How to Get to Tibet - Transportation Guide to Go to the “Roof of the World”

26 October 2023 Last updated at 11:23

Sprawled across high-altitude mountains and plateaus, Tibet - roof of the world located at an average elevation of over 13,123ft (4000m) once was considered a snow land hard to reach. Now getting to Tibet is visibly easier and there is a wide range of choices for foreign tourists to choose from. Generally, travelling to Tibet whether from neighboring Nepal or from other Chinese cities together is available, and it just depends on your journey itinerary you may be interested in.

Get from Other Cities in China to Tibet

Tibet in southwestern China is well-connected with many other domestic cities in China, thus, entering Tibet through major poplar gateway cities which are hot destinations as well as most favorite route foreign tourists give priority to.

Trains to Tibet

Taking a Qinghai Tibet Train to Lhasa, Tibet is the most popular and budget way to Tibet for its economic train ticket price and fantastic experience of riding on this world engineering wonder and views of various landscape along the railway. Another benefit you will enjoy of train travel is the slow elevation rising, which helps to acclimate yourself to high altitude.

>> Qinghai Tibet Railway Landscape

Opened to traffic on July 1, 2006, Qinghai Tibet Railway, starting from Xining to Lhasa, capital city of Tibet, is a world-class engineering miracle which made 9 records and connects Tibet with China's other regions. Everyday, Qinghai Tibet Trains carry more than 2,000 tourists to the holy city Lhasa from most major Chinese cities.

The original Qinghai Tibet Railway is linked with more lines in China's other regions, and it contributes significantly to considerable options for where to take trains. Big international cities in the east have daily direct trains to Tibet, while western cities currently open trains every other day. All trains to Lhasa offer soft sleepers, hard sleepers and hard seats for your Tibet train travel. Among them, soft sleeper is the most recommended one for its privacy and comfort for more than a 40-hour stay on the train.

>> Soft Sleeper on Tibet Trains

>> Facilities and Amenities on Tibet Trains

Where to Take Trains to Tibet?

The fastest and the shortest distance train to Tibet starts from Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province in northwestern China. It is the initial point Qinghai Tibet Railway links with Lhasa in Tibet. One can get to Tibet from Xining within about 20 hours, nearly half the time of other choices.

Apart from Xining, tourists can also take trains to Tibet from Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Lanzhou where trains depart originally. And stopover cities like Xian, Suzhou, Changsha, Nanjing and Zhengzhou provide available trains as well. The above trains usually take over 40 hours to get to Tibet, maybe less tedious when you watch stunning different types of scenery en route.

Qinghai Tibet Train
Tibet Train Passengers are Changing Train in Xining
Soft Sleeper
Soft Sleeper Berth on Tibet Train
Tibet Transportation
Map of Railways to Tibet

Tibet Train Schedules

Train No. Dep. Station Dep. Time Arr. Time Travel Time Frequency Distance
Z21 Beijing West 20:00 12:45 40:45 Daily 3757km
Z164/165 Shanghai 20:08 19:35 47:27 Daily 4373km
Z6801 Xining 14:01 11:20 21:19 Every otherday 1972km
Z917 Lanzhou 11:20 11:10 24:00 Every other day 2188km
Z322/323 Chengdu 21:37 09:55 36:18 Every other day 3360km
Z223/222 Chongqing 22:12 09:55 35:43 Every other day 3394km
Z264/265 Guangzhou 11:52 16:45 Daily 52:53 4980km

Lhasa Train Ticket Price (RMB/CNY)

Travel Between
Hard Seat Hard Sleeper Soft Sleeper
Upper Middle Lower Upper Lower
Beijing - Lhasa 360 720 742 763 1144 1186
Shanghai - Lhasa 402.5 793.5 817.5 841.5 1262.5 1310.5
Xining - Lhasa 224 495 507 521 781 808
Lanzhou - Lhasa 240 522 535 550 823 852
Chengdu - Lhasa 328 668 689 709 1062 1101
Chongqing - Lhasa 335 680 699 720 1079 1120
Guangzhou - Lhasa 447 865 892 919 1468 1526

By Plane

Flying to Tibet must be the most convenient and time-saving way you will consider. So far, there are five airports in Tibet, prompting great access to Tibet through airlines. Lhasa Airport is the biggest and most popular airport than the airports in Shigatse, Nyingchi, Ngari and Qamdo. Just take a flight to Tibet within several hours from one of cities Tibet Airlines reach to, your Tibet tour is close at hand. But the flaw is that you may cause high altitude reaction easily if you fly to high elevation places from flat when elevation changes rapidly.

