Best Ways to Plan Your Tibet Train Journey during the High Season of Tibet Travel
Traveling by train to Tibet is one of the most exciting journeys on the planet, and is more exhilarating than you could imagine. The trains to Tibet start from seven different gateway cities across mainland China, and all traverse the Qinghai Tibet Railway, the only railway linking Tibet with the rest of China.
Completed and opened for operations in 2006, the train to Tibet soon became the popular choice for many travelers heading for the roof of the world, and is a major option for transport to the Tibet Autonomous Region for both local and international tourists. Traveling on the train can be done at any time of year, regardless of the weather conditions, though there are some times of year that are busier than others.
When Is the High Season of Tibet Train Journey?
The high season for tourism in Tibet usually runs from April to the end of Oct, while the low season runs from November to mid-February, with Tibet being closed to foreign tourists in around late February and entire March. However, the high season for the train to Tibet is usually during the summer months from June to October, and on the occasional national holidays in China, which are popular times for local tourists to travel to Tibet. This means that there is a period of high season tourism in Tibet when the trains may not be as full as they are during their own peak periods.
The trains will be very busy during high seasons
The trains can also be very busy during the times of national holidays and festivals, such as Losar, the Tibetan New Year, the Spring Festival in China, and the National Day week-long celebrations in October, which is a popular time for Chinese tourists to travel to Tibet. If your schedule is flexible, we’d like to recommend you to join our Tibet winter tour to avoid the huge crowds and experience the authentic Tibetan life and Buddhist culture.
One of the major issues with Tibet train during the railway’s busiest period is the shortage of tickets from the major cities across China. Trains leave for Tibet from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu, Lanzhou, and Xining, and several of these gateway cities have periods in the peak season for train travel when tickets are booked up well in advance of the dates of travel, making last-minute ticket bookings almost impossible.
Cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou are popular starting points for locals to travel to Tibet, and these largest of all Chinese cities see hundreds of thousands of people taking the trains across the country to the high-altitude Tibetan plateau.
How to Plan Tibet Train Journey during High Travel Season
There is, however, a way to get a ticket to Tibet during the peak season for train travel, and ensure that your travel plans are not disrupted. While the biggest cities have full trains booked months in advance, there are places from where you can get a ticket at shorter notice, even in the peak period for the Tibet trains.
Take Flight to Xining and Take Xining-Lhasa Train to Lhasa
One option for this is to take a flight from your destination city in mainland China to the city of Xining, in Qinghai Province. Xining, the capital of the province, is also one of the seven gateway cities to Tibet, and the start of the world-famous Qinghai Tibet Railway, also known as the Qingzang Railway. Flights can be found to Xining from all the major Chinese cities, and should take no more than a few hours to reach the city. The largest city on the Tibetan Plateau, Xining is a great place to start your tour of Tibet, and has other benefits as well. Plus, you can often find the tickets more easily for the trip from Xining to Tibet, as the train that departs from Xining has more carriages than any of the other trains in China. Benefits as follows:
Appreciate the scenery on Xining Lhasa train
Time is often of the essence when traveling around the world, and it can be a tedious trip to travel from Beijing or Shanghai in eastern China across the entirety of the nation to get to Lhasa. Trains from Shanghai, Beijing, and even Guangzhou all take over 40 hours to get to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. And staying on the train for up to three days is not everyone’s idea of a delightful holiday. And if you do not want to miss the stunning sights of the route across the plateau to Lhasa, of which there are many, then changing to Xining to take the train is a definite benefit.
Spend a Couple of Days Touring Ta'er Monastery and Qinghai Lake
There are also other benefits of traveling from Xining instead of Beijing or Shanghai. First and foremost, the city lies at an altitude of 2,275 meters above sea level, which is an optimum elevation for primary acclimatization to high altitudes. A couple of days in Xining getting used to the higher altitudes of the plateau can help to reduce the risk of altitude sickness once you reach Lhasa.
And while it may not be everyone’s idea of a tourist town, there are some of the most amazing sights in the area around Xining, that you can spend time visiting while you are there for a few days. Qinghai Lake, or Tso Ngonpo as it is known in Tibetan, is the largest lake in China, and is a major point for many of the international bird migration routes, several of which converge on the lake itself. Known as the “Blue Sea Lake” or “Teal Lake in the Tibetan translation, the lake has a beautiful small temple at the western end.
Qinghai’s capital is also near the renowned Chinese monastery of Ta’er, also known as the Kumbum Monastery. Located in Huangzhong Village of Xining, it is one of the major monasteries of the Gelugpa School of Tibetan Buddhism, and is built on the site of the birthplace of the legendary Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelugpa School.
Secure the Highlights of Tibet Train Journey
The trip from Xining to Lhasa is filled with wondrous sights and amazing scenery, as the train crosses the immense Tibetan landscape. From the amazing sight of the landscape from Tanggula Pass, the world’s highest railway pass, to the wildlife of the Changtang Prairie, the beauty of the Tuotuo River, and the stunning mountains that you pass by, through and under, there is no better way to enter Tibet than by train.
Not only will you get to experience these stunning highlights of your 22-hour train journey, but you can learn about them as you go, with the train’s staff giving you advance warning of an upcoming site and explaining more details about it and its history and culture in three languages.
