Get in Tibet

Transportation to Tibet


By Air

There are airlines connect Lhasa with Chamdo/ Xining/ Beijing / Shanghai / Chengdu / Chongqing / Kunming / Xi'an / Zhongdian / Kathmandu.

Lhasa>Guangzhou via Zhongdian every Mon.& Fri. Lhasa>Chengdu: 5~8 flights a day.
Lhasa>Hongkong via Chengdu, every Monday.
Lhasa>Beijing via Chengdu: twice a day.
Lhasa>Xi'an: 3 flights per week.

Lhasa Gonggar Airport is located 98km south of Lhasa. The airport shuttle bus, running between the airport and China Airlines Office in Lhasa costs Y20/head.

Either from Chengdu, Zhongdian or from Kathmandu, these flights offer the most spectacular landscapes of the world-countless glaciers, magnificent mountain ranges as well as pyramidal snow peaks.

By Land

  • The northern route
The main access to Lhasa is the northern route from Golmud that is augmented by a new railway since July 2006. It passes through very high plateaus as well as the KekeXili Reserve on the way up to Tangula Pass, in excess of 5,000m. There are lots of snow peaks and in fact, at high grounds, rivers are frozen stiff even in the midst of summer.

The comfortable train journey takes 12 hours from Golmud to Lhasa. Now there are direct trains from Beijing, Chengdu to Lhasa.

The bus journey from Lhasa to Golmud is supposed to be about 16 hours; however as is the norm in Tibet, it could take 20 hours. The main reason is mechanical problems with buses. It is reported that many drivers are very rude to passengers.
  • The western route
The west overland road from Kashgar, Xinjiang, to Lhasa is the longest, wildest and the most adventurous route. The road passes though Mt Kailash, Lake Manasarovathe, and a vast desolate plateau. It offers a chance to visit the mysterious Guge Kingdom that disappeared several hundred years ago.
  • The southern route
The south road from Nepal is international travelers’ favourite route as it provides them with the possibility to visit some of the most famous and popular sights in Tibet such as the Everest North BC, Shigatse, Gyantse, Lake Yamdrok.
  • The eastern route
Whether it is from Sichuan or Yunnan, the eastern roads cross regions of China with the richest geographical and cultural diversities. In addition to the flamboyant minority villages, there are deep river gorges formed by great rivers such as the Yarlong Tsangpo (Brahmaputra), the NuJiang (Salween), the LanChangJiang (Mekong) and the Yangzi. Precipitous mountain ranges, primitive forests with abundant plants and animals and vast grasslands dots the whole area. The region offers China’s best hikes and drives.

The overland approaches from the east are less hardy nowadays thanks to great improvements on road conditions against landslides. Now a sleeper bus with two or three drivers can run non-stop day and night from Chengdu to Lhasa for a distance of 2,400km within three to four days.

Tour operators in Chengdu, Kunming and Zhongdian offer 8 to 16 days overland trips to Lhasa.

5 main highways to Tibet
  • Sichuan-Tibet Highway (Chengdu-Lhasa, also called "Chuan-zang Highway")

Southern Route-G318: 2149km

Lhasa<-274km-> Gongbo Gyamda <-127km-> Bayi <-19km-> Nyingchi <-216km-> Bomi <-129km-> Ranwok <-90km-> Baxoi<-94km-> Bamda<-107km-> Zogong<-158km-> Markam<-107km-> Batang <-165km-> Litang<-217km-> Xinduqiao<-75km-> Kangding <-49km-> Luding <-168km-> Ya’an<-139km-> Chengdu

Northern Route: 2412km

Lhasa<-274km-> Gongbo Gyamda <-127km-> Bayi <-19km-> Nyingchi <-216km-> Bomi <-129km-> Ranwok<-90km-> Baxoi<-94km-> Bamda<-213km-> Chamdo<-228km-> Gyamda <-85km-> Jinsha River Bridge<-24km-> Dege <-112km-> Manigango<-95km-> Garze <-97km-> Luhuo <-72km-> Daofu<-145km-> Danba<-55km> Xiaojin <-191km-> Wolong<-83km-> Dujiangyan<-54km-> Chengdu

The 2 routes are connected by G214 between Chamdo and Bangda in Tibet. This is the longest highway in China till now. It's a harsh road with incomparable sights along. South route is popularly chosen for its lower elevation.

