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Ultimate Guide about How to Get to Tibet from Nepal and Mainland China

April,20 2021 BY Lobsang Tsering 0 COMMENTS

Located on the northern side of the Himalayas, Tibet seems to be unreachable and mysterious for many tourists from afar. But it is now possible to travel to Tibet from all over the world via Nepal or mainland China, the only gateways access to Tibet. Please follow our local expert’s advice for details.

Get to Tibet from Mainland China

Mainland China offers the most kinds of access to Tibet. You can get to Tibet from different gateway cities via Tibet train, Tibet flights, or overland driving.

Get to Tibet from Mainland China by Train

Traveling to Lhasa by Tibet trains is the recommended way to reach Tibet from mainland China, for its cost-effectiveness, great window view, and punctuality, and gradual ascent to Tibet Plateau.

The train journey from Xining to Lhasa is a wonderful trip full of countless scenic wonders in Tibet Plateau, such as snow-capped mountains, boundless grassland, beautiful lakes, and vast gobi, where no human lives but the paradise for various wildlife.

Thanks to the developed railway network in China, now, you can take a Tibet train from Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Xining, Chongqing, and Lanzhou directly. The shortest train journey takes around 23 hours from Xining to Lhasa, while the longest journey takes over 53 hours from Guangzhou to Lhasa.

Map of Qinghai-Tibet Railway(Simple click to enlarge the map)
Tibet Railway Map

Get to Tibet from Mainland China by Flight

Nothing is more convenient than taking a flight to Tibet. At present, there are direct flights to Lhasa from Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xining, Xi’an, Shangri-La, and Kunming. There are also several daily flights to Shigatse and Nyingchi in Tibet from some nearby cities, like Chengdu, Chongqing, Xi’an, etc.

Other flights from Shanghai, Guangzhou, and some other cities far from Tibet are almost connecting flights or stopover flights within 7 hours or more.

Get to Tibet from Mainland China by Overland

There are five highways to Tibet and four of them are from mainland China, namely Sichuan-Tibet Highway, Qinghai-Tibet Highway, Xing-Tibet Highway, and Yunnan-Tibet Highway.

It takes 7 to 15 days to get to Tibet by land from mainland China, which is much longer than by train or by flight. However, to road trip lovers, a Tibet overland tour is indeed a perfect choice to enjoy the otherworldly landscape, experience uncover exotic local customs, and tasty local food.

Among all the highways to Tibet, Sichuan-Tibet Highway is praised as the best overland route to Tibet with the most beautiful landscapes. It covers 2147 km from Chengdu to Lhasa and takes about 8 days.

Major overland routes to TibetMajor overland routes to Tibet

Popular Cities to Enter Tibet from Mainland China

Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Xining, and Xi’an are popular gateway cities to enter Tibet from mainland China.

From our statistics over the years, the most popular way route to get to Tibet is from Beijing to Lhasa by train, followed by Chengdu to Lhasa flight.

As the starting point of the Qinghai-Tibet railway, Xining is also a popular gateway city to enter Tibet by train. Wherever you are in mainland China, you can get to Xining first, and then take the train to Tibet.

Popular travelers' choice for Tibet entryPopular routes to Tibet chosen by our former customers.

Which is better? To take a train to Tibet or a flight to Tibet from mainland China?

If you have limited time, then there is no doubt that taking a flight to Tibet is the best way to get to Tibet.

The train to Tibet is less costly but takes more time. Even the shortest train journey from Xining to Lhasa also requires a night stay on the train.

However, it is a unique experience, such as riding a specially designed oxygen-supplied train across the Tibetan Plateau and even having the opportunity to see wild animals such as Tibetan antelopes on the side of the railroad.

So if your time permits, we recommended you to experience a Tibet train tour from mainland China.

Recommended Trains to Tibet

Get to Tibet from Nepal

The linear distance from Kathmandu to Lhasa is 609km, making Nepal the closest gateway to Tibet. Currently, only taking a flight and traveling overland is available for traveling between Nepal and Tibet.

Lhasa Kathamandu Road Map via Gyirong PortYou can get to Tibet from Kathmandu either by air or by land.

Get to Tibet from Kathmandu by Flight

In fact, the flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa is the only international flight access to Tibet. There are 2 direct flights between Lhasa and Kathmandu, run by Sichuan Airline and Air China respectively.

It takes about 1.5 hours to fly from Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport to Lhasa Gonggar Airport.

