How to get to Tibet, China

By | May 4, 2022


Tibet, the “roof of the world” in the legendary Himalayas, is a land of spirituality, golden monasteries and breathtaking mountain landscapes. Many travelers come to Tibet mainly to get to know the impressive Buddhist temples, the wonderful high mountain scenery or the huge blue salt lakes. Excursions such as a train ride on the world’s highest railway line or the classic car journey through the Himalayas to Kathmandu in Nepal quickly take on an epic character here. But wherever you are, the Tibetans always have a smile on their face, be it the many groups of pilgrims or the nomads living in yakhaar tents. In the past, Tibet was the epitome of long, arduous and forbidden travel, but today the country’s transport infrastructure is remarkably well developed. Tibet has been experiencing a political tug-of-war for a century, pitting China’s claim to Tibet against Tibet’s desire for an end to Chinese occupation. The politically unsettled situation is the cause of complicated travel restrictions that make individual travel a challenge. Before you travel, it is therefore advisable to find out more about the current political situation and entry requirements.

Getting there

Arriving by plane

According to top-medical-schools, Air China (CA), Sichuan Airlines (3U), China Southern (C7) and others offer flights to Tibet from Frankfurt am Main, Vienna and Zurich. Tibet Airlines (TV) connects Helsinki with Tibet. The high season runs from June to October, but the peak occupancy of flights falls in the holiday season in early May and early October.

Flight times

Frankfurt – Beijing: approx. 9 hours Beijing – Chengdu: 3 hours Chengdu – Lhasa: 90 minutes (a spectacular flight through the mountains).

Arrival by train

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway connects Lhasa to Xining in China via the Tibetan railway station Za’gya Zangbo.


Traveling by plane

There are a few domestic flight connections, but these are rarely used. There are weekly flights from Lhasa to Chamdo in the east and the new airport at Ngari (Ali) in the extreme west. However, for the sake of acclimatization, it is advisable to travel by land.

Traveling by car/bus

The best way to get around in Tibet is to use the road network. The main roads are paved and in good condition. A new asphalt road even extends to Mount Kailash in the west. Roads to the east are in less good condition and are affected by the landslides of the annual monsoon.

Road classification

The 870km China-Nepal Highway (Friendship Highway) from Kathmandu to Lhasa is one of the highest and most beautiful roads in the world. Even more remote roads lead to Lhasa from the east (from Chengdu in Sichuan), the north (from Golmud in Qinghai) and the far west (from Hotan in Xinjiang).

Car rental

It is relatively easy to book a rental car through the same travel agency that also takes care of the guide and travel permits. However, with certain exceptions, you are not allowed to drive yourself. Toyota Land Cruisers are usually used to transport private tour groups.


There are numerous inexpensive taxis in major cities, including Lhasa. If you hail a taxi on the street, the first 3 km will cost around Y10. Few taxi drivers speak English, so have a note in Chinese ready with your destination.


In order to obtain a permit to enter Tibet, one needs to rent a car for any travel outside of Lhasa.

Traveling in the city

Taxis are readily available in most Tibetan cities, and a handful have limited bus or minibus service. Most travelers outside of Lhasa already have their own means of transport. Bicycles, which can be rented from several hostels in Lhasa, are a good alternative.

Locally on the way by train

The remarkable Qinghai-Tibet Railway travels the highest railway line on earth between Lhasa and Tibet’s Za’gya Zangbo railway station and on to Xining in China. The train compartments are supplied with additional oxygen to prevent altitude sickness among the passengers. Trains run from Lhasa to Shigatse (under 3 hrs), Nyingchi (2.5 – 3 hrs), Xining (27 hrs), Lanzhou, Beijing (48 hrs), Shanghai and several other Chinese cities. The high-mountain railway NBS Lhasa-Nyingchi is electrified and is scheduled to be extended to Ya’an by 2030 and will then connect to Chengdu in China.

How to get to Tibet