How to Get to Tibet
Located at the roof of the world, Tibet seems to be unreachable and mysterious for many tourists from afar. In fact,it is not difficult at all to get to Tibet from China or Nepal. There are hundreds of flights to Tibet, including flights to Lhasa, Shigatse and Nyingchi every day, five direct Tibet trains carrying tourists over Qinghai-Tibet Railway, and five Tibet highways leading to Lhasa from different directions.
Get to Tibet by Train
“The cheapest and one of the most rewarding ways to Tibet is by train.”
Qinghai-Tibet Railway that is reputed as an engineering miracle by Forbes has attracted over 10 million tourists since this railway went into operation on July 1,2006. And going to Tibet by train via the world's highest railway is also the most popular way for Tibet train journey itself is a wonderful trip full of countless scenic wonder, such as snow-capped mountains, boundless grassland, beautiful lakes, flock of sheep, various wildlife,vast gobi and desert.
There are five routes that connect China and Tibet, tourists can take train to Tibet from five main cities in China like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou...
Compared with flying to Tibet, taking a train to Tibet will save as much as 3/5. The cheapest way to Tibet would be by train from other cities of China during the slack season. A hard seat ticket to Lhasa is the cheapest train ticket to Tibet. However, as it will take over 40 hours to get to Tibet by train from Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and other cities of China, tourists had better choose a soft sleeper.
Read more about Tibet Train Travel Guide, Update Train Schedule
Get to Tibet by Plane
“Taking a flight to Tibet is the most convenient way. Yet, tourists can see less scenery and may be more likely to suffer from altitude sickness.”
Undoubtedly, nothing is more convenient than taking a flight to Tibet. Tourists can fly to Tibet from Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu or Kathmandu within 7 hours. Even in the low season of Tibet tourism, there are still a lot of flights flying to Tibet. Besides, many airlines would offer discount in winter, especially flight from Chengdu to Lhasa. But there is always no discount for flights between Kathmandu and Lhasa.
If a tourist only gets a short holiday, like a week, Tibet Vista recommends a round-trip to Tibet by air. At present, there are direct flights to Lhasa from Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Shangri-la, Kunming, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Xian, Xining and Kathmandu. There are also several daily flights from Chengdu to Shigatse and Nyingchi in Tibet.
China has hundreds of flights to Tibet every day, the busiest hub is Chengdu, the economic center of southwest China, which is 2 hours flying to Lhasa, the capical of Tibet.
Yet the drawback of Tibet flights is that tourists can enjoy less scenery than having a ride on Qinghai-Tibet railway and may be more likely to suffer from altitude sickness because you has to adjust yourself to dramatic altitude change in a short time.
Read more about Flights to Tibet
Get to Tibet by Highways
“Go into Tibet through by driving is the most expensive way and it takes 7 - 15 days, but one can enjoy the most spectacular view and definately worth a try.”
In addition, tourists can get to Tibet via one of the five highways to Tibet, namely Qinghai-Tibet Highway, Xinjiang-Tibet Highway, Sichuan-Tibet Highway,Yunnan-Tibet Highway and Friendship Highway ( also known as China-Nepal Highway). But it takes at least a week and costs a big sum of expense.
Overlanding to Tibet is another choice for you.
While there are a number of routes connecting Tibet within China, but officially three allow foreign travelers:
China-Nepal Highway/Friendship Highway (943km, an estimated 3-5 days)
China-Nepal Highway or Friendship Highway is an international route via Nepal, connecting Kathmandu and Lhasa. As many travelers practice Nepal and Tibet trip together, Lhasa Kathmandu overland tour has become very hot in recent years. The 920km (570 miles) trip is spectacular because there are a great number of tourist attractions worth to be visited on the way. And Everest Base Camp is the must visit site among them. It usually takes three to five days with stops at tourists sights along the way.
Route : Lhasa--Shigatse--Tingri--Nyalam--Zhangmu--Sino-Nepal Friendship Bridge--Kathmandu
Qinghai-Tibet Highway (1937km, an estimated 5-7 days)
Qinghai-Tibet Highway links from Golmud to Lhasa. Golmud is between Xining and Lhasa, the actual beginning point of Qinghai-Tibet Railway sightseeing and only takes 14 hours to Lhasa directly. As it is very remote and poor, travelers are not recommend to find their own way there, while most of the travelers start Tibet journey from Xining, the capital city of Qinghai Province.
Route : Xining--Daotang River--Chaka--Golmud--Wu Daoliang--Tuotuoheyan--Yanshiping--Tanggula Pass--Amdo--Nagqu--Damxung--Yangbajain--Lhasa
Xinjiang-Tibet Highway (2086km, an estimated 10-15 days)
Xinjiang-Tibet Highway starts from Yecheng (Karghilik) in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to Lhatse in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Covering a distance of 2,086 kilometers, it consists of three sections, namely Xingjiang-Tibet Highway, Northern Tibet Highway, and China-Nepal Highway and makes Kashgar Lhasa tour possible.
