The Tibet train (also knows as the Qinghai-Tibet Railway) connects Xining in Qinghai, China to Lhasa in Tibet. The train is a good alternative to flights into Lhasa, for health reasons.
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But did you know:
There is a widespread misunderstanding about the train.
Travelers to Tibet think that traveling by train from mainland China is a good way to acclimate to Lhasa’s high altitude.
This is not correct.
Actually it helps a little. But not nearly as much as you think.
The failure to understand this fact puts many travelers at risk of getting altitude sickness.
In this post we will lay out the facts, and offer you a less risky, more healthy option.
It’s easy to mistake the benefits of the Tibet train
If you’re going to visit Tibet, traveling by train seems to be a great way to acclimatize.
If you start at near sea level in Beijing and two days later you end up in Lhasa, at 11,975 feet/3650 meters, it appears that you would be slowly acclimatizing all along the way.
Unfortunately, that is not correct.
What’s the real story?
To adjust, your body needs middle ground
The Tibet train journey is missing a key step that is critical to adjusting your body safely to an elevation as high as Lhasa’s.
You need to ascend to high altitude slowly. And that means it’s good to sleep at an “intermediate” elevation.
To learn more, see our beginner’s guide for avoiding altitude sickness.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention4 says this:
“The process of acute acclimatization to high altitude takes 3–5 days; therefore, acclimatizing for a few days at 8,000–9,000 ft before proceeding to a higher altitude is ideal.”
Even though you will sleep on the Tibet train, you won’t spend very much time at any intermediate altitude.
But the train stays low then jets up too high
For acclimatization purposes, it would be good if the train spent a lot of time in areas around 9,000 feet.
Unfortunately, the train journey is not at all like that.
In a nutshell, you are spending too much time at altitudes both too low and too high to help you acclimate to Lhasa’s 11,975 feet/3650 meters.
Here’s a chart we’ve created to help you understand: 2
- Yellow: Altitude too low to help acclimatization
- Green: Altitude helpful to acclimatize
- Red: Altitude too high, even with extra oxygen on train, to be helpful to acclimatizing
And here are two graphs showing the altitude trajectory of the train journey, in meters and in feet. Notice that there is little time spent around the 9000 foot mark:
The actual altitudes of the Tibet train ride
Over two-thirds of the first 24 hours on the train from Beijing to Lhasa are spent well under 1524 m/ 5000 ft, which is too low to be useful for adjusting to high altitude. 3
It’s only after 20 hours into the journey that the train begins to climb into more serious altitude. This happens at Xining, which sits at 7464 ft/ 2275 m.
You spend the next ten hours reaching Golmud (9216 ft/ 2809 m).
And this section of the train ride is pretty much the only part that is actually helpful for acclimatizing.
Unfortunately, most of the rest of the train journey is at altitudes actually higher than Lhasa’s!
Too high, too fast
Over 80% of the Golmud-Lhasa section is at an elevation of more than 4000 m/ 13,123 ft. The highest point, just on the Lhasa side of the Tang La Pass, reaches 5072 m/ 16,640 ft.
Although this might sound like a good way to get used to Lhasa’s altitude, it’s not really. The key to getting used to high altitude is to ascend slowly, and the train is, unfortunately, climbing very high quite fast.
Rick Curtis, in the Princeton University Outdoor Action Guide to High Altitude: Acclimatization and Illnesses, suggests that you should “ascend at a rate of no more than 1000 feet per day after the first 10,000 feet” and “rest for an entire day each time you ascend 3000 feet.”
Not only is the train climbing, obviously, much more rapidly than this, but also, some of the trains end up passing through the highest point on the journey during the second night.
Passengers who are more inclined to altitude sickness are likely to have a rough night because, according to Curtis, “respiration decreases during sleep, exacerbating the symptoms” of the onset of the milder forms of altitude sickness: “headache, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, nausea, disturbed sleep, and a general feeling of malaise.”
You can get the lowdown about altitude sickness in Tibet in our post on staying healthy at high altitude in Tibet.)
But don’t they pump extra oxygen into the train?
It’s true that the Qinghai-Tibet railway train cars are equipped with two ways to deliver oxygen.
First of all, oxygen is supposed to be pumped in when the train reaches the higher altitudes.
