Taking a trip to Lhasa is the holiday of a lifetime for many people, and this land on the roof of the world is one of the most spectacular destinations on the planet. With a multitude of tours to choose from, travelers can easily arrange their tour of Tibet. And with the awesome Tibet Trains, there is no better way of starting your epic journey to the Land of Snows.
Tibet train departs from seven gateway cities across China, and can take from 22 hours to 55 hours to reach the plateau capital, depending on the departure location. While this may appear to be a very long train journey, it is the most spectacular train ride in China, taking you across the plateau through parts of Tibet you would not otherwise get to see.
Book Tibet tour with Tibet travel agency and get Tibet travel permit
The first thing to do before you can travel to Tibet is to book a tour of Tibet with a registered Tibet travel agency or tour operator. Independent travel is not permitted in the Tibet Autonomous Region, so all international travelers must be on a pre-booked tour with a guide and private vehicle. We can provide the tour you want at a reasonable price, which includes the cost of the guide and vehicle, among other things.
Once you have booked your tour, we will make the application for the Tibet Travel Permit on your behalf. The Tibet Travel Permit is required for all international tourists to board the trains, to get into Tibet, and for traveling around in the area of Lhasa. Other permits are also obtainable for those traveling to places outside Lhasa, such as Mount Everest and Shigatse.
In order to make the application, we will need scanned color copies of your passport and Chinese Entry Visa. Once we have these, we will make the application with the Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa. Personal applications are not accepted, and once the permit is approved, we will forward it to your hotel in China ready for your trip to Tibet. Processing can take up to 15-20 days, so it is best to book as early as possible to avoid delays.
Find your Tibet entry cities
There are seven gateway cities to choose from for the trains to Tibet, which include: Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou, and Xining. The departure days and times vary across the seven cities, and you can choose the departure city based on your own requirements. Guangzhou has the longest travel time, but is easily accessible from Hong Kong, while Xining has the shortest travel time, and is useful for intermediary acclimatization before heading up to the plateau. Trains from Shanghai and Beijing are around average in terms of time, and are great places from which to start the tour, with a wealth of sights and delights to tour around before you travel. Chengdu is also a very popular starting point for Tibet, as it is a major international transport hub and has a wide range of attractions to spend your time at before traveling, including the rare Giant Pandas.
The table below gives a rough guide to the trains, the departure and arrival times, and the frequency, for your ease of reference.
Choose Soft Sleeper or Hard Sleeper
When it comes to travel on the trains, there are two main options for your accommodation whilst traveling. With the shortest train taking almost 22 hours to reach Lhasa, the best options are the hard and soft sleeper cabins, which allow you to rest during the journeys and arrive in Lhasa refreshed and ready to explore. Normal train seats, known as “hard seats” in China, are also available for a little less than the sleeper cabins, but traveling for up to 55 hours in a small cramped seat is not a good way to start a vacation on the roof of the world.
The lowest cost sleeper cabin is the 2nd class Hard Sleeper, which is not at all as the name suggests. The hard sleeper cabins have six bunks over three levels, all with soft comfortable mattresses and bedding provided. The bunks are not all the same, and do have a slightly different amount of headroom, with the lowest bunk being the most expensive of the three and the top being the least expensive. The hard sleeper cabins are open to the train corridor, with just a small curtain for a modicum of privacy, but are just as comfortable as the soft sleeper bunks.
The Soft Sleeper is the 1st class cabin, which is more secure, with a lockable door and only four bunks over two levels. The soft sleeper cabins also have a television that shows local channels, and storage above the door for luggage. Both levels have a good amount of headroom, and are long enough for an average western man, though if you are more than 6 feet tall, you may find them a little short. The lower bunks are the most expensive, though it is actually best not to book a lower berth on the trains, as it is customary in China for all the passengers to sit on the lowest berths during the day to chat and drink tea. If you want to rest more than normal on your trip, then a higher bunk is much better.
While there are benefits to taking a soft sleeper over the cheaper hard sleepers, the hard sleepers are just as comfortable, and if cost is a concern, then you can be sure that the hard sleeper is just as good an option for traveling to Tibet. While there is very little crime on the trains, thanks to police officers that are stationed on board, it is always best to keep valuable items such as money, devices, wristwatches, etc., on your person at all times.
The cost of the tickets for the Tibet Trains does vary from season to season, and the prices given below are for use as a general guide only.
If you are planning a trip to Tibet, then you can do no better than taking the trains to the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region from one of the seven gateway cities. Each departure city has its own attractions and benefits for travel by train, and even if you are not that into train travel, you can really make the most of the trip by taking the shortest route from Xining across the plateau to experience the stunningly beautiful sights of the northern area of Tibet. And where price is concerned, you will not find a more cost-effective way of getting to Lhasa.
RELATED POST: How to Take the Train from Singapore to Hanoi