How to Travel from Beijing to Lhasa on a Budget

Last updated: October,18 2018

Tibet is an unusual travel destination in many ways. For instance, it's one of the world's most underrated destinations. Yet, it would surprise you how many people include it in the bucket list. Photogenic landscapes of the Land of Snows and rich cultural heritage of Lhasa are the main reasons for that. Travelers, in general, consider this amazing piece of earth an expensive destination for everyone needs to travel with a guide and book a full packaged tour with a local travel agency, but cutting the costs is possible. Timely planning, upfront reservations, joining group tours and seasonal factors are main "cost cutters".

Beijing, China, is among the most popular outbound destinations for Tibet tours. Most travelers consider the Chinese capital the best gateway to this destination. So, let's see how you can travel from Beijing to Lhasa on a budget.

Is Traveling by Train More Affordable than Traveling by Airplane?

Such a simple question calls for a complex answer. Traveling between Beijing and Lhasa by train is usually less expensive than flying. Yet, seasonal fluctuations of the price can make the cost of the train approaching the cost of the flight. Also, related expenses tend to additionally inflate the total price.

The price of a round trip from Beijing to Lhasa by plane typically varies between $850 (approx. ¥5850) and $1000 (around ¥6900) for the economy class. Costs of flights are the most expensive from March to August, corresponding to the high season. A Beijing Tibet tour will set you back somewhat less in autumn and winter. According to certain statistics, flight fares are the least expensive in October (around $840/ ¥5800). Allocate up to $30 (¥210) for a transfer from Lhasa airport to the city, too. The catch regarding this mode of transport is the inability to adjust to high altitude.

As you can see, calculating a flight fare is as straightforward as it gets in this case. As for a Beijing to Tibet train tour, things get a bit complex.

Trains from Beijing to LhasaEnjoy a Beijing to Tibet train tour.

Trains traveling between Beijing and Lhasa have hard-sleepers and soft-sleepers. The former are compartments with 6 beds, the latter with 4. Hence, hard-sleepers are less expensive. Albeit fares for the one-way ticket are usually cheaper, allow up to the following amounts for a train ticket:

TimeHard-sleepers (one way)Soft-sleepers (one way)
April and May $145 (¥1000) $200/¥1400
June, September and October $175 (¥1200) $230/¥1600
July and August $305 (¥2100) $380/¥2600
November to March $120 (¥820) $190/¥1300

Please note: the above cost of Beijing Lhasa trains are the marketing price that just for your reference. Please contact our travel consultant for a quotation on your preferred travel date.

What you should also note is that the journey begins at the altitude of 44 m/144 ft in Beijing and ends at 3650 m/12000 ft in Lhasa. So, if you intend to get used to high altitude (recommended), you should make a few-day stop along the way. Xining, located at the 2200 m/7200 ft altitude, makes the ideal destination for such a purpose. And deals for the budget accommodation range from several to several dozen dollars per night there.

As you can see, you should save a great deal for a trip from Beijing to Lhasa by train out of high season. Costs of traveling during the high season (July and August) aren't especially different between airplane and train. So, traveling in summer is out of the question for travelers on a tight budget.

Join a Local Group Tour

Joining a Tibet group tour is another budget solution for visiting Tibet, especially for those solo travelers. Remember that being accompanied by a guide is next to mandatory, both in Lhasa and in the countryside. For example, the temple's authorities may deny you access to the place of worship if a guide doesn’t accompany you.

Tibet group tourEJoining a local group tour will cut the travel cost for yout Tibet tour.

As for the approximate fares, this is how the things stand. It isn't unusual for a private tour to be up to 4 times more expensive than a guided tour. And while you pay the price for an individual tour alone, the price of a guided tour is divided among all the participants. Depending on the number of the members of the group, you may pay even 50 times less by joining a guided tour.

Thus, visiting Lhasa and Tibet on a group tour is the best budget option for traveling around this majestic land.

How to Book an Accommodation in Lhasa?

Choosing the right accommodation is another key to securing a budget Beijing to Lhasa trip. And there are various providers in Lhasa, Tibet, catering to travelers disposing of a limited budget. Recently, there are kinds of accommodations offered in Lhasa, from economic business hotels to the top luxury hotels. In those remote areas that far from Lhasa city, such as the Everest Base Camp and the Mount Kailash area, there are only guesthouses and tent hotels for you to choose. So what you need to pay special attention to is the hotel you stay in Lhasa.

Some budget hostels and hotels in Lhasa you should consider are
- Duong Cuo International Hostel, disposing of single, double and triple rooms and dorms
- Yak Hotel has over 60 rooms on offer. Be aware that rooms facing the main street tend to be noisy.
- Phuntsok Khasang International disposes of everything from single rooms to large dorms.
Every accommodation provides internet access.

Additional Tips for a Budget Tour from Beijing to Lhasa

As a traveler on a tight budget, you have various methods at disposal to make your trip from Beijing to Lhasa cheaper. Avoiding the high season is the most obvious strategy, but it is not the only one.

The high season runs from April to October in Tibet. Hence, a trip in this time of year isn't budget friendly at all. Airplane and train tickets are the most expensive. More so, they are difficult to find in summer.

A trip from Beijing to Lhasa is the cheapest in winter. Flight and railway deals are most affordable. Furthermore, providers of accommodation and tours are inclined toward lowering their prices. Just note that the Tibet Travel Permit is usually not issued during the Spring Festivals and Tibetan New Years, so you need to avoid travel Tibet in winter during these festivals.

Making an early reservation is also the key to cutting the trip expenses, especially if you fly. The best time to book a flight is usually between 2 and 3 months in advance. That way, you may save up to the 1/6 of the total price of a flight between Beijing and Lhasa. And not only that. According to statistics, airline fares are the lowest for flights taking off on Monday. Hence, combining a timely reservation and a flight on some Monday in October is likely to get you a budget jackpot.

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