The train trip was great for acclimatising to the height as the train climbs gradually and has oxygen pumped into the carriages. There are soft sleepers which have four bunks or hard sleepers which have six bunks or seats, of course price depends on which you choose. If you are travelling for any length of time I wouldn't choose the seats, as they were jammed with people and the toilets fail when there are a lot of people using them.
Be aware that the tickets are allocated three days before the train leaves and even if you have paid for soft sleeper, you may be bumped to hard sleeper. We had this happen to us as there were military who needed our soft sleeper!
There is a train available to locations in Tibet. This is via the Qinghai - Tibet Railway.
Since 2007, you can travel to Tibet 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. It also has the stops along the way:
The Friendship Highway is the main road link in Tibet, so whether you hire a Land Cruiser, hitch-hike on the back of a pilgrim truck or use public transport (such as it is) you're probably going to spend 90% of your journey on this single road. The road is in a surprisingly good condition and given there is little traffic the fact that it's single lane each way should not delay you at all.
Starting in Lhasa, the Friendship Highway takes in all of the most visited sights in Tibet (or they are 20-30km off it) on the way to Kathmandu. The only real exception is the Everest Base Camp, which is reached by the Everest Access Road (a minor road splitting off from the Friendship Highway in Tingri).
As things stand, it will most likely be your driver who will have to think of this but if you do drive, keep in mind that petrol stations are few and far between.
Given the state of the roads and the requirement for foreign tourists to travel around Tibet with a guide and a host of travel permits, the most practical way of seeing the country is by a hired Land Cruiser (any 4x4 will do of course, but Land Cruisers seem to be a national institution in this part of the world). It is, unfortunately, also the most expensive way to get around, but given that a larger Land Cruiser can comfortably fit 4 prople the cost, when shared, can still be tolerable.
The Land Cruiser also allows for more freedom to visit out of the way sites (some monasteries, for example, are visited only by pilgrim trucks) and considerably speeds up your travel, given the still rudimentary network of public transport in Tibet. Also, such a car (or any 4x4) will make it possible to visit the Everest Base Camp as there is no public transport going there beyond Tingri/Shegar, and the Everest Access Road is in much worse condition than the main Friendship Highway (although still more than decent once you remember where in the world you are!).
Although there are a number of driving tours now arranged whereby you drive into Tibet from either China or Tibet, and the train is operational, the most popular way for tourists remains catching a flight to Lhasa.
From abroad: the only international flight serving Lhasa at the moment is the Air China flight to/from Kathmandu (despite this, there is an international arrivals/departures terminal in Lhasa!)
From China: there are connections from a number of cities, with the most flights being from Xi'An and Chengdu - we've caught a flight from Shanghai (it did involve change of planes in Xi'An, but as the flight number was the same the our Tibet permit still said Shanghai as port of entry). The major domestic routes into Lhasa are run by Air China and China Southeastern
Things to keep in mind:
Lhasa is one of the world's highest airports, so flights can be affected by bad weather (happened to us, causing a few hours' delay in Xi'An), so it would be wise to be flexible with arrival and departure flights
We tried to use this airport because the road to Lhasa was taken out by a rock slide when we attempted to drive overland to Lhasa. It was several days drive back to Zhongdan or Chengdu.
I am told that the Chamdo/Pomda/Bangda airport in Tibet is the world highest airport at 4334 meters, about 14300 feet. We arrived in the snow and fog before dark. We were told the airport has no landing aids so is a VFR airport. Flights were canceled for days because of the weather and would probably be canceled tomorrow. We were also told that sometimes flights are canceled for over a month!
So, don't rely on using this airport or you could get stuck.
Please rate this and my other tips when you find them interesting, useful, or like the photos
I attempted drive overland across Eastern Tibet to Lhasa in May/June 2006 but had to turn back because a rock slide took out a road. They were building new roads so it should be better now.
Arrangements for a vehicle and driver could be made at the TTB (Tibetan Tourist Board) in Zhongdian back then. I don't know about now, with this year's earthquake and political things in Tibet. I also heard the train tracks were recently damage by a more recent earth quake. I believe you can fly into Lhasa now.
Back then, I not only needed a permit for Lhasa, but also permits for the overland part. There were talks about removing some of these requirements but the political events earlier this year may have prevented this.
I have some photos on my Tibet and Lhasa pages. My third travel log on the Tibet pages talks about some of the problems I had. But I have more to post and have not yet added the part where the TTB said my permits were fake and fined the driver 2000 rmb.
All in all, it was a great experience and I recommend it even with all the problems I had. I would like to do it again some day, this time without having to turn back. Many of the roads were horrible but I could see they were building new roads and tunnels.
As a side note, driving in helps you get use to the altitude because you go up and down over the mountains passes. I got up to over 5008 meters without any problems. My friend was having problems every time we went over 4000 meters but got use to it over time and had no problems when we hit 5000.
Please rate this and my other tips when you find them useful, interesting, or like the photos.
The route between the capital and a village near Mount Everest, Tingri, is about 600km. If you think to do it in one day, go with very patient... We went with our driver and our guide in a jeep, and I didn´t see other way to do it!
Throughout the route there are periodic inspections of Chinese police, in order to monitor the speed. It appears that there were many deaths on the roads, so they implemented a minimum time per route. For example, do 45 km in 45 m. If the driver does not comply with, will pay a fine. So the journey becomes very slow, implying stops for reaching the minimum time.
Clear that driving is not the best and prepare for moments of emotion. Crossings, double lines at or above the left, are mere rules, never being satisfied. On dual carriageways as of today (one in each direction), is constantly being in the left lane and pass up to three cars in parallel simultaneously. It can also happen that we have to overcome the berm, including the left. I would say that I understand the speed limit ...