Sichuan AirlineSichuan Airline: Kathmandu and Lhasa Flight Schedule

Flight Airlines  Dep.  Arr.  Type Schedule
Kathmandu-Lhasa 3U8720 Sichuan Airline 11:30 15:05 319 Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun
Lhasa-Kathmandu 3U8719 Sichuan Airline 10:55 10:30 319 Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun

Air ChinaAir China: Kathmandu and Lhasa and Flight Schedule

Flight Airlines  Dep.  Arr.  Type Schedule
Kathmandu-Lhasa CA408 Air China 12:10 16:00 319 Tue, Thu, Sat
Lhasa-Kathmandu CA407 Air China 11:55 11:10 319 Tue, Thu, Sat

Tips for taking a flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa:
1. The above flight schedules are just for reference. Due to the coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic, all flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa have been canceled. We will update the flight information as soon as flights resume. (updated April 2021)

2. As Lhasa is 2 hours 15 minutes ahead of Kathmandu, please do double-check your flight schedule.

3. It is suggested to pick the window seats on the left side of the plane from Kathmandu to Lhasa, so that you can see the stunning bird’s-eye view of the summit of Mount Everest (8844.43m)

4. Because of the huge ascent from Kathmandu (1,400m) to Lhasa (3,658m), it is advisable to have a good rest in the first couple of days in Lhasa to acclimatize to subtle altitude change.

Get to Tibet from Kathmandu by land

It is the easiest and most thrilling way for Nepalis, Indians, and other international tourists to reach Lhasa, Tibet from Kathmandu by road.

The classic Kathmandu to Lhasa overland tour takes 8 days, covering around 1,300km via Kyirong (or Gyirong) Border. One of the biggest highlights of the Kathmandu to Lhasa overland tour is the visit to Everest Base Camp on Tibet’s side. You will be closely admiring the epic vista of Mt. Everest at its foothills and enjoy the mind-blowing panorama of the mighty Himalayas.

Tips for Kathmandu to Lhasa Overland Tour
1. Since it takes at least 3 business days to get your China Group Visa issued by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, you need to get to Kathmandu in advance and leave enough time to apply for your group visa. Or you can’t board the flight to Lhasa.

2. We offer a one-stop service for the entire Kathmandu to Lhasa overland tour, including Chinese Group Visa Application in Kathmandu, jeep transfer for crossing the Kyirong Border, and tour arrangement in Tibet.

3. Due to the coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic, the Kyirong Border for Kathmandu to Lhasa tours is still not opened to tourists. (Updated April 2021)

Get to Tibet from Worldwide

Getting to Tibet is not as complicated as you might think. First, you get to either Nepal or mainland China depending on your location. Then, you can choose the way to Tibet as you like.

map of tibet in the world(Simple click to enlarge the map)
Get the location of Tibet and find the best gateway for your Tibet Tour, mainland China or Nepal

No matter where you start your Tibet tour, please make sure you have got the required travel documents before you go, including a Chinese Visa and Tibet Travel Permit.

You can get a Chinese visa for your Tibet tour before you arrive in mainland China, or apply for a Chinese Group Visa through the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu if you enter Tibet from Nepal.

For Tibet Travel Permit, the individual application is not accepted by the Tibet Tourist Bureau. You can only apply for the Tibet permit through a local travel agency that offers you the pre-book Tibet tour package.

Can I get to Tibet on my own?

Once you know how to get to Tibet from either of the gateways and ready to arrange your way to Tibet, please notice that you can’t get to Tibet on your own because you can’t get Tibet Travel Permit on your own.

To get a Tibet travel permit, you need to book either a private tour or join in a Tibet group tour with a local travel agency. After receiving the permit, you can start your journey to Tibet.

With years of experience in Tibet travel, we are here to recommend the most popular Tibet tour packages chosen by our former customers. You can pick up the one you are interested in and choose the way you like to get to Tibet. Just tell us your ideal trip to Tibet and let us make it come true.

Popular Tibet Small Group Tours

Conclusion

We assume you may have a clear idea of your way of entering Tibet. You can either take a China Tibet tour to enter Tibet from mainland cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Xining, etc., or travel from Nepal to Tibet. Both flights and highways are access to Tibet now. Only if you want to experience a Tibet train journey you have to enter Tibet from mainland China.

As an awarding-winning local Tibet travel agency, our Tibet travel experts will match your interests and travel date with a perfect travel solution for you. Please do not hesitate to reach us for an expert consultant.

Lobsang Tsering

About the Author - Lobsang Tsering

I am a tour guide in Tibet an was Born in Kham Tibet, I am the father of 2 little girls, bachelor's degree. I have more than 7-years experience of being a tour guide in Tibet. I am a warm, friendly, knowledgeable and attractive guy.

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