The train goes through rugged terrain in some of the highest places on earth. Most of the line goes over 4,000 meters, and several times, it goes above 5,000 meters (16,400 feet). To protect the passengers and also the fragile environment, engineers devised some special strategies.
We strongly recommend you take a soft bed cabin or hard bed cabin, not a seat for this trip. The T class trains are generally higher quality than the K class trains, but on this route, both classes of trains arrive in 23 and a half hours, and soft sleepers on both cost about 132 USD.
The hard sleepers have small Chinese style toilets in the floor. The soft sleeper cabins have Western style toilets. Both types may be dirty, especially by the end of the trip.
The trains running on the Qinghai-Tibet railway have been specially equipped for highland travel. The railway uses sealed, oxygenated cars to cope with the thin air.
Each car is equipped with an oxygen supply system to maintain the air pressure at a suitable level. Each berth is supplied with oxygen that comes out of little vents, or if you wish, you can insert a tube to breathe.
At Tanggula Pass, the highest point at of the journey, the altitude is 5,231 meters (17,162 feet). It is so high you might feel the need for oxygen there.
The government is trying to protect the environment along the track and the scenery. So the cars were installed with environmentally friendly toilets, a waste water deposit tank, and garbage treatment facilities.
To protect the natural environment along the railway, special sewage collection devices have been installed. All the waste is disposed of at the terminus.
A special rubbish compressor has also been installed in each car to avoid litter being strewn along the railway. The train is also equipped with special toilets for disabled people.
At night, the hard and soft sleeper coaches are closed so people with no boarding cards are refused entry. People can lock the soft sleeper cabin doors, but the hard berths are open to the corridor, so there is a possibility of baggage theft.
All staff on the trains running on the highland track are trained for the job. They have a basic knowledge about altitude sickness. They can help any passenger on the train suffering from altitude sickness.
The staff can speak some English, so simple communication is possible. They must be younger than 36 years old.
Permafrost: The high altitude permafrost and UV radiation posed special problems for engineers of this line. About half of the Golmud to Lhasa section of the Xining to Lhasa line was built on permafrost or semi-permafrost ground. Engineers solved this engineering problem by constructing elevated tracks and causeways over some of the most difficult terrain. In other sections, pipes circulate liquid nitrogen below the rail bed to keep the ground frozen and hard.
The trains run at a speed of 120 kilometers an hour on the non-frozen sections, and for safety, they travel at 80 kilometers an hour where the tracks are on permafrost.
Solar radiation: To guard the passengers against the solar radiation, the train windows were installed with double-layer glass that have anti-ultraviolet radiation film.
Quality and comfort: The hard sleeper and soft sleeper cabins are relatively new and luxurious compared to those running on other routes in China. The trains and bed cabins are relatively safe and hygenic.
Languages: The Mandarin messages broadcast on the electronic screens in each railway car are translated into Tibetan and English.
Bring along: Bring along your own toiletries though. Bring along your favorite snacks.
Thinking of taking the train? Our staff can help you prepare for the trip, get tickets, and enjoy your time. Let us help you prepare for and enjoy a Tibet tour and take this train trip. Tell us if you want to take take the scenic train instead of air travel.