  • Qinghai-Tibet Highway (Xining-Golmud-Lhasa)

Lhasa<-87km->Yangbajain<-75km->Damxung<-164km->Nagqu <-138km-> Amdo<-89km-> Tangula Mountain <-100km-> Yanshiping
<- 91km->Tuotuo Riverside <-150km-> Wudaoliang<-269km-> Golmud <-484km-> Chaka <-196km-> Daotang River<-103km->Xining

  • Xinjiang-Tibet Highway (Yecheng-Burang)
Yecheng<-69km-> Pusa<-88km-> Kudidaban<-83km-> Mazadaban <-339km-> Sweet Water Sea<-110km-> Jieshandaban<-177km-> Duomaping<-143km-> Rutog County <-87km-> Shiquanhe town <-331km-> Parga <-334km-> Zhongba<-145km-> Saga<-293km-> Lhaze <-157km-> Xigaze<-337km-> Lhasa

This is the highest highway above sea level.
  • Yunnan-Tibet High Way (Xiaguan-Makam)
Kunming (397km)-Xiaguan (12km)-Dali(166km)- Lijiang(145km) -Zhongdian(152 km)-Deqen (103km)-Yanjing (111km)-Makam (359km)-Baxio (450km)-Nyingchi (420 km)-Lhasa
  • Sino-Nepal Friendship Highway (Lhasa--Zhangmu Friendship Bridge-Kathmandu)

Lhasa(337km)-Shigatse(157km)-Lhaze(75)-Xegar(NewTingri) (60km)-OldTingri-Neyalamu(30km)-Zhangmu Friendship Bridge(Kathmandu)

Tips for hitchhiking along the Sichuan-Tibet / Yunnan-Tibet Highways:

There are some shuttle trucks shipping wood between Bomi, Chayu to Chengdu and other options include jeeps or cars that occasionally pass by. Each county has a hostel catering to drivers such as the hostel of the Bomi Foodstuff Administration, the Pingan Hostel in Ranwu (you are advised to wait for the passing vehicles at the crossing in the early morning to catch the cars coming from Chayu), the Weizhi and Bangda Garrisons in Bashu and Bangda, the County Governmental Hostel of Zogong (each Friday a bus from Changdu to Mangkang stops at Zuogong in the evening and comes back on Sunday) and the hostel in Mangkang. The best way to catch the passing vehicles is to wait in the early morning outside the town. On the route there are a number of garrisons, which are good places for accommodation.    

 By Train: The Qinghai-Tibet railway went into operation in July 2006.

From To No. Departure Arrival Hours Hard Seat (RMB) Hard Sleeper
Soft Sleeper
Beijing Lhasa T27 21:30 20:58
(3rd day)
48 389 813 1262
Lhasa Beijing T28 8:00 8:00
(3rd day)
Chengdu Lhasa T22/3 18:18 18:28
(3rd day)
48 331 712 1104
Lhasa Chengdu T21/4 9:05 9:55
(3rd day)
Lanzhou Lhasa K917 16:45 22:30
(2nd day)
30 242 552 854
Lhasa Lanzhou K918 9:32 15:45
(2nd day)
Xining Lhasa N917 20:07 22:30
(2nd day)
27 226 523 813
Lhasa Xining N918 9:32 12:19
(2nd day)

Important Notice

Although overland routes are well established, from within China, Qinghai-Tibet Highway (Golmud-Lhasa 1160km) is the only officially permitted land route for foreigners. The overland routes from Sichuan (over 2000km from Chengdu to Lhasa), Yunnan (around 2400km from Kunming) and Kashgar (1100km to Ali) are strictly closed to foreigners, although a few intrepid travellers manage to get through. If you're caught by the authorities you may well be imprisoned, fined and/or deported and drivers caught transporting you face at the least large fines and maybe more serious trouble - some drivers have been given very severe beatings.

Overland from Kathmandu via Kodari on the Nepal side and Zhangmu on the Tibetan side is a popular option, but travellers are vulnerable to snap policy changes, and also to landslides in summer and snow-blocked passes in winter. Under no circumstances apply for a Chinese visa in Kathmandu if you want to travel independently to Tibet - the Chinese embassy will not issue these unless you are booked on an organized tour through a Kathmandu travel agent (expect to pay around US$380 for an organized seven-day tour going overland to Lhasa, plus US$190 for the Lhasa-Kathmandu flight), and even then you will only get a group visa, which doesn't allow you to travel independently. Independent travellers must have their Chinese visa before arrival in Kathmandu, and even then it's not straightforward; in 1998, regulations were tightened and Aliens' Travel Permits for the route to Lhasa (US$30) were being issued only if an organized tour through to the capital was booked. An agency that will group individual travellers together is Royal Mountain Trekking at Durbar Marg in Kathmandu (tel 241452), which charges US$260 for a five-day overland "tour" to Lhasa. They will tell you that a ticket out of Tibet is necessary, but some people who don't have one still get in. The best advice is to spend some time in Kathmandu to get a feel for the current situation and check out your options.

At the time of writing, cyclists on this route were unable to persuade the authorities to issue a permit without a tour, but this might change. If you're going to attempt it, bear in mind that most of the road between Zhangmu and Shigatse is unpaved and very rough. The altitude gain from Kodari to Zhangmu is 530m in about 9km, then 1450m in the 33km to Nyalam followed by a tough 1300m in the 57-kilometre climb to the Lalung Pass at 5050m. Allow around twenty days to cycle from Kathmandu to Lhasa. You'll need camping equipment, food (plus stove) and adequate warm-weather gear. Dogs are a particular hazard near villages. 

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