Plus, there are oxygen outlets that individuals can plug into with a tube fitted with a nosepiece. (The trains are not, as Chinese travel agency sites often claim, pressurized.)
But you should know a few things…
One, is that the oxygen outlets on the train don’t all work. On one of our rides, only one out of four of the outlets in our compartment worked.
This leads us to doubt, honestly, how well the system of pumping oxygen into the cars is working.
Also, an article called High Mix: Oxygen on the Train5 on the “High Road to…” blog suggests that the extra oxygen creates conditions basically equivalent to being at Lhasa’s altitude during the higher parts of the journey.
It’s not unusual for travelers to report sleeplessness and other symptoms of mild altitude sickness, just as they would in their first days in Lhasa.
According to a study headed by Tian Yi Wu, MD of the High Altitude Medical Research Institute in Qinghai, Altitude Illness in Qinghai–Tibet Railroad Passengers, “passengers reached 4768 m from 2808 m in less than 1.5 h, after which 78% of the passengers reported symptoms, 24% reaching the Lake Louise criterion score for AMS [Acute Mountain Sickness].”
Here’s the bottom line:
In terms of acclimatization, “the main advantages of taking the train lies in the time spent between Xining and Golmud.” (From High Mix: Oxygen on the Train), about 10 hours of the whole trip.
So, over the course of the ~ 44 hour journey from Beijing to Lhasa, you’ve got almost a whole day at altitudes too low to count, about 10 hours worth of helpful acclimatizing, and the rest of the ride at the equivalent of Lhasa’s altitude.
It clearly doesn’t add up as a great way to progress slowly up to Lhasa altitude!
Does this mean I shouldn’t take the train from Beijing, or Shanghai or Chengdu, to Lhasa?
No, not at all.
In fact we do recommend taking the train instead of flying in to Lhasa, because the flight is even worse in terms of acclimatizing.
By flying, a small percentage of people are actually at risk of getting pulmonary edema. (See the post on symptoms of altitude sickness. )
We just hope to let you know that the train is not a magic bullet for acclimatizing to Lhasa’s altitude, and that you may need to consider further strategies to help you acclimatize.
What are my options?
1. Recommended: Fly to Xining, stay there at least one night, and then take the train to Lhasa. (See this sky train to Lhasa tour) Why do this?
- Xining’s altitude is high enough to help you begin to acclimate but not so high as to make most people feel sick.3 If you stay 2-3 days, before moving on to Lhasa, it will help you to acclimate. While you’re in Xining you can check out some of the amazing Tibetan cultural sites in the area. (See this post on itineraries to help prevent altitude sickness in Tibet.)
- A major reason to take the train is for the views. The views in the first day from Beijing are apparently not that interesting. By all accounts the best views are between Golmud and Lhasa, and if you take the right train from Xining, you can see the best bits in daylight. (Take trains after 7p if you can for this purpose.)
- Xining is a jumping off point to visit the Amdo region of Tibet. It is the largest city on the Tibetan plateau and diverse in its population, but only 5% Tibetan.
- By the way, though Golmud is a bit higher than Xining, at 2809 m (9216 ft), it is not recommended to move on there for another “step” in acclimatizing. Not to malign the place without having ever been, but Golmud doesn’t sound like a place that most folks want to hang out. It might not even be possible to do this. Several reports online indicate that you can’t get off the train at Golmud and/or that you can’t buy a ticket from Golmud to Lhasa.
- For help connecting to a reliable travel agent to assist you with booking a trip like this that includes the Tibet train, click here.
2. What about flying in to Lhasa and taking the train out of Lhasa at the end of your visit?
- You should be aware that for a low percentage of people, the risk of flying in to Lhasa directly from low altitude can result in pulmonary edema, which is potentially fatal.
Here’s a comment from Vistet, over at “the high road to…” blog, where he has a much more complete discussion of these issues, including good links to some studies:
“…people do get AMS both on flyins and the nonstop Beijing-Lhasa run , but it’s worse in every way on the flyins . More (twice as many) get AMS, more get it in worse forms, and need more treatment in Lhasa.”
