TOP 11 Things You Have to Know before Traveling to Lhasa by Train
Traveling by train to Tibet, the Roof of the World, is one of the most exciting and exhilarating adventures on the planet.
Traversing high mountain ranges and vast open highland prairies, the trips to Lhasa from mainland China are undoubtedly the best way to travel to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
And for anyone planning a trip to Tibet by train, there are some things you should know before you travel.
Lhasa Railway Station is the only train station in Lhasa City
There is only one train station in Lhasa, the Lhasa Railway Station, which is where all trains from mainland China arrive.
The station is located across the Lhasa River from the main part of the city, around one kilometer from the southern banks of the river.
Getting from the station to Lhasa city means a short trip across the Liuwu Bridge, which connects the station to the city.
At an altitude of around 3,641 meters (about 11,946 ft.), the station lies 8 kilometers from the Potala Palace landmark, and went into operation in July 2006, with the arrival of the first train from China.
The largest station on the Qingzang Railway between Xining and Lhasa, the station receives tens of thousands of visitors through its gates every week in the peak season for tourism.
Only seven cities in mainland China have trains to Lhasa
For those debating where to travel from on the trains to Tibet, there are only seven gateway cities that have direct trains to Lhasa.
Those trains to Tibet depart daily from Beijing, Shanghai, Xining, and Guangzhou, and every other day from Chengdu, Chongqing, and Lanzhou.
The train from Guangzhou to Lhasa is the longest, taking around 53 hours and covering a distance of almost 5,000 kilometers.
Shanghai to Lhasa train is the next longest, at 4,373 kilometers and 47 hours, with Beijing close behind at 41 hours for the 3,757-kilometer journey.
The Tibet train from Chengdu is one of the most popular for international tourists, and takes around 36-37 hours to cover the 3,070 kilometers to Lhasa.
From Chongqing, the train takes around 36 hours to cover just over 3,000km, while the Lanzhou to Lhasa train covers the 2,188km trip in just around 24 hours.
The Xining Lhasa train is the fastest and shortest of the trains to Tibet. It takes around 21-22 hours to make the trip across the plateau to Lhasa, a distance of around 1,972 kilometers.
Tibet Train Schedule 2020 & 2021
|Beijing to Lhasa (Z21)||20:00 - 12:40 +2||40h 40m||Daily|
|Shanghai to Lhasa (Z164)||20:10 - 19:30 +2||47h 20m||Daily|
|Guangzhou to Lhasa (Z264)||11:45 - 16:19 +2||52h 34m||Daily|
|Chengdu to Lhasa (Z322)||21:37 - 09:55 +2||36h 18m||Every Other Day|
|Xining to Lhasa||14:01 - 11:20 +1||21h 19m||Every Other Day|
|Chongqing to Lhasa (Z223)||22:25 - 09:55 +2||35h 30m||Every Other Day|
|Lanzhou to Lhasa (Z917)||11:16 - 11:14 +1||23h 58m||Every Other Day|
There is no high speed train to Lhasa
While there may be seven different train routes to Lhasa, there is no high-speed train that covers this route at present. This is due to the ground over which the trains travel. However, that does not mean you cannot use a bullet train to enhance your experience of the trains to Lhasa.
Depending on where you arrive in China, you can usually find a bullet train that can take you to one of the seven gateway cities, from where you can take the normal trains to Tibet.
You also have the option for making your journey shorter and faster by departing from the city that is closest to Lhasa.
Trains from Xining to Lhasa take just 21 hours to reach the Tibetan capital, and you can get to Xining by either flight or bullet train to make the whole trip quicker.
You need to have Tibet Travel Permit before boarding your train to Lhasa
One of the essentials for taking the trains to Tibet is the Tibet Travel Permit, which is required for all international tourists to Tibet.
The permit is a requirement for travel, and allows tourists from outside China to travel to Tibet and travel around in the area of Lhasa.
It is also required to enter the platform for the Tibet trains, and board the trains themselves, and is checked several times before you even get on the train to Lhasa.
The travel permit is only available for those tourists that have booked a pre-arranged tour of the region with a registered Tibet tour operator or travel agency, since individual applications are not accepted.
For tourists who booked our Tibet train tours, we provide guaranteed Tibet travel permit application service with well-arranged Tibet tour packages including the trains to Tibet.
Traveling to Lhasa by Train is not always cheaper than traveling by air
While it is generally recognized that travel to Tibet by train is a cheaper option from mainland China, this is not always the case.
Tibet Train tickets are generally stable in their prices. However, with the increase in discounted fares for flights, there are some occasions where you may be able to find a discounted flight that is cheaper than the train from the same city.
