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How to Travel to Tibet?

  • Author: Naba Raj Amgai
  • Posted on: Tue Sep 28, 2021
Flight-to-Tibet-from-Mainland-China

The journey to Tibet is an interesting one that presents stopovers at different countries to the 'Roof of the World' in Asia. There are various ways of getting to Tibet from other parts of the world like the UK, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Bangkok, Singapore, Hongkong, etc. Tourists from all over the world prefer to visit the serene land with unique landscapes from dry arid plateaus to the cold, snowy mountain base.

Getting to Tibet can be done in many ways, but the most popular is flying from your country of origin to  Mainland China or Nepal, from where it is easier to take a flight or overland drive to Tibet. Traveling by flight from the different commercial and central hubs of Mainland China or the capital city of Nepal offers a bird's eye view of the Himalayas and plateaus. Alternatively, the overland drive is a lengthier option that gives an insight into the unique culture and traditions of the Tibetan Buddhist region. While tourists with limited time prefer flight, tourists seeking adventure and ample time opt for the overland drive to get to Tibet.

The highlight of the Tibet tours is undoubtedly the views of Mt. Everest and other adjoining 8000m mountains and Tibetan plateaus. The other attractions included in drive and flight are views of the pristine lake, crossing the high passes, visiting historical monuments in different ancient cities around the land of gods in Lhasa and other prefectures in Tibet.


How To Get To Tibet From Australia

The distinct plateaus and rich Tibetan Buddhist culture have always been a fascination among many Australians. In turn, Tibet's South Asian autonomous region opens its land to millions of Australian tourists each year. Getting to Tibet from Australia is easy and can be done in two main ways; via a stopover at mainland China or Nepal. The journey that covers about 7800 km starts with a flight from Australia to either of the two countries; then, there is an overland drive or flight to Tibet.

There are no direct flights from Australia to Tibet, so you will either have to fly to Mainland China or Nepal. Either way, it is an excellent experience of visiting the neighboring countries in addition to the Tibet tour. 

Nepal covers the southwest border while China covers most of the North West and East of Tibet. Although you can take a flight from many cities and states in Australia, the best option is to fly from Sydney. You can take a flight from Sydney to the different cities in China to ultimately visit Tibet. Alternatively, you can fly from Sydney to Kathmandu city, the capital of Nepal, from where you will continue your trip to Tibet. While a stopover at Nepal offers you the majestic trans Himalayan landscape views, the stopover at China lets you witness the modern and chic city built amidst ancient heritage.

The costs of your flight depend upon the city you are traveling from and to, season, class, and airlines. You can do a comparative analysis online before the tour to get the very best deals.

How To Get To Tibet From The UK

The UK is about 7400 km northwest of Tibet, and no direct flights take you from the UK to Tibet. Therefore, to get to Tibet from the UK, you can take a flight to Mainland China or Nepal, neighboring Tibet. The most popular option is to take a flight to China as there are many direct and daily flights to the gateway cities of China like Guangzhou, Beijing, and Shanghai from the London Heathrow Airport. The flights to China take roughly about 13 to 15 hours.

Another alternative is to take a flight to Nepal. It is one of the well-known departure locations to travel to Tibet as it is the only nation that offers direct flight access to Tibet. Daily departures from London Heathrow International Airport in London, UK, to Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal. As there are no direct flights, all of these departures stop at Istanbul, Turkey, or New Delhi in India before landing in Nepal after nearly 11 to 14 hours.

How To Get To Tibet From Canada

Canada is situated 10,300 km away from Tibet, and there are no direct flights. Hence, the two options are to take a flight to a gateway city of Mainland China or fly to Nepal before heading to Tibet. You can take a flight from Vancouver International Airport, Canada, to either Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, or Guangzhou, which will take roughly 12 to 28 hours depending on whether it is a direct or connecting flight.

 You can also opt to take a flight to Nepal from Canada before getting to Tibet. There is no direct flight from Vancouver International Airport, Canada, to Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal. Hence, you will have to take a connecting flight with one stopover taking around 5 to 26 hours.

How To Get To Tibet From Malaysia

Malaysia has located 3,200 km to the south of Tibet. Malaysians are attracted to the distinct landscape of Tibet and prefer to visit the pristine land every year to witness the rich Tibetan Buddhist culture that most Malays also practice. There are no direct flights from Malaysia to Tibet; hence you can either stop at Mainland China or Nepal first.

There are direct and daily flights between Malaysia and gateway cities of China like Chengdu, Shanghai, or Beijing. The best option is to head to Chengdu because it is the closest departure location for Tibet and is also a popular tourist destination. Flights from Malaysia to the gateway city of China take about four and a half hours to seven hours.

Alternatively, you can take a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal's capital city, Kathmandu. It is also a popular option for tourists who prefer to witness the Himalayas and the unique Hindu religion. There are more than seven daily flights from Malaysia to Nepal, and it takes about 4 hours 45 minutes to get there.