>> Introduction of 5 Airports in Tibet

Where to Take Flights to Tibet?

Lhasa Airport is the most important arrival hub for both domestic and international travelers. The airport offers lots of convenient and efficient flights connecting Tibet with major cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xian, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Kunming, Shangri-La, etc. and an international popular destination - Kathmandu in Nepal. Still, Lhasa airport has daily flights to Nyingchi, Ngari and Qamdo Prefectures in Tibet.

All of the gateway cities connected with Tibet, Chengdu is the most popular city tourists choose. Because Chengdu not only has the most flights to Lhasa, available flights to Shigatse, Nyingchi and Qamdo, but also itself is an excellent tourist city.

Except the above cities mentioned, Xining, Lijiang, Zhengzhou, Mianyang, Kangding, Xiahe, Yushu, Urumqi and Kashgar, etc. also conduct flights to Lhasa, mostly less frequent.

Tibet Flights
Breathtaking View of Gongga Snowberg from Tibet Flights

>> All Flight Gateway Cities to Tibet

>> Necessary Permits for Tibet Flight

All Flight Routes to Tibet Routes Summary

Air Route Distance Duration Frequency Flight Type
Chengdu Lhasa 768miles (1286km) about 2.5 hours appr 12 flights per day direct flights
Beijing Lhasa 1867 miles (3004 km) 4~6 hours appr 3 flights per day direct flights
Xian Lhasa 1230 miles (1980 km) about 3 hrs 20 mins appr 7 flights per day direct flights
Shanghai Lhasa about 1930mi (3107km) about 7~9 hours appr 5 flights per day stopover / connecting
Chongqing Lhasa 985miles(1585km) about 2hrs 50mins appr 10 flights per day direct flights
Kunming Lhasa 1220 miles (1963 km) about 3~5 hours appr 4 flights per day direct flights
Guangzhou Lhasa 1647miles (2651km) about 6~9 hours appr 5 flights per day direct / connecting
Xining Lhasa 968miles (1558km) about 2.5~7 hours appr 5 flights per day direct / connecting
Zhengzhou Lhasa 2107 miles (3392 km) about 3hrs 50mins appr 2 flights per day direct / connecting
Shangri-La Lhasa 542 miles(872km) about 2 hours appr 1 flight per day direct flights
Lijiang Lhasa 593 miles (954 km) about 2hrs 15mins appr 1 flight per day direct flights
Mianyang Lhasa 1412miles (2274km) about 2 hours appr 3 flights per day direct / connecting
Kangding Lhasa 652miles (1050km) about 2 hours appr 5 flights per day direct / connecting
Yushu Lhasa 437miles (704km) about 1.5 hours appr 3~6 flights per day direct / connecting
Xiahe Lhasa 1435 miles (2309 km) about 2hrs 20mins appr 1 flight per day direct flight
Xinjiang Ngari 908 miles (1462 km) about 2.5 hours appr 1~2 flights per week direct flights
Kathmandu Lhasa 375 miles (603.5 km) about 1.5 hours appr 1 ~ 2 flights per day direct flights

Get from Nepal to Tibet

Deeply influenced by Buddhism and religions, travel between the two neighbors - Nepal and Tibet of China has been a world famous route along with their distinctive landscapes and mysterious culture and history. If you want to link Nepal to Tibet on your travel list, here comes the traffic guide information for you to know how to visit Tibet from Nepal in two different feasible ways.

By Flight

Luckily, Tibet has opened the one and only international direct flight to Kathmandu, Nepal connecting these two popular international destinations. And there are about 4 flights per week executed by Sichuan Airlines which takes about 90 minutes only. Flying to Tibet from Kathmandu is definitely the most convenient way to Tibet from Nepal for the short distance and flying duration.

This route, at the same time, is the only airline in the world flying over the world’s highest peak - Mount Everest on Himalayas. It means that you may have chance to enjoy breathtaking aerial view of vast snowcapped mountains during the flying.

In addition, there are more direct flights between Chengdu and Kathmandu opened in 2017. Air China, Tibet Airlines both operates direct international routes which just take less than 3 hours to Nepal. Hence, more alternatives you can choose from to entering Tibet from Nepal.