You do have to search around a lot, but it can make a saving on the transport costs of your trip to Tibet.
This does not mean that you should always take the cheapest option, though.
While a flight to Tibet is short and fast, you do not get the stunning views that you can see from the windows of the train as you pass over high snow-covered mountain ranges and cross vast open prairies filled with Tibetan antelopes and wild yaks.
Officially, the Lhasa train ticket reservation opens in 30 days in advance.
In China, all train tickets open up to 30 days prior to the date of travel, which means you have to reserve your tickets early in order to avoid disappointment.
For arranging a Tibet train tour, early booking not only means you can get the train tickets you want, but it also means you are more likely to book your favorite hotel and itinerary you want and get your Tibet Travel permit in time.
If you can’t get the train ticket to Lhasa, try the return train from Lhasa.
If you are traveling in a period when you are unable to obtain tickets to Lhasa, then you always have the option of taking a train from Lhasa after your Tibet tour is over.
The trains to mainland China from Lhasa take exactly the same route going back, so you will still get to see all the same amazing views and spectacular landscapes and wild animals as you would going the other way through the Qinghai-Tibet railway.
Moreover, it is usually easier to get the tickets from Lhasa than to Lhasa, especially in the peak season (summer holidays and the Golden Week at the beginning of October).
You don’t need to worry about Altitude Sickness while traveling to Lhasa by train
Driving through the world highest railway, all trains to Tibet have an in-built oxygen supply system, which makes it more comfortable for passengers.
After passing through the Golmud railway station, the oxygen supply system on Tibet trains will start working, diffusing oxygen into the car.
If you still find it difficult to breathe and have symptoms of altitude sickness, you can also use the separate oxygen outlet on the carriage wall to administer oxygen.
There are also stewards and medical staff on Tibet trains to provide you with basic medical assistance.
Also, it is suggested to spend a day or two in Xining (at 2,275 meters above the sea level) before your train to Lhasa to acclimatize to the altitude there.
Prepare for at least one night stay on the train to Lhasa
All trains to Lhasa cover vast distances, and even the shortest train takes almost a full day and night to reach the Tibetan capital.
Before traveling to Lhasa by train, you should prepare for at least one night spent on the trains, and up to two nights, depending on where you depart from.
The longer journeys usually start late in the day and arrive in the mornings of the third day of travel. This means it is better to book a sleeper cabin berth than to travel in the seats.
Trains have both soft and hard sleeper cabins, though both have nice soft beds to sleep in. The main difference is the cabin size and type. Soft sleepers on Tibet trains have four beds and a lockable door, while hard sleepers have six beds and no door.
Since it is unavailable to take a shower on the train, it is suggested to bring some wet wipes with you.
If you have dietary restrictions, please bring your own food on the train to Lhasa
The food on Tibet train is limited to mostly Tibetan and Chinese cuisines.
If you have any dietary restrictions, such as being vegetarian, lactose intolerant, or allergic to certain foods and ingredients, it is suggested to bring your own food, such as instant noodles, cookies, etc.
There is hot water supplied for 24 hours a day, so you can take some instant noodles with you.
Book your Lhasa train ticket together with your Lhasa Tour for more hassle-free travel
If you want the most hassle-free experience for your trip to Tibet, then it is recommended that you book your tour and your train tickets together.
The tickets for the trains to Lhasa do sell out fast once they open for sale, and you may not get the tickets you want if you leave it too late.
To book your Tibet train ticket and your Tibet tour together with a reliable Tibet local travel agency means you can get more professional suggestion on tour plan and the latest information about train ticket booking, Tibet travel permit application, etc.
Also, you don’t need to communicate with different consultant. Our 1-on-1 private travel consultant will handle all the details of your Tibet tour.
Travel to Lhasa is always much better by train, even if it is not faster. The quality of travel, the stunning views, and the outstanding service available on the trains makes it the experience of a lifetime, and the best way to start your trip to the Roof of the World.
However, a lifetime train journey to Tibet needs to be arranged as early as possible so that you can get the ticket you want and everything as you wish.
To find a reliable local agency, like us, will make things more worry-free. We will also help you a lot to arrange the details well, such as the train ticket, the Tibet travel permit, the hotels, the transfers of your Tibet tour.
Qinghai-Tibet Railway Altitude: Altitude Change and High Altitude Sickness on Tibet Train
When traveling from China to Tibet, you are going from an altitude of around sea level to an elevation in Lhasa of 3,490 meters. One thing you need to consider is the hugely increased altitude and know more about altitude sickness.
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