How To Get To Tibet From Singapore

Singapore is an island nation located to the south of Tibet, about 3500 km away. Singaporeans love to visit Tibet's plateaus and Himalayan landscape to cool off from the heat during summer. There are two distinct ways to get to Tibet from Singapore, either via a connecting flight to Mainland China or Nepal, as no direct flights are available.

The best way is to take a flight to Mainland China because Singaporean citizens do not require a visa to enter China for a limited period. You can book a flight either to Chengdu, Beijing, or Shanghai. It is advised that you take a direct flight from Changi Airport in Singapore to Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu, which takes only about 4 hours 30 minutes. Flights to Beijing or Shanghai are also an option but take about 5 and 8 hours respectively, and there aren't many departures each day.

The other way to travel from Singapore to Tibet is by flying first to Nepal. As there aren't direct flights to Nepal, you need to take a connecting flight that stops at New Delhi, India, on the way. There are about 37 daily flights to Kathmandu that take around 7 to 14 hours, depending on the layover, which makes it a rather unpopular option.

How To Get To Tibet From Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand itself, is a popular tourist destination for the rest of the world, but Tibet is a jewel that they wish to see each year for Thai people. Both Bangkok and Tibet are the holy land of Buddhism with uncountable temples and natural sites. Bangkok is located to the south of Tibet, just 2200 km away. You can either take a flight to a gateway city in Mainland China or Nepal before entering Tibet, as there are no direct flights from Bangkok.

The most popular option is taking a flight to Mainland China's Chengdu, which takes about 3 hours to direct. Chengdu is closer to Tibet's capital, Lhasa, so it is a popular option. Or you can also visit other cities like Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou.

The other alternative is to take a flight from Bangkok to Nepal's capital, Kathmandu. Several flights are operated each day and will take about 3 hours 30 minutes for a nonstop flight. Making a stopover in Nepal is also a good option if you want to witness the Hindu and Buddhist temples in Kathmandu and fly over the Himalayan range.

How To Get To Tibet From Hongkong

Hongkong is a popular entry point into China, with several flights running to different cities of the world. If you are residing in Hongkong, then there are several ways of reaching Tibet.

If you are looking for the fastest way, taking a connecting flight from Hongkong to Lhasa with a layover at Chengdu is a good option. Or you can take a flight from Hongkong to Lhasa with no stopovers, but this is only seasonal and runs in peak seasons, so this is a somewhat unsure medium.

Another way is to take a flight directly from Hongkong to Chengdu in 3 hours then take a train from Chengdu to Lhasa that takes around 41 hours 11 minutes. It is a more convenient way if you are looking for ease as well as budget travel.

If you don't wish for the tour to be a little heavy on the pocket, then it is best to take a classic high-speed train from Hongkong's West Kowloon Railway Station to any gateway cities of China like Guangzhou Chongqing, Beijing, or Shanghai. You can then board another train to Lhasa, which is a lengthy yet cheaper option.

Are you traveling from the United States? Check out: How to Travel to Tibet from the United States

Where to travel next?

Get help from our travel specialists for holiday ideas that matches your interests.

How To Get To Tibet From Mainland China?

Train to Tibet from Mainland China

You can choose the option of traveling to Tibet from the above countries via Mainland China. If you have never visited China, then this is an excellent opportunity for you. You can take the flight from the major cities in different countries directly to China.

You can choose to take a direct flight or take connecting flights with stopovers. The best choice would be to take a direct flight to Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Hong Kong. Many tourists prefer to fly directly to Beijing, Hong Kong, or Chengdu because there are many regular flights to those cities. It also gives a good opportunity to witness the massive commercial hubs.

Your ultimate next step after reaching a city of mainland China is to opt for either a train ride or a flight to Tibet's capital Lhasa which is an exciting adventure on its own. The overland train drive is best suited for those with ample time for adventure and a surreal experience, although the rides are lengthy. The flight option is for those who have limited time, want to travel comfortably, have enough budget to spare and seek a bird's eye view of the landscape.

Travel to Tibet from Beijing

Beijing is one of the most prominent commercial cities of China located to the northeast of Tibet. The capital and second-largest city of China also offers a historical view of ancient Chinese culture. There are two options of traveling to Tibet from Beijing, either via a flight or by train.

Flight: There are many daily flights available from Beijing Capital International Airport to Lhasa Gonggar Airport. You can either opt for a direct flight taking around 4 hours 30 minutes or can opt for the 6 hours 50 minutes flight with a stopover at Chengdu, Xining, or Xi'an.

Train: Traveling to Tibet via train is another option but the most lengthier one. The train ride takes about 41 hours, crossing different cities. The world's highest railway, Qinghai Tibet Railway, starts from Xining and makes up most of your trip to Lhasa.

