Entering Tibet from Nepal

Entering Tibet from Nepal

By Carol WangUpdated Oct. 1, 2021

All travelers entering Tibet from Nepal must apply for their China Group Visa in Nepal through the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Kathmandu. Furthermore, a Tibet Travel Permit is needed for all foreign travelers to visit Tibet.

This article will tell you how to travel from Nepal to Tibet and how to get the documents. Read on to discover the process in detail and useful journey information.

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Update Tibet Travel Restrictions COVID-19:

[September 2021] You must be physically in China for the last 3 months before you can travel to Tibet. When traveling from Tibet to China's mainland, quarantine is not needed.

Contact us now to plan your tour and prepare your Tibet Travel Permit documents in advance. Don’t worry about canceling. We allow free cancellation for any reason up to 24 hours before departure.

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How to Go from Nepal to Tibet

The overland distance between Kathmandu and Lhasa is about 1,300 km (800 miles), while the straight-line distance is only about 600 km (400 miles). For an ordinary traveler, there are two ways of traveling from Nepal to Tibet: by air or by road.

Nepal to Tibet by Air—Most Recommended

The best way to get from Nepal to Tibet has long been flying, i.e. from Kathmandu Tribhuvan Airport to Lhasa Gongga Airport. There was one flight per day each way between Lhasa and Kathmandu.

However, all Nepal–Tibet flights have been stopped due to COVID-19 restrictions [June 2021].

Here’s sample of the type of schedule that was operating:

Kathmandu (KTM) to/from Lhasa (LXA) Flight Schedule

  • KTM 12:00–13:20 LXA (Mon., Wed., Fri., Sun.) Sichuan Airlines 3U8720
  • KTM15:35–17:00LXA (Tue., Thu., Sat.)Air ChinaCA408
  • LXA11:35–13:15 KTM(Mon., Wed., Fri., Sun.) Sichuan Airlines3U8719     
  • LXA12:40–14:35 KTM(Tue., Thu., Sat.)Air ChinaCA407

All flights used Airbus A319 planes and US$460 for Economy Class was the guide price.

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Flight Requirements

You will need your passports, a group visa, and Tibet permits obtained in Nepal to board a flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa. After you arrive in Lhasa, your tour guide will pick you up at the airport.

Flights Advice

We suggest you fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa if possible, because it saves time and effort. A leisurely journey and a good rest would help you acclimate to the high altitude. Expect flights to resume when the pandemic dies down.

Please feel free to contact our experienced travel consultants for professional advice.

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Nepal to Tibet by Road

Traveling by road is a good but less easy way to get from Kathmandu to Tibet. You should travel from Kathmandu to Gyirong Port via the China-Nepal Highway, and then take another vehicle to Lhasa after security checks at the port.

The distance from Kathmandu to Gyirong Port is about 130km (108 miles), but it takes approximately 8–9 hours by car due to poor road conditions and winding mountain roads.

From Gyirong Port to Lhasa, it is about 1,100km (700 miles),and normally a night stay in Shigatse is advisable.

The road trip is spectacular because the route traverses the Himalayas and the Plateau of Tibet, and there are many tourist attractions to visit on the way.

Mount Everest Base Camp (EBC in Tibet) is a very popular place to visit. The journey usually takes three days if the main tourist attractions are visited.

Suggested Nepal–EBC–Lhasa Route:

Day 1: Gyirong Border –Dingri (6hours)

Day 2: Dingri – Mount Everest Base Camp– Shigatse(4 hours+7 hours)

Day 3: Shigatse–Gyantse–Lhasa (7 hours)

For the more adventurous, you could include both Mt. Kailash and Mt. Everest. Going north from Gyirong Port then west, in 2 days you can reach Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar —the holiest area for Tibetan Buddhists and Hindus.

A pilgrimage walk around the mountain (a Kailash Yatra) is considered the hardest classic trek in Tibet. >>Read more about Kailashi Yatra

>>Also to find out Sacred Mountains in Tibet

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Suggested Nepal–Kailash–Lhasa Road Journey:

 Mt. Kailash Mt. Kailash

Day 1: Gyirong Port –Saga (4hours)

Day 2: Saga–Darchen (10 hours)

Day 3: Kailash pilgrimage trek

Day 4: Kailash pilgrimage trek

Day 5: Kailash pilgrimage trek

Day 6: Darchen–Sakya (12 hours)

Day 7: Sakya–Shigatse (4hours)

Day 8: Shigatse–Gyantse–Lhasa (7 hours)

If you travel by road, we suggest you hire a private car from a travel agent to ensure your comfort. Your tour guide will pick you up at Gyirong Port and give you Tibet permits.

Please contact us to get a quotation for a private transfer from Kathmandu to Gyirong Port and from Gyirong Port to Lhasa.

If you need a tour in Nepal, please contact us to tailor-make a trip.

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Nepal to Tibet by Train — Railway Planned

There is no railway connecting Lhasa and Kathmandu yet. But a railway between Lhasa and Kathmandu is being designed by the governments of China and Nepal.

It is planned that the famous Qinghai-Tibet Railway will extend from Lhasa to Kathmandu. The first extension project of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway from Lhasa to Shigatse was completed in 2014.

The Shigatse-Yadong (China's border with Bhutan)Railway line is currently under planning [2021]. The railroad to Yadong is planned to be connected with the Indian railway network.

In the near future, a traveler can take a train from India or Bhutan to Lhasa.

