How to get to Tibet
How to get to Tibet | Explore Tibet
Every day we receive many questions from travellers planning to a Tibet tour, and “How can we actually get to Tibet?” has been one of the most frequently asked questions. Based on their travel plans and interests. But, in order to make it easier for travellers to find the best way to get to Tibet in the shortest time, we have specially designed this page, named “How to get to Tibet”, to give you  a rundown of your different choices.

Over the past few decades, Tibet has had a reputation for being very a difficult destination to travel, in terms of both climate and most notably, travel regulations. We know for many travellers it is difficult to find up-to-dated Tibet travel information online. There are hundreds of thousands of Tibet travel information websites and more often than not, they are greatly outdated or worse include pursposefully misleading information.
 
Tibet is one of the fast growing tourism destination in China and there are numerous policy changes being made every year. Tibet Travel Permit regulations have been improving, and the local government is also trying its best to simplify the paperwork. For ease of travel, there has been a huge investment in Tibetan infrastructure with many new roads are being built. One example is the new highway from Lhasa to Nyingchi (in Eastern Tibet), and the brand-new railway from Lhasa to Tsedang (in Southern Tibet).
 
With new airports being built at a rapid speed, every year there are new flights from different cities in mainland China to Tibet. Naturally, it gives you a much broader choice of options to get into Tibet.
 
The three main ways to get to Tibet are by Flight, by Train and Overland by road. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

 How to get to Tibet by Explore Tibet
How to get to Tibet by flight

Flying is always the fastest and easiest way, and every day there are multiple domestic flights to Tibet from most major cities in China. However, there is only one international flight to Tibet, which is from Kathmandu in Nepal. There is only one flight from Nepal per day. However, if you take the flight from Kathmandu to Tibet, then you only need the Tibet travel permit instead of also applying for the Chinese Travel Visa.
 
How to get to Tibet from mainland China by flight
 
There are flights available every day from many cities in mainland China. The number of daily flights from cities in mainland China is increasing all the time. We often recommended travellers to relax for a couple of days in mainland China to alleviate jet lag before flying on to Tibet. This will definitely help you overcome high-altitude sickness more easily.
Here we have listed the top recommended cities in mainland China from which to get to Tibet, in order of the number of flights every day and the shortest flying hours.
  1. Chengdu to Lhasa
  2. Beijing to Lhasa
  3. Shanghai to Lhasa
  4. Guangzhou to Lhasa 
  5. Chongqing to Lhasa
  6. Xining to Lhasa
  7. Kathmandu to Lhasa
  8. Kunming to Lhasa
  9. Xian to Lhasa
  10. Shangrila to Lhasa
 
How to get the Chinese Entry Visa
 
It is compulsory to obtain a Chinese Travel Visa to travel to Tibet. Without this visa, most tourists are not able to get the Tibet Travel Permit from the Tibet Tourism Bureau.
 
Generally, you can apply for the Chinese visa from any Chinese Embassy in your home country. The Chinese Embassy may require you to have booked round trip flight tickets and hotel or tour booking information in China. If the visa application is difficult or confusing, please send us an email at sales@exploregtibet.com and our team will provide you in-depth information and assistance with the Chinese visa process.
 
 
How to get the Tibet Travel Permit
 
It is compulsory for all foreigners to possess a Tibet Travel Permit in order to travel to and from Tibet. There are always questions as to whether it is possible to travel Tibet without the Tibet Travel Permit, The answer 99% of the time is “NO”, and we do not recommend taking this risk. All entry cities for Tibet and many places in Tibet will check for the Tibet Travel Permit. If you enter Tibet from any city in mainland China, then the airport officers will check your original copy of the permit before issuing the boarding pass. Your permit will also be checked when you pass through the airport security check-in after you get the boarding pass. It is very important to make sure you have your Tibet Travel Permit in hand before you head to the airport.
 
The Tibet Travel Permit usually takes 10 to 20 working days to obtain, and we advise all travellers to book their Tibet tour at least 30 days in advance. Once booked, your Tibet tour agency will work on your Tibet Travel Permit, using copies of your passport and Chinese visa. Once the permit is issued, they will send it to your hotel in the mainland China city from where you will take the flight to Tibet. If you are not staying overnight in mainland China, then you can ask your Tibet travel agency to arrange the delivery to the airport for when you make your connecting flight to Tibet. The normal courier service takes 3 days to reach any city in mainland China from Lhasa (Tibet). There is also an express courier service, which takes only 24 hours but costs CNY 380. Airport delivery may cost CNY 300 to CNY 400, depending on which city you are flying out of. Again, please do contact us if you have any additional questions.
 