Take Flight to Xi’an and Take Bullet Train to Xining and Xining-Lhasa Train to Lhasa
Another way of getting to Lhasa from Beijing or Shanghai is to take a flight to Xi’an, and from there get the bullet train to Xining in time to catch your connecting train to Lhasa. Flights leave from Beijing or Shanghai to Xi’an every day, and Xi’an Xianyang International Airport is a major hub for travel in Northern China. The largest airport in Northwest China, Xi’an has several incoming flights a day from Shanghai and Beijing, and the cost of flights ranges from around US$ 200 to as much as US$ 1,300, depending on the ticket types.
You can take the bullet trains from Xi'an to Xining
The bullet train from Xi’an to Xining leaves from Xi’an station ten times a day, seven days a week, and takes around four and a half hours to make the trip to Xining, in Qinghai Province. The bullet train is the fastest means of rail travel in China, and the train to Xining from Xi’an runs at a speed of around 250km/h. You can normally book the train tickets around 10 days in advance, to guarantee your ticket.
Once in Xining, you can board the train to Lhasa, which leaves every other day. If you arrive in Xining on the wrong timing, and have to wait for the train to Lhasa, you can find plenty of relatively inexpensive hotels to stay in, and there are some great places to visit while you are there for the day, such as the Ta’er Monastery and the Qinghai Lake. It is also a good place to acclimatize to the higher elevation, and set you up for an easier time once you get to Lhasa. Benefits as follows:
Traveling this way, using flights and bullet trains, is a lot faster than taking the train all the way from Beijing, although you do have to make sure of your connections, or you could be waiting in each city for a day.
Tour Historical Xi’an City and Landmark Xining Attraction
From Xi’an, you can then get the bullet train to Xining, although it does pay to spend a day or two in Xi’an to catch the sights. Xi’an is most famous for the stunning Terracotta Army that was discovered buried in the ground in 1974. Dating back to the time of the first Chinese Emperor, this site is one of the most amazing archaeological finds in history. There are also other great attractions in the city, and a couple of days are never enough to see them all. Check out the Ancient City Wall and the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, both of which can be seen inside the city itself.
Secure the Highlights of Tibet Train Journey
The train journey to Lhasa from Xining is the most spectacular part of the whole rail network across China, and you will not really miss much by not taking the train from Beijing to Xining. After Xining, there are a host of things to see as the train rides up the tracks to the heady heights of the plateau, and crosses some of the highest mountain ranges in China. On the edge of Qinghai, where you cross over into Tibet, lies the world’s highest railway station and railway pass, at Tanggula Pass, which lies over 5,000 meters above sea level. You also have the opportunity to see the stunning Changtang grasslands as the train passes through them, and may be lucky enough to see some of the amazing wildlife that inhabits this vast prairie.
Enter Tibet from Kathmandu and Leave Tibet by Tibet Train
For those traveling to Tibet from Nepal, there is also the option of leaving by train, and getting that amazing experience on the way out of the region. Many people take the option of flying into Lhasa and leaving by train as they can extend their Tibetan experience for a couple of days and see the amazing sights that lie alongside the Qinghai Tibet Railway. Benefits as follows:
Enjoying epic Himalayas from Kathmandu to Lhasa by Overland
Convenience of Flying from Kathmandu to Lhasa
Flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa leave daily, several times a day, and are run by Air China, Sichuan Airlines, and Tibet Airlines. The flight takes around 90 minutes to cross the vastness of the plateau, and lands in Lhasa Gonggar International Airport, just 60 kilometers from the Tibetan capital.
Kathmandu is the only city that has international flights to Tibet, as all other flights originate in mainland China. It is also very convenient, as you will not need to get the Chinese Entry Visa when entering from Nepal and the Group Tourist Visa is applied for by the tour operator. You also get the amazing experience of flying over Mount Everest, and if you look out of the window, on a clear day you get a great aerial view of the world’s highest mountain.
Enjoy Epic Kathmandu-Lhasa Overland Tour
Another way to get to Lhasa from Kathmandu is to take an overland trip from Nepal to Tibet by car. Since the overland border crossing was reopened in Nov. 2017, this option has been a popular one with foreign tourists traveling to Lhasa from Nepal, and makes for a great way to run your tour. Tibet Vista will arrange all the permits and the Group Tourist Visa on your behalf, and you will meet our tour guide after you enter Tibet. The route from Kathmandu to Tibet is a 6-hour bus journey along some scary roads, but is an experience you will not want to miss. The stunning scenery as you ascend into the mountains is awesome, and the journey itself is an experience of Nepali culture and travel.
Once at the border crossing on the Resuo Bridge, which spans the Trishuli River Gorge, you will pass through Chinese customs and immigration at Gyirong Port, and once cleared you will be met by your guide and driver. After that, you will travel to Gyirong Town for the first day of acclimatization. The tour will follow reverse route to normal tours, starting in Western Tibet and ending in Lhasa with the cities amazing sights.
Still Enjoy Tibet Train Journey to Visit Other Chinese Cities
After you have finished your tour of Tibet, and completed the amazing tours of Lhasa, the Tibetan Capital, it is time to head for the train station. One of the major advantages of traveling to Lhasa overland from Nepal is that your tour can end in Lhasa and you can then get the train to China and continue touring this wonderful land. Trains leave Lhasa several times a day for all of the seven gateway cities across China, and you can choose where you want to disembark and continue your holiday.
You also get to spend an extra day in Tibet, as the train takes around 22 hours to pass across the plateau and descend to the lower areas of China. This means you will get to see some of the amazing sights that lie alongside the tracks, such as the beautiful Lake Namtso, the Changtang Prairie, and the Tanggula, Nyenchen Tanglha, and Kunlun Mountain Ranges.