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Nepal-China Border Crossings

There are six official ports along the border between Nepal and China. Rasuwa -Gyirong Port is used by travelers to go back and forth between Tibet and Katmandu. The other ports are designated as bilateral trade ports.

Customs staff at Gyirong Border work from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Beijing Time. Remember that China time is 2 hours 15 minutes ahead of Nepali time.

Gyirong Border Gyirong Border

How to Cross the Nepal–Tibet Border

It should be a quick process at Nepal immigration at Gyirong, as long as you haven’t overstayed your Nepal visa. After the Nepal Immigration check, you should go across the Rasuwaghadi Bridge.

It is about 2 km (1½ miles) transitioning from a mud track to a well-paved road. When arriving at China Immigration, you’ll have to show your passport, China Group Visa, Tibet Entry Permit and have your luggage checked.

After having your passport stamped, our guide and driver, who have arrived 1 night before, would pick you up after China Immigration to start your Tibet journey.

Please do keep us informed of your leaving time so that our guide and driver can meet you on time.

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Accommodations at the Gyirong Border

It takes more than eight hours to drive from Kathmandu to the Gyirong Border, so it is best to have a rest after the long journey from Kathmandu.

Gyirong County is 77 kilometers (48 miles) away from Gyirong port and is a good place to find accommodations as well as some good meals.

Gyirong Hotel is presently the best local guest house available as an overnight base. It provides a basic level of comfort, free Wi-Fi (low signal), clean rooms, and private bathrooms.

>>Also to find out Accommodations in Tibet

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Travel Documents Required to Enter Tibet from Nepal

Tibet PermitTibet Permit

A China Group Visa and a Tibet Entry Permit are required if you enter Tibet from Nepal. This is different from traveling from a Mainland China city to Tibet.

This China Group Visa is compulsory even if you have a valid China visa issued in another country (which would be automatically canceled unfortunately when the Tibet Group Visa was issued).

China Group Visas are issued in Kathmandu, can be for as few as just one person, and are valid for 30 days.

They are single entry and cannot be extended, but you can also visit other cities in mainland China like Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai with a China Group Visa.

A China Group Visa is usually not affixed in a passport but is a sheet of paper that lists all the names of the people in your group along with their nationalities, birth dates, and passport numbers.

On a China Group Visa, members of your travel group must enter and exit China at the same time and the same place.

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3 Steps to Get Your China Group Visa and Tibet Permit in Nepal

You cannot apply for a China Group Visa in Nepal independently according to government policy. You must find a travel agency, like China Highlights, to help you with the application and Tibet tour arrangements.

Step 1: Confirm Your Tibet Itinerary with a Travel Agency

According to the current policy, you must book a Tibet tour with a qualified travel agency. If you choose to travel with us, your travel consultant will help you to arrange your Tibet itinerary. This is a prerequisite for the following steps.

As it takes time to apply for the documents and book hotels/tickets, you are advised to confirm your tour booking at least 1 month (or as early as possible) before your departure to Tibet.

Step 2:E-mail Your Passport Info

Scan your passport ID pages and those of your fellow travelers and email us the scanned copies. We will then use the copies to apply for your Tibet Entry Permit and to get a Visa Invitation Letter from the Tibet Tourism Bureau. This may take 7 to 10 working days.

Be aware that after submitting your passport copies to the Tibet Tourism Bureau, your Tibet itinerary will not be able to be modified.

After the permit and letter have been issued, we will send the copies to our cooperating travel agency in Nepal.

Step 3: Go to China Immigration offices in Kathmandu.

China Group Visas can only be applied for at the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. Our cooperator will meet you in Kathmandu and assist you with filling in the application form and collecting your passports and photos.

Each person is required to submit his or her original passport and a “2-inch” (45x35 mm) passport-type photo that’s been taken with a white background.

Generally, a group visa will be issued in 5 days for a regular application; an urgent application takes 3 days.

For example, if you submit your passport on the morning of June 1st, your visa will be issued on the afternoon of June 3rd (for an urgent application) and you can start your journey on June 4th.

While waiting for the group visa to be issued, you are permitted to travel around Nepal with your passport photocopy. We are able to tailor-make a Nepal tour if you need.  

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How to Go from Tibet to Nepal

If you would like to go to Nepal from Tibet the routes are the same. However, the document process is much easier. Traveling from a China city to Tibet, you should already have your China Visa issued in any country. >>Read more about Applying for China Visa

With your China Visa, the travel agent can arrange a Tibet Entry Permit. Nepal tourist visas can be obtained by the Visa on Arrival method, which is valid for almost every traveler who arrives by air or overland.

So, you could get a Nepal Visa from Nepali Immigration at the Nepal side of the Gyirong-Rasuwa border. If you take a flight from Lhasa to Kathmandu, a Nepal visa can be issued at Tribhuvan International Airport.

To know more details about Nepal Visa, please contact us.

Hassle-Free Tour with China Highlights

China Highlights can help arrange your Tibet tour, Tibet permits, and group visa from Nepal. You need to provide your passport to apply for a group visa, and Tibet permits, at least 15 days before departure.

Take a look at our most popular Tibet tours for inspiration:

We could also create your own individual journey. Contact our experienced travel consultants.

Also, we are confident that we can customize a tour for you to include a true Tibetan flavor, even if you can't get to Tibet for some reason (for example the current pandemic restrictions).

Further Reading

Important Tibet Travel Restrictions You Should Know

How to Apply for a China Visa — a Step-by-Step Guid

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