Travel to Tibet from Shanghai

Shanghai, the largest city in China, is a vital hub of commerce, finance, industrialization, and culture. One of the busiest ports globally, it is also a tourist destination on its own and a stopover for Tibet tours. Shanghai is to the East of Lhasa near the East China Sea. You can travel to Tibet from Shanghai either by flight or by train.

Flight: The option to travel via flight takes about 7 hours with an hour stopover at Chengdu or Xi'an. There are three daily flights to Lhasa operated by Air China, Tibet Airlines, and China Eastern Airlines.

Train: The option to travel via train is most certainly lengthy but has up-close views of the eight provinces you cross. It takes about 47 hours and 34 minutes to reach Lhasa Railway Station.

Travel to Tibet from Xian

Xi'an, one of China's oldest cities, has a lot to showcase in terms of Chinese heritage and civilization. Xi'an is located near the northeast of Lhasa. There are two ways of reaching Lhasa from Xi'an, by air and via land.

Flight: There is an availability of a 3 hour 15 minutes flight which is convenient and time-saving. There are about eight direct flights per day from Xi'an International Airport operated by Air China, China Western Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, and Tibet Airlines.

Train: Another alternative is to take a train trip to Lhasa, which will take nearly 35 hours. It is essential to pre-book your ticket before coming to Xi'an, as getting a ticket on arrival is rather challenging. You will pass by Xining on the way and experience the highest Qinghai Tibet railway from thereon to Lhasa.

Travel to Tibet from Chengdu

Chengdu, in Southwest China's Sichuan province, is the home of the Giant Panda. Suppose you are traveling to Lhasa via Mainland China. In that case, Chengdu is a good place to witness the gradual change in altitude, peach blossoms, from gigantic cityscapes to serene Tibetan plateaus.

Flight: You have the option to take a flight from Chengdu to Lhasa, which takes about 2 hours and 35 minutes on average. There are 13 daily direct flights to Lhasa Gonggar International Airport from Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport. 

Train: Another option is to take a train ride which takes about 36 hours. The train passes through different cities before reaching the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, nearly 3,360 km away. It is a better option for budget travelers who want to enjoy the views and have ample time to spend. 

Travel to Tibet from Guangzhou

Guangzhou is the largest coastal city of southern China and the hub for commerce and tourism alike. The city is ancient but is heavily influenced by modern civilization. It is also a gateway city to get to Tibet, which is located to its west. There are two suggested ways of reaching Lhasa, via flight and via train.

Flight: Flight is the popular option for reaching Lhasa because the aerial distance between the two cities is 3,525km. The flight itself takes about 6 hours with a stopover either at Chongqing or Diqing. There are two direct flights daily departing from Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport operated by Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines.

Train: The train ride from Guangzhou to Lhasa is one of the longest in mainland China as it makes a complete arc on the way. It takes about 53 to 54 hours to cover 4,980 km from Guangzhou to the Tibetan capital. Hence it is not a popular choice.         

Where to travel next?

Get help from our travel specialists for holiday ideas that matches your interests.

Traveling To Tibet Via Nepal

Traveling to Tibet Via Nepal

Another alternative of getting to Tibet is via its neighboring South Asian country of Nepal, located southwest of Lhasa.  If you were to take up a flight to Nepal, you could catch a regular flight to Kathmandu from the major cities of most countries.

After you land in Nepal, there are two ways to travel from Kathmandu to Lhasa; via flight or by land.

Kathmandu to Lhasa via flight

Traveling from Nepal to Tibet is easy as daily flights go from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu to Lhasa Gonggar International Airport in Lhasa. Two leading carriers take you to Tibet, namely Sichuan Air and Air China. The cost of the ticket is dependent on the season and any promotional discounts offered by the airlines.

The significant advantage of taking a flight is the short period it takes to reach there and witness a bird's eye view of the eight-thousander mountains, including Mt. Everest.

Kathmandu to Lhasa via Overland

Apart from the flight, we also have the option of an overland drive to Lhasa from Kathmandu. It is a lengthy and adventurous tour crossing borders, high passes, prefectures, lakes, and multiple cities across Tibet and Nepal. The six-hour drive starts from Kathmandu, heading north to the Rasuwagadhi fort on Nepal's border. You can either travel via a bus or a private vehicle. After crossing the Rasuwagadhi checkpoints, on the other side of the Resou Bridge, you will reach the Gyirong Port on the other side in Tibet.

You need to show your documents to the immigration officials in Gyirong. From there, a lengthy tour of about a week starts along with the asphalt G318 Highway. Depending upon the route you opt for, you can travel the cities and counties of Shigatse, Tingri, and Gyantse while witnessing Yamdrok lake, Yarlung river, views of Mt. Everest, and more.

