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Travel to Tibet from United States

Every year, more than 50,000 Americans travel to Tibet. The tourist season in Tibet is mostly in spring and autumn when the weather is suitable for hiking and sightseeing. The most popular destinations for American tourists are Lhasa and the trip to Everest Base Camp. Here, we explain how easy it is to travel to Tibet from the US, and the best way to travel.

How to Travel to Tibet from the US

When traveling from the United States, there are two ways to go to Tibet. One is to fly into China and take a flight or train to Lhasa; the other is to fly into Nepal and fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa, alternatively you can take an overland tour from Kathmandu to Lhasa, along the China-Nepal highway.

Option I - Flights from US to Tibet via Mainland China

When traveling from the US to mainland China, Americans can choose from multiple departure and destination cities in the two countries. Due to the large number of flights from the United States to China, many of which are direct to China without stopovers, tourists can visit Tibet relatively easily.

In the Pacific time zone, flights depart from Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco. While in the mountain time zone, flights depart from Phoenix, Denver, and Salt Lake City. Flights from the central time zone of the US depart from Dallas, Michigan, Chicago and Mississippi. From the eastern coast, you may depart from New York, New Jersey, Miami, Tampa, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia.

You can fly to Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, and Xi'an. These cities are the gateway cities for trains or flights to Tibet. You can even fly directly to Hong Kong and transfer to Lhasa from there. The journey to China takes 14-18 hours, depending on the departure and arrival airport, and costs 350-1500 USD per person.

Fly from Mainland China to Tibet

If you plan to fly to Lhasa from mainland China, then you have many choices. There are regular direct flights to Lhasa Gonggar International Airport from Beijing, Chengdu, Xi'an, Chongqing, Xining, Shangri-La and other places. Chengdu is the most popular departure city for Lhasa, with the largest number of flights to Lhasa every day. It takes about 2h 30m and costs about 220 USD per person. Beijing is also a popular starting point for Lhasa, with regular direct flights to Lhasa. It takes about 4h 30m and costs 500 USD per person. The flight is the fastest and most convenient way to get to Tibet.

Take a Train from Mainland China to Tibet

There are seven gateway cities that provide trains from mainland China to Tibet, including Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou and Xining. You can also choose to take the train from Xi’an, but this can only be done in the off-season because the trains in Xi’an actually depart from Guangzhou and Shanghai. The fastest option is to depart from Xining, and it is usually the best choice for peak months because there are more trains from Xining to Tibet than any other city with more seats and more berths. So your chances of buying tickets from Xining are greater than in any other city. Although taking a train is slower, it is much cheaper than taking a plane, not to mention the beautiful scenery along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

Although the flight is faster, it is more expensive than the train, and the average train fare is less than half of the average ticket fare from the same city especially if you are flying from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc. However, the train speed is very slow and it takes 21 to 53 hours to reach Tibet.

Option II - Travel to Tibet from US via Nepal

If you plan to visit Tibet from Nepal, you can take a flight to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Since there is no direct flight from the US to Kathmandu, you can choose the connecting flights, which take about 18 to 30 hours including stopover time. This is still a viable option for passengers who wish to visit Tibet from Nepal.

Once you arrive in Kathmandu, there are 2 ways to go to Tibet. The first choice is by plane. Direct flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa are available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, starting from 17 April, you will land in Tibet after 1.5 hours. However, you can also choose to drive along the Friendship Highway, the famous highway that connects Kathmandu with Lhasa, and you’ll have a view of the plateau landscape such as Himalayan peaks, magnificent Buddhist temples and sacred mountain lakes.

Compared with flying, land travel from Kathmandu to Lhasa is more popular among American travelers. Our Nepali driver will send you to the Nepal-Tibet border. After you pass through customs at Gyirong Port, our Tibet guide will pick you up at the Tibet side. Due to the altitude increase, you will stay overnight at Gyirong Town to acclimatize the altitude then gradually go east to visit Tingri, EBC, and Shigatse, and finally, arrive at Lhasa.

8 Days Kathmandu to Lhasa overland tour

Required Documents for Americans Visiting Tibet

Like other international visitors, US citizens are required to obtain a China Visa or China Group Visa according to your entry to Tibet. Besides, Tibet visa is also a mandatory document to enter Tibet.

Visiting Tibet from Mainland China

Firstly, you should apply for your China Visa through the nearest Chinese Embassy in the USA after signing up with a Tibet Travel Agency.  Your travel agency should be able to provide you with supporting documents for your China visa without mentioning Tibet. With your China visa copy and passport, your Tibet travel agency will handle your Tibet visa through the Tibet Tourism Bureau. If you choose Great Tibet Tour, we can guarantee your Tibet visa.

Visiting Tibet from Nepal

Another choice to visit Tibet is from Nepal. If you choose this way to start your journey, you should have a China Group Visa instead of a China Visa. The Group Visa is issued by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, one group visa per 4 participants. If there are less than 4 people from you, the group visa cannot be issued. And you need to get an invitation letter from the Tibet Tourism Bureau prior. As a professional Tibet travel agency, we will help you get your invitation letter, as well as your Tibet visa.

A group of American tourists in Tibet
A group of American tourists in Tibet.


For Americans planning a journey to Tibet, two main routes offer access: from mainland China or Nepal. Regardless of the chosen route, Americans have to obtain a China Visa or China Group Visa, along with a Tibet Travel Permit, which can be acquired through a Tibet travel agency, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable exploration of this captivating region.

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