Kathmandu Nepal to Lhasa Tibet Flights

Flight No. Departure -- Arrival Duration Frequency Plane
Kathmandu Tribhuvan Airport

Lhasa Gonggar Airport
1h 25m SM-W-F- Airbus A319

Lhasa Tibet to Kathmandu Nepal Flights

Flight No. Departure -- Arrival Duration Frequency Plane
Lhasa Gonggar Airport

Kathmandu Tribhuvan Airport
1h 30m SM-W-F- Airbus A319

Please note that 1) it’s difficult to book the above international flight ticket in high seasons (April to October, summer seasons especially) and always have few discounts. They maybe cut down by air companies in shoulder season; 2) Flight times are both local time: Lhasa -(UTC/GMT+08:00), Kathmandu - UTC/GMT+05:00).

Check more about Kathmandu Lhasa Flights

By Overland Driving

It’s quite a long and interesting overland journey travelling between Tibet and Nepal, because there is a lot of natural scenery you can enjoy along the way. To make sure you can pass the border ports successfully to enter Tibet from Nepal, each tourist has to hold a valid passport and prepare required travel permits and visas from the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal. And Tibet Discovery can help you apply for and obtain the needed permits, arrange vehicles and tour guide for your Nepal Tibet Tour. There are two different overland driving routes you should know before you really go.

Gyirong Port (吉隆口岸) in Gyirong Port in Resuo Village, Gyirong Town, Gyirong County of Shigatse Prefecture, Tibet is a newly upgraded international road port for border trade and cross-border tourism between Nepal and China Tibet. As its opening, the land connection between Tibet, China and Nepal now has been rebuilt, which means foreign travelers can enter Tibet from Nepal by land, or leave Tibet for Nepal through Gyirong Port from 30 August 2017 again. (Note: Same like Zhangmu Port, Gyirong Port was closed for a long time for the fatal earthquake happened in 2015.)

Gyirong Port is located about 160 km from Kathmandu and about 820 km from Lhasa, Tibet. It takes you at least 6 hours to reach Gyirong Port from Kathmandu. Usually, tourists will accommodate in Gyirong Town and continue road trips to Lhasa, Everest, Kailash and other destinations in Tibet the next day. It takes nearly 20 hours to drive directly from Gyirong Port to Lhasa, 10 hours to Mount Everest and 15 hours to Mount Kailash. After passing Gyirong Port, the road condition in Tibet is quite good with well-paved National Highway 318. But the section between Kathmandu and Gyirong Port is complicated, the roads are narrow and bumpy. Better pay much attention to the weather before deciding your itinerary, some roads may become arduous when it rains, especially in the summer monsoon season.

Nepal to Tibet
Drive Route from Kathmandu,Nepeal to Lhasa, Tibet
Nepal to Tibet
Gyirong Port on the China Side

Must Have Permits & Visas to Tibet from Nepal

1. A Chinese visa is the compulsory entry permit for foreign visitors issued by THE embassy of PRC. It is always needed no matter where you are going in China. The office man in the airport will check your Chinese visa when you go to board the plane or train.

2. Tibet Travel Permit (Tibet Entry Permit) is the MUST-DOCUMENT to take a flight/train to Tibet. When you check in and check out the airports, a copy of Tibet Travel Permit will be checked. The permit can only be issued in Tibet by the Tibet Tourism Bureau, and also can be only applied by travel agency on behalf of travelers, about 15~20 days to obtain the permit.

3. Tibet Border Pass/Frontier Pass is another must document for everybody who travels to the border area between Tibet with other countries. Just as Tibet Travel Permit, Board Pass will be checked before you board and leave airport in border areas.

4. Tibet Group Visa is exclusively required for tourists who travel to Tibet from Nepal. It will be applied at the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu and checked along with other needed permits.

Helpful Travel Tips:

1. Decide Your Itinerary in Advance. Actually, tourists have great freedom to decide your Tibet travel route. You can select attractions you like and follow a reliable travel guide from us. So there is a lot of research for you to do and we will arrange every detail for you beforehand, such as permits application, hotel booking.

2. Permits and Packing Preparation. Travel to Tibet Autonomous Regions is different from other Chinese cities. Chinese Visa is the basic one, and more permits are required if you depart and head to other regions in Tibet outside Lhasa. Packing everything well is good for your plateau tour, click here to get more packing instructions.

3. Ticket Booking. There are plenty of online websites, e.g., Exprdia, Ctrip and Qunar offering ticket booking services. Please note that both train ticket and flight ticket are difficult to get in the high season (summer and autumn months especially). We provide considerate a ticket booking service in our tour packages for your convenience.

4. High Altitude Sickness Precaution. When travelling to highland cities, altitude stress is the most concerned issue tourists care about. Different people has different reactions, largely based on many factors, like pace of elevation rises, personal physical and mental condition, time you choose to visit Tibet, etc.