Tibet Train Oxygen Supply
One of the most interesting and scenic way to go to Tibet is taking the Tibet train. You can take a train from Beijing, Shanghai, or Chengdu all the way to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet Autonomous region. But the real section of this train ride, which we can truly call Tibet train, starts at a city named Xining. Xining is the capital of Qinghai province and the largest city on the Tibetan Plateau. This section starts from the northern edge of the Tibet plateau and cross the central part, the highest and one of the most hostile part of the planet Earth to reach the magical Lhasa.
The true Tibet section is called Qinghai–Tibet railway and it connects Xining to Lhasa. This high-elevation railway (dubbed World's highest railway) is 1,956 km and takes its passengers from 2,275 meter above sea level (in Xining) to 3,658 altitude (in Lhasa). But the line also passes through much higher elevations, most notably Tanggula Pass. This wide mountain passing over 5,072 meters’ elevation is the world's highest point on a railway. Due to these high elevations experienced by the passengers, the carriages on Qinghai–Tibet Railway trains are specially built and have an oxygen supply for each passenger (and every passenger train also has a doctor).
Normally, there is a general oxygen supply system in Qinghai-Tibet trains which increases the oxygen content in the cabin when the train is in very high altitude region called Qinghai–Tibet Plateau (average elevation exceeding 4,500 metres here and the region is sometimes called "the Roof of the World"). This supply keeps the required oxygen level in the train and protects the passengers from high altitude sickness.But for emergency there are also oxygen supply tubes and outlets for the passenger. These private oxygen supplies are provided for all classes of passengers and it is important to know how to use them, where they are installed and when to use.
How to Use the Oxygen Supply on Tibet Train and Where are the Oxygen Supply Installed?
But don’t worry, private oxygen supplies on Tibet train are quite easy to use. But they are not in the overhead compartments and drops down from there in the case of an emergency like in the airplanes. The high-altitude sickness does not happen to everyone and at the same time. The cabin air is already enriched by the central oxygen supply system so you would be comfortable throughout the journey. Especially if you have stayed in Xining for a few days to make your body get used to high altitude.
The oxygen supply connectors are everywhere but the tubes to connect it to your nose need to be requested from the Tibet train staff. The tube comes in a plastic bag which is free of charge. The package contains a transparent tube to be installed to the socket in the oxygen supply outlet. You can easily locate the end to install to the connector and the end to put into your nostrils.
The private oxygen supply socket is installed in different locations depending on your ticket type. In the cabin and train corridor, oxygen supply outlets are on the train wall. In cabin, they are near the beds and can be used while lying on the bed. You can easily locate these wall outlets. They have dark red covers which have “OXYGEN OUTLET” written on them.
If you are not traveling in a cabin but traveling in normal seats, the oxygen supply connectors are located beneath the seats. They do not have the red color and Oxygen Outlet text on them but still can easily be located.
As we have mentioned about, the plastic tube to be connected to the oxygen supplies comes in a plastic bag. Once you tear open this bag and get the tube out, you open the plastic cover of the oxygen supply outlet and insert one end of the tube to socket inside. The other end of the tube has two small tubes. You will need to put these two small tubes into your nostrils.
You do not need to press any button to let oxygen come out from the socket. Once the tube is inserted into the supply and in your nostrils, you can breathe normally until you feel comfortable again. But if this does not work and you still feel uncomfortable and shortness of breath, you can ask help from the conductor. There is a doctor on each Tibet train for such emergency situations.
When to Use the Oxygen Supply? Usual Feelings about High Altitude Sickness
A passenger should use the private oxygen supply when he or she shows the symptoms of high altitude sickness. High altitude sickness occurs when one cannot get enough oxygen from the air. Air is thinner at high altitudes and if you go fast from low to high altitude, your body cannot get enough oxygen. It usually happens to people who are not used to high altitude and goes from lower altitudes to 8,000 feet (2438 meter) and above very quickly.
For many, high altitude sickness feels like a bad hangover. The common symptoms are headache which is usually throbbing, loss of appetite, feeling sick in stomach (may cause vomit), feeling weak and tired, feeling dizzy and sleeping difficulties. The sickness can range from mild to severe and may not start until a day after you have been at a high altitude.
If a passenger shows some of the symptoms above, he or she should use the private oxygen supply in Tibet train. If the passenger still feels uncomfortable after using the oxygen supply set, he or she can request to be seen by the doctor on the Tibet train.
The high-altitude sickness can be dangerous in some cases. If it effects the lungs and brain, the patient can have confusion, may not be able to walk in a straight line, feel faint and have blue or grey lips or fingernails. Although this would be very rare since the cabins are fed oxygen, these symptoms show that the sickness is severe.
Although the cabins are fed oxygen and there is a private oxygen supply, Tibet train is still not for everyone. If you have breathing problems, it is probably best for you to avoid the train trip.
A Passenger Health Registration Card is mandatory between the Golmud and Lhasa section. The card is given when you buy your ticket. The card has information about the high-altitude sickness and you need to sign the agreement on the card to take the train.
Most Difficult Time about the Altitude Sickness
The altitude change from Xining to Lhasa does not seem very dramatic at first glance. Xining is 2,275 meter above sea level which is just below the high-altitude sickness range. Lhasa on the other hand is 3,658 meters above sea level.
But the Tibet train climbs up much higher altitudes on its journey between these two cities. The tracks pass through the central parts of Tibet Plateau and usually travel well over 4,000 meters above sea level. Although Golmud to Lhasa section is the part where one can altitude sickness, some highest points on the journey are the real sections to expect the high-altitude sickness: The highest point of the journey, and also the most likely time for someone to have altitude sickness, is a section called Tanggula Pass. This wide mountain pass is 5,072 meters above sea level and used to cross Tanggula Mountains, which are a mountain range in the central part of the Tibetan Plateau. This is the highest point any railway in the world crosses and it takes a few hours for the Tibet train to cover the distance.
Another likely section to have altitude sickness is Fenghuoshan Tunnel which is the highest railway tunnel in the world. The tunnel is located 4,905 meters (16,093 feet) above sea level and is in the western, sparsely populated Zadoi County, Qinghai.