Every day we receive many questions from travelers planning a Tibet tour. “How can we get to Tibet?” is one of the most frequently asked questions. Based on their travel plans and interests. But, to make it easier for travelers to find the most appropriate way to get to Tibet in the shortest time, we have specially designed this page, named “How to get to Tibet”. This page will give you a rundown of your different choices.
Over the past few decades, Tibet has had a reputation for being a very difficult destination to travel to, in terms of both climate and most notably, travel regulations. We know many travelers struggle to find up-to-date Tibet travel information online. There are hundreds of thousands of Tibet travel information websites and more often than not, they are greatly outdated or contain intentionally misleading information.
Tibet is one of the fastest-growing tourism destinations in China and numerous policy changes are made every year. Tibet Travel Permit regulations have improved, and the local government is also trying to simplify the paperwork. For ease of travel, there has been a huge investment in Tibetan infrastructure with many paved roads being built. One example is the brand-new highway from Lhasa to Nyingchi (in Eastern Tibet) and the new train has been introduced, and the brand-new railway from Lhasa to Tsedang (in Southern Tibet).
With new airports being built rapidly, 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 by road, which is the most convenient method. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
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, from Kathmandu in Nepal. There is only one Nepal flight per day. However, if you take the flight from Kathmandu to Tibet, you only need the Tibet travel permits instead of also applying for the Chinese Travel Visa.
Flights are available daily from many mainland Chinese cities. The number of daily flights from cities in mainland China is increasing all the time. We often recommend travelers relax for a couple of days in mainland China to alleviate jet lag before flying to Tibet. This will 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. These cities are in order of the number of flights and the shortest flying hours.
- Chengdu to Lhasa
- Beijing to Lhasa
- Shanghai to Lhasa
- Guangzhou to Lhasa
- Chongqing to Lhasa
- Xining to Lhasa
- Kathmandu to Lhasa
- Kunming to Lhasa
- Xian to Lhasa
- Shangrila to Lhasa
How to get a Chinese entry visa?
It is compulsory to obtain a Chinese travel visa to travel to Tibet. Without this visa, most tourists cannot get a Tibet Travel Permit from the Tibet Tourism Bureau.
Generally, you can apply for a Chinese visa at 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 [email protected] and our team will provide you with in-depth information and assistance with the Chinese visa process.
Foreigners must possess a Tibet Travel Permit to travel to and from Tibet. There are always questions about whether it is possible to travel to Tibet without a 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, airport officers will verify your original permit copy before issuing the boarding pass. Your permit will also be checked when you pass through airport security check-in and after you get the boarding pass. It is very significant to ensure you have your Tibet Travel Permit in hand before you head to the airport.
Tibet Travel Permit usually takes 10 to 20 working days to obtain. We advise all travelers 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 a mainland China city. From there, you will fly to Tibet. If you are not staying overnight in mainland China, you can ask your Tibet travel agency to arrange delivery to the airport. This is for when you connect 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 fly out of. Please 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 they are very different. It takes 1 hour 35 minutes by flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa. Before 2016, Air China (www.airchina.com) operated only one flight 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 Chinese visa and Tibet travel permit regulations are also different from when traveling through mainland China.
What is the Tibet Group Visa?
The Tibet Group Visa is like a Chinese visa. If you fly into Tibet from Kathmandu, it is very helpful to know that you do not have to obtain a Chinese visa in advance. Instead, you will need 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 and issue the Tibet Group Visa.
Everyone traveling to Tibet from Kathmandu will only need a Tibet Group Visa. This works exactly the same as the Chinese individual visa and can be used to visit anywhere in China after visiting Tibet. However, it is not issued as a stamp in the passport and is just an A4-sized sheet of paper with a list of the group members’ names. Therefore, everyone in the group visa should travel together to and within Tibet as well as exit Tibet together The group visa can neither be split nor extended, although it can be applied for in 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 visas, you must allow 2 working days. Make sure that you have at least two full working days in Kathmandu to process the group visa prior to your expected travel date. Please contact us if you are unsure of which visa or permit you need.
You cannot apply for the Tibet Group Visa alone, as it requires 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. We will then send it to our partner agent in Kathmandu (Nepal). Once you arrive in Kathmandu, our Explore Tibet agent will contact you and meet you at the hotel. There, you need to fill in the visa application form and hand over your passport to him to process the Tibet Group Visa. He will return your passport and Tibet Group Visa according to your timeframe.
Important Note: Please make sure that everyone on the Tibet Group Visa list will enter and exit China together at the same time. If you plan to exit China from a different city and at a different time, mention it to us before applying for the permit and Group Visa Invitation Letter. This will enable us to apply for a separate Group Visa Invitation Letter and permit.
What documents are required to apply for a Tibet Group Visa?
There are three main things to apply for a Tibet Group Visa:
1. Valid passport with at least 6 months to expire
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 passport print copy
Tibet Travel Permit
The Tibet Travel Permit can be obtained from Explore Tibet using a copy of your passport. You do not need the permit, or a copy of the permit, to board a flight from Kathmandu. The Tibet Group Visa is enough to board a flight. Once you arrive at the airport in Lhasa, Tibet, the Chinese immigration officers will check your group visa and your passport. Our guide will wait for you with your Tibet Travel Permit in hand.
Important Note: Make sure that you have the same passport with which you apply for the Tibet Travel Permit or 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, from Kathmandu in Nepal. You can only fly to Kathmandu or any city in mainland China and from there to Lhasa in Tibet. Flight tickets are cheaper from mainland China to Lhasa (Tibet), and for Tibet permit and visa information, you can refer to the above sections or contact us directly at [email protected].
International flight tickets are usually more affordable if you book at least 2 to 3 months in advance, especially for flight tickets from Kathmandu to Lhasa (Tibet). There are significant discounts if you book 2 to 3 months in advance. The same applies to flights from cities in mainland China to Lhasa (Tibet).
Lhasa is Tibet’s capital and the airport is Gonkar Airport. It is about 70km outside Lhasa, and it takes around an hour’s drive on a very smooth 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 glad to show you the beauty and culture of our land.
While we hope this clears up some confusion for you regarding Tibet Travel Permits and Visas, we understand that it seems quite complicated and intimidating. But, the truth is, that will be quite simple and we will carry most of the burden of processing and applying. If there are any extra questions we haven’t covered on this page, please contact us directly at [email protected]