To get to Tibet from Kathmandu by flight
 
Many people think Nepal and Tibet are the same places, but actually, they are very different. It takes 1 hour 35 minutes by flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa. Before 2016, there was only one flight that was operated by Air China (www.airchina.com) every other day, but now Sichuan Airlines (http://global.sichuanair.com/US-EN) also operates a flight between Lhasa and Kathmandu, so flights are available every day. It is the only international flight to Tibet, and the Chinese visa and Tibet travel permit regulations are also different than when traveling through mainland China.
 
flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa

What is the Tibet Group Visa?
 
The Tibet Group Visa is similar to a Chinese Visa. If you fly into Tibet from Kathmandu, then it is very important to know that you do not have to obtain the Chinese visa in advance. Instead, you will need to get a Tibet Group Visa from the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. If you already have a Chinese visa, whether it is a work visa or a multiple entry visa, the Chinese Embassy will cancel the existing visa to issue the Tibet Group Visa. 
 
Everyone traveling to Tibet from Kathmandu will only need the Tibet Group Visa, it works exactly the same as the Chinese individual visa, and can be used to travel anywhere in China after visiting Tibet. However, it is not issued as a stamp in the passport and is just an A4 size sheet of paper with a list of the names of the group members. Therefore, everyone in the group visa should travel together to and within Tibet as well as exiting Tibet together. The group visa can neither be split nor extended, although it can be applied for within less than 45 days.
 
The cost of the Tibet Group Visa varies based on the number of processing days required. Even for the most urgent visa, you need to allow 2 working days, so make sure that you have at least two full working days in Kathmandu to process the group visa prior to your expected date of travel. Again, please contact us if you are unsure of which visa or permit you need.
 
How to get the Tibet Group Visa
 
You cannot apply for the Tibet Group Visa by yourself, as it needs a Group Visa Invitation Letter from the Tibet Tourism Bureau. Once you have booked the Tibet tour with us, we will apply for the Group Visa Invitation Letter from the tourism bureau and then send it to our partner agent in Kathmandu (Nepal). Once you arrive in Kathmandu, our Explore Tibet agent will contact you and will come to meet you at the hotel. There, you need to fill in the visa application form and hand your passport to him in order to process the Tibet Group Visa. He will return your passport and the Tibet Group Visa according to your required timeframe.
 
Important Note: Please make sure that everyone on the list of the Tibet Group Visa will be entering Tibet and exiting China together and at the same time. If you plan to exit China from a different city and at a different time, then mention it to us before applying for the permit and Group Visa Invitation Letter, so that we can apply for a separate Group Visa Invitation Letter and permit.
 
What are the documents required to apply for the Tibet Group Visa?
 
There are three main things that are required to apply for the Tibet Group Visa:
1. Valid passport with at least 6 months from the expiry date
2. Tibet Group Visa Invitation Letter, which will be provided by Explore Tibet
3. Two passport-sized photos with a white background
4. One color print copy of your passport
 
Tibet Travel Permit
 
The Tibet Travel Permit can be obtained by Explore Tibet using a copy of your passport, and you do not need the permit, or a copy of the permit, to board the flight from Kathmandu. The Tibet Group Visa is enough to board the flight. Once you arrive at the airport in Lhasa, Tibet, the Chinese Immigration officers will check the group visa and your passport, and our guide will be waiting for you with your Tibet Travel Permit in hand.
 
Important Note: Make sure that you have the same passport with which you have applied for the Tibet Travel Permit or there it will be a problem entering Tibet.
 
To get to Tibet from other international cities around the world
 
Currently, there is only one international flight to Tibet, which is from Kathmandu in Nepal. You are only able to fly to Kathmandu or any city in mainland China and from there into Lhasa in Tibet. Flight tickets are cheaper from mainland China to Lhasa (Tibet), and for the Tibet permit and visa information, you can refer to the above sections or contact us directly at sales@exploretibet.com.
 
Important tips on how to get cheap flight tickets to Tibet
 
International flight tickets are usually cheaper if you book at least 2 to 3 months in advance, especially for flight tickets from Kathmandu to Lhasa (Tibet). There are good discounts if you book 2 to 3 months in advance, and the same applies to flights from cities in mainland China to Lhasa (Tibet). China Eastern Airline often provides some good discounts on their tickets, and their official website is http://en.ceair.com/.
 
Lhasa Airport 
Lhasa is the capital of Tibet and the airport is known as Gonkar Airport. It is about 70km outside Lhasa, and it takes around an hour’s drive on a very good road. Lhasa Gonkar Airport is 3,600 meters (11,811 feet) above sea level, and Lhasa city is 3,650 meters (11,975 feet) above sea level. Once you arrive at the airport we will be there waiting to show you the beauty and culture of our land.

While we hope this cleared up some confusion for you regarding Tibet Travel Permits and Visas, we understanding it can seem quite complicated and intimidating. The truth is, that it is quite simple and we will carry most of the burden of processing and applying. If there are any extra questions that we haven't covered on this page, please do contact us directly at sales@exploregtibet.com
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