Travel to Tibet from China

  • by Liffity
  • Last Updated: 2020-05-26

Known as the "Roof of the World," Tibet is definitely a mysterious and beautiful place to visit. Its seemingly isolated location—hemmed by the Himalayas and other natural barriers—has allowed it to evolve its own unique culture that has been well-preserved up to contemporary times. Because of this lofty location, traveling to Tibet has long been thought of as difficult. Contrariwise, traveling to Tibet nowadays, however, is no longer difficult for there are many modern means of transportation that would enable you to conveniently reach Tibet. Hence, if you are a wanderlust, you should always have Tibet on your tourist radar.

Currently, Tibet can be entered either from Nepal or from mainland China. In this article, we will mainly talk about traveling to Tibet from China, from which you can experience age-old history, amazing natural scenery as well as the unique Buddhist culture in a journey.

 Reaching Tibet via Mainland China by Train

Tibet has been readily made accessible from mainland China by the Qinghai-Tibet Railway which is the highest railway network in the world and an engineering marvel. Inaugurated on July 1, 2006, this railway was the first of its kind to connect the Tibet Autonomous Region. Because of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, is now conveniently reachable by train from mainland China.

Lots of tourists head to Tibet by train.

Having a train tour to Tibet through the Qinghai-Tibet railway is a good experience for all travelers.

Many tourists prefer the train to the other modes of transportation going to Tibet because it is the cheapest and very comfortable means of traveling from mainland China to Tibet. It affords a fantastic view of the scenic spots along the span of the Qinghai-Tibet railway with the snow-capped mountains, charming villages, rolling grasslands, crystal clear lakes, and pristine wilderness as backdrops during your train travel. Moreover, with the availability of railroad networks from the different major cities of mainland China, you can now reach Tibet by boarding a train from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi'an, and Xining any day of the week; while you can board a train going to Tibet from Chengdu, Chongqing, and Lanzhou every other day.

Traveling to Tibet by train is popular with travelers and train tickets are usually in large demand. From April to October, millions of travelers flooded into Tibet by train. During the high season, it's hard to get a ticket, and it's unlikely to get a ticket on your own. You'd better book your tour in advance so that we can manage a ticket for you.

Types of Train Accommodations

These trains going to Tibet are characterized by three kinds of accommodations. First, you can choose among hard seater, hard sleeper, and soft sleeper. Hard sleeper cabins generally have 6 beds; while soft sleeper cabins have four beds in each compartment. All the trains leading to Lhasa come with basic facilities like washbasins, toilets, a dining car with drinks and food, and charging points. Moreover, these trains are equipped with centralized oxygen supply systems that readily activate at a certain altitude or point along with the travel. These oxygen supply systems help prevent passengers from developing altitude sickness that typically occurs if one moves abruptly from a low-altitude to a high-altitude place.

Ticket prices of these trains, however, vary according to the season and the date you would travel. Most passengers—to ensure that they would be able to book a ticket—usually book their tickets three months in advance, especially, during the high tourism season.

Overland Travel to Tibet

Aside from train travel, there are now many road networks leading to Tibet. Road travel is the most adventurous and exhilarating way to reach Tibet. It is also the best way to get a firsthand experience of the way of life of the native Tibetans and their culture. It also allows you to discover hidden spots and gems along the way. However, it is the most time-consuming and expensive way to reach Tibet. It is time-consuming because it takes more than a week to reach Tibet by road from mainland China.

China is the main gateway for international travelers who plan a tour in Tibet. Tibet is reachable through the highways of the nearby provinces.

China is the main gateway for international travelers who plan a tour in Tibet.

There are five overland routes going to Tibet, and interestingly, four of them originate from mainland China. The other one is from Nepal. These four overland routes include Yunnan-Tibet Highway, Sichuan-Tibet Highway, Qinghai-Tibet Highway, and Xinjiang-Tibet Highway.

Qinghai-Tibet Highway

This highway begins in Xining and culminates at Lhasa. It usually takes eight days to completely travel through this highway. This highway spans almost 1,947 km and it traverses a road network with an average elevation of 4,500m. It starts at Xining and passes Daotan River, Caka, Golmud, wudaoliang, Tuotuo riverside, yanshiping, Tanggula Mountains, Amdo, Nagqu, Damxung, Yangbajain, and ends in Lhasa.

Sichuan-Tibet Highway

This highway starts at Chengdu and branches into two viable routes, namely: the southern route and the northern route. The northern route is almost 2,293 kilometers and starts at Chengdu and passes through Yingxiu, Danba, Bamei, Garze, Dege, Qamdo, Nagqu, Yangbajing, and ends in Lhasa. The southern route, on the other hand, is 2,149 kilometers long, and also starts at Chengdu and passes by Kangding, Litang, Markam, Zogang, Ranwu, Nyingchi, and ends in Lhasa.