It’s very well worth a read of Vistet’s observations on the studies of this subject, with his bottom line being that, it seems to us, that people taking the train do definitely have significant risk of getting AMS to some degree, but that greater and more serious risk is associated with flying in, due to the 2% incidence of developing pulmonary edema in those who fly, compared to 0% in those who took the train. This is a serious consideration.
It is impossible to know who will suffer from altitude sickness, and who might be at risk of developing pulmonary edema. Learn more about the risk of getting high altitude sickness here >>
If you do decide to take this route, definitely talk to your doctor about the possibility of taking diamox, a medication to help prevent altitude sickness.
- If you do decide to take the chance and fly in, which we do not recommend, there are some advantages:
- By all accounts, it is easier to book a train ticket out of Lhasa than into it (though it will be difficult either way during major Chinese holidays).
Contact us here if you would like to be connected to a reliable travel agent.
- In the high season— late May to early October — surcharges on tickets for Lhasa-bound trains, due to corruption, can get so high that it can be cheaper to fly.
- If you take the train out of Lhasa in the morning, you have the best chance of seeing the nicest views of the journey, the 14-hour Lhasa to Golmud section, especially the section between Lhasa and the Tang Gu La pass, in daylight.
- By all accounts, it is easier to book a train ticket out of Lhasa than into it (though it will be difficult either way during major Chinese holidays).
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Comment from our friend Losang at the Land of Snows
Losang from the Land of Snows blog had some great responses to questions we ask him about this. Thanks, as always, Losang!
- There have been a handful of people having died from the train (usually dying shortly after arriving in Lhasa), but this would be a very, very small percentage (less than 0.00001%) and many of these people were in poor health to begin with.
- In my opinion and experience (20+ times on the train), the earlier trains departing Xining are good for those who want to see the area between Xining and Golmud in Qinghai (good, but not the absolute best scenery the route has to offer). These earlier trains departing Xining, particularly the 12:14pm (Z323) and the 2:05pm (Z917) only allow passengers to see the TAR from Nagchu to Lhasa in aylight….the final stage of the train.The afternoon train departing at 3:20pm (Z21) will allow passengers to see the area between Xining and Qinghai lake in daylight hours, as well as a little west of the lake. It will then alow passengers to see the TAR starting from just north of Nagchu all the way to Lhasa. Passengers won’t really see any of the wilderness of Kekexili (Hoh Xil) as they will go through it at night. This is the region where Tibetan antelope and even wild yaks can be seen.The later trains departing at 19:51pm (Z265) and 21:35pm (Z165) leave Xining when it is usually dark. So, guests will not see any of the route from Xining to Qinghai Lake, Golmud and the next 2 or 3 hours south of Golmud. However, guests who get up early the next morning (which they most likely will anyway on the train), can see a lot of the wilderness beauty of Kekexili and will see all of the TAR in daylight hours.So, it is really hard for me to say what the BEST train is to take as they all offer good views. As the train takes about 22 hours, it is impossible to see everything, of course, in the daylight. I personally recommend the later trains, which allow for more viewing of Kekexili and all areas of the TAR.
- To me, it is so funny because for years the guidebook writers described the route from Golmud to Lhasa as being “barren, bleak and monotonous”! Those writers must have been blind! It is an incredible route, much of which crosses through the remote western portion of Yushu Tibet Autonomous Prefecture and the Kekexili (A Chen Gang Gyab) Nature Preserve, which is where most of the wildlife live along the route as well as countless high, snow-capped peaks.
If you like this post, you might also like:
- How to Visit Tibet: An Insider’s Guide
- Best 100 Tibet Travel Tips: The Ultimate Guide
- A Beginner’s Guide to Train Travel in China
1. We always try out best to give correct attribution to images we find online, but this one is so widespread that we can’t with any certainty say where it first came from. If you know, let us know 🙂
2. Note that all numbers are approximate. We used Wikipedia (which we are sad to say is often inaccurate when it comes to Tibet topics) for altitudes, and compiled the trip hours form various online timetables and reports.
3. According to the Outdoor Action Guide to High Altitude at Princeton, altitude is “defined on the following scale High (8,000 – 12,000 feet [2,438 – 3,658 meters]), Very High (12,000 – 18,000 feet [3,658 – 5,487 meters]). Most people can go up to 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) with minimal effect.”
