2021 Travel Advisory: Permits for expats currently living in China are now open! Travelers not already living in China still seem to be subject to a 14-day quarantine and the Tibet permit situation for these is not known. However, if you want to travel to Tibet you can pre-book travel for a later date. By doing this, you will support local Tibetan-owned businesses at a time when they are struggling to survive. To learn more, ask us for an introduction to a reliable Tibetan travel agency here.
For most people we recommend taking the train. The Tibet “sky” train — the highest train route in the world — is worth taking as a visual introduction to the immense, impressive spaces of the Tibetan Plateau.
Traveling to Tibet by train can also help you acclimatize — just a little — to Tibet’s high altitude.
Here’s a video walking through 10 lessons we’ve learned to improve the Tibet train experience:
Here are some FAQs about what is officially called the the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and some our most popular Tibet train travel posts.
Tibet Train: FAQs
Is oxygen pumped in? Yes, after a certain altitude is reached, and you can also use an individual air supply as well, but on one of our trips only one of four oxygen supplies in the train carriage actually worked! This makes us doubt if the oxygen that is pumped in works properly.
Are the train cars pressurized? No, that’s a myth.
Are there doctors on the train? There are supposed to be but we saw zero evidence of any medical personnel.
Best departure point for Tibet train travel? Xining (for views and acclimatizing purposes)
Best time to take the train from Xining for the best views? We recommend the later trains, to see more of the TAR in daylight, but you will thus miss Qinghai Lake.
How to buy tickets? We recommend buying through an agency, as the tickets are hugely in demand for much of the main tourist seasons, and the agencies have connections and better chances. You can ask us here to put you in touch with a reliable, Tibetan-owned agency.
When to buy tickets? Tickets generally go on sale 30 days in advance and will often sell out right away.
Dates to avoid Tibet train travel? Avoid the Chinese national holidays in May and October. July, August and September are also very busy, and difficult to get good seats (or any seats at times).
Best chance to get seats? Lowest season: November to January
How long to get to Lhasa? From Beijing, 3 days. From Xining (recommended) about 24 hours.
Almost all travelers have the same mistaken perception of the Tibet train (the Qinghai-Tibet Railway) as a way to travel to Lhasa. Read this post to avoid making this common mistake travelers make when taking the “sky train” to Lhasa, that leaves them feeling rotten when they arrive. Read more >>
A little preparation can go a long way to making your Tibet train experience an easy, peaceful journey that helps you acclimatize to Tibet while you get the first taste of her vast, beautiful vistas. Here are ten tips for your Beijing to Lhasa train trip. Read more >>
If you only have a very short time in Tibet, you could take this tour rather than the high-risk fly in to Lhasa. (To tell the truth, if you think you can only get to Tibet once in your life, it’s worth saving up the time and money to make a longer trip of at least two weeks.) Read more >>