Xinjian-Tibet Highway

This highway is almost 2,086 kilometers and offers awesome views along the way. This highway also branches into two viable routes, namely: the southern and the northern route. The southern route begins at Kashigar and passes through Yecheng, Domar, Rutong, Shiquanhe, Zanda, Darchen, Zhongba, Saga, Lhaze, Shigatse, and ends at Lhasa. The northern route, on the other hand, also starts at Kashigar and passes along Yecheng, Domar Rutong, Shiquanhe, Xiongba, Renduo, Wenbu, Nyima, Baingoin, and ends in Lhasa.

Yunnan-Tibet Highway

This highway covers a distance of 2,086 kilometers and also offers fantastic tourist spots and views along the way. It starts at Kunming and passes via Dali, Lijiang, Deqin, Yanjing, Mmarkam, Ranwu, Tongmai, Nyingchi, Bayi, Kongpo, Gyambda, Medrogungkar, and ends in Lhasa.

Flights to Tibet from Various Mainland Cities

Although train travel to Tibet is the cheapest and most exciting way to travel to Tibet, travel by plane, however, is the fastest and most convenient transportation mode to Tibet. The only downside of traveling by plane is that you would miss seeing the mesmerizing and fabulous views along the way if you travel by train.

Most people choose to fly to Tibet from mainland China.

You can fly to Tibet from most cities in China within a few hours.

The good thing, however, about plane travel to Lhasa is that there are now more flights going to Lhasa than before. Tourists nowadays can fly to Lhasa from mainland cities like Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Kunming, Xining, Guangzhou, and Xi'an. Nyingchi and Shigatse are also reachable from Chengdu, and as of the moment, flights originating from Chengdu are the most numerous.

So, if possible, we suggest you take a plane to Tibet from Chengdu because it has more daily flights and offers you more options. During high season, at least 12 direct flights to Lhasa are available in Chengdu, makes your journey more convenient.

Since Lhasa Gonggar Airport is situated at a very high altitude of around 3,570 meters above sea level, you should be prepared for the abrupt change in air pressure in order to avoid altitude sickness. Moreover, the price of flight tickets from the following cities varies according to the season of travel.

Remember, you need to show your Tibet Travel Permit to board the plane.

Beijing to Tibet Flight

Beijing, the capital of China, offers two flights daily to Lhasa. One of these two flights is a direct flight to Tibet, while the other one makes a stopover at Chengdu. Direct flight from Beijing to Tibet usually takes around 4 hours and 30 minutes. One airline that offers this direct flight is Air China.

Chengdu to Tibet Flight

Chengdu is basically the stopover point of most flights to Tibet because it is the closest to Tibet. Every day, there are flights from Chengdu to Tibet. Flights from Chengdu to Tibet usually take 2 hours. Airlines that operate flights to Tibet from Chengdu include Tibet Airlines, Air China, Sichuan Airlines, and China Eastern Airlines.

Guangzhou to Tibet Flight

There is one flight to Lhasa from Guangzhou that makes a stopover at Chongqing. This flight is offered by China Southern Airlines. This flight's duration is around 6 hours.

Kunming to Tibet Flight

From Kunming, you can board a direct flight to Lhasa. These flights are operated by China Eastern Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, and Tibet Airlines and the duration of these flights is around 3 hours.

Shanghai to Tibet Flight

Shanghai is a transportation hub in China. Many tourists make Shanghai their entry point to the inner mainland China. From Shanghai, there is one flight to Tibet offered by China Eastern Airways which makes a stopover at Xi'an.

Chongqing To Tibet Flight

There are generally 9 direct flights to Lhasa from Chongqing, and these flights are operated by Tibet Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, and Sichuan Airlines. From Chongqing, you can reach Lhasa after two hours and forty-five minutes

Tibet Travel Permit

If ever you would travel to Tibet as a foreigner, the prerequisite permits that you should secure beforehand are the Chinese Visa and Tibet Travel Permit. You can apply for the Chinese Visa through the Chinese Embassy in your country, and apply for Tibet Travel Permit with your Chinese Visa. However, Tibet Travel Permit won't be issued to individual travelers, and foreign travelers must have their tours in organized groups. Therefore, you need to book your Tibet tour before entering Tibet. After that, please send the scans of your Chinese Visa and passport to your chosen travel agency. With the info of your fixed itinerary, tour guide, accommodation, driver, Chinese visa, passport, etc. your travel agency can apply for your travel permit prior to your departure date. Usually, your travel agency will secure the travel permit within 7-10 working days. Then we will hand this Tibet Travel Permit to you once you arrive in China. Other necessary permits when traveling in Tibet are the Alien's Travel Permit or Military Permit that allows you to travel outside of Lhasa or go to the backend of Tibet. Please no worries, your travel agency will obtain all the permits for you according to your tour package. Lastly, you must present your Tibet Travel permit when boarding a train or plane in Tibet.

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