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Thanks for posting this and making people aware of this. My father and I visited Lhasa via the train from Beijing in late 2007. Once we got to Lhasa he took a turn for the worse and didn’t make it out alive.
How do we get a Tibet travel permit if we take the train from Xining to Lhasa?
Will they in the train if we have it or at the station?
Can we get it after we arrive at Lhasa?
Hi Ramses, please see this post: https://www.yowangdu.com/tibet-travel/tibet-travel-permit.html Basically your Tibetan travel agent will obtain your permit and email it to you, and you show a copy of the email when you board at the station. For a referral for a guide, contact us here:
Hope this helps!
KTM to Lhasa by air both ways in 1996; healthy and gf very healthy. Our self treatment was to drink more water than we thought we could and keep drinking at least hourly. I lasted five days with no symptoms and then had hallucinations (of Karmapa) during day six nap. GF was more than usually grumpy, but no direct symptoms. Departed to KTM by air on seventh day. Note, we were in KTM for a week before departure to Lhasa.
KTM to Khasa both ways in 1998 by tour bus (about 25 seats); healthy and alone. I did the water drinking routine and felt light headed as the bus stopped at the highest point on that road. No other symptoms for 12 days. I was in KTM about 20 days prior to bus trip. Youtube k4vud channel has part of the driving video.
Personally, I would not take any trip to Lhasa now: too old at 72, multiple health problems and pills, and I do not want to see what the occupiers have done to the city. Changes from 96 to 98 were so strikingly bad that 18 yrs later, with the Jokhang under threat , sacred lakes being drained to make electricity, and Han outnumbering Tibetans on the street means I am so glad I saw the city when I did; likely 96 was the end of the end. Certainly, I would never spend money to the occupiers.
Sorry Ward, but ‘thems the facts then.
Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Charly. To all you travelers, it’s important to remember that each person has a different genetic predisposition to altitude sickness. Please see the new series on altitude sickness, including What is my Risk of Getting Altitude Sickness, and How to Avoid Altitude Sickness.
We totally understand the concern about spending money with the occupiers, Charly, but strongly encourage folks to take trips with Tibetan-owned agents who use Tibetan-owned hotels and patronize Tibetan-owned restaurants as much as possible. In this way, travelers can support the Tibetan people who so badly need our business, and see for themselves the situation in Tibet. Thanks again, we love to hear readers’ experiences.
I fully agree with yowangdu – Tibetans need tourists to earn their living and get a glimpse of the outside world. We just returned from a Tibet tour, all the way from Xining, via Lhasa, Mt Kailash and Ali to Kashgar in Xinjiang. Wewere accompanied by a wonderful Tibetan guide, who spoke very good English (trained himself by guiding tourists for ten years) and had a tremendous knowledge of his Tibetan culture. I think we were able to give each other something very valuable. And as soon as you travel outside Lhasa and a few other bigger towns chances are high that you eat and sleep Tibetan, further supporting the lovely Tibetans (and even in Lhasa we stayed in a Tibetan owned hotel).
It’s true, the Han Chinese increase in numbers, and the Chinese authorities rule with a very strong hand like in Orwell’s Brave New World, but they invest a lot in the restoration of the Tibetan monuments (which they heavily damaged decades ago) and (as long as they do not start troubles) the Tibetans are still allowed to follow their Buddhist ceremonies (partly because of the tourism, of course).
So travelling through Tibet is STILL a great experience …
Thanks for your feedback, Kurt!
The problem with Wu’s train study is the missing context : people do get AMS both on flyins and the nonstop Beijing-Lhasa run , but it’s worse in every way on the flyins . More ( twice as many ) get AMS , more get it in worse forms , and need more treatment in Lhasa . Thus is just from comparing the nonstop run with flyins from Beijing , every extra night at 2000+ meters will be an added bonus.
I’ve posted a comparison on the studies made up to now on my blog below, with some more options for acclimatizing :
Thanks, Vistet, this is very helpful. Looks like we need to update this post!
Judy christopher says
Hi, can anyone advise on where to stay in Xining please….am planning on taking the train to Lhassa then overland to Kathmandu….any advice would be great thank you.