I´ve made the drive in to Lhasa , and a number of high altitude runs in the Indian Himalayas : flying in is a lot better for your body. Sleeping altitude is what really matters , and Lhasa is the lowest sleeping elevation on the Ktm-Lhasa route . First night is normally spent in Nyalam which is slightly higher than Lhasa , and the the following two nights are spent between 3900-4300.Between that you do a number of passes and plateaus between 4500-5100.
BTW , a news story appeared today about a bus line between Ktm and Lhasa ( http://korta.nu/ktmlhasa10 ) , but be still my heart , hopes have been dashed before.
Qinghai-Tibet Railway is currently the only railroad to Tibet from other cities of China, including Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Xining and Lanzhou.
This railway section is famous not only for the argument and criticism around it, but also for its captivating plateau scenery.
Here is the most detailed map of the Qinghai Tibet Railway that I can find online. Hope it can be helpful!
Where to book the Trip in Kathmandu ??? this is always a BIG question as there are so many travel agents in Kathmandu especially around Thamel !!
My Recommendation would be to go to " Himalayan Magic Adventures ", Nermal Nakarmi who runs this Travel Agents is a Very Helpful Gentleman and I have always found him Good to " Deal " with !!!!
As I have previously mentioned, I have been to Nepal three times now and in all my times there I have never found a better Travel Agent !!
He will be glad to organise Everything, the Chinese visa, the Tibetan Travel Permit, all the Transportation and Guides through a link up with " Lhasa Travel " ( this will include all the accommodation and breakfasts as well as all the admission fees to Museums and Monasteries + the Potola Palace ) and the flight back to Kathmandu if required !!
His prices are Very Keen, he is Honest and Trustworthy and I Personally can give him the BEST of Recommendations !!!
Jeep tours are a popular way of getting around Tibet or to the Nepal border. In Lhasa, there are many travel agencies that can organise your jeep tour. You just need to tell them what you want to visit and they will sort out all necessary paperwork and provide you with a 4WD, driver and guide.
However, be very precise with your itinerary. Tell the travel agency about every monastery and lake you wish to visit and have them writing it down on the itinerary in order to avoid problems afterwards.
After reading a lot of good reviews on the internet about the FIT at Banok Shol Hotel, we went with this travel agency for individual travellers. It is located on the innercourt (left side) of the Banok Shol Hotel in Lhasa. We only made one mistake and this was to have them book and pay our hotels as well. I wanted good hotels with private bathroom and was afraid that if they were not booked in advance, there might be no room. I found out afterwards, that the agency did not have booked the hotels in advance. Our guide looked for a free room when we arrived at the place. I'm sure I paid too much. So better don't pay in advance, find your own hotel when you arrive at your location.
Bus Schedule (through the China-Nepal Friendship Highway)
Start Destination Distance Fare (for reference)
Lhasa Qushui 68km 10 Yuan
Lhasa Nimu 83km 18 Yuan
Lhasa Renbu 126km 25 Yuan
Lhasa Shigates 280km 38 Yuan (mini-bus); 80 Yuan (Santana car); 60 Yuan (Golden Cup bus); 80 Yuan (Toyota jeep)
Lhasa Lhatse 437km No regular bus service
Lhasa Tingri 572km No regular bus service
Lhasa Neyalamu 724km No regular bus service
Lhasa Zhangmu 754km No regular bus service
Lhasa Gyantse 264km No regular bus service
Lhasa Yatung 73km 100 Yuan (departure time: 10:30 am)
Taking mini-bus is the cheapest way to get around in the city. The fare is 2 Yuan no matter how far you go. Both No. 1 Bus and No. 2 Bus may take you to Norbulingkha or Lhasa Long-distance Bus Station. No.3 bus and No.5 bus may take you to Dreprung Monastery and No. 4 to Sera Monastery. The private run mini-bus or jeep follows certain fixed route and the fare is also 2 Yuan. Most of them have a stop at the Tibetan Hospital (in the Jokhang Square).
Taking a taxi may cost you 10 Yuan no matter where you go in the city. But if you want to go out of town, you’d better negotiate with the driver over the price. For Dreprung Monastery, you need to pay about 20 Yuan.
Man-powered tricycles running on the streets are very interesting sights. If you want one, just wave your hands. Riding a tricycle is a good way to enjoy the appearance of the city. A tricycle usually takes two people and the price varies from 4 Yuan to 7 Yuan. Before getting on it, don’t forget to negotiate for the price.
Bus Schedule to Tsetang and Shannan
Start Destination Distance Bus fare (for reference)
Lhasa Zhaweng 144km 22 Yuan
Lhasa Samye Monastery 155km 23 Yuan
Lhasa Tsetang 191km 30 Yuan (mini-bus);40 Yuan (deluxe bus)
Lhasa Shannan 27 Yuan (bus);40 Yuan (mini-bus); 50 Yuan (Santana car)
The airport shuttle bus can be found right outside the airport's arrival terminal. A one-way ticket costs 25 Yuan (to be paid on the bus) and the ride will take about 1 to 1.5 hours to Lhasa.
The bus station in Lhasa is one block from the Potala Palace. From there you will need to take a taxi to your accomodation. Be aware, although the taxi will only cost 10 Yuan, taxi drivers at the bus station will try to ask more. Don't pay more than 10 Yuan.
along with Tibetan driver and guide...cant travel in China by yourself as a tourist plus most of the roads especially close to Everest are very tricky..id also note that the road to Everest base camp was extremely panful and long given ..6 hours off road up and down the mountains, crossing all kinds of dangerous passes and curves, very bumpy and stressful..Chinese are currently building a road for next year as the Olympic torch is meant to leave from Everest base camp!
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