Trains to Tibet — Experience the Qinghai-Tibet Railway
Tibet

Trains to Tibet — Experience the Qinghai-Tibet Railway

By Carol WangUpdated May. 26, 2021

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway is the first railway to Tibet. It is the longest and highest plateau railway in the world with a total length of 1,956km (1,215 miles).

Tibet Reopens for Travel From May 9, 2021!

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Have you been dreaming of a Tibet tour for a long time? It’s time to restart your travel plans now. Tibet reopens to China expats from May 9, 2021 after being closed for more than a year.

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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Qinghai Tibet RailwayQinghai Tibet Railway

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway was constructed in two stages: Xining to Golmud and Golmud to Lhasa. These two sections were joined together on July 1, 2006, and since then the Tibet railway has become the most popular way to visit Tibet.

Traveling to Tibet by train, you can discover difficult-to-access parts of the Tibetan Plateau on the most beautiful part of the railway: the Golmud–Lhasa section.

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How to Get to Tibet by Train

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway links to the China rail network and more than 20 major cities in China offer train tickets to Tibet, including Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou, and Xining.

All trains to Tibet pass through Xining Railway Station, which marks the start of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

No matter where you start your train journey to Tibet, you will transfer to a special train with oxygen-infused cars in Xining, because other trains are not designed for the high altitude and harsh plateau environment.

Read  about >>How to get to Xining 

Qinghai-Tibet TrainQinghai-Tibet Train

Bullets Train to Tibet — Coming Soon!

Tibet bullet trains are due to commence operation in July 2021. They will be the first bullet trains on the Tibetan Plateau and the highest bullet trains in the world.

The Lhasa-Nyingchi HSR (High-Speed Railway)could be used as an extension to a Qinghai-Tibet Railway journey. It starts in Lhasa Station and ends in Nyingchi in eastern Tibet, 300 km (200 miles) east of Lhasa.

The Lhasa-Nyingchi HSR is 5 hours faster than by road: only a 3-hour train journey from Lhasa to Nyingchi via Shannan.

Spectacular scenery along the railway includes majestic views of Najiabawa Mountain, sacred Yaluzhangbu River, and diamond-green Ranwu Lake.

The Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway will join with the sections of the Nyingchi-Ya’an-Chengdu HSR, which are being constructed. In a few years, travelers can take a Sichuan-Tibet bullet train to Lhasa from Chengdu.

Contact us to planning your Tibet tour in summer to be one of the first to experience a Tibet bullet train.

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Tibet Train Schedule for 2021

Tibet trains run daily between Lhasa and Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Lanzhou, Xining, and Xi’an, but every other day from/to Chengdu and Chongqing.

Contact us to check Chengdu/Chongqing train datesfor 2021.

Train Route Train Number Departure Arrival Duration
Beijing–Lhasa Z21 08:00 12:10 +2 40 h 10 m
Shanghai–Lhasa Z164 20:07 19:30 +2 47 h 10 m
Guangzhou–Lhasa Z264 11:45 17:05 +2 53 h 20 m
Chengdu–Lhasa Z322 21:37 09:56 +2 36 h 19 m
Chongqing–Lhasa Z223 22:25 09:55 +2 5 h 31 m
Xi'an–Lhasa Z265 09:45 15:45 +1 29 h 51 m
Z165 11:22 19:30 +1 32 h 08 m
Lanzhou–Lhasa Z323 09:26 09:56 +1 24 h 30 m
Z21 12:30 12:31 +1 23 h 59 m
 Z265 17:00 15:45 +1 22 h 45 m
Z165 18:37 19:30 +1 24 h 53 m
Xining–Lhasa Z323 12:20 09:56 +1 21 h 36 m
Z6801 13:50 11:20 +1 21 h 30 m
Z21 15:20 12:30 +1 21 h 30 m
Z265 19:45 15:45 +1 20 h 00 m
Z6811 20:30 17:18 +1 20 h 48 m
Z165 21:20 19:30 +1 22 h 10 m

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Tibet Train Ticket Prices for 2021

All travel agents charge extra service fees of CN¥200–1,000 per ticket depending on the season.

In general, trains to Lhasa are in higher demand and harder to purchase, thus their booking fees are higher than for trains from Lhasa.

Price on a exchange rate of 1 CNY=USD6.43  Please contact us to get a quote.