We are happy to help you. Please fill out the Tibet Travel request at this page on our site:
When we get your response to the form, we will refer you to a Tibetan-owned agent who will help you plan your trip in detail. They should know a place to stay in Xining, or know someone who does 🙂
All the best to you!
Yolanda and Lobsang
Pat lore says
We are looking to take the train from Lhasa to either xining or xian and then fly either from xining or Xian.to Shanghai . I heard there is quite a long distance from the train to an airport in Xining. What do you recommend in order to catch a same day plane?
Sorry we haven’t yet taken this journey — the post is our research on it. If you can fill out the form here — we can forward to our agent and they can respond: https://www.yowangdu.com/tibet-travel/referral.html
Best to you.
actually Xining is not that big…
It would be around (1)150 local currency for a taxi ride or (2)negotiate with private car drivers for somewhere between 80-120 local currency and there are so many of them waiting at the train station and airport ( if you know how to speak Tibetan especially Amdo dialect or chinese— the locals regardless of being tibetan or chinese or Hui Muslim are all very friendly and kind) or (3) 21 local currency for a bus ride from the train station to the airport ( bus terminal is about 500 meters walk from the train station)…. Given the traffic situation, allow around 2 hours time for traveling.
If you are not overly tired from altitude and well rested on the train, same day flight is no drama.
Hope it helps
I didn’t read all the posts, so I’m not sure if anyone has covered doing this trip with kids. When miy kids were 11and 8 (in 2006) the three of us took the train from Chengdu to Lhasa. It was a wonderful experience. Doing this with kids is not for the faint of heart, though. On our trip, there was not a single other person on the train who spoke English – inability to communicate is a bigger deal when you travel with children. I know a little travel oriented Chinese so we did okay but there were times I wished I had planned better. My biggest piece of advice: don’t eat in the dining car. The food from the trolleys they push around the train is great. I would by a single plate of food and we’d all share with plenty left over – so it’s much cheaper, too. (Please keep in mind that this info is from 2006.)
I took Diamox to lessen the chance that I’d have a problem with altitude sickness and carried drugs to treat altitude sickness with me in case my kids had a problem (drugs were IV so I also had the appropriate gear for IV access.). My kids did fine and I left my supplies with a clinic in Tibet when we left.
Very useful for me, a couple trip to china and lhasa is one of my destination. Fly a head to lhasa and back to beijijng is more convinience and reduce the ams
Glad this helped you 🙂
Robin Soon says
I was in a group of 24 traveling from Chengdu to Tibet. Spent a couple of nights in Chengdu/Leshan and then flew to Lhasa. I had a mild headache on the 1st day in Lhasa and took it easy as per advice from my tour leader but inexplicably I couldn’t acclimate for the rest of the trip in Tibet! I had almost daily headaches and finished off a whole pack of Panadol to no avail. The worst came when my group spent a night at Everest Base Camp near the Rongbuk Monastery. I got the worse of my headaches and spent the whole day feeling miserable and giddy. It wasnt until we got back to Lhasa where I could really take it easy that my headaches went and I had a nice time shopping and walking around in Lhasa.
The oxygen canister that our Tibetan tour guide gave me didn’t seem to help. I wish I had prepared better for the trip rather than leave it to chance.
Thanks so much for sharing your experience Robin. It is truly critical to take more steps than just resting on the first few days, despite this being what most tour agents tell you. We appreciate hearing from you!
Hi, very informative and interesting.
I am taking a medication called aspirin on a daily basis .
I am planning to take Diamox too for AMS. But, the problem is aspirin and DIamox do
not go well taking together. So, I was advised to stop taking aspirin before taking Diamox.
But, I am worried that by stopping aspirin, there is a higher chance of having stroke.
This is a big concern.
Any ideas how to tackle this?
Thank you, Denise! It is very important we think to consult your doctor about this. She or he would have the best idea. Let us know if you learn anything. All the best!
tom findley MD PhD says
typically you take 81 mg aspirin daily or 325 mg 1 or 2 times a week for stroke prevention.
that compares to 10 to 12 tablets of 325 daily for high dose for arthritis – it is much much lower.
the problem with diamox is seen with high dose aspirin, as it slows its metabolizm and can contribute to aspirin toxicity.