Another option for adventure seekers is the extreme cycling tour from Kathmandu to Lhasa, which takes about two weeks. It is not only lengthy but also physically demanding. However, if you want to enjoy the fresh air and flex your muscles, this is the right option. No railways are connecting Tibet and Nepal as of now, so traveling by train is out of option.

Required Documents

Required Documents

Getting to Tibet might be accessible in terms of transportation, but you need to acquire numerous permits and documents. Tibet is one of the trendy tourist areas; the government has also protected it by preserving the rich culture and unique nature. Following are some of the documents that you would require while traveling to Tibet:

Chinese Visa for travel to Mainland China

This is the first and mandatory visa you would require beforehand. You can either apply in person or via mail. The cost for a 3-month single entry visa application in person is AUD 109.5 and via mail is AUD 131.5, including application charges.

Group China Visa for travel from Nepal to Tibet

A Chinese Visa is not required if you travel to Tibet via Nepal. The Chinese embassy issues the Group Tourist Visa either for a group or an individual. This visa is a single entry visa that is valid for 30 days.

Tibet Travel permit

This is the second critical permit required as you will be entering the Autonomous region of Tibet. You need to show it while taking a train or flight to Lhasa, and your tour operator can only apply for it. If you are getting to Tibet via Nepal, you need to first obtain your Group Tourist Visa then only receive the Tibet Travel Permit.

Besides the visa mentioned above and permits for travel to Lhasa, the following are some of the permits required if your tour takes you to some distinct/ restricted areas:

Alien's Travel Permit

This is not a mandatory permit for all tours in Tibet but only for those who opt for the route that takes you to areas outside Lhasa and Nagqu like Everest Base Camp (EBC). A Frontier Pass/Tibet Border Pass will also be required if the tour takes you to EBC, as it lies on the border of Nepal.

Military Permit/ Restricted Area Permit

If your route or tour takes you to a restricted or military sensitive area like Mt. Kailash, Rowok Lake, Nyingchi, Nagqu, and Ngari, you require this permit.

Foreign Affair Permit

Tourists traveling to sensitive border areas of Tibet like Mt. Kailash require this permit. The Lhasa's Foreign Affairs office issues it and takes 10 to 15 working days to process. Additionally, for areas in western Tibet like Tholing and Tsaparang, you would require a permit issued by the local Cultural Antiquities Department that takes a month to process.

All these required documents ensure the protection of the tourist and the pristine land of Tibet as well. Besides the Chinese Visa, all other permits can be applied only via your registered tour operator.

Check out the article for detailed information related to Tibet travel permit and visa: How To Get A Tibet Travel Permit?

Conclusion

Visitors from around the world are always welcomed with open arms in Tibet. In addition, the beautiful landscape and heritage of Tibet attract many tourists each year. There are no direct flights from many countries to Tibet, and only some major cities in China and the capital city of Nepal offer direct flights to Lhasa, Tibet.

For the ease of tourists, getting to Tibet from most cities in the world can be done in two ways, either with a flight to Mainland China or Nepal. You get to experience the distinct faces of the two countries, including the Himalayas, skyscrapers, modern architecture, heritage, and culture.

We understand that leaping your next big adventure in Tibet can get overwhelming. Hence, we have our experts on the line at all times. You can get in touch with them to inquire about your upcoming trip to the roof of the world.



  • Author: Naba Raj Amgai
  • Posted on: Tuesday Sep 28, 2021


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Naba Raj

About Author - Naba Raj Amgai

Naba Raj Amgai, stepped into the world of travel and tourism in 1996. He is Founder and Managing Director of Third Rock Adventures.

Beginning his journey in the tourism industry as a humble Porter Guide to founding hospitality establishments and an adventure travel company, he has come a long way.

In a career spanning more than two decades, he has achieved more than anybody dreams of achieving. Along with his professional achievements, his selfless contribution towards his community and society has won him a lot of accolades and praises.

Having dedicated more than two decades in the tourism and hospitality sector, he has amassed a wealth of experience.

After passing high school, he began helping out some trekking guides and was soon recruited as a porter guide at a reputed trekking agency. Within a short time, he was individually guiding clients across the well-known trails of the Himalayas.

He went on to lead tour groups on multi-country tours to Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India. Being a part of mountain climbing expeditions familiarised him with expedition logistics and operations. Later on, he went to become the Executive Director and took over the reins of Operations, Sales and Marketing departments. Spending several years in the tourism field has made Naba Raj Amgai a destination expert.

Travelling is his passion and he has been to many countries across the world – USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Holland, Germany, Austria and many parts of Asia.

His journeys to different parts of the world have enriched his travel experience and knowledge. This experience has been instrumental in planning and organizing successful trips for several clients.

As of today many reputed travel companies, hotels and restaurants are under his leadership. A dynamic and proactive leader, he continues to inspire and motivate people from all walks of life.

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