Tibet Train Ticket FAQs

The trains to Tibet from the seven gateway cities across China have four classes of tickets, though you will only find three advertised. Officially, there are only three classes of Tickets, Soft Sleeper, hard Sleeper, and Hard Seat, but unofficially, there is also the “unreserved” class of ticket, which you can get only at the stations, which allow travelers to travel on the train without a seat or berth. This option is not available to foreign travelers.

Tibet railways from Chinese major cities to Tibet

How many kinds of tickets are there?

The Soft Sleeper class is the first-class option, and is a sleeper berth in a four-bunk cabin with a lockable door. The most expensive option for the train tickets, it is also the preferred option for international travelers heading for Lhasa.

The hard sleeper option is a sleeper berth in a six-bunk cabin that is open to the train corridor without a door. The bunks are laid out over three levels on both sides of the cabin, although the top bunk has less headroom than the other two. While it is designated as a “hard” sleeper berth, the bunk is actually as soft as those in the soft sleeper cabins. As the second-class option for travel on the Tibet trains, this is often used by budget travelers to Tibet and domestic tourists, as the cheaper of the two sleeper options.

The third-class option is the hard seat. As with the “hard” sleeper, the seat is not hard and has padding similar to that found on a bus or coach. While comfortable enough, there is little legroom in the seats, and they are usually laid out with two seats on one side of the train carriage and three seats on the other side for maximum capacity. The cheapest option to travel on the trains, they are rarely used by international travelers and are mostly bought by local Tibetans heading home.

Is there a children’s Ticket on Tibet trains?

The trains to Tibet do have cheaper tickets for trains to Tibet, although there are certain conditions. A child below 1.1 meters can ride for free with an adult paying for a full ticket, and the child can sleep with the adult in the same berth. However, it is limited to just one child per adult paying full fare only. For children from 1,1 meters to 1.5 meters, there is a discount of between 100 and 160 yuan(15 to 22 dollars) per child, and the child gets a full fare seat or berth. However, the discounted tickets for children can only be purchased through the train stations direct, as travel agents are unable to validate the height of the child when purchasing tickets on your behalf.

Which ticket class should I get?

There are many things to consider when deciding which ticket type you should buy for your Tibet tour. The most important one for many people is the cost. However, this must be weighed against your ability to travel in the cheapest class possible for the long journeys to Tibet. The soft sleeper berths are the most expensive, with the hard sleepers being next. The cheapest option for most people (not counting the “unreserved” tickets) is the hard seat, and while this may be comfortable enough for short journeys, it may not be advisable for you to travel in a small cramped seat for long journeys.

A little privacy, not to mention a little more leg room, is one of the reasons many people choose the soft sleeper cabins, as there are more room and fewer people. While the hard sleeper cabins do have more room than the hard seats, you are in a relatively small cabin with five other people, which is open to the train’s corridor, so you may have the same kind of attention that the tourists in the hard seats will get. If privacy is a concern for you, then the soft sleeper is the best, although most expensive, option.

What if I do not want to share the cabin?

If you are the kind of person that requires full privacy in your travels, you do have the option of booking an entire cabin for your journey, so that you can have the cabin to yourself. Train cabins in the soft sleeper class normally have multiple passengers, and you will find that you will be sharing a cabin with other people traveling to Tibet, usually people you do not know, though that is a great way to meet new people and make new friends.

Soft Sleeper Cabin on the train to Tibet
Soft Sleeper Cabin on the train to Tibet

If you are not the type that wants to share the cabin, you can pay for all four berths in the soft sleeper cabin, so that you can have privacy for the entire journey. However, this is an expensive option, since you will need to pay for four tickets, which can cost from 450 US dollars to as much as 850 US dollars, depending on your departure city.

Is there a baggage allowance for the Tibet Trains?

Adults can carry 20kilograms of luggage for free, while children have a 10kg luggage allowance when traveling by train to Tibet. The luggage must also conform to the measurement requirements for the Tibet trains. Luggage must be a maximum of 160cm in any direction, although long items that are rod-shaped can be up to 200cm long. If your luggage exceeds the free weight allowance, you will need to pay for the excess, which is charged at 1.6 yuan per kilogram (approximately 23cents per kilogram in US dollars).

The luggage allowance does not include items such as wheelchairs or other disabled equipment, which may be carried free in excess of the luggage weight allowance.

What documents are required to buy train tickets?

If you are buying train tickets for your journey to Tibet yourself, you will need to have your passport and Tibet Travel Permit with you when you go to buy them, as these are required for international tourists buying tickets to Tibet at all times.

Your passport must have your correct name on it and must match the name on the Tibet Travel permit, or you will not be allowed to buy the tickets. The Tibet Travel permit is required to book and purchase tickets for the Tibet trains, and must also be shown to be able to board the trains when you depart from the station in mainland China.

How to book Tibet train tickets in the peak tourist season

Tibet train tours by Explore Tibet
Tibet train tours

Booking train tickets in China can be done 60 days ahead of the date of travel if permits online (which can only be done by a Chinese national with a be shown card), or around 58 days in advance if buying or booking them from mainland itself, which anyone can do. However, unless you plan to be in China for a couple of months before traveling to Tibet, it is best to have a travel agency book your tickets to Tibet, as the train tickets sell out very fast in the peak months for travel to Tibet, from June to the end of September. Travel agents can also accept your booking more than 60 days ahead, as they will make the booking for you as soon as the booking window opens for online ticket purchases.