Thank you, Tom! Do you specialize in this issue? If yes, any other advice for us?
tom findley MD PhD says
I am a mountain climber and physician in physical medicine.
eat lots of carbohydrates at altitude. you get 10% more ATP energy per oxygen from carbohydrates, as opposed to protein or fats. also beware alcohol at altitude. you get intoxicated more easily.
you start the diamox 2-3 days in advance, it basically lets you hyperventilate without chaniging your blood pH.
the diamox makes you feel better so you can do more, but you are still just as susceptible to acute pulmonary edema – my son go this trying to climb in Bolivia. So take it easy and dont exercise too hard the first few days.
Thank you so much for this interesting and useful advice, Dr. Findley! Would you be interested to write a guest post for us on the topic of altitude sickness? (Assuming that we can vet your medical credentials, which we assume we can!)
Hey, thanks for this great article!
You stated back then that you would try to find out which train is best for daylight views. Anything you found out yet? We are going to take the 3:05 pm train from Xining, and the timetable says Golmud at midnight, Amdo at 8:39 – do you have any idea if we will be at Tanngula during daylight?
Thanks again, all the best from Germany,
Hi Markus — you are very welcome 🙂 Sorry but we have still not found out. A great source for ideas on this kind of thing is Lobsang at the Land of Snows. Check him out on Facebook, and he can very likely help. Please tell him hi for us 🙂
From my memory, you pass kekecili at night time and you can’t see much outside as the lighting is poor, Tangula is around early morning— you might get to have relatively clear view in summer and autumn season as the day light hours are longer, in winter and spring you will start seeing daylight after Tangula.from dining to Lhasa, my opinion is the right hand side has better view but left side isn’t bad either. Have fun.
Opps, need to mention, we took train K9801 from Xining around 3pm ….the timetable/ schedule might have changed now.
Mabel Morodomi says
We were expecting to ride on a ‘high speed rail’. I don’t think the train went faster than 55 mph. Also, for a 2 day ride, there are no amenities and I wish us ‘foreign’ travelers were told what to expect….I would have been better prepared. No napkins in the lounge nor toilet paper. Toilets also did not always work and very FILTHY! After suffering thru the train ride….trip to Lhasa, Nepal and Bhutan was very enjoyable. People were ‘awesome’. So friendly and nice….
Good to know, Mabel. So you travelers bring your own napkins and T.P. 🙂
Hi Im just wondering if it is ok to bring a 2 1/2 old kid to Tibet or will altitude be a problem? We are not used to high altitude places.
I hope you can enlighten me on this .
Thank you so much
We don’t know the answer to this. We will ask a friend who is a travel agent in Tibet and see if we can get a response for you. The bottom line, though, is that you should ask your pediatrician, just to be safe. All the best and hope it works that you all can take a trip to Tibet together 🙂
Wonderful article and well written. I just returned from a trip to China and Tibet. During my travel I took the overnight sleeper train from Beijing to Xian and had a wonderful experience. I flew to Chengdu from Xian to see the Panda s and I took Diamox 24 hours before flying to Lhasa after reading many reviews before my trip to China 125 mg 2 times per day. I flew to Lhasa with 14 in our group everyone took medience with different outcome but when we arrived into the airport everyone felt tired but we took a beautiful bus trip into Lhasa passing through tunnels and wonderful views arriving at our hotel, just going up 2 flights of stairs I was glad to get into my room and rest for 2 hours and then we had a University teacher give us a 2 hour talk on Tibet and she was from Tibet and told us the different sides of the culture which was outstanding..We had a nice meal but 1 st night we all rested and took it easy. After breakfast the next day we were going to climb the palace about 1/2 of our group made it and I am glad I had the med s I think it helped and yes there were side effects but I think it was worth it to enjoy our time in Tibet..I did think about taking the train but glad I went the way I did and maybe next time to fly to Lhasa but take the train back and to stop in Xinging and go to the Amdo which sounds like a wonderful area to see more of Tibet culture. I enjoy Lhasa and we had a wondeful guide named Nyima he really brought the culture of Tibet alive during our days in Tibet..I would highly recomend Nyima to any of my friends…Thank You
Thanks so much for this travelogue James! It’s great to hear of your trip.
Thank you v much for the info. How to contact Nyima , your guide. What is the name of your tour company ?