Route : Yecheng--Rutog--Gar--Drongpa--Saga--Ngamring--Lhasa
For other 2 routes which begin from Chengdu and Kunming require a series of complicated documents issued by Tibet Tourism Bureau, Military Administration, and Foreign Affairs Administration. But no longer open for foreign travelers since the Riot in March 2008.
Read more about All Overland Routes to Tibet
Travel to Tibet from Different Gateway Cites
You can get to Tibet from different gateway cities via Tibet train, Tibet flights or overland driving.
The Trend of Tourists' Interest on Choosing Popular Routes to Tibet
According to the data provided by Tibet Vista Travel, which has organized more than 2000 foreign tourists to Tibet, the most popular way to get into Tibet is Chengdu to Lhasa by air and Beijing to Lhasa by train. Here are top 4 routes tourists chose mostly in past few years.
This diagram shows the specific percentage of top popular routes to Tibet.
Chengdu to Tibet by Air (35% like)
Chengdu, the economic and cultural center of southwest of China, is the city closest to Lhasa. It takes only two hours fly from Chengdu to Lhasa. Over ten flights are busying flying between Chengdu and Lhasa from morning to night, which makes Chengdu the biggest gateway to Tibet. Tourists can enjoy the convenient flights from Chengdu to Lhasa and the fare is much cheaper than flights from Beijing and Shanghai to Tibet. Chengdu is also home to giant pandas, which is one of the reasons why Chengdu is a major tourist draw to national and overseas tourists. Tourists can enjoy the rare animals and then travel to Tibet.
Beijing to Tibet by Train (25% like)
Beijing, the capital of China, is the major gateway and first stop for foreign tourists to travel in China. Foreign tourists can explore the historical and cultural heritage of China dating back to thousands of years ago. Normally, tourists stay in Beijing for 2-4 days and take a train bound for Tibet, which takes about two days to reach Tibet.
The number of tourists who leave from Beijing to Tibet accounts for a great proportion of overall tourists heading for Tibet. There is virtually no off-season of this popular Beijing-Lhasa train all year round. As Beijing-Lhasa Railway is also an important passage bridging Beijing, Tibet, Nepal and India. Some of the travellers would keep moving to Nepal or India by air or bus shortly after they arrive in Tibet.
Xining to Tibet by Train (12.5% like)
Though Xining is an inland city of China, it serves as the starting point of Qinghai-Tibet Railway, a hot railway route only next to Beijing-Lhasa Railway. It takes 24-hours ride from Xining to Lhasa. Tourists can avoid the unnecessary bumpy train ride by taking a flight from Beijing or Shanghai to Xining and then head directly towards Tibet.
Shanghai to Tibet by Train (9.2% like)
Shanghai, one of the most vibrant and prosperous cities in China, has plenty of foreigners who settled down in this city. The city is also an important entry and exit gateway of China Tourism. Shanghai-Tibet Railway has changed from operation every other day to daily service since 2012, which to a great extent proves the surging tourists and great popularity of Tibet travel.
The following chart shows Tibet train price, air fare and travel hours in details. The cheapest way to get to Tibet is by train but takes more than 24 hours, if you have enough time, train to Tibet is obviously the best choose, which not only saves your money but also Tibet train itself a travel attraction.
It shows obviously the cheapest way to get to Tibet from mainland China is by Train, but takes normally 2 days and 2 nights.
Note: The prices above are just for reference and they do not include government tax and booking service charge.
Tibet Travel Permit
Having discussed so much, the last but not least thing for foreign tourists to do is get a Tibet Travel Permit. Such document is so important that without it one will not be able to board a flight or train to Tibet and will not be able to secure the other permits you need to continue travelling throughout Tibet. Tourists can get the permit through a tour agency in Tibet or with help of Tibet Vista.
What's more, everything must be arranged beforehand, including any Tibet travel itinerary you have planned:
a. work out an itinerary detailing exactly where you want to to in Tibet ( Otherwise, if you have one or two destinations not written on application form, you would not able to travel to these places)
b. reach a travel agreement with a travel agency and the deal shall include specific fee for transportation, guide, any deposit, etc.
c. if tourists travel from Nepal to Tibet, the travel agency will them handle the application for Tibet Travel Permit and they need to send relevant documents to travel agency beforehand.
More details please refer to How to get Tibet Travel Permit, Successful Application Tips
Is it helpful for you? If you have more questions or want to get professional advice on how to travel to Tibet, please contact our travel consultant.