Train Route Soft Berth Hard Berth Hard Seat
Beijing–Lhasa US$178 US$112 US$5
Shanghai–Lhasa US$196 US$123 US$63
Guangzhou–Lhasa US$228 US$135 US$70
Chengdu–Lhasa US$155 US$98 US$47
Chongqing–Lhasa US$155 US$98 US$47
Xi'an–Lhasa US$151 US$49 US$46
Lanzhou–Lhasa US$128 US$81 US$37
Xining–Lhasa US$121 US$77 US$35

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How to Book a Ticket?

Train tickets in China are typically sold from 30 days in advance. With Internet access, it is convenient to book train tickets online in China. However, as Tibet is a popular tourist area, the demand for Qinghai-Tibet train tickets is high, especially for sleeper tickets.

As so many people buy tickets online at the same time, sometimes if you are one second late, you won't be able to buy a ticket.

Train TicketsChina Train Tickets

In order to ensure the smooth progress of your trip to Tibet, the most guaranteed way to book train tickets (still not 100%) is to pay a train booking service fee toa reputable China travel agency more than one month before your departure date.

We recommend that you book train tickets to/from Lhasa with us. We will hold your booking in a queue, and once tickets are released we will purchase them.

Our travel consultants will try their best to get your tickets, and we have a very high success rate.

>> How to Plan a Tibet Tour

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Xining to Lhasa Trains— the Best Option

Why take a Xining-Lhasa train? Xining is the best place to start a Tibet train journey, rather than from Beijing to Tibet etc., because it saves time, allows some altitude acclimation, avoids a train change, and offers most departures per day.

1. Time Efficient

It only takes about 20–22 hours by train to Lhasa from Xining.It is the shortest train journey to Tibet with only one night on the train, compared to around 30–50 hours for further departure points.

2. More Ticket Choices

Currently, Xining Railway Station servesfivetrains to Lhasa per day. If you start from Xining, it is five times easier to buy Qinghai-Tibet train tickets than from Beijing or Shanghai.

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3. Helps Acclimating to the Altitude

It is a wise way to fly to Xining and stay there for a couple of days, and then take the train to Lhasa. Xining’s altitude of 2,200 meters (7,200 feet)is high enough to help you begin to acclimate, but not so high as to make you feel sick.

While you're in Xining you can check out some of the amazing Tibetan cultural sites in the area.

4. No Need Change Trains

If you don’t start your Tibet train journey from Xining, you’ll need to transfer to the special Tibetan Plateau train that has an oxygen supply at Xining Station. You’ll have to unload your luggage and carry it to another platform to board the Tibet train.

Also to read >>how to get to Xining.

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What's a Qinghai-Tibet Train Like?

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau trains are specially designed to endure, function smoothly, and provide safety and comfort in high altitudes and the harsh plateau environment.

Generally, each train has 14 carriages with a total capacity of 936 passengers.

It is composed of 2 soft sleeper carriages with 32 passengers in each, 8 hard sleeper carriages of 60 Passengers, and 4 hard seat carriages with 392 seats in total.

The seats and berths are more spacious than those of ordinary trains.

Seat Types

There are three types of seats on the Qinghai-Tibet trains.

Soft sleeper: most comfortable

There are four double-bunk berths per private cabin with a door for privacy. Quilts, pillows, clothes hangers, and an LCD TV are provided.

Each cabin has a table to place items or have meals.

There is independent luggage storage space, and a coat rack.Compared with the hard sleepers, the soft sleeper environment is more private, quieter (sound insulation is better), and more spacious.

Soft Sleeper BerthSoft Sleeper Berth

Hard sleeper: less recommended

There are six berths per open compartment with bunks in three tiers. Quilts and pillows are provided. Each compartment has a small table to place items or have meals.

It is recommended only if there is no soft sleeper class available or if economy is more important than comfort.

Hard Sleeper BerthHard Sleeper Berth

Hard seat: not recommended

There are no compartments in hard seat carriages. They are divided into 16 rows of six seats with an aisle down the middle. The seating space is narrow so it's very hard to sleep at night.

It is not recommended since it would be very tiring to take a hard seat on such a long train journey.

Hard SeatHard Seat

For more details, read How to Choose between Train Types and Seat Classes in China.