Please sign up for our free Tibet Travel service here: https://www.yowangdu.com/tibet-travel/referral.html
Then we can help refer you to one of our agents.
Hi, I just came back from China few weeks ago. I flied to Lhasa from Beijing. I came back to Shanghai by train. The journey sceneries are superb from Lhasa till Xining. Top Mountains covered with snow. Awesome. Total train journey (including 6 hours transit in Xining) is about 60 hours. Feel exhausted. But at the end, it was great journey.
Awesome, thanks for the trip report, Jack! If you are interested in writing a guest post about your trip, let us know. Especially about the train journey from Lhasa to Shanghai 🙂
Thank you very much in deed for these data. It’s really greta to see that there are people that offer their knowledge this way
I’ll be taking the train in a month aprox. from Xining to Lhasa. I have some questions that maybe you could answer (if you have time):
Is it easy to buy the ticket either in Xining or Beijing (the same day of departure) or shall I book it in advance with some travel agency?
Would you recommend any particular side of the train (left or right) to have better views of the magnificent landscape?
Thank you very mcuh in advance and again for this valuable post
Vicente (from Spain)
Sorry, we are not experts about this, so definitely the best way to get this information is to contact one or two of the agencies listed on this page: https://www.yowangdu.com/tibet-travel/tibetan-travel-agents.html. They can help you! Also check out Losang at the Land of Snows, especially his Facebook page. He is very helpful to answer questions.
All the best!
Tina Tran says
Dear Lobsang Wangdu,
Many thanks for these useful informations. We intend to take train from Chengdu to Lhasa. And after arrive Chengdu, we will take train immediately to Lhasa because we want to spend more time in Lhasa. I can see that Chengdu is lowest spot. So do we have any advice for us? Do we need to stay at Chengdu a couple of days.
Thank you again, my friend.
Hi Tina. Hope you have a great trip. There is no need to stay in Chengdu as it is low and you won’t acclimatize. If you’ve decided to take the train, just plan to take it easy in Lhasa the first few days (as you will need to do anyway). You will acclimatize a bit on the train just as much as it seems like you would.
Do you think it is feasible to do this trip (Pekin-Lhassa) with kids 3 and 7 years old, considering that we have 3 weeks holidays and therefore time to stop in Xining for acclimatation?
Thank you for sharing these useful informations!
I would certainly advise people to spend more than just a couple of days in Xining, in my experience it takes about a week to acclimatise there, and if you go to the grasslands near Mahlo you are actually higher than Lhasa and it takes more time again. There is excellent Tibetan medicine for altitude sickness, the Tibetan hospital in Xining can help with that. And its important to eat! Many people loose their appetite but you must keep eating because your body is working harder.
Thanks so much for sharing your valuable experience, Karen 🙂 We would love to hear more about your time in Xining and the grasslands. We’ll contact you by email soon if that’s okay. One thing we didn’t delve into in the post above, because it was becoming monstrously long, was the fact that some of the interesting areas to visit around Xining/Siling are higher altitude than Xining and that it sounds like it is useful to acclimate at Xining altitude for a bit first. Based on our experience in Lhasa and other mountain places, we don’t need a week at 7500 feet for basic acclimatization, but since every person is different when it comes to altitude and AMS, it is valuable for people to hear your experience. Please share with us, if you would, what you experienced at Xining altitude, and how it changed over the week. We’re very curious to hear more about this Tibetan medicine for altitude sickness, which we’ve been hearing talk of a bit here and there. What do you know about it? Does it have a name? Great to hear from you, Karen, and thanks so much again for sharing your experience.
Hi again, of course you can email me, love any opportunity to talk about my travels in Amdo 🙂 I have been four times.
I will find the name of the Tibetan medicine, the bottles I have don’t have english on them, but the main ingredient is the plant rhodiola, helps increase oxygen in the blood. There are so many wonderful things to see around that part of Amdo that taking a week to acclimatise is no hardship. Of course as you say it is different for every person and does depend on how active you are being. Last year I was in Xining for a month and then went to Mahlo for a month. I though I was very acclimatsed in Xining but still had to take a few easy days in Mahlo when I went from about 2,400 to 3,800 above sea level. But it is worth it!