Your Guide on How to Go to Tibet in Different Ways
Do you plan to visit Tibet? Many people dream about traveling to this stunning destination. But transport may seem daunting at first.
Because it’s so far away! Even in Beijing or Shanghai, Tibet seems like a remote destination.
No worries, though. We put together a comprehensive guide on how to get to Tibet.
Planning the trip of a lifetime thousands of kilometres away? Currently traveling in Asia? Whatever the case, you’ll find fresh and useful information in the following paragraphs.
How can I get to Tibet?
First of all, you need to travel from your current location to China or Nepal. Then you have three options.
The shortest one? Hop on a flight from many Chinese cities or Kathmandu (Nepal) to Lhasa Gonggar Airport.
The next option is taking a train from Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou, or another major Chinese city to Lhasa. Your third alternative is driving from certain cities to Lhasa.
Now, we’ll explore each option in-depth.
Flights to Tibet
Many airlines serve Lhasa from various cities. People tend to opt for non-stop flights from the following cities:
- Chengdu (China)
- Chongqing (China)
- Kathmandu (Nepal)
- Xi’an (China)
Flying from Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, or any other Chinese cities? Most likely, you’ll transfer in one of the airports mentioned above, except Kathmandu. That said, there are direct flights from these major departure points as well.
Notable airlines serving Lhasa include…
- Air China
- China Eastern Airlines
- China Southern Airlines
- Sichuan Airlines
- Tibet Airlines
- Xiamen Airlines
Non-stop flights take around 90 minutes (Kathmandu) to 3 hours (Chongqing) to 5 hours (Beijing). Average prices range between 200 USD to 350 USD for one way. Return discounts apply. Expect to pay 250 USD to 500 USD for return flights. Prices depend on demand and the particular season. For example, the holiday season sees soaring prices.
Are you in the early stages of planning? If you set your eyes only on Tibet, skipping destinations in mainland China, then check for flights to Chengdu. There are many flights from Chengdu to Lhasa every day. It’s one of the easiest starting points for Tibet air travel. You’ll save money and time.
P.S. Flying to Tibet prevents gradual acclimatization. You face a higher risk of experiencing mild to moderate altitude sickness. One of the alternatives is to take a train from a major Chinese city to Lhasa. Afterwards, you can fly back home.
Train to Tibet
Many people consider train transport as the best way to reach Tibet. Why is that so?
- You’ll experience a gradual ascent. There’s a lower risk of developing any altitude sickness symptoms.
- The scenery is wonderful. You won’t see all the stunning landscapes when cruising up in the clouds.
- Yes, taking the train consumes time. But you can meet great people and have nice conversations on the way.
The shortest train route starts from Xining. It’s a scenic ride that takes around 21 hours. Most of the other routes average around 44-46 hours. These include trains departing from Beijing, Chengdu, and Chongqing. Notable exceptions include Xi’an (32 hours), Guangzhou (54 hours), and Lanzhou (23 hours).
Train ticket prices are subject to the point of departure and the travel class. The latter divides to first-class sleeper berths, second-class sleeper berths, and soft seats. You might encounter the same classes named as a soft sleeper, hard sleeper, and hard seat. For example, the respective prices for Chengdu departures are around 160 USD, 100 USD, and 50 USD.
Some travelers wonder whether there are any international train connections. Unfortunately, you can’t take any trains from Nepal, India, nor Bhutan.
Driving to Tibet
Driving is a fantastic way to reach the Roof of the World. But international travelers have limited route options.
Kathmandu to Lhasa. 1300 km. Approximately 15 hours. The active efforts to deal with Nepal earthquake damage are underway. However, the Zhangmu border has not reopened. People use the Gyirong border instead.
- Kashgar to Lhasa. 2755 km. Approximately 60 hours.
- Xining to Lhasa. 1956 km. Approximately 35 hours.
- Chengdu to Lhasa. 2149 km. Approximately 45 hours.
You need a licensed vehicle plate and a Chinese driving license. All the vehicle entry formalities need to pass the bar. It’s not necessary to have a local driver. But you do need to arrange a guide.
And all the standard Tibet entry requirements apply for driving as well. You need a pre-booked Tibet tour!
P.S. Are you riding a motorcycle? Kathmandu to Lhasa is your best bet. Allow enough time for dealing with all the documentation. Self-driving isn’t a problem. But usually, a backup vehicle is arranged.
Cycling to Tibet
Dreaming of discovering Tibet on two wheels? Possible, yet considerably more expensive. Plus, it’s not a straightforward plan of just hopping on the bicycle and making your way to Lhasa.
You have to arrange a local tour guide. Your most realistic shot is to use any other transport for reaching Lhasa after booking a cycling tour that starts from Tibet. Consider the altitude, road conditions and terrain! Cycling in Tibet requires planning and a great level of physical fitness.
The bottom line: how to get to Tibet?
Flights from China and Nepal to Tibet are the fastest way. But overland train journey allows you to acclimatize and see beautiful scenery along the route. Driving and cycling are more complicated options. There are restrictions on international travelers self-driving between Chinese and Tibetan regions. Weigh your preferences, budget, and time constraints to make the best decision!