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Oxygen Systems on Qinghai-Tibet Trains

There are two kinds of oxygen supply devices on the Qinghai-Tibet trains. One is diffusion oxygen supply system that provides oxygen to an entire carriage by enriching air in the air-conditioner to make the oxygen content 23.5%.

The other system supplies oxygen to passengers individually. If passengers need more oxygen, they can use an oxygen pipe at any time to avoid altitude sickness.

An individual oxygen supply device is provided under each passenger’s seat/berth and on the wall of the corridor and at the junction of carriages.

Additionally, to ensure passenger safety and comfort, each train has a doctor onboard along with medical equipment and medicines.

To read>>How to Deal with Altitude Sickness.

Facilities on Qinghai-Tibet Trains

There is a dining car on each Qinghai-Tibet train, offering reheated boxed meals and freshly-cooked meals. Tibetan cuisine is the most popular on the Tibet train. Generally, each dish costs around CN¥30–40.

Toilets are located at each end of a carriage: at one end is a Western toilet and at the other end is a squat toilet. They are kept clean, but toilet paper is not provided.

Boiling drinking water is provided all the way, so you may want to bring some instant food/drink like noodles, coffee, or tea with you.

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12 Stations on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway

There are 85 stations on the Qinghai-Tibet railway, but only seven stations are stopped at for passengers to get on and off.

Besides the terminal stations in Xining and Lhasa, the intermediate stations on the Qinghai-Tibet railway are Delingha  Station, Golmud Station, Amdo Station, Nagqu Station, and Damxung Station.

There are nine sightseeing stations on the Golmud–Lhasa section of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway (some are intermediate passenger stops too), where the train will stop for a few minutes and passengers can take photos of the spectacular views.

You might like to read Breathtaking Scenery along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway

Qinghai-Tibet Railway MapQinghai-Tibet Railway Map

1. Delingha— altitude 2,980 m (9,780 ft)

530km (360 miles) from Xining and 387km (240 miles) from Golmud, at Delingha station you can see scattered salt lakes, hectares of fertile farmland, and green forest belts in the suburbs.

2. Golmud— 2,800 m (9,190 ft)

Golmud is 917 kilometers (600 miles) from Xining. Located in the middle of the southern margin of the Qaidam Basin, it is the second-largest city in Qinghai Province.

The first and easiest section of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the Xining-Golmud section, ends there

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3. Yufeng Peak — 4,195 m (13,760 ft)

Yufeng Peak is the first sightseeing station, which allows passengers to get off the train and take photos outside.

It offers a good chance to view the Kunlun Mountain Range including Yufeng Peak —an ice-and-snow-capped mountain that rises above 6,500 meters (21,300 ft).

4. Chuma’er River — 4,495 m (14,750 ft)

Chuma’er River station is located in the core area of the Tibetan antelope migration corridor.

If you are lucky, you will see small groups of Tibetan antelopes, wild donkeys, wild yaks, white-lipped deer, wolves, and other rare animals.

5. Tuotuo River — 4,547 m (14,920 ft)

Originating from the Tanggula Mountain, the Tuotuo River is the source tributary of the Yangtze River. From the Tuotuo River scenery-viewing platform, you can glimpse the glittering wide river.

Tuotuo RiverTuotuo River

6. Buqiangge— 4,823 m(15,820 ft)

Buqiangge Station is at the entrance to the Tanggula Mountain pass.

7. Tanggula Mountain Pass — 5,072 m (16,640 ft)

Tanggula Mountain Pass is the most famous and highest point of the Qinghai-Tibet railway. Nearby Tanggula Station is renowned as the highest railway station in the world at 5,068 m (16,627 ft).

The Tanggula Mountains are a natural boundary between Qinghai and Tibet.

Standing on the platform, you can see the beautiful appearance of Geladaindong, the tallest peak of the Tanggula Mountains, with an altitude of 6,621 m (21,720 ft).

The oxygen content in the air there is only 60% of that at sea level, so many people have serious altitude sickness at Tanggula Pass.

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8. Amdo— 4,700 m (15,420 ft)

On the south side of the Tanggula Mountains, Amdo is located in the north of Nagqu Prefecture, 463 kilometers (288 miles) from Lhasa.

There, you will see the distinctive dwellings of Tibet for the first time. The houses are low and crude in pastoral areas, the cornerstone of rural Tibetan lifestyles.

Amdo StationAmdo Station"

9. Cona Lake— 4,594m (15,070 ft)

Cona Lake is a highland fresh water lake and the closest lake to the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, so you can sit on the train and enjoy the beautiful lake through a window.

Cona LakeCona Lake

10. Nagqu— 4,513 m (14,810 ft)

Nagqu Railway Station is surrounded by the Changtang Plateau. From there you can see the herds of cattle and sheep on the grassland, as well as a few of its numerous lakes.

See more on >>Nagqu.

11. Damxung Station— 4,293 m (14,080 ft)

Damxung Station is east of Lake Namtso. There is an expansive scene of grasslands around the railway station.

It is impossible to see Lake Namtso from the train as it is about 50+ km away and 500 meters higher, the other side of the Nyainqentanglha mountain range.

But (on clear days) you can see Mount Nyainqentanglha. At 7,162 m (23,497 ft), it is held sacred by Tibetans along with nearby Namtso.

You may also interested in Sacred Mountains in Tibet

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12.Yambajan Station— 4,306 m (14,130 ft)

At YambajanStation, from the train windows you can see steam rising from China's largest geothermal steam site, with an area of 17 square kilometers (7 square miles).

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Trains in or out of Tibet — Which Are Better?

Qinghai-Tibet Trains pass through amazing Tibetan Plateau scenery, so we suggest that you don't miss this experience on your Tibet trip. But, should you take a train into Tibet or on the way out?

Most people like to take a train going in, however we suggest you decide it based on certain aspects of your tour plan. We have sorted out the following information to help you make a decision.

1. Scenery

You might think the scenery along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway is the same, no matter whether you take the train in or out of Tibet. With different departure times, though what you see does depend a bit on the timing of stops.

For example, if you take a train from Xining to Lhasa, you will pass Qinghai Lake in daylight, but on a return journey, you are likely to pass it at night.

For more on this aspect, read Scenery along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

 Chaerhan Salt Lake Chaerhan Salt Lake

2. Acclimating to High Altitudes

With the train into Tibet, it sounds like a good way to acclimate to Lhasa’s altitude, but it’s not really.The key to getting used to high altitudes is to ascend slowly, but the train climbs quite fast.

Moreover, oxygen is supplied to the carriages, counteracting the effect of any acclimatization. Most passengers are likely not to sleep so well on the train, and lack of sleep makes altitude sickness more uncomfortable (headaches etc.).

Sleeping in a hotel in Lhasa is much more helpful to altitude acclimation than spending a night on the train.

It doesn't mean you shouldn’t take the train into Lhasa. We just want to let you know the train is not a magic pill for acclimatizing to Tibetan altitudes. You should consider other ways to help you acclimatize.

Ideas on >> How to Deal with Altitude Sickness.

3. Train Tickets Availability

If you will travel in peak season, usually from April to September, it is suggested that you take train out as Tibet train tickets are in high demand then. It is easier to buy tickets for trains departing Lhasa.

Especially in the summer vacation (July–August), Tibet trains are likely to be chartered by school or college groups. Then tickets are especially hard to buy, and the booking fee is higher.

Most importantly it may spoil your whole China plan if a suitable ticket can’t be purchased. If you have plenty of time for travel and a free choice of travel dates, then both ways of travel are fine.

Contact us to ensure your tickets

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Tibet Train Requirements — Tibet Permits, Etc.

A Tibet Entry Permit is required to enter Tibet. You need to show the original Tibet Permit when going through the security check to board Tibet trains. Some railway stations only need a copy of the Permit. Please do ask your travel consultant.

Tibet PermitTibet Permit

A paper ticket is needed to board Tibet trains. If you book through atravel agency, they will forward you an e-ticket with an order number. You can pick up your paper ticket at the ticket window using the order number and by showing your passport.

Train TicketTrain Ticket"

Luggage limits on Tibet trains are 20kg/adult. Unlike traveling by plane, railway stations don't provide luggage check-in. You have to carry your luggage all the way to your seat/berth.

Xining StationXining Station

You must be accompanied by a certified tour guide in Tibet, and, as with Tibet Permits, this can only be arranged through an authorized China travel agency.

If you have booked a guided tour with us in the departure city, the local tour guide will get the paper ticket for you and she/he will arrange all the things for your train boarding, such as luggage transfers and translating the Chinese information on the ticket to English.

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Contact us if you have any questions about Tibet trains.

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