How to travel to Tibet


Most of the tourists think that traveling to Tibet is very difficult and complicated but in reality, it is easy to get to Tibet. If you find a right professional Tibetan travel agent based in Lhasa, how to plan a trip to Tibet is really easy. What you need to do is to send a few emails about your Tibet trip of where you like to go and how many days you will be spending in Tibet.

To travel to Tibet, you need to prepare three very important things before you travel to Tibet which are China visa, a confirmed Tibet travel program and Tibet travel permits. Having prepared those three important things, you can go to Tibet easily.

To make all those three important things to be done, what you need to do is to look for a Tibetan travel agency and send an email about your approximate Tibet travel plan. If you find a right and professional Tibet travel agency, according to your first email request, the local Tibet travel agency will easily and immediately design you a program and give you all necessary information how to get to Tibet and how to process your China visa and Tibet travel permits.   

When you plan a Tibet travel program, it is very important to tell the local Tibet travel agent to include all the places that you like to visit in Tibet in your Tibet travel permits because once you are in Tibet, you are traveling according to your Tibet travel permits. You can not travel to other places which are not included in your Tibet travel permits so it is very important to include all the places in your Tibet travel permits which you like to visit.

There are two ways to get to Tibet, one way is from mainland China by taking flight to Tibet or train to Tibet. There are many daily domestic flights to Tibet and another way to get to Tibet is from Kathmandu which is the only and direct international get into Tibet. Similarly, you have two different ways of processing Tibet travel permits, one way is getting to Tibet  from mainland China and another way is getting to Tibet from Kathmandu.

At the same time, you need two different types of Tibet travel permits, one is normal Tibet travel permits which takes around 10-15 working days and another Tibet travel permits is a restrict area travel permits which takes around 20-25 days. Usually, traveling to Mt Kailash, Nyingtri, eastern forest region of Tibet and some of the trekking routes such as Kartha trekking, you need restrict Tibet travel permits.

Similarly, to process China visa, there are also two different ways of applying for China visa. If you come to Tibet from Europe or USA or any other foreign countries via mainland China, then you need to apply for china visa to the Chinese embassy in your own country around a month before your trip to Tibet is started and you need to send the China visa to your Tibetan travel agent to make your Tibet travel permits. Once the permits is finished, the Tibet travel agent will deliver your original Tibet travel permits to the hotel in mainland China as you need original Tibet travel permits to board flight or train to Tibet from mainland China.

If you come from Nepal to Tibet, you must not apply for China visa to the Chinese embassy in your own country because according to the rule, this type of visa is invalid if you get to Tibet from Nepal and Chinese embassy will cancel this visa. What you need to do is just to send the passport copy to your Tibet travel agent and they will apply for a visa invitation to Tibet Tourism Bureau and send this visa invitation to their counter part Nepali agent who can help you to apply the Chinese visa to the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu. This visa is called group visa, no matter whether you are a solo traveler or a group traveler. The visa is given on a A-size paper, not on your passport. When you enter Chinese immigration, they will also not put stamp on your passport, all the records will be on this group visa.  

There are three different options to get to Tibet. The first way to get to Tibet is by air and there are many domestic flights connecting to Tibet and one direct International flight from Kathmandu Nepal. Here are more detailed information about the flights which connect to Tibet following.

Traveling to Tibet By Air:

There are lots of daily flights to Lhasa operate from many major cities in mainland China including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzen, Xian, Xining, Lanzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu, Kunming, Zhongdian and more.

Chengdu has the highest frequency with at least more than 10 direct daily flights to Lhasa during the off season and there are around 20 flights daily during the high season.

There are daily flights from Lhasa to Kathmandu in the high season and operate at least four times weekly during the off season. The high season flight schedule is started from April till end of October and the low season fight schedule is from November till end of March.

Lhasa airport is located about 1 hours’ drive from downtown Lhasa. The taxi fare is around US$35 although most tourists will have transport pre-arranged. According to today’s new rule, all the foreign tourists should go to airport by accompanying Tibetan tour guide and a tourist vehicle.

There is also an airport at Bangda, serving Chamdo, in Eastern Tibet. Flights to Chamdo only operate from Chengdu and Lhasa. However it is necessary for foreign tourists to obtain special permits from Tibet travel agent in order to travel to Chamdo airport.

Heping airport in Shigatse also runs three times flights between Shigatse and Chengdu in a week.

Nyingtri Minling airport which is located in the eastern forest region of Tibet and it operates more than ten daily flights between Chengdu and Nyingtri.

Traveling to Tibet By Rail:
A railway service now operates to Lhasa from many major cities in mainland China. The most interesting part of the high plateau train ride is from Xining to Lhasa which takes around 21 hours train ride. The train ride from Xining to Lhasa gives you the most beautiful landscape of Tibetan high plateau. You will see beautiful Qinghai lake, vast grassland, dominated by beautiful Tibetan nomad camps and their flocks of sheep and Yak, grazing on the green grassland. The most beautiful Kunlun mountain range, Nyenchen Thangla mountain range and many other beautiful lakes, snow mountains and lots of wild lives.

It is advisable to reserve train tickets to/from Lhasa 21 days in advance during off season. You can also book the train tickets online but during the high season which is between May-Mid October, usually the train first class ticket is extremely difficult to get. You can hardly book the tickets online so you are recommend to find a right travel agent who can help you book the train tickets even if you need to pay some service charge in order to secure your booking. Lhasa railway station is only a few kms from downtown.

Traveling to Tibet By Road:
Roads link Tibet to other provinces in mainland China in all directions. Main roads go to Kashgar, Golmud, Xining, Chengdu and Kunming.

There was only one International border by land which is Dzangmu border, known as Kodari. From Kodari,  you will take Friendship Highway which leads from the Nepal border to Lhasa. It takes about 15 hours to drive non-stop from the Nepal border to Lhasa, but most tourists take four or five days to cover this route taking in the sights of Everest Base Camp, Shigatse, Gyantse and Yamdrok Tso on the way.

It takes about four hours to drive from Kathmandu to the Nepal border before the earthquake. After the earthquake in Nepal, Dzangmu border was closed for tourists and in 2017, a new border from Kyirong town was opened between Nepal and China Tibet. Kyirong border was close to Langthang national park in Nepal where many tourists go for trekking. It takes 8-9 hours drive from Kathmandu to Kyirong border or Syburibisi border at Nepal side even if the distance is only 140km. If you drive directly to Lhasa from Kyirong, it takes you around 12 hours drive but most of the tourists like to drive slowly to Lhasa via visiting Everest base camp, Shigatse, the second largest city of Tibet, Gyantse town, Yamdrok lake and finally to Lhasa. The 7 night 8 days Nepal to Tibet overland tour is also very popular and Tibet Shambhala Adventure has every Saturday departure guarantee. If you are interested, please welcome to join our 8 days Nepal to Tibet overland tour.