Taxi's are very affordable in my opinion. The cost is 10 rmb and will get you just about anywhere in Lhasa. You do not have to tip your driver. They are not expecting anything. The ones I've used seem to be very knowledgeable on the area. They do not speak much English but they are familiar with tourist destinations. Where you may run into a problem is if you want to go to a specific restaurant. Just ask your hotel staff to write it out in Chinese.
There is a railway under construction that will connect to the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. This section will continue onto Shigatse. This would mean that if you do not plan on venturing outside of Shigatse, you will not have to drive from Lhasa. Cutting out those annoying checkpoints.
The construction is reported to be complete by October of 2013.
Since 2007, you can travel to Lhasa by train. It is a long trip and takes 2-3 days one way. Some of the major cities that offer train service to Lhasa and time include:
Lhasa-Beijing: 47 hours 04 minutes; distance: 4064km
Lhasa-Chengdu: 45 hours 40 minutes; distance: 3360km
Lhasa-Chongqing: 46 hours 32 minutes; distance: 3654km
Lhasa-Shanghai: 48 hours 58 minutes; distance: 4373km
Lhasa-Guangzhou: 56 hours 10 minutes; distance: 4980km
Here is a website that has the schedule and cost for the train ticket from the various locations:
Pedi-cabs are a pretty common sight around Lhasa. They fit two adults but I have seen three fit in if the cyclist can handle it. Negotiation range depending on where you want to go. A lot has to do with construction going on. The typical ride just about anywhere is 20rmb. But a taxi is 10rmb. It is easier to catch a ride with a pedi-cab.
Just be careful and alert. there are no seat belts and driving or peddling around Lhasa is crazy. Its not unusual for a pedi-cab to ride on the wrong side of the road, ignore traffic lights and take short cuts across lanes of oncoming traffic.
The Potala and Jokhang areas (and the short walk between these) can easily be covered on foot, but for other trips you can easily hire a taxi - there are lots of them and trips anywhere within the city will cost 10 RMB. It's easy to flag down a cab on the street, with the only competition for them we've seen worthy of the name was that by the Potala palace at night when all the photographers are setting off back to their hotels.
One good tip here is to have a card with the name of your destination in Chinese and Tibetan as otherwise you may struggle to make yourself understood by the taxi drivers (the hotel should be able to provide one - if not, just point to the place's name in your guidebook!).
The following is from one of the Chengdu Hostel's web sites. I think this web site posting was in 2009 so it may or may not still be correct. Also, I don't think a tour will lock you in your room and I think you may skip out of the tour. However, they may help you as it provides transportation and hopefully, not too many people in the group. The Barkor area is interesting and I would think you could walk around on your own as long as you know where your hotel is.
I was not in a group and had a newer hotel an easy walk to the Barkor. Many of the Chinese hotels used for tours were in the western part of Lhasa away from the Barkor. Many of the hostels are in the eastern part of Lhasa but are not as good as the hostels in Chengdu and other parts of China. They were building new hotels in the eastern part so it may be better now.
BTW, most hostels in China have private rooms with private bath in additional to the dorms. I find most private hostel rooms very comfortable for my needs.
The following is a quote from web site:
"It had been possible to travel in Tibet independently for many years until the riot occurred on 14th of March in 2008. Actually it was still illegal during those “open” years, only because the tourism greatly boosts the regional economy, the local authority didn’t strictly enforce the rules for foreign travelers, and so do the travel agencies who even issued the “false itinerary permit” to foreign travelers as the permit was not seriously checked.
Since the situation changed from last year, the regional stability has become the top concern for central government, all the rules start enforced again in TAR. At moment, all the foreign nationals have to travel in Tibet with the fixed itinerary and a guide accompanied, this makes the travel not as flexible as in the past."
if you want a nice young guy who speaks english to take you around tibet, you can get in touch with nga wang. he was my guide during my solo tour around lhasa/gyangze/xigaze/nam-tso last august, 2006. he's very helpful and will take good photographs of you! (in case you're also traveling alone).
he can also arrange your transportation and driver. we took an isuzu rodeo 4x4.
just tell him you were referred by miko, his friend from the philippines.
The airport is small, but a little far away from the city. The bags came fast and soon. We went in a jeep, with banks lined with carpet and lace. It wasn´t expensive to go in a particular jeep. Distance makes worth the money spent. Most of the forgein persons in that day have a jeep waiting for them.
The road to Lhasa is relatively good, with mountains around, some houses along the road and waterways. At one point we passed a tunnel through the earth. Someone told me that, before the road around the mountains took five hours! Come up many fruit vendors on the roadside, dusty jeeps and many colorful flags. It seems to be an ancient tradition, which use flags of five colors: blue represents the sky, white clouds, green water, the earth yellow and red fire.
Any way you choose to get to Lhasa, you need this permit! You're not allowed outside the Lhasa area, especially during "special times" without the other permit, but this one allows you to be in Lhasa. Contact a travel agent who can get you this before you go to China! You need time!
I don't recommend the use of a certain Mr. Chen at the Camellia Hotel in Kunming. As he took our cash he promised we'd have no problems. He wasn't honest with us. Had he told us there was a chance that the government was going to delay or possibly cancel our trip to Everest Base Camp, we would have gone anyway, knowingly taking the chance. We lost a few days of our trip to the basecamp, but the biggest problem is that he didn't warn us it was a possibility and, in fact, when we asked about any problems, told us to trust him and that he knew what he was doing. Don't trust him (or any of these guys). Know that the PSB in Tibet is pretty, well... problematic.
If you want to get to Everest Base Camp, you need this permit with all the stamps. If you're a group, you'll have the second page as well. I blanked out our info, but names on the first line and passport numbers on the other. You can't really get out of the Lhasa area without these, especially during what they call, "special times." If you are caught without one of these, you could get in Big Trouble, which isn't good in China. Contact a travel agency before going to China, but remember not to say anything about Tibet when applying for the China visa!
Now up until recently you could either fly or take an excruciatingly long-bus journey to get to Lhasa. I chose to fly. Well Lhasa Airport has no radar system & no runway lights so flights occur only in daylight hours. But...without any radar guidance the approach being in a bowl shaped plateau surrounded by jagged peaks is tricky at best. Add the slightest cloud formation and the lightest drizzle and nothing leaves the airport tarmac. As a result ALL flights to and from were cancelled for 1day ( and ocassionally 2-3days!) beacuse of 'bad' weather.....Not that i would want the pilot to risk the take-off but maybe they could let us know rather than keeping the passengers waiting hour after hour. The chinese people I found out are NOT afraid in these instances to demand a refund and service, and were very vocal. Quite amusing but they did help me as well get a free flight! SOOOO on that note use the train if you are headed up to Urumqi for Kashgar...it seems the best option. Though I havent used that route, travelling on other overnite trains in China was a very comfy affair.. in first class. Check it out & let me know
I flew with Air China into Lhasa from Chengdu, a city in the western province of Sichuan. For most people, you'll need to get an illusive permit*, which can be arranged at the local guesthouses in Chengdu. I said illusive coz I never saw the permit. The flight was early in the morning, and the guesthouse had arranged transportation, which was included in the price of the ticket and permit. There is no other way to get to the airport this early, except for taxi.
The two hours flight was very smooth, and passed by numerous barren mountains, with the occational villages and green farms along the rivers.
You can't get discounts for this trip, which is about 1600RMB one way. [July 2005 price]
*May 2007 Update: I read that there is in fact a real permit. When I was there in 2005, none of the travelers that I met had one.
The new train to Lhasa from China is a must. The train is new and clean, (although as it's Chinese that may not be the case for long !). It has good facilities including free oxygen for each bed in the sleeper carriages.
But the best thing about the train is the amazing scenery you'll pass through on the way to Lhasa. The snow covered mountains, lakes, locals waving at the train and their settlements are a true highlight to any trip to Tibet.
It takes just 48 hours from Cheng Du and is very comfortable.
We had been so so lucky during the whole week holiday and hadn't encountered any rain when we had been visiting places. We had had some rain one night but we were already back in the hotel by that point. So on our penultimate day on the road from Shigatse to Lhasa we managed to see mountains with clouds hanging over them and I really thought it was a spectacular sight.
One of my VT friends kindly asked me if I could take a photo of this for her...so i hunted high and low and on the way to Tsetang from Lhasa I managed to find this one...hope it is holy enough for her!!!Hee hee!
There are two main ways to get to Lhasa, either by plane or by train. Of course a flight will be more expensive. While the train is cheaper, it does take considerable time to and from...