take a car crossing Gyirong Port or take a plane to Lhasa Gonggar Airport. Whichever way you choose, all foreign travelers must first obtain the Tibet Travel Permit through a Tibet travel agency before you enter Tibet. Here are details about how to go to Tibet from Nepal and how to get the permit.
Why Travel from Nepal to Tibet?
The connections between Tibet and Nepal go back to ancient times. Nepal is the only way from ancient India to Tibet. As early as the Tang Dynasty, the Nepalese princess came to Tibet and married Tibet King Songtsen Gampo. Since then, close trade relations have been maintained between the two adjacent kingdoms, and the religious relations between the two places are also very close. So far, many famous Tibetan Buddhist monasteries have been preserved in Nepal, so Nepal has become the kingdom behind Tibet.
If you travel from Nepal to Tibet, you are just following the footsteps of the ancient Buddhist pilgrims who made a promise in their lifetime to visit the holy shrines and temples of these two ancient kingdoms.
How to Travel from Nepal to Tibet?
You can either board a flight to Lhasa, Tibet from Kathmandu, Nepal or take an overland tour to Tibet. The straight-line distance between Kathmandu and Lhasa is 609 kilometers, while the land distance is about 1,300 kilometers.
Take a plane from Kathmandu to Lhasa
The fastest way and most convenient to reach Lhasa from Kathmandu is by plane. Nepal is the only country that has offered direct international flights to Tibet in the past but it has not yet resumed. Nepal’s main airport is the Tribhuvan International Airport which is around 6 kilometers from Kathmandu's downtown.
Now there are only connecting flights between Lhasa and Kathmandu, operated independently by Sichuan Airlines and Air China. It usually takes about 18 hours to get to Lhasa from Kathmandu by air and costs about $520 for a one-way ticket.
Equipped with your passport and China group visa, you can easily board a flight to Lhasa. Upon arrival at Lhasa, your Tibetan tour guide will greet you with your Tibet Travel Permit at the customs.
Travel Tips: The direct flight from Nepal to Tibet will bring you a stunning aerial view of the mountain tops - Mount Everest (8844.43 meters) and the incredible Himalayas. Since there will be a huge ascent from Kathmandu Valley (1,400 meters) to Lhasa (3,658 meters), it is best to take a good rest in the first few days in Lhasa to accommodate the altitude change. >> See more about the flight schedules from Kathmandu to Lhasa.
Take a Car From Nepal to Tibet
If you opt for the overland journey, you should be ready for a great ride across a 1,300-km road trip that usually takes 3 to 5 days to complete. Along the Sino-Nepal Highway, also known as the Friendship Highway, you will cross the majestic Himalayas to Gyirong Port, witness the north face of lofty Mt.Everest at Everest Base Camp, appreciate stunning holy lake Yamdrokts, and finally arrive in Lhasa to worship the Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple.
The overland route: Kathmandu → Gyirong → Tingri → EBC → Shigatse → Lhasa
And of course, if you want to have an in-depth Tibet tour and cover Mt.Kailash in your journey, you can turn to the west after crossing the Gyirong Port then go trekking at the holiest mountain Kailash and appreciate the stunning lake Manasarovar. After your visit, get back to the Sino-Nepal Highway and travel to Lhasa. The whole tour takes about 12 days.
The overland route: Kathmandu → Gyirong → Zhongba → Darchen → Saga → EBC → Shigatse → Lhasa
Take a Train from Nepal to Tibet
So far, there is no railway linking Lhasa and Kathmandu. But the railway between Lhasa and Kathmandu is being designed by the governments of China and Nepal. It is said that the famous Qinghai-Tibet Railway will extend from Lhasa to Kathmandu. The first extension project of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway from Lhasa to Shigatse has been completed. In the near future, you might be able to take the train from Kathmandu to Lhasa.
The Necessary Permits for Entering Tibet
As a foreign traveler, you can only enter Tibet from Nepal through an organized group tour. To join an organized tour, you need to secure the necessary documents and permits like the Tibet Travel Permit and the China Group Visa.
Tibet Travel Permit
The Tibet Travel Permit is a "must-have" permit for all foreign tourists who want to enter Tibet via Nepal. It is also referred to as Tibet Entry Permit or Tibet Visa. You cannot board a flight to Tibet or pass through the borders between Nepal and Tibet if you do not have this permit. It can only be applied through a registered Tibet Travel Agency on behalf of the individual traveler. Please confirm your tour and send a scanned copy of your valid passport to your travel agency at least 10 days before your departure date.
However, if you are a journalist, diplomat, or government official, your application for Tibet Travel Permit will be handled by the Tibet Foreign Affairs Office. In other words, all the Tibet Travel agencies can't handle the permit for you.
On the other hand, if you are an Indian passport holder who wants to visit Mt. Kailash, you can secure your Tibet Travel Permit with the help of the Pilgrim Center or Foreign Affairs Office.
At present, any citizen of the 178 countries that have diplomatic ties with China can apply for Tibet Travel Permit.
China Group Visa
Another necessary document is the China Group Visa. From Nepal to Tibet, you don't need a China Visa but a China Group Visa. Upon arrival at Kathmandu, you can apply for a China Group Visa at the People's Republic of China's Consulate by taking your invitation letter, passport, 2 passport-sized photos with a white background and the visa cost. Or you can entrust your travel agency to process it for you by spending USD20 as the service fee. The processing of this visa usually takes around 3 working days. Hence, you should leave at least 3 days in Kathmandu before your scheduled tour of Tibet. Please note, from May 2023, China Group Visa only issued per 4 participants.
How to Secure a China Group Visa?
There are three requirements to qualify for a group visa.
- You need an official China group visa invitation letter coming from the Tibet Tourism Bureau.
- There should be a minimum of four persons in your group.
- All your group members should enter and leave Tibet at the same time through the same entry point and exit point.
Nota Bene: We suggest you leave more than 3 working days in Kathmandu as the Chinese Embassy only accepts visa applications between 10 am to 12 pm on workdays. If you want to get your China Group Visa in 3 days, you need to submit it between 10 am and 12 pm in the morning of Mon till Wed, you can get your China Group Visa at 5 pm on Wed till Fri. Please contact our travel consultants for professional advice.
Traveling from Nepal to Tibet is always an exciting tour whether you travel by air or by land. The Nepal-Tibet flight is the fastest and most convenient way to reach Tibet from another country. You will get a bird’s eye view of Mt.Everest and the Himalayas during this flight. The overland route, on the other hand, between Nepal and Tibet is full of spectacular sceneries and surprising sites along the way. Both options are great!
As a reputable local Tibet Travel Agency, from our decades of experience and communication with thousands of clients, we recommend our customers fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa for a safer and better experience. Join us and start your memorable adventure in Nepal and Tibet now!
Tourists can get a Nepal visa on arrival when reaching Kathmandu airport or road borders at Birganj, Sunauli, etc. $30 for a 15-day entry